Winter is a time of downtime. Our metabolism slows down, our energy levels are a little lower, we are more fond of sleep. If you find that you crave warm, hearty foods, your body is responding to a natural seasonal rhythm. Listen to that instinct! Winter is a time for eating warming foods and drinking hot tea.
All living things naturally slow down in the winter months. It is important during this time to conserve our energy and build strength. In addition to supporting the needs of our organ systems, this will help to enhance our immune system, which is very important this time of year.
In the five elements theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), winter corresponds to the kidneys. The kidneys are the storehouse of our energy and the energetic fire which fuels our body’s activities and the function of our organ systems.
Cold weather drives our energetic fire deeply inward, and too much cold will dampen our fire. It is important to keep your body warm during the winter months, especially in the lower back area where the kidneys are located and around the neck. Protect yourself from the wind and from deep inhalations of cold moist air.
We want to nourish and warm the kidneys during the winter, and we do this with our diet: the type of food we eat, the way in which it’s prepared and the spices we use to flavor it. Here is an overview of the TCM recommended winter diet:
It is best to bake, broil, roast and slow-cook foods in the winter season. Soups are an excellent and easy way to incorporate all of the dietary elements of the TCM winter diet, and soups cooked in a slow-cooker are ideal. Using the list of recommended foods below, start a pot of soup in your slow-cooker in the morning for a hearty evening meal. Baking or roasting vegetables and meats will give you the added benefit of warming your home and filling it with an aroma that will nourish your spirit.
The taste associated with the kidneys is salt. You want to support your kidneys with salt, but not too much. The kidneys can easily be impaired from excess salt, so use it in moderation. For added beneficial minerals, choose Celtic sea salt, Himalayan salt or French fleur de sel. Seaweeds are another good source of nutritive saltiness.
Eat warming but not hot spices. Avoid using very much pepper, cayenne, chilis and other hot spices because they will create sweating, which is cooling to the body. Spice your food with these warming spices:
- Sesame Seeds
- Root vegetables
- Bok Choy
- Bamboo Shoots
- Collard Greens
- Swiss Chard
Winter Grains and Legumes
- Sweet Rice
- Basmati Rice
- Black Beans
- Kidney Beans