In most places winter is cold with short days and long nights. When winter comes the body has a tendency to want to stay indoors where it is warmer. The body’s metabolic rate slows down, so the body tends to hold onto body fat and we gain weight. There are animals that will hibernate during the colder months. People are not so different. We take the information being given and use it accordingly.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), winter is a time to preserve and build up strength for spring. During the winter months the kidneys are at their highest activity. They function to preserve the body’s energy. Food loaded with salt can actually burden the kidneys and cause them to work extra hard. This could lead to disease or failure in the kidney when done for many years.
According to Chinese medicine, during the winter months tonics should be eaten primarily. Most of the tonics include meats, fatty foods and warming herbs. The body is designed to absorb these rich foods especially during this time of year. When we pay attention to nature, we can be guided towards the proper nutrients. Since most fruits are not usually abundant during the winter months, we should avoid eating large quantities of them. Foods such as fruits, salads and raw foods can deplete the immune system causing it to overwork to warm the body. When a person has a dislike of the cold weather, joint aches and pains, sore low back or catches cold frequently, then there is an imbalance and that person may be eating to many cold foods.
We recommend eating warm foods during the winter months, and foods that will strengthen the kidneys, blood and Qi (pronounced “Chee”), which sometimes is considered our inner form of energy. Foods that are best during the winter are: beef, lamb, root vegetables, dark leafy greens, black beans oats, quinoa, pumpkin, kidney beans and walnuts. Fruits are good as well and can be warmed by adding spices like cinnamon, so they don’t tax the system too much. Herbs like ginseng, garlic, onion, ginger, parsley and basil all have warming properties that can also be used when cooking.
Soups and stews are really best to eat this time of year. When you use bone broth as a base it will help, it’s very good for supplementing the kidney. These types of foods can help warm the body’s core and keep us fully nourished. Cooking should be done for longer periods over low heat using less water. This will infuse the food with heat and lasting nourishment.
TCM nutritional therapy is an important component of the TCM. The food consumed can have profound effects on the body that affects our health and well-being. Along with paying close attention to the foods that are abundant during the seasons, we also recommend that locally grown foods be utilized. This may help decrease the possibility of allergic reactions.
If you are interested in learning more about TCM and how it can help you, please call us at Master Lu’s Health Center in Salt Lake City or come in so we can help you take control of your health