Winter is such a beautiful time of year. The chilly temperatures, stormy weather and the stillness of foggy mornings contrasted with clear blue skies and winter sunshine are always good inspiration to nourish the body with warming and delicious comfort food.
Winter is the most yin time of year, the energy is of decline and hibernation. The sun rises later and sets earlier, and our natural inclination is to sleep longer and choose more restful activities. We can honour this energy in our bodies by rugging up and staying warm, getting lots of rest and by choosing seasonally appropriate food.
In Chinese medicine we believe food has energetic qualities, which impact our health in different ways. The cold Winter temperatures can affect the warming yang energy of the body. This means it is best to choose foods which are warming in nature and easy to digest.
Vegetables such as pumpkin, sweet potato, root vegetables such as carrot and parsnip, beetroot, onion, leek, turnip, swedes, celeriac, brussel sprouts, silverbeet, spinach, cauliflower and broccoli are all in season and perfect for winter recipes. Animal products such as beef, lamb, fish, chicken and eggs can also be included, but ensure you choose grass fed and/or organic. Herbs and spices add a flavour kick and can also help to kick start your yang energy: ginger, cinnamon, star anise, cardamom and turmeric can easily be included in your winter meal plan.
The way food is cooked is also important. Delicious slow cooked casseroles and stews, hearty and warming soups and the traditional Sunday roast are perfect. Cooking foods for long periods of time imparts a warming energy, and helps to support the Spleen energy.
While focusing on what to eat, it is also important to be aware of what to avoid at this time of year. Too much cold and raw foods and drinks can deplete the Spleen yang energy, so choosing a green salad for lunch may not be such a good idea. Likewise, a big bowl of cereal and cold milk first thing in the morning can be damaging to the Spleen energy. A hearty cooked breakfast helps to bolster the Spleen and warm your yang. Eggs are a fantastic choice, with some grilled mushroom, avocado and wilted baby spinach. The traditional oat porridge (or step it up and try quinoa porridge) with some honey and cinnamon, and some stewed pear is another good choice.
Winter is a time when our immune systems are hit by the onslaught of cold and flu bugs. Looking after your diet and eating seasonally appropriate foods can help to strengthen your immune system and stave off infection.
If you do become ill it is all the more important to avoid any foods which are damaging to the digestive energy: cold and raw foods, dairy and greasy foods are out and warming soups and broths are in! Including ginger in your diet on a regular basis is wonderful for strengthening the body’s natural defences.
If you are unlucky enough to fall ill there are some simple food cures you can employ to heal yourself and your family. Cold and flu in Chinese medicine can be divided into patterns of heat or cold.
Heat patterns are characterised by hot symptoms: sore throat, fever, headache, thirst and a dry mouth and green or yellow mucous. Peppermint in tea or in food is gently cooling and clearing and can help ease the pain of a sore throat and clear the nose.
Cold patterns are seen with symptoms such as sneezing, clear mucous, stiff and sore neck and shoulders and chills more than a fever. In these cases it is best to warm the body to clear the cold. A simple way to do this is to thinly slice a nob of fresh ginger and a couple of stems of spring onion, stir fry them in a small amount of water until soft and fragrant, and then steep in boiling water and drink as a tea.
Making seasonally appropriate food choice can make a huge difference in your health. You will feel stronger, your digestive system will run smoothly, you immune system will improve and your yang energy will love you for it. Combine this with regular exercise and time spent doing things that make you happy and you will sail through winter. If you feel your energy or immune system needs a helping hand, you may want to consider including regular acupuncture therapy to help boost your energy, support your immune system and keep you feeling strong.
Anna is available for consultation at the clinic Monday and Saturday
For enquiries p: 59736886 or visit www.morningtonchinesemedicine.com.au