Everybody knows that food is what gives our bodies the energy we need to survive. But not everybody is aware that certain foods should be consumed during specific seasons. In places where fruits and vegetables are harder to keep on hand when the weather becomes colder, people can’t help but to follow this principle a little more closely. However, with many fruits and vegetables shipped globally and available at the local grocery store, it’s easy to forget about seasonal eating.
Traditional Chinese Medicine is a medical system that has been around for nearly 4,000 years. When this system came into being, people were much more dependent upon and, therefore, in tune with the seasons and their environment. Without widespread refrigeration and the global trade of food products, people consumed foods based on seasons and availability. This system supports increased health throughout the year.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, winter is a time of reflection and rejuvenation. The body needs the extra hours of darkness to repair. The kidneys are the center of energy in the system and thus, they need to be nourished during the winter months. To do this, consume foods that are warming and that will boost the kidney energy. These foods will benefit the Shen (spirit) to help combat the influence of seasonal depression.
Things like soups and stews are extremely important during the cold winter months. Energetically warming foods such as anchovies, bay leaves, chestnuts, chicken, fennel, leeks, mussels, mutton, nutmeg, pine nuts, sweet potatoes, and walnuts are all great to incorporate into the diet. Foods that boost kidney energy are just as important. Items like millet, sesame seeds, kidney beans, lamb, beef, goose, duck, eggs, grains, seeds, and nuts are all good tonics for the kidneys. Broth or stock is another beneficial food to consume during the winter months as it supports the bones and the kidneys. In order to retain as much energy as possible, winter foods should be cooked for longer periods and at lower temperatures. It is also advisable to increase foods with bitter flavors while reducing salty flavors in your diet, to promote heart health and reduce the workload of the kidneys. Bitter-flavored foods include things like apricot, asparagus, celery, tea, grapefruit, lettuce, kale, many greens, and vinegar.
One of the commonly used winter dishes is congee. Congee is a thick grain-based soup or porridge that is used in a preventive fashion to promote good health and strong digestion. It can be made with a single grain, like brown rice, or a combination of grains, beans, vegetables and medicinal herbs. Incorporating this item into the diet will improve energy levels over time. One can prepare it in a crock pot overnight, which fits in perfectly with the aforementioned principles of slow cooking at lower temperatures and allows for an easier cooking process as well.
Incorporating the foods and ideas discussed above during the winter months can be a wonderful way to boost your energy throughout the season. This will also help in the seasons to follow, as the body will be healthier and better prepared.