How to Nourish Yourself During the Winter
Ahh winter. When the days get shorter, the weather gets colder, our clothes get a little cozier (hello fuzzy sweaters and socks), we move a little slower, we tend to snuggle up on the couch and watch Netflix with our loved ones, pets and sometimes tinder dates. In Chinese Medicine winter is the season of the water element and the kidneys. The water element is associated with circulation and flow and the kidney considered the root of qi or energy. Winter is the season of yin, a time of rest, meditation and introspection, conserving and receiving energy (not doing) and nourishing the kidneys. It is said the more rest one receives during the winter months the more harvest we can expect in late summer and fall.
As a rule of thumb, in Chinese Medicine it is preferred that foods are cooked versus raw and food and drinks should be consumed at room temperature or warmer (body temperature is preferred). Generally anything dark blue or black will nourish the kidneys as will foods that are bitter and salty and foods that grown during winter months tend to be more warming. We live in a culture that is obsessed with detoxing, while detoxing has its place, most detoxifying raw foods have a cooling nature and can damage the digestive system over time. While cooling foods can be beneficial during summer when the temperatures are hot but winter is a time to nourish and restore and its COLD, so it is important to add more warming and cooked foods to your diet. This means choosing soups and stews over salads and raw veggies. Foods should be cooked slowly (roasted, stewed, slow cooked) for a longer period of time to create more warmth and energy. Experiment with baking winter fruits such as pears and apples and adding a little cinnamon and honey on top.
If you love to start your day with a smoothie, then lightly steam your greens prior to blending. Also allow any frozen fruits to thaw overnight prior to adding to a smoothie. Adding spices such as ginger and cinnamon to a smoothie will neutralize the cooling effects and aid digestion.
Things to incorporate in your diet during winter:
Warm Hearty Soups
Roasted walnuts, cashews and chestnuts (on an open fire)
Steamed winter greens
Dark beans (black beans, kidney beans, Aduzki beans)
Warming spices such as ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and black pepper
Onions, garlic, chives, scallions, leeks
Micro algae- chlorella, spirulina
Organ meats- especially liver
Cereal Grasses- wheat grass, barley grass, alfalfa grass
Raspberries. Cherries, strawberries, cranberries, pears and apples
Other ways to honor yourself during the winter season
1. Check in with your energy and honor where you are on a daily basis. Notice what restores and depletes your energy. Think of your energy as a bank account that gets replenished on a daily basis. This sounds intuitive, and it is, but many people go against this especially in America. We feel like we always need to be productive or on the go. If you say yes when you we really want to say no no due to obligation or fomo (fear of missing out) we deplete precious energy reserves. Get over that. This is the season of building reserves for the rest of the year. Listen to what your body needs and honor it. I took 2 naps this week and it might be my new favorite thing about 2019
2. Slow down when eating. Think of food as a blessing. In Chinese Medicine we say your mood while eating is very important, eating while upset or emotional charged causes energy stagnation. Whatever you are eating, enjoy it. Be grateful and take a second to thank those who contributed to bringing food to your plate. When I was living in Bali, I witnessed many farmers bending over harvesting rice with machetes by hand and I will never look at rice in the same way again.
3. Try flowing and fluid exercise such as yoga or qigong everyday to enhance circulation. Especially in colder climates and if you tend to get cold hands and feet, which is a sign of poor circulation.
4. Limit your screen time and journal instead. Learn to turn off your phone 2-3 hours before going to bed to allow your mind to rest and relax. The water element is our ability to flow through obstacles. This is great time of year to dig deep within yourself and write down your innermost thoughts and feelings about all the things going on in your life. Sometimes we avoid this and keep ourselves constantly occupied if we are afraid that our true feelings are going to be uncomfortable. If this is the case then read #
5. Practice self-acceptance. The kidneys are ruled by fear; we all have deep rooted fears and insecurities. We spend so much energy trying to overcome our fears, which can freeze us and lead to energy stagnation. Observing and accepting our fears for what they are, and ourselves for who we are, without trying to change anything can help release this stuck energy.
6. Keep your kidneys and feet warm! And uterus. And head + ears+ neck. Use a heating pad on your lower back and wear warm fuzzy socks. Leg warmers are fun too. Also fuzzy blankets and sweaters, hats and gloves/mittens and lets not forget about scarfs. Basically keep your whole body warm all the time especially your kidneys and feet after you have been outside. When you wear excessive amounts of cozy clothes no one will notice that extra winter fluff aka reserves you may have put on from Xmas cookies and eggnog. Everybody wins and it is always nice to feel toasty.
By: Michelle Malloy, nutrition obsessed, Reiki Master, Acupuncture +Chinese Medicine+Herbal Medicine Student, full time cat mom in Los Angeles, CA. I really like herbs, eating, adventure, cats and sunshine. Find me on Instagram @shellythemedicinewoman and email firstname.lastname@example.org.