How to Eat Healthy in Winter 

 November 6, 2019

By  Juli

Chinese medicine has wonderful health and wellness tips for Winter. According to the Su Wen, “Winter is a cold storage season. Qi gathers in the core of the body. Do not disturb it… Warm up the body, store energy to rejuvenate and preserve life. Or the kidney gets hurt.”

Nourishing the Kidney in Winter is essential

The key word is storage. Many plants and animals store up fat and food and then lie dormant throughout the winter. While winter sports are popular, they actually do not keep you as healthy and fit as resting and preserving your stores of energy. The goal is to curtail supplements and excessive exercise in order to improve your health for the following year. For seniors and children, these tips are even more important in order to stay healthy in Winter.

Eat to Stay Healthy this Winter

Food is the key to building up and preserving your stores of energy. Winter is a good time to nourish the Kidney. Your go to food should be SOUP, almost exclusively. You are nourishing Yin and counteracting the cold weather. More meat cooked in warming spices and seasonings is also recommended. Fennel is a great spice for this season.

Fennel essential oil with fresh green fennel twigs and fennel seeds

Salty foods in the right measure

Salt is the taste associated with Water and is a stimulating flavor to keep Water in balance. Miso and Soy are more nourishing sources of salty flavor than iodized salt, as are natural salts. However, too much salt can throw water out of balance. You must regulate your salt intake to a fine balance of just enough salt flavor without overusing.

Salt has a moistening and softening effect. A proper balance of salt helps regulate the proper flow of Water in the body and move it downward so it can be eliminated. It also helps the body absorb nutrients by allowing the kidneys to function properly. Salty foods also soften nodes and masses, as well as release build ups in muscles and glands.

Warm foods – never cold or raw

Water tends to feel Cold. To avoid Qi stagnation and keep our Kidneys and Bladder functioning most effectively, we should:

  • Avoid raw and cold foods in the Winter
  • Eat foods at least at room temperature and drink only warm or hot water.

Healthy eating for seniors is even more important. If we are over 50, our Jing Qi is more depleted, and we should avoid raw or cold foods at all times. The Chinese prefer to consume most of their water in the form of porridge or soup, versus just drinking water. These liquids have more nutrients and positive effects for the body.

Warm, nourishing soup
Eating warm, nourishing soups in winter is essential for good health.

Black foods for good health

Black is the color associated with Water in Chinese medicine, so you should eat dark blue or black foods. Your aim is to strengthen the Kidney during this season. Black foods interestingly are rich in inorganic salt, and salt is the flavor for Water and Winter. Recommended foods include:

  • Black rice
  • Black beans
  • Black sesame
  • Black-bone chicken
  • AVOID: black fungus, kelp, and seaweed, as they are too cool natured for Winter)

Additional foods recommended for winter

Other Kidney strengthening foods include:

  • Mutton
  • Chicken
  • Prawns
  • Coriander
  • Chinese yams
  • Onions
  • Longan (Dragon Eye fruit – dried or fresh)
  • Shitake mushrooms
  • Lily bulbs
  • Sugar
  • Lotus root
  • Bamboo shoots
  • Broccoli
  • Root vegetables

Do not eat too much of any of these foods. You want to nourish the Kidney but do not want to overstimulate. An overstimulated Kidney leads to tonsillitis and otis media. Excess Kidney energy might also harm the heart. Check out our posts about Why Babies and Children Get Sick and Solid Foods for Your Infant or Toddler, both with great information to keep you child healthy in winter and year-round.

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Dr. Juli Kramer received her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction, with a cognate in Counseling Psychology, has her M.A. in Psychology, and her B.A. in History and Political Science. Most of her professional career has been in education. Motivated by the deteriorating health conditions she sees in the United States, which are in direct contrast to the abundant health she saw while living in Shanghai, China, Juli wants to use her skills as an educator to teach people about the life-saving benefits of Chinese medicine.

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