During the winter all things in nature enter a resting period, wither or hide. Humans would benefit from following this principle as well by consolidating our energy, becoming more internally focused and quieter, talking less and listening more. It is also a great time to cook more, especially long-simmering soups and stews, roasting and baking to warm both the house and the body.
In Chinese medicine the energy of the kidneys predominates in the winter. Therefore it is wise to nurture these organs. The kidneys are considered the root and foundation of the body’s energy, determining your overall health, the health of your bones, your reproductive capacity and the grace (or lack thereof) with which you age. To truly revitalize yourself in this season of rest, one needs to reconnect with traditional winter foods and cooking methods and take respite when the body needs it.
What’s in Season at the Market?
The months of winter can present a challenge to those who seek to eat locally. As the modern supermarket knows no seasons, it is possible to eat your way through winter without changing your diet at all. This would not be wise and checking in with what grows locally will reflect the warming foods the body thrives on now. This includes storage vegetables, like winter squash, carrots, parsnips, onions, yams, celery root and potatoes; and the sturdy greens that taste best in cold weather, such as kale and collard greens.
The fruits of this season include apples and pears from cold storage, oranges, lemons, kumquats, persimmons and other citrus fruits. Tropical and out-of-season fruit may be available, but it is best to avoid them as such fruit tends to overcool the body and to lose nutrition in its shipping and storage. The energy of the plant world is in storage in roots, seeds, and tubers and your diet should reflect this by incorporating grains, beans, nuts and seeds. You should also minimize your intake of cold and raw foods, except for raw fermented foods.
How To Cook to Ensure Deep Nourishment
Cooking styles for winter should be long so think of stewing, roasting, braising and baking. While long cooking times can reduce the content of certain vitamins, they also make minerals more available to the body, especially in bone broths and stocks. Longer cooking brings out nutrients and qualities in foods that attune our bodies to the energy of winter. Winter is the most appropriate time of year to consume some fried foods since this type of cooking is very warming, providing stamina in winter.
What Supports Us During Winter
In winter, eating more salty food will help consolidate your energy, turning your focus inward. Truly unrefined salt, such as Celtic sea salt and salt mined from ancient sea beds, such as Real Salt, are not bright white but off-white or light pink, indicating the presence of the wide array of minerals naturally present in seawater. Using this type of salt, as well as eating traditional foods made with sea salt, such as miso, naturally fermented tamari or shoyu and pickles, supplies the body with important trace minerals.
Certain foods are said to strengthen the kidneys. They include whole grains such as millet, wild rice, quinoa; vegetables such as parsley, sea vegetables, yams; fruits such as berries, especially dark berries, dried fruit; nuts and seeds such as almonds, black sesame seeds and walnuts; beans especially dark varieties such as black and kidney beans, animals foods made from bone broths, clams, crab, lobster, oysters, organ meats and pork.
Many things in our culture these day can contribute to our kidney energy becoming depleted such as: overwork, chronic stress, long term illness, insomnia or lack of sleep, drug use, chemical exposure, excessive ejaculation or childbearing, and eating to much sweet food. It is therefore easy to find yourself needing to replenish your depleted kidneys and there is no better time to start than now.
ENJOY THE LONG NIGHTS OF WINTER
Dr. Ilene Cristdahl