This winter is set to be the coldest since 2012. But no need to fear – frigid winter winds may well blow hard, but there are ways to stay warm without running the heater 24/7 and breaking the bank. And no, we’re not going to tell you to simply drink warm water. Instead, it’s all to do with listening to a voice from thousands of years ago…
Listen to tradition
The Chinese have been refining the art of balancing what you eat with what your body needs for millennia.
Indeed, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM for short), there’s a nuanced system of helping your body adjust to seasonal changes by understanding the balance of foods you consume.
While cooling, sweet and bitter foods are yin, which are best for chilling down the body; spicy, hot and salty foods are considered yang, which warm instead, promoting internal heat when the mercury drops.
On the whole, cooked but not overcooked foods are more easily digested and assimilated. That’s not to say the body won’t benefit from boosts of raw nutrition and fibre from seasonal vegetables, but when it comes to a meal that will stick to our bones, think hardy baked casseroles, braised and slow cooked dishes.
Starchy root veggies should be your crockpot’s best friends during winter. Thick carbs and starches break down slowly in the body and give you lasting fuel. Look to enjoy them cooked down, making them more easily digestible. Enjoy familiar faces like beetroot, potatoes, parsnip, celeriac and radish, but don’t overlook more exotic fare such as mountain yam or jicama.
Warming orange-red veggies like pumpkin, butternut squash, sweet potato, carrot, red cabbage, bell peppers and tomato are rich in nutrients, providing a boost to the body during cold months. Vibrant colors are not only evidence of high antioxidant levels, they help stimulate the senses.
Meaty and fatty foods shouldn’t be eaten to excess but they are a valuable source of heavy nutrition through winter. Think slowly braised lamb and beef and lots of beans. And for breakfast, enjoy a hearty oatmeal compote with honey instead of regular milk and cereal.
When eaten in proper combination, healthy fats from fish, nuts, beans and whole grains naturally supply the body with those other essential elements that help process, burn and store nutrient dense foods. Greasy, oil saturated foods on the other hand can actually be yin, and stagnate your digestive fire. Your solid staple food in winter should be based around a whole grain paired with a protein for adequate nutrition.
Powerful flavors and aromas are important for stimulating circulation. That’s why aromatics like ginger, turmeric, onions and garlic; spices like cayenne, chili, black pepper and Sichuan peppercorn; and herbs like basil, scallions, leeks and lemongrass are all vital for cooking with in winter.
It’s just common sense that spicy and aromatic foods naturally warm the blood, but they also fight off all kinds of bacteria and germs that might get the best of you when the winter blues strike.
We know you know, but citrus fruits like orange are a great source of vitamins – a good way to boost the immune system and promote energy during colder months. Plus, when vitamin D and serotonin levels get low in winter, the energy of the sun is just a peel away. Enjoy any citrus, mango, pineapple, kiwi, or pomegranate.
TCM predates central heating and electric radiators. And despite the fact that some may regard the practice as a pseudo-science, the use of plants and food to influence our health is in fact the very origin of all medicine.
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