In Chinese Medicine winter corresponds with the energy of our Kidneys, our most important storehouse of energy. They are the root of all yin (cooling energy) and yang (warming energy) within the body and our foundation for a healthy, vital life and for graceful longevity. Your Kidney energy is particularly vulnerable to exhaustion or adrenal fatigue. Factors such as a fast paced lifestyle including overwork, excessive exercise, poor food and fluid intake, multiple pregnancies, chronic illness, stress, insufficient sleep, excessive use of drugs, alcohol and caffeine will deplete your kidney essence before its time. As we grow older our kidney energy also naturally declines and this begins to impact on our health. Maintaining a balanced lifestyle with healthy food, plenty of sleep and good stress management will preserve your kidney essence.
Whether we are in early winter, late winter or right in the midst of it all, when the weather is cold our bodies need warm foods so it is best to bake, roast, stew, and slow-cook foods in the winter. Nourishing soups and stews made from vegetables and rich stocks with animal bones help nourish our Kidney energy and prepare our bodies for the coming of spring. Warming spices such as cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom are wonderful additions to winter recipes. In Chinese Medicine, we don’t recommend very hot spicy food in the winter because these foods create sweating, which is actually a cooling process. However, a small pinch of hot spice helps increase circulation, which can be beneficial.
By getting yourself in sync with the seasons, you can avoid illness and promote great health. Therefore, during winter it is a good time to focus on strengthening your Kidneys. Specific foods to nourish and warm your Kidneys include black beans, kidney beans, bone broths, walnuts, chestnuts, black sesame seeds, and dark leafy greens. A small amount of unrefined Celtic sea salt added to home-cooked foods is also helpful since the taste associated with the Kidney organ is salty.
The best foods to eat during winter are the ones that naturally grow during this season in your local area. With so much imported food available these days it is often hard to tell what is seasonally appropriate. Here is a great guide put out by Sydney markets that lets you know all the wonderful foods appropriate each month.