Diet According to Chinese Medicine
Nature has a rest during the winter time, getting ready for the spring. The Chinese winter is a time of replenishment, rest and reflection. As per the Chinese five phase system, winter is associated with the element water. The kidneys and bladder deal with the body’s fluid metabolism and organs related to the water element and winter season.
Within the Chinese system, kidneys are in command of the life force energy. The Chinese consider our longevity and vitality to be stored in the kidneys. The outward sign of this is the vibrancy or sparkle in our eyes.
When the energy is the kidneys become weak and lethargic, we are low in energy and vitality, with strong kidney energy doing the direct opposite.
The energy of winter yin is inward. Hence, winter is the time to conserve resources and energy. It is crucial not to waste yang (outward, active) energy. Take particular care in terms of food, rest and warmth. So it is of great significance to find a cosy place to sleep, dream and relax. We often forget that dream time is an important space to reenergise you.
Your winter diet is crucial, because as the weather becomes colder, your diet needs to produces more heat in your body. Hence, your winter diet ought to be filling and warming, with more wholegrains, steamed vegetables, whole grains and more dairy products and meats, should they be part of your diet.
Soups are great for the colder weather, as are fresh fish and seaweeds.
- Vegetables ought to be eaten every day, steamed or baked.
- Vegetable casseroles and soups are warming, full of nutrients and easily digestible.
- Root vegetables like onions, carrots, potatoes and parsnips are particularly apt for a winter diet.
- Fresh ginger and garlic heat you up, as they disperse the cold and promote energy circulation.
- Chillies and cayenne pepper put that extra heat into your meals and body.
- Cooked whole grains are an essential staple of the winter diet. Buckwheat and millet heat the body well, along with other grains like wheat, brown rice, oats and barley.
Should you eat your grains with beans like lentils, black beans, mug beans, or red adzuki beans, this will provide you with a complete protein. Complete proteins consist of all the essential amino acids your body does not produce. These essential amino acids are vital for body growth and repair.
- Nuts and seeds are great as snacks or scattered in salads.
- Sesame seed is a great kidney and liver tonic.
- Walnuts strengthen the kidneys.
- Almonds tone up the lungs.
For meat eaters, fish is a preferred option, in particular deep-sea fish, such as, swordfish and halibut.
The occasional dish of chicken and red meat is beneficial should you eat meat. Red meat is known to stimulate the blood, complexion and heart and complexion. It is also good for body growth. In China women cook chicken with Dang Gui (Chinese Angelica root) post birth in order to strengthen the mother’s blood and stimulate the production of breast milk.
Seaweeds, such as, dulse, kelp, hijiki and nori are high-protein vegetables. They are full of Vitamins E and A, rich in potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorous and iodine. They strengthen and stimulate the skin, nails and hair. They also nourish the endocrine system, particularly the adrenal and thyroid glands. Put them in soups or toast them and eat along with rice, vegetables or wrapped around rice and vegetables as per Japanese sushi.
Soybeans, Tofu and Miso
Soybean is a relatively cheap, high-protein food. It is a complete protein, being a great substitute for animal foods. They can be sprouted or cooked as the whole bean. They can also be or used to produce soymilk, tofu and miso.
Tofu is soybean curd. It is a delicious, nutritious protein food and looks like cheese. It is a great accompaniment to vegetable dishes and whole grains, in particular brown rice. You can steam it, bake it or shallow fry it in oil with other vegetables. You can also add it to salads.
Miso is another important soybean product. It is also called soybean paste. Herein the soybeans are fermented and aged by themselves or with whole grains like barley to make different kinds of miso.
Miso is an alkalinizing food. This means that its fermentation aids the body’s metabolism and digestion. You use it as a broth for strengthening yourself in the form of a tonic. Chinese medicine uses miso to treatment of colitis, arthritis, hypoglycaemia, diabetes and nicotine addiction.