Pu: Winter Food Therapy

From Shifu Michael’s third book, coming out in January 2019

February 5, 2017
Today is Super Bowl Sunday. My entry today will focus on food cures and their seasonal relationship. Last Thursday was Groundhog Day, which is the mid-point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. So before we get further away from the cold of winter, especially here in northern California, I should mention some basic winter food guidelines.

I’ve already mentioned that the winter season is associated with the Yin energies and the Water Element, along with the Kidney and Bladder meridians. What keeps these organs strong during the cold of winter? One major factor to consider during winter is the importance of maintaining a foundation level of Yang energy. So we say, we have to safeguard the Yang energy. We still need physical exercise, like qigong, taichi to keep the Qi moving, and we have to be concerned on what we are eating.

The basis of this process is to eat healthy for the Kidneys. The flavor which corresponds to the Kidneys is salty, but the right amount. I know you are now saying, what is the right amount? That is too difficult to say as everyone is different and has different needs. The general warning is that too much salt becomes harmful for the Kidneys and other body functions, like the blood pressure. So watch out that you are not adding additional salt to your meals when the natural food ingredients may have plenty of salt already in it.

Another consideration in diet in the winter is eating food, which is energetically cool or cold. Raw foods, like a salad tend to cool the internal process of digestion, making us less productive in breaking down foods for assimilation, and has a general cooling effect on the whole body. The Chinese medical model encourages warming or at least neutral foods to always be the majority of one’s food intake. In a similar though opposite way, eating too much spicy food will cause sweating which will release vital heat from the body. This will further weaken our already decreased Yang energy. So the key here is moderation and mindfulness of what you are eating and the possible consequences of it.

Before moving on, here are the kinds of things to consider for maintaining a balanced energy during the winter. Warming foods like chicken, eggs, the onion family, ginger, roots like turnips, carrots, shitake mushrooms, and other warm to neutral foods. It is also a good idea to add some powerful Chinese herbs to soup meals. I’ve already mentioned that in my bone broth I added a couple of Chinese herbs, astragalus and Shan Yao (dioscorea). There are other Chinese herbs that can be added to soups, like ginseng, codonopsis, angelica root and so on. At a later entry, I’ll talk about these herbs in more detail.

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