8 TCM Tips to Stay Healthy During the Winter Season

pine trees near water with fog

In Chinese Medicine, the season of winter is considered to be the most yin season, being dark, cold, and slow. It is a time for nature to take a pause and recuperate. It is also an ideal period for nourishing the body, allowing it to absorb as much energy from nutrients as possible.

This is the time to practice energy conservation, rest and stillness.

Qi moves inward in order to keep us warm during this period. Eating warming foods is particularly important in these colder months to strengthen our Qi. Additionally, it bears noting that winter corresponds to the element of water as well as the kidney organ which reserves our body’s energy. To maintain balance within our bodies, eating according to the season is essential.

This will help bolster the body's yang and ensure good health throughout the following year.

In winter, choosing to consume certain foods such as polished round-ground rice, corn, wheat, soybeans, peas, tangerines, pineapples, longans , garlic, mutton, beef, chicken, fish and shrimp can bolster the body's resistance to cold and illness.

Here are 8 extra tips to stay in tip top shape this winter:

Take care of your kidneys

Winter is the season that requires special care for our kidneys. Nourishing foods can help to boost energy levels, maintain warmth and improve blood circulation. Black sesame seeds, black beans, kidney beans, bone broth, dark leafy greens, walnuts, chestnuts, chicken and beef are all excellent sources of Qi and yang that should be incorporated during the cold months. For an added layer of balance and restorative properties, salty treats such as seaweed, miso and sea salt also prove beneficial for the Bladder and Kidney meridians. 

Add Tonics to Your Diet

tea serve on white teacup
Taking tonics can be a beneficial way to maintain health and fitness, as they can increase physical strength and bolster immunity. Choosing the right tonic based on one's personal nature and bodily weaknesses is essential - someone who suffers from lung weakness, for instance, should aim to select foods and medicine that provide extra nutrition to the lungs. Such nourishing items have an especially powerful effect during the winter season.

Bring on the healthy fats

Integrate whole fat organic coconut milk into soups, stews, and curries. Additionally, introduce nourishing fats such as organic butter, ghee, olive oil, or coconut oil to your nutritional plan. Chinese medicine suggests sweet and greasy flavors can be a beneficial way to stay hydrated during chillier months; furthermore, butter and ghee are known to aid in blood and qi creation while olive oil is renowned for its anti-inflammatory properties.

Opt for heartwarming dishes

green chili on white textile

Our bodies need to be kept warm, so it's best to have minimal uncooked food, like salads and fruits. Skip icy foodstuffs such as smoothies made with frozen fruit or ice, milk with cereal served cold or unheated raw salads. Instead try hot porridges, egg dishes, toasted bread and soups that are cooked. Stir-fry salad using greens, roasted vegetables and a tasty dressing instead of the chilled ones. In Chinese medicine, cooking your food enhances the yang of the meal making it more nutritious. Grilling, frying, roasting, smoking and baking are some suggested methods of cooking.

Satisfy your sweet tooth

But pass on the cold ice cream for dessert. Try baked apples with a pinch of cinnamon, or add some raw honey if you want an extra hint of sweetness. Additionally, raspberries, plums, figs, grapes and red wine are great options when the craving kicks in. Remember to keep everything in moderation.

In Chinese medicine, sweetness is known to be beneficial when taken in moderation, restoring harmony to the system. Conversely, an overindulgence in sweets can be destructive and compromise both our metabolic health and the flow of spleen Qi, resulting in too much dampness that can impede metabolism and congest our bodies.

Help Digestion with Gut-Healthy Fermented Vegetables

Consume sauerkraut or other fermented vegetables, like kimchi, pickles or kombucha, to aid in digesting fats. As a probiotic for gut health, these sour-tasting foods can cut through high-fat dishes and make them easier to digest. When consuming fermented items, let them come to room temperature before engaging in your meal; similarly, eating bitter leafy greens can also support digestion of heavier meals loaded with fat.

Stay warm and hydrated

Try making fresh ginger tea:

  • Cut an olive-sized knob of ginger into small pieces
  • pouring boiling water over it in a teapot,
  • Put on the lid and allow it to steep until it's cool enough for drinking.

Not only will it tantalize your taste buds - especially with a bit of honey or cinnamon - but its pungent flavor and warmth will help boost circulation, stimulate digestion and clear sinus passages.

Spice up your life

Along with ginger, eating moderately spicy dishes during the winter can be hugely beneficial in protecting against the cold, as they invigorate Qi and loosen emotional stagnation, along with any associated breathing issues.

Qi can be greatly beneficial when rising through the consumption of pungent flavors, particularly if you're feeling sad, melancholy or dispirited.

Final Thoughts

During the winter months, it’s essential to practice energy conservation and take time to rest and reflect as nature takes its pause. Eating a warming diet that nourishes us and strengthens our Qi is essential in order to stay healthy during this season.

Moreover, paying particular attention to our kidneys and eating according to the season are vital steps towards achieving balance within our bodies. By following principles of traditional Chinese medicine, we can make sure that our body has all the energy it needs for the cold winter days ahead.

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