In Chinese medicine, the foods we eat should change throughout the year to best support our bodies and energies according to the season we are in. Winter is considered the most Yin of the seasons, and is associated with the Kidneys. The tone of Winter is characterized by stillness and quiet. It is a time to rest, integrate the harvest of the year, and prepare for the coming spring. Food choices for the winter support this. We take advantage of the foods we have harvested in autumn. Root vegetables, winter squash, pumpkin, walnuts, beans, and grains are all food choices that support our Kidney energy through the winter months.
We can further support the energy of our Kidneys by offering ourselves foods that are gently warming. In Chinese medicine, foods are considered warmer based not just on how they taste, but also by how they are prepared. Baked or roasted foods are considered to be more energetically warming than sauteed or steamed foods. All cooked foods are considered warmer than foods which are raw. Raw foods are considered cool in nature. So during winter months, it might be best to saute your greens instead of eating a raw salad. The Kidneys are associated with the bones, and bone broth is a famous tonic for the winter months. It is best cooked slow, over a low heat, so the energetic warmth of the flame can penetrate and saturate the broth.
We can also warm up the energy of our foods by cooking with warming spices such as cinnamon, cardamon, onion, garlic, ginger, basil and cumin. Foods that are too spicy, however, can further deplete the Kidney energy of the body. If the chile pepper is so hot that it causes you to sweat, then it is causing the body to lose heat and vital fluids, yang and yin energies.
All of this advice points to a hearty stew as being an excellent winter meal. For non-vegetarians, a bone based soup with hearty meats, and warming spices makes an excellent dish to savor on a cold winter night. Throw in chunks of pumpkin or squash. Vegetarians can substitute black beans or adzuki beans. Both of these beans are considered to be tonics for the Kidneys.
Whatever you chose to nourish yourself with this winter season, take time to savor it. Acknowledge the healing energies of the foods and feel their goodness radiate throughout your body.