Winter focused foods and other tips for staying upbeat and healthy throughout the winter months
By YogaSpace Clinic Naturopathic Doctor, Meghan Bauer
There is no changing the natural rhythm of winter (for now at least). It is long, dark and cold, and it is not surprising that year after year our health reflects this. Increased anxiety, depression, unhealthy weight gain, continuous, long lasting colds and numerous other stress and cold related concerns are common place for many Canadians.
Aside from activities involving ice, could there be something advantageous to the cycle of winter that we could tap into; and are there ways to support this natural cycle?
Here are a few tips for re-framing the winter deep freeze and keeping you healthy and upbeat throughout it.
Consider a purpose to the winter months; could there be a reason/challenge to why you have chosen to live in such a chilly place?
Winter is the end of all seasons. Take the winter months as your inward and reflective months of the year. Try a new activity or hobby to support this phase; (knitting, building a family tree, exploring a new musical genre).
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, (TCM), to unify with winter, one must emphasize the yin principle to become more receptive, introspective, and storage oriented; "one cools the surface of the body and warms the body's core. Cold and darkness drive one to seek inner warmth."
Winter is supported by the water element and thus the kidneys are the organs most affected by wintertime. "The forces of winter create cold in Heaven and water on Earth. They create the kidney organ and the bones within the body…the emotion fear, and the ability to make a groaning sound."
Warm hearty soups, whole grains, and roasted nuts support the water element. Dried foods, small dark beans, seaweeds, and steamed winter greens fortify the kidneys in the winter. Cook foods longer, at lower temperatures and with less water.
Bitter and salty foods are appropriate for winter since they promote a sinking, centering quality which heightens the capacity for storage. It is said in TCM that the bitter flavour has the capacity to 'enter the heart'. Small regular amounts of bitter foods in winter nurture deep inner experiences and preserve joy in the heart. Bitter foods include; lettuce, watercress, endive, turnip, celery, asparagus, alfalfa, rye, oats, quinoa, and amaranth. Salty foods include; miso, soy sauce, seaweeds, salt, millet, barley. However, use salt with care as an excess will weaken the water element.
Focus on rest and nurturing your inner warmth; baths, essential oils, warming foods, and yes, slower more inward focused exercise like yoga.