Reprinted and pre-released,with permission, from the Skagit Valley Food Co-Op's Natural Enquirer December 2008 Issue:
Brrrr, it's getting cold out. But before you turn up the
heat or put on another sweater,
consider what's on your plate.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it is best
to avoid cold foods and raw foods (cooling by nature) in the winter and to
counterbalance the cold winter weather by warming yourself up from the inside
out with warming foods and herbs, soups, stews, and curries. But what if, even
in the winter, you're not cold?
I'll get to that in a minute, but first allow me to explain
that TCM theory assigns foods with four thermal energies: cool, cold, warm, or
hot. For simplicity's sake, we group food into 3 major categories: neutral,
cool/cold, or warm/hot.
In general, cold/cool foods, such as all raw foods,
eliminate toxins, clear Heat conditions, and cool the blood. Whereas warm/hot
foods, such as garlic and lamb, are strengthening and warm the body and
meridians, increase blood circulation, and get rid of Cold conditions. Neutral
foods balance and harmonize.
Now, what's this mentioning of Heat and Cold conditions? TCM not only assigns thermal
natures to food, but also to people! So how do you know if you have a Cold
condition, a Heat condition? How do you know which foods are best to limit or
avoid and which foods to use to bring yourself more into balance?
For the most accurate answer, consult with a doctor of
Chinese Medicine, an acupuncturist, or a nutrition consultant trained in TCM
Five Element Theory.
In the mean time, consider your physical temperature. Do you
tend to run hot? Or do you tend to run cold?
Although the general rule of Winter eating is to warm
ourselves up, if you have excess Heat, then you might actually want to cool
yourself down by eating foods with cooler thermal natures despite the colder
weather. If you're colder in the winter, then the general winter rule of eating
warming foods applies. However, other factors regarding your unique situation
and health needs play a role in determining your best food choices.
And that brings me to an important reminder: This article is
not meant to assess or diagnose you, or tell you what you should or should not
eat. Instead this article is an attempt to raise your awareness regarding how
our food choices physically and energetically affect our health, and more specifically
how food affects our body temperature as we move into the colder Winter months.
On that note, back to some signs of Cold: feeling cold
regularly, an aversion to cold, preference for warm things, feeling contracted,
overdressing, clear urine, loose stools, white or pale tongue, slow pulse, and
a pale to bright white complexion. And Heat symptoms include feeling hot
regularly, an aversion to heat, preference for cold things, frequent thirst,
dressing scantily, dryness, constipation, dark urine, red tongue, fast pulse,
and red complexion.
As for food choices, warming foods include flax, sesame,
vinegar, oats, basmati rice, quinoa, spelt, black beans, nuts, carrots,
parsnips, cabbage, garlic, onion, winter squash, kale, mustard greens, parsley,
berries, dates, sweeteners, meat, butter, alcohol, turmeric, fenugreek, fennel,
black pepper, dried ginger, cinnamon, dill, cayenne, rosemary, and basil.
Cooling foods include seaweeds, fruits (other than berries),
sprouts, lettuce, cucumber, mushroom, soy, mung beans, wheat and barley grass,
blue green algae, dandelion, peppermint, nettles, cilantro, and aloe vera.
To sum it up, regardless of a list of foods' thermal natures
or the symptoms of Heat and Cold conditions: if you feel cold, avoid or limit cold and raw foods and eat more
cooked foods; if you feel hot, avoid or limit warming foods and eat more raw
and cold foods.
Now, how to pull this off duringthe hectic holiday season, a time when we are tempted by foods
that are not so good for us, regardless of their thermal nature? Breathe deep
and chew thoroughly. Those are two simple awareness practices that will help
you make better intuitive choices regardless of facts and opinions. So just do
what you can with this new information, slowly and over time.
If you're trying to warm up, consider skipping the salad and
raw fruit. Alternatively, you can balance the cold salad by adding mustard
greens and seasoning it with warming herbs. Instead of raw fruit, try baked
apples. Or maybe you need a raw,
cooling salad to cool down after holiday indulgence in an excess of sweets,
meats, and alcohol (all of which are warming)! It all begins with awareness and
an attempt towards balance.
So whether you're cooking for yourself or an entire
gathering for the holidays, bringing one dish to a potluck, or attending
somebody else's party, use this time to experiment. Notice if skipping the
dinner salad and eating more cooked veggies affects your physical temperature,
your energy level, your bowel movements, your mood. And on a chilly winter
morning, see if a bowl of warm root veggie soup with turmeric and pepper stops
your chills, warms your toes, or even makes you want to take off your sweater.
Just remember that whether you need to warm up or cool down,
you can bring more balance to your entire system, through your food choices.
is a local Certified Holistic Health Practitioner who studied nutrition from a
TCM perspective with Paul Pitchford, author of Healing with Whole Foods. Questions or Comments? Contact her at 360-293-2193 or firstname.lastname@example.org.