Winter is a powerful time, a time to conserve our energy and resources. Special care needs to be taken in the form of nutrition, warmth and rest. Winter is a more inward and sensitive time. The climates of cold and wet (rain, snow, fog) chill us and require us to seek extra warmth and home time. It is even a time when some of us feel sad (heard of the blues?) which can be connected to loss of loved ones around Christmas time, less healthy food, or less sunshine. It can definitely be a hard season, I struggle with it being an Osoyoos native (Canada's pocket desert, yes it exists) my heart pounds for the heat-drenched sand of July, the warm waters of August, a cold beer by the poolside......
We may find balance through this time or we may find the balance tipped and come down with something icky. (There is that nasty winter flu making its' rounds through families right now, here's what to do if that's already happening in your home!)
In Holistic Nutrition, we tend to rely on traditional wisdom over newfangled technology for cold or flu prevention. One big, key way we can keep healthy each winter is to make sure we are eating nourishing foods and drinking enough water, in the form of clean filtered drinking water, hot teas or soups.
Traditional Chinese Medicine suggestions for keeping balance during the winter time:
1. Keep back energy loose and flowing through stretching exercises AND freely expressing your feelings. It's easier to get a "knotty back" in the winter time when we aren't doing as much outside activity, stretching is a great idea, you could join a local yoga class or just stretch at home while watching Netflix.
2. Increase your water intake (Feeling uninspired by plain water in this weather? Make it herbal tea!)
3. Cook, steam or bake your vegetables
Roasted veggies feel much better than raw veggies or veggie/fruit juices, in the winter time. Vegetable soups (ones with the likes of carrots, turnips, onions, garlic, ginger or cayenne) are right for winter - easy to digest, nutritious and warming. Soups are fantastic because we get nourishment from the foods in them PLUS we're also getting that water intake! (My favourite simple winter soup to throw together!)
Meat eaters, enjoy more protein now then you would in summer, check out this post on picking out the best meat for your body. A bit more red meat is good for building the blood, heart and kidneys. (However, too much is over-stimulating for these, the less meat you eat the more effect you'll see it has on your body. I am not vegan [5 Truths About Going Vegan] but do believe eating a more plant-based diet is ideal - with organic and local meat (if you do choose to eat meat.)
Fruits are less available locally, so they should form only a small part of our winter diet. These tend to make us colder, solidifying the 'eat seasonal' theory that nature provides what foods work best in each season
4. Cooked whole grains (brown rice, millet, etc.) make an excellent winter staple, as these complex carbohydrates burn well in the body for fuel and are good for our intestines and elimination. If we pair our grains with vegetables or beans (red aduki beans, mung beans, black beans or lentils) we will have a complete protein (Pro Insight: Vegans or those experimenting with meatless diets need to get a wide arrange of beans, grains and vegetables in order to form complete proteins.)
5. Nuts are also good body warmth builders in the winter as a snack or in salads. Raw cashews, walnuts and brazil nuts are my absolute favourites.
6. Cheese eaters: feta cheese from sheeps' milk is easier to digest and a bit better on your body to handle in the winter
7. Rest, lots of rest!
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine...
A diet which is mainly carbohydrate and protein will produce the heat we needed without adding too much weight, however we do still want to keep up our exercise until the spring comes so when we change our diet then again we may cleanse and lighten up. ...and by carbohydrate, I mean vegetables and grains - not potato chips :)
Drink herbal tea.
Take long baths.
Jimi Hendrix at the Drake Hotel New York. Photo by Roz Kelly, 1968
Doesn't winter just make you want to snuggle down? Cuddle up in bed, with some tea, good tunes, or a good book?
Do it! Rest is key. Rest the way that makes you feel best. Be it TV, movies, music, friends, sleep.
Proper rest helps relax our body so it can focus on building up strength to repel the cold environment and the viruses going around. It helps us heal. Sleep helps even more. Sleep is really good. And easier to do, when its dark and dreary.
Whatever makes you feel relaxed, make sure to do that more regularly.
You owe it to yourself! Take good care of you this winter.