Eating with the Seasons - Winter
By Emma Suttie, D.Ac.
Winter represents the most Yin aspect in Chinese medicine. Yin is the dark, cold, slow, inward energy. This is compared to the Yang of summer whose energy represents light, hot, quick, expansive qualities. The summer weather is warm, the days are longer and people are out being
active. In TCM we believe that the diet in winter should be adapted to
enriching yin and subduing yang.
Many people love winter. They feel energized with the coming cold and love to be out snowboarding, skiing and going for walks in the snow. For others, winter causes them to retract, stay inside and can cause some to feel sad or even depressed because of the lack of light and reduced physical activity. The good news is that winter can be enjoyed by
everyone if we live, eat and exercise according to the season and pay
attention to our bodies preferences.
Winter, in TCM, is associated with the Kidneys which hold our body’s most basic and fundamental energy. It is believed that by harmonizing oneself with the seasons you can stay healthier and prevent disease, so winter is a good time to strengthen the kidneys. Rest is important for revitalizing the kidneys, which is why some animals hibernate in winter. It is also a good time to look inward, reflecting on ourselves with meditation, writing, or other inward practices such as Tai Chi and Qi Gong.
These practices help us to connect to our inner selves and help to support kidney energy. They are very
helpful to relax the mind, calm our emotions and raise the spirit.
There are many foods that are beneficial for us to eat during the winter season. These foods are the ones that naturally grow in this season – squashes, potatoes, root vegetables, winter greens, mushrooms, apples, pears and citrus fruits. In winter, our bodies need warming foods like soups made with hearty vegetables, and rich stocks cooked with animal bones are best. Foods that specifically nourish and warm the kidneys are: black beans, kidney beans, broths cooked with bones, lamb, chicken, walnuts, chestnuts, black sesame seeds and
dark leafy greens. A small amount of unrefined sea salt is also helpful as the taste associated with the
kidneys organ is salty, but remember, moderation in all things is important.
The principle of harmony between what we eat and the season is based on hundreds of years of practical experience. It may seem strange, but the fact remains: you are what you eat. The food that we consume has a profound effect on the body, affecting our health and wellbeing. Foods become part of the body after being consumed (internal) and the weather and environment have an effect on us externally. Chinese dietary philosophy suggests that you embrace native foods along with eating locally grown, organic and chemical free foods that grow in season. According to TCM the thing about the modern diet which is the most unhealthy is that we are able to eat foods all year round that may be grown unnaturally with the use of pesticides rather than ones grown naturally for only part of the year. This is the way nature intended us to eat.
Eating natural foods that grow in season is what our bodies are designed for and prefer. This is one of
the main ways that Chinese Medicine guides us on how to remain healthy all year long.
About the Author:
Emma’s love for Chinese Medicine began as a teenager when, like many
people, western medicine failed to solve the underlying health issues she
faced. Her doctors proposed only surgery or a lifetime of drugs. However,
after a few months of acupuncture treatments and herbs those problems were
resolved. From that moment forward she was committed to extending this gift
of health to others.
Emma received a Diploma of Acupuncture from the Institute of Traditional
Medicine in Toronto in 2006. Immediately after graduating, she started her
first job treating postal workers and seeing up to 20 patients a day! Over
the next several years she worked at 5 other multidisciplinary clinics
throughout Toronto developing her skills and technique while working
collaboratively with other health professionals, including medical doctors,
to restore health to her patients holistically.
Today she specializes in gynecology, pediatrics and treating emotional
issues and mood disorders through her own practice,
Ukiah Clinic. She also shares her experience and
enthusiasm on her new website,
Chinese Medicine Living
that explores ancient Chinese
wisdom for better living in the modern world.