This week, as arctic air grips the nation, we are all trying to find ways to stay warm and healthy. In traditional cultures, especially Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda, much importance was placed on maintaining balance in your body. When it is cold outside, it is especially important to keep your body warm. With a few small changes, you can make a big difference.
Avoid Cold Drinks
When you drink something cold, your body has to spend a lot of extra energy bringing it up to a usable temperature. In TCM, they use the mental image of your digestion being like a fire. Drinking or eating something cold is like throwing cold water into a hot pan. It creates a bunch of steam and requires a large amount of energy for the pan to become warm again. That’s not a good thing when you’re trying to keep your body functioning at its best.
Instead of iced drinks, consider drinking your water warm or at room temperature. Better yet, make some nourishing herbal infusions, and warm your body while also giving it tons of vitamins and minerals!
Avoid Raw Fruits and Vegetables
I know. This one can be shocking at first. January is a time when Americans LOVE to start juice fasts, raw food diets, and all sorts of cold-natured eating plans. However, when you look at what people traditionally ate during the winter, it is warming food that is easy to break down. These foods help nourish your body through the cold months.
Instead of eating your veggies raw, lightly stir fry them. If you are in the mood for fruit, try baking or simmering it. I like to chop up apples, throw in pumpkin pie spice and a little water, and simmer it together on the stove until the apples are soft. From there, you can eat it as-is, or mash it up a little and serve it like applesauce.
Eat Warm Stews and Slow-Cooked Foods
When fall arrives, we naturally seem to start craving slow-cooked foods like stews and roasted vegetables. Winter is a perfect time to eat these heavier foods that don’t appeal during the hot summer months. Some favorites meals around our house are this Harvest Blessings Soup or a Dutch Oven Pork Roast (or any roasted meat, for that matter.)
For warm breakfasts, consider making oatmeal overnight in the crockpot, or a delicious congee. Congee is a nourishing food used in TCM. It is kind of like a rice pudding. We love ours with goji berries and a little maple syrup.
Use Warming Herbs in Your Food
Consider how you season your foods, and choose spices that will warm your body rather than cool it. Some great choices include ginger, cloves, cardamom, and turmeric. Try to keep the spice level at “medium” or below. You want your food to be warming, but not so hot that it makes you sweat and ultimately cools your body.
Finally, I know that cold weather can make you want to hibernate, but movement is one of the best ways to warm your body and keep things from getting stagnant. Take this as a great excuse to get up, turn on some music, and dance around the living room with your kids.
I hope these tips help you and your family stay warm this winter. Spring will be here before we know it, and then it’ll be the perfect time for all of those cleanses and fasts. 😉
Great tips! Thanks! For the congee, when would one add the berries (or other fruit)? When the rice and liquid are placed in the slow cooker, or in the morning, when it is ready?
And, how do dried fruits fit into the mix. Would they be better/worse/similar to cooked fruits, in a warming sense, or best avoided for other reasons?
Brandy, I add the berries (and usually apples and more pumpkin pie-type of spices) into the slowcooker when I add the rice and liquid. That way the berries are soft in the morning. My kids far prefer them that way.
In terms of dried fruit, it is more easily assimilated when rehydrated, especially for Vata types. They are considered drying and Spleen tonifying (due to the sweetness) in small amounts. They are Spleen compromising in large amounts.