Winter food and General nutritional guidelines for strengthening the Kidney Yang:

From the Chinese five element theory point of view, the kidneys represent in our body the water element and winter season. In winter movement in nature is downwards. Winter nutrition encourages the same movement and helps strengthening the body and mind.

The role of winter in the life cycle is to preserve and renew in secret the deepest strengths of the body, towards their full expression in spring and summer. Eastern medicine observed winter is characterized by less hours of light, the dormancy of animals and deciduous trees, and concluded the behavior required of man.

In order to maintain vitality in the body, care must be taken to maintain body temperature, especially proper coverage of the feet, abdomen and waist, head and elbows. It is important to avoid excess perspiration that causes loss of deep energy resources and may allow penetration of cold through the pores of the skin.

You’re Body in winter

Early winter starts in mid-November and lasts through mid-February. As the days grow shorter, they grow colder as well. As your body prepares for the drop in temperatures, you find yourself craving heavier foods to build an insulating layer of fat. Frigid temperatures cause tense muscles and runny noses. Your limbs stay chilled as your body prioritizes keeping your core warm, shunting blood flow to extremities and skin. Because of this concentration of warmth, your digestion is strong enabling you to process richer foods.

Food ingredients and winter cooking techniques

The natural movement of winter inward condenses the Qi resulting in production of heat. Winter cold drives all phenomenato shrink and curl into a fetal position to produce heat. The flora shrinks and the energy concentrates beneath the earth in roots that are hard, concentrated and full of energy. Winter foods and cooking methods will support inward movement, deep heating, and strengthening of hormonal glands that support normal metabolism such as thyroid gland and adrenal glands.

When it’s cold outside, don’t eat cold food! Cold food makes you cold and your digestive fire cold and weak. When your digestive fire is weak, you experience problems like gas, bloating, indigestion, acid reflux, and constipation. Simply eating hot food all winter will keep your digestive strong! During winter, make sure to eat cooked, warm food. Save ice cream, salads, hummus, and other raw or cold foods for the later months of spring and summer. Stay tuned for helpful spices, chutneys, teas, and other ideas to keep your digestive fire strong all winter long!

Cooking methods

The cooking methods that will express the movement down and inside and create heatare the long cookingmethods over a flame or in the stove, using heavy closed utensils such as an iron cast pot and the addition of more salt and oil to cooking.Use baking, prepare roasted vegetables, stews, long cooked soups or grain cereal porridge, broth soups, crock pot cooking, long-time pickling, occasional frying, and Japanese Nishime and Kimpire cooking styles.

Types of foods for building Kidney Yang

Kidney Yang is the source of heat for all the other body organs and tissues, therefor special attention for building Kidney Yang during winter is necessary.  Kidney Yang builders are hard, concentrated, dry, salty, pungent and dark in color:

Whole grains: Buckwheat, Rye, Brown rice, whole oats, barley.

Vegetables: root vegetables that emphasize the movement downwards and inside; parsley root, celery root, onion, garlic, carrot, radish, turnips, beets.

Legumes: adzuki beans, black lentils, black mung beans, red beans

Oils, nuts and seeds: the most recommended oil in this season is cold pressed sesame oil that creates a soothing and warming effect in the body. The favorite seeds are whole sesame seeds, black sesame, whole tahini, chestnuts, and walnuts.

Animal food: fish such as tuna and salmon, beef, lamb,and eggs.

Algae: Kombu and Higiki. These seaweeds require cooking longer than 40 minutes.

Fruit: fruit have a general cooling and expanding effect and are more suitable for hot seasons. However, it is possible to eat a moderate amount of fruit in the winter, usually in their dry or cooked or baked form. Commonly used fruits: apple, pear, quince, dark and dry berries (raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, gooseberries, apricots and plums).

Winter spices: The winter spices usually have a sweet and slightly sharp-prickly taste, and they carry a variety of effects such as: stimulating the digestive system, increasing peripheral blood flow, stimulating the hormonal glands and the immune system. One or more spice for each recipe will serve as a match,to ignite the digestive fire and allow digestion of the heavy oils and protein foods characteristic of the winter. Optional spices are ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, Szechuan pepper, English pepper, black pepper, bay leaves and galangal. The use of these spices should be moderate so that their taste will be felt, but they will not take over the dish. This form of use ensures the benefits of their warming quality. Excessive use produces an opposite effect of sweating and cooling the body. In addition to the spices mentioned, it is possible to combine Japanese macrobiotic spices such as dark miso, soy sauce, or tamari sauce, gomashio, Tekka, ShiyuKombo and Umebushi plums. The salty taste is suitable for the winter and increases the heating effect.Spices for destroying mucus, sore throat, and runny nose: honey, cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper, ginger, turmeric, Chyawanprash, Trikatu.

A wise use of the nutritional principles and lifestyle mentioned in this article enables us to actualize the potential of the winter season and to renew forces that will continue to accompany us throughout the year.

Winter blues

Winter is the notorious season of darkness, with shorter daytimes and less sunshine outside. Some northern countries like Sweden and Canada have only 4 hours of sunlight on some of the darkest days of winter! This lack of light and sunshine can dampen mood and feelings of well-being. The pervasive winter blues has led to the recognition of “Seasonal Affective Disorder” (SAD), a condition characterized by low mood, depression, and sadness that only comes during the winter months.

Seasonal depression often starts as early as December, the darkest month of the year. When feeling sadness during the wintertime, start spending some time out in the sunshine each day around noon when the sun is at its peak. Spending an extra 20 minutes per day in the sun will build your storehouse of vitamin D, and help your body transition with the season rather than fighting it. Light candles or a fire to make your home feel warmer and to introduce more light.

Cold weather and dark days coupled with snow and rain make you feel sluggish and wanting to stay cuddled up in bed. Enjoy your inclination to lay low, but avoid complete isolation. Gather those you hold dear together for more intimate connection through game nights, crafting, funny movies, funny books, funny dinner parties or Play happy music that makes you move and dance.

Winter and exercise

Have you ever experienced the positive emotional effects of a good workout? Perhaps you have heard of the “runner’s high,” which is when the body releases endorphins, one of the brain’s “feel good” chemicals, after prolonged periods of running. Luckily, you do not need to run a marathon to experience a similar mood boost from exercise: any form of exercise is an effective treatment for mild to moderate depression.

Regular exercise is a natural way to improve mood, especially in the winter time when we are likely to feel down. Working up a light sweat with a brisk walk or even a jog may be just the thing to make spirits bright. If it’s too cold outside, training indoors with Nike Training Club or hitting the local gym or attending a cardio exercise class are good options too.

Winter Yoga

Sun salutation is the perfect warm up for a cold winter morning. This infinite, flawless sequence will revitalize your whole body and lift your spirit. Make it a regular morning routine and repeat the sequence 8-12 times each morning to experience a lifting of your mood.

Pranayama Bhastrika and kapalabhati –breathing practices

Bhastrika, known as bellows breath, is derived from the Sanskrit word for “bellows” because the abdomen pumps the breath like the bellows used by a blacksmith.

Learning and practicing bhastrika on a regular basis during winter will help enliven the whole body, keep the respiratory system uncongested and relieve sluggishness.

Bhastrika involves a rapid and forceful inhalation and exhalation powered by the movement of the diaphragm. The movement of air is accompanied by an audible sound. One inhale and exhale equals one round of bhastrika, and it may be repeated for many consecutive rounds. Bhastrika has significant benefits as a cleansing practice for clearing the airways and for increasing energy levels in the body and mind. Bhastrika increases metabolism and improves digestion, which may help with weight loss. It is best practiced on an empty stomach, as it stimulates circulation and blood flow to all organs of the body. A milder version of bhastrika is kapalabhati, which also has cleansing and energizing properties.

Backbends delight

Incorporate backbends into your daily routine to reignite your sunny disposition. Backbends in particular are stimulating, enlivening and energizing, increase blood flow, cleanse the lungs, strengthen and open your heart. Backbends help flush unprocessed grief and sadness from your lungs and heart. You may feel your heart beating strongly in your chest as you take the deepest breath of your day.The next time you feel the weight of winter getting you down; add backbends to your to-do list for the day. It may make everything feel a little easier.


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