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Warming Foods for Colder Weather and Colder People

It’s officially winter!! You know what that means — time to adjust our diet, and lifestyle accordingly. As the bears go into hibernation, we too must turn inward to nourish our inner warmth during this period of ‘yin within yin.’ (Thankfully, our local produce shows us the way!) In addition to the warming foods listed in the table below, now is also a time to be mindful of how we hold cold in our life — both physically and emotionally. If you are prone to viral infections, this subject will be particularly relevant for you.

What is pathogenic “Cold”?

 

Physical Symptoms

In Chinese medicine, there are a number of causes of Cold; and depending on whether the cause is internal or external, treatment will be different. Symptoms of Cold, nonetheless, are consistent:

  • low body temperature or perceived chill; preference for covers or other warmth
  • lack of thirst
  • cold limbs
  • preference for lying down or curling up
  • slower heart rate (e.g. < 60bpm)
  • profuse, frequent and clear urination
  • thin or sloppy bowel movement, possibly with undigested foods
  • sharp pain or contraction
  • decreased sexual desire and/or function

Warming foods are an easy first step towards warming the body and its tissues.


Emotional & Spiritual Symptoms

If we are to accept the body as an integrated whole, we cannot ignore the emotional and physical aspects of Cold. To this end, I was struck by something I read recently on the body’s response to trauma. In her book, “Healing Sex: A Mind-Body Approach to Healing Sexual Trauma,” author Haines writes:

“When survival actions like fighting or fleeing may bring more harm or aren’t viable…, the brain and body make a third choice — the freeze response. Survivors often talk about being very still, waiting until the abuse is over, or checking out…. During this response, painkilling endorphins and opioids are released, and the person shifts from action to immobility. When survivors talk about not fighting back or being able to move, this is literal. Tense muscles become still, and breathing and heartbeats slow to barely perceptible.” (p xvii)

Sounds just like Cold at work, huh? I guess that’s why they call it the ‘freeze’ response. Not everyone faces such obvious reason to withdraw, to numb, and to harden; however, in my experience, any chronic fear, insecurity, or chronic mild trauma is enough to sway the body to turn to its comfortable safety measures. Emotionally and spiritually, I would suggest to truly thaw out internal Cold, we must cultivate a deep self-love, a faith in our resourcefulness, and a grounded orientation towards kindness in our life.

Foods to Warm the Body and Tonify Yang

GroupFood

Vegetables


Cucurbita pepo acorn group Home Kitchen Garden Carnival Squash
Kale
Leek
Mustard greens
Onion
Parsnip
Sweet potato
Winter squash

Fruits


Bowl of red Cherries
Cherry
Date
Peaches
Raisins

Proteins


Ořechy II
Vegan

Black beans
Chestnuts
Pine nuts
Sesame seeds
Sunflower seeds
Walnuts

Animal-Sourced

Beef
Chicken
Lamb
Mussels
Shrimp
Venison

Grains


Nahrungsmittel 2012-07-08-9504
Mochi
Oats
Quinoa
Spelt

Neutral, not warm

Buckwheat
Corn
Rice
Rye

Herbs/Spices


Speculaaskruiden
Anise
Basil
Caraway
Chive
Cinnamon
Cloves
Cumin
Dill
Fennel
Garlic
Ginger
Hot peppers, incl. cayenne (small amt only)
Nutmeg
Parsley
Rosemary
Scallion

Other


Hot water, lemon and honey - the life of a #vegan
Butter
Citrus peel
Royal jelly

You may also want to be mindful of avoiding or limiting cooling foods as you increase your warming foods. Increasing qi tonic foods will also be beneficial.

Food preparation for increasing warmth

The best ways to prepare your warming foods include:

  • Baking
  • Boiling/simmering
  • Broiling
  • Cooking with alcohol
  • Frying or roasting
  • Grilling

Preparing stews are an ideal way to increase the yang of your foods.

Warming foods to tonify yang

Baking and broiling: Your new best friends.

Beyond food, how else is one to warm the body?

You know what I’m going to say — cultivate self-love, cultivate an unfailing orientation towards kindness, work on releasing your fears and your doubts. Let what you eat be a welcoming of more warmth into your life. Perhaps less clear, is avoid *too much heat* — like hot yoga, saunas, extra long baths, a lot of chili or pepper. As soon as you start to sweat, the body has started its cooling process — that’s not what we want here! Lastly, your acupuncturist and herbalist will have great tools to work with when it comes to warming up the body and releasing pain: Warming Chinese herbs, moxibustion, and a TDP heat lamp. If you need more help, go get it!


REFERENCES

Kastner, Joerg. Chinese Nutrition Therapy. 2004.

Pitchford, Paul. Healing with Whole Foods. 2002.

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