Updated: Jul 2, 2020
Winter would have to be my favourite time of year. I love winter. It's the time where we slow down, rug up, and eat delicious warm stews. One of my favourite things about Chinese medicine is that it advocates living in harmony with the seasons. Each season is associated with a different Organ and therefore has a different set of instructions on how to live optimally during that time. It is said that when we harmonise ourselves with the seasons we are able to maintain health and prevent disease.
Winter is the most Yin time of the year and it associated with the Kidneys. In TCM, our Kidneys are the root of life and store our "essence", which is what determines our health throughout our lives. This is why it is so important to look after our Kidneys and winter is the best time to do that.
Our diet and lifestyle during this time should reflect the Yin nature of this season. Rest is especially vital during winter as it supports the Kidneys. Ever wondered why some animals hibernate in the winter months? Conserving their Kidney energy definitely seems like the right answer. Activities that are great in winter include reading, meditation, cooking and anything that nourishes the soul. Think of it as the perfect time to curl up on the couch with a good book and hot tea.
Now, being the huge nutrition nerd that I am, food is one of my favourite ways to look after myself. I find cooking relaxing and having this colder weather means I am more than happy to spend my spare time hanging out in front of the stove. Winter is the best time to cook hearty stews and bone broths which are, funnily enough, totally amazing for the Kidneys. Chinese medicine also associates the bones with the Kidneys, so there is another reason why bone broths are awesome. In general, broths and stews are very warming and nourishing and make you feel like you are getting a nice warm hug. In winter, we should be cooking our foods for longer, on a low heat with less water. This allows the food to become infused with heat, which helps to keep our bodies warm. The Kidneys are also connected with the colour black so black foods like black rice, black lentils and black beans are just what the (TCM) doctor ordered. Here is a quick list of seasonal winter foods that support the Kidneys:
Right, so you may be thinking 'that list is all well and good but what can I cook?' Easy peasy. I've done that for you. Here is a recipe that I use, which incorporates almost all the great Kidney nourishing foods and also tastes amazing.
WINTER LAMB AND FENNEL STEW
0.5kg Lamb shoulder (boneless, cut into 3cm chunks)
2 x carrots, ends cut off and chopped
2 x fennel bulbs, stems removed and roughly chopped
2 x large potatoes, peeled, washed and chopped into 2-3cm chunks
2 x parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 x large brown onion, diced
8 x button mushrooms, washed and cut into quarters
3 cups of organic chicken stock
1 cup of dry red wine (I like to use a cabernet sauvignon)
1/4 cup plain flour
1 teaspoon of turmeric powder
Salt and pepper to season
Olive oil - preferably extra virgin, cold pressed
This recipe is super easy , it just takes a little bit of time as it sits on the stove for awhile. Here we go.
- Mix the flour and turmeric together in a bowl and season with salt and pepper
- Coat the lamb in the flour mixture. Discard the left over flour mixture once lamb is coated.
- Brown the onion in a large saucepan with the olive oil and and once it is translucent, add the lamb
- Brown the lamb, add the red wine and bring to the boil
- Turn heat down to low and let it gently simmer for 45 minutes (lid on)
- Add the chicken stock, carrots, fennel, potatoes and parsnips, bring to the boil again
- Reduce heat to a very low simmer and simmer for an hour (lid on)
- Add mushrooms and simmer for another 1 and 1/2 hours (leave lid off this time)
- If the sauce isn't as thick as you would like you can add a bit of cornflour to thicken it, or let it simmer with the lid off to reduce the amount of liquid. I like to serve this dish over creamy polenta. Mmmm... so good.
Last piece of wintery advice. Keep your neck covered and warm. In TCM, it is important to keep your neck covered when it gets cold and windy. Wind is one of the Six Evils in Chinese medicine and likes to invade via our necks when our pores are open. Ever heard your Acupuncturist say you have a Wind-Cold or Wind-Heat Invasion? Wind is generally be accompanied by either Cold or Heat and
so a Wind-Cold or Wind-Heat Invasion is equal to a nasty cold. A stiff neck is usually the first sign so if you visit your Acupuncturist as soon as you notice this, you will often be able to reduce the severity and length of the cold, or even avoid it altogether!
Disclaimer: I am a registered Acupuncturist and qualified Nutritionist. This blog reflects my own personal opinions and research. It should in no way be used as a means to self diagnose and it is my responsibility as a health practitioner to recommend that you seek out a professional who is legally qualified to diagnose your condition.