From the exuberant growth of spring to the chilling winds of winter, the seasons have a profound effect on our health and the way we live our lives. Nutrition in Chinese medicine considers multiple factors such as a person’s body type, age, energy, and seasonal influences. In this way, a proper diet is used in Oriental medicine as both a healing and disease prevention system. By noting seasonal changes and influences and changing a diet accordingly, people can maximize their health during all times of the year.
According to traditional Chinese medicine, winter is the season in which yin gathers and hides qi (one’s life force) in deeper layers. In physical terms, this means that the body is particularly susceptible to cold disorders, which can manifest as the flu, a sore throat, or breathing illness (like bronchitis).
Chinese medicine recommends a warm diet during the winter months to balance the body’s weakness to cold stagnations. Acrid and sweet flavors are believed to bolster the body’s qi and improve immunity. Warm meats supplement qi, yang, and blood. Red meat like beef, lamb and venison, as well as poultry, rich stews, and even red wine nourish the body and provide iron and protein.
Winter is also the time to guiltlessly enjoy hot, spicy, and sweet beverages. Oriental medicine urges the consumption of pungent teas, coffee, hot chocolate, and even high proof alcoholic drinks (in moderation), as a means of balancing the body’s propensity for chill. However, care should be taken to avoid an overhaul of hearty, heated foods. These heavy meals can dry up body fluids.
Oriental medicine has always encouraged moderation. In fact, regarding nutrition, traditional Chinese medicine encourages the “seventy percent rule.” This rule states that it is best to eat until one feels only seventy percent full, as it takes twenty minutes for the brain to recognize a full stomach and to avoid unhealthy weight gain.
The selection of foods and herbs for harmonizing with the seasons has been an art form since the days of the legendary Yellow Emperor. With Oriental wisdom, it is possible to stay warm, strong, and healthy in winter!