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A traditional Chinese medicine guide to winter warmers

04/06/2012

Winter is here.  And for soft Brisbane-ites like me, it’s cold.  Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) places great importance on eating with the seasons to maximise your health and vitality.  Winter is one season when changes to your diet can make a great impact on how you feel almost immediately.

A few must dos for anyone who feels the cold in winter:

  • Ditch any meal made largely of raw or cold food.  That means no salad, limited raw fruit, muesli or cereal with dairy or soy, sushi, and leave the smoothies and juices ’til summer.  These foods definitely will not warm you up, and are actually likely to make you feel colder.
  • Eat warm.  The nice flip side from the first point is that you can replace cold, raw meals with nourishing soups, casseroles, curries and roasted foods. (These don’t have to be fattening by the way – if you make them yourself, you control the fat/carbohydrate content.)  Porridge is an excellent warm start to the day – here’s some warm breakfast ideas.
  • Dress to be warm.  Your grandmother’s advice will be useful here.  Keep your neck wrapped up if out in the wind or cold, always have something on your feet and make sure your lower back is covered.

Some specific foods to keep you warm:

  • Spice up your life.  Add a sprinkle (or spoonful) of cinnamon,  nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, garlic, black pepper, cloves, cayenne, star anise, rosemary, fennel seeds or turmeric to each meal.
  • Fruit is still in (1-2 pieces).  But stew it.  Grate it into your porridge while it’s cooking or add it to curries or casseroles.
  • Warm vegetables.  Vegies that are good in soups or roast well are a good rule of thumb for warming foods – think sweet potato, pumpkin, carrot, parsnip, leek, onions and chives.  See what is in season.
  • Protein sources.  Walnuts and pistachios are great winter warmers in meals or as a snack.  Peas and beans can be used in curries and casseroles (not soy based products though, these are too cooling).  If you include animal protein in your diet then lamb, beef, chicken and prawn are warming (just be sure to choose non-processed, non-smoked sources and consume less than 300g red meat/week).
  • Drink up.  Peppermint tea and green tea can be limited and replaced with chai (make your own), ginger tea, and small amounts of good quality black coffee.

This advice can also be applied to people who feel cold in air conditioning.  A warm breakfast and lunch will keep you toasty in the office.  If you have a tendency to feeling cold generally eating warm may be of assistance to you too, but make sure to also see your acupuncturist or health practitioner for more specific help.

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

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