Now that the fresh foods of summer are behind us, are you wondering how to eat in fall and winter?
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), food is considered medicine and is used to harmonize the body and mind. All foods have their own energy and characteristics that either help to balance our bodies, or create imbalances which ultimately result in sickness.
This makes sense on an intuitive level; cold foods and drinks are appetizing in the summer, while hearty warm soups and stews are appealing in the winter. According to TCM, fall is a critical season to prepare your body for winter.
During the cold season, it's important to keep warm and prevent dryness. Here’s a primer on how to eat in fall and winter, according to traditional Chinese medicine:
Foods to defend against the dry weather
Food plays an important role in ensuring your body can adjust to the changing seasons. The dry weather can cause a number of occurrences in our bodies, such as:
- Itchy throat
- Dry nose
- Chapped lips
- Rough skin
- Dry stools
To help combat the dryness of winter, your diet needs to promote the production of body fluids and their lubricating effects throughout the body. Start with foods that moisten the lungs, such as pears and apples. It’s important to note that people with diabetes or blood sugar concerns should limit their fruit intake.
Apples, pears, and persimmons contain a lot of water and are very good at getting rid of fire in the heart and stomach, which may be left over from the summer. Other moistening foods commonly found in most grocery stores include:
- Nuts or seeds such as almonds, pine nuts, peanuts, and sesame seeds
- Soy milk
In addition to eating moistening foods, the body also needs extra fluids to deal with the dry environment. It is a very common practice to eat porridge for breakfast and soup for dinner that is made with the above ingredients in Chinese tradition.
Foods to eat in fall and winter to support the lung system
In Chinese medicine, the fall also correlates with the lung system, which dominates the skin, respiration, body fluids, metabolism, blood circulation, and immunity.
Pungent foods and herbs induce perspiration, as well as stimulate and clear the lungs while sour foods have astringent properties and thus prevent the loss of body fluids. Luckily, there are many foods to eat in fall and winter that can help support the lung system, according to TCM.
Pungent foods and herbs
- Bay leaves
- Caraway seeds
- Chillies and peppers
Savoury Rice Congee is a traditional Chinese breakfast, though it can be eaten at any time of day. The inclusion of warming and pungent ginger supports health during cool and cold weather.
Basic savoury Chinese congee (porridge)
Time: 2 hours
1 cup rice
8 cups water
½ tsp salt
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced (for garnish)
Sliced green onions
Put rice and water into pot. Bring to boil, then lower to a simmer. Cook for 1.5 hours, stirring every 15 minutes to prevent sticking. (If you have a slow-cooker, it’s easy to add the ingredients at bedtime at low heat to be ready for breakfast.) Ladle into serving bowls and add fresh ginger to serve. Add additional toppings as desired.