Winter, the end of the seasonal cycle, brings darkness and cold. Just as lakes and rivers freeze and snow falls all things in nature enter a resting period. The natural rhythm in the winter is to retire early and get up with the sunrise, which is later in winter. It is a time to slow down, rejuvenate and to simplify our life. Unfortunately, our modern society does not support honouring this seasonal shift and we do not have the luxury of tucking ourselves into our homes for a few months and reemerging when the days grow longer. In this winter chronicle, I am pleased to offer you advice on how to nourish yourself to store energy and stay warm and strong throughout the winter.
Winter is a time when yin dominates yang; a time of persistence, darkness and conservation. It is a time to go inward and refine the spiritual essence. Winter is ruled by the element of water and the organs related are the kidneys and bladder. The kidneys are said to be the root and foundation of the body, of all yin and yang qualities and it is where the qi ~ energy ~ is stored. A person with healthy, vital kidneys has the ability to flow with life, to accomplish a great amount without stress, is courageous and active while staying calm.
The emotion related to the winter is fear, and like the kidneys, fear is deeply rooted. Fear is necessary to protect and keep us away from danger when excessive however it generates insecurities about life and also injures the kidneys.
The colour that relates to winter is dark blue or black and the flavour of foods that nourishes our water, kidneys and bladder is salty. Such taste can be found in cheese, kelp, mineral salt, miso, nori, salt water fish, seaweeds, millet and barley. Bitter foods are also appropriate in winter since they cool the exterior of the body and bring body heat deeper and lower. These foods include lettuce, watercress, celery, oats, quinoa, turnip and rye.
Winter is a time to cook food slowly; it brings the energy of the food deep within where nourishment is needed to keep you warm. Soups, braised dishes and roasted root vegetables warm your body and restore moisture. Seaweed is a wonder food in supporting your kidney energy.
Beans and Legumes
The name legume comes from the Latin legumen or legere, “to gather”. As one of the least expensive forms of protein, beans are as nutritious as they are practical, which is why they are an integral part of cultures all over the world. Ounce per ounce, some beans have as much protein as a comparable amount of meat.
Some of their healing properties include reducing cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, regulating colon function and preventing constipation. Classified as a low-glycemic index food, they are slowly digested and help diabetics and people who have low blood sugar. They are a good source of calcium, potassium, iron, zinc, and some B vitamins including folate and are low in fat.
Chinese medicine embraces the bean ~ especially the dark/black coloured one ~ as a highly beneficial food for the kidney-adrenal functions.
Legumes and beans are generally drying and diuretic. They are not the ideal food for thin, dry, frail or weak persons. To counteract this tension, combine beans with oily foods or olive oil ~ refried beans, hummus containing oily sesame seed butter, sausages or meat ateen with beans ~. Legumes are a good food for strong, robust, overweight person. With their drying quality, they are beneficial when there are signs of oedema and yeast, soybean being the exception.
Everyone needs more vitality, and with the proper foods and by avoiding toxins, limiting the amounts of sweet-flavoured foods and eating moderate amounts of dietary protein you can nourish the kidney energy and improve vitality, resistance to disease and longevity. Some of these foods are:
Micro-algae (chlorella, spirulina, wild blue-green) fish, liver, kidney, bone and its marrow, cereal grass, almonds, milk, clarified butter, nettles, royal jelly, bee pollen, black beans, millet, wheat, black sesame seeds, chestnuts, mulberries, raspberries, strawberries and walnut.
It is important to choose the appropriate energy tonic for your condition, knowing the property and if it’s appropriate for you, as there is no food or health product that is good for everyone. If you feel you are in need of a whole food tonic, I am pleased to help you find what is right for you.
It is helpful to make a list of foods that are in season, including foods of all five flavours: salty, bitter, sour, sweet and pungent. This ensures that all your organs are being nourished each season, however, winter is the optimum time to focus on nourishing and building kidney energy. Foods that have been prepared mindfully and with respect have the power to nourish our bodies, hearts, minds, and spirits, to bring a family together and to connect to the earth’s cycle. When we are nourished as one integrated being, we move through life actively, yet calm, courageous but gentle and our actions are thoughtful.
Basic Pot of Beans
They are many people who do not enjoy the benefits of beans because they do not digest them well. Often the problem is improper preparation, wrong choice of legume or poor food combining. Start by introducing legends slowly allowing your digestive system time to adjust. Adding a small amount of kombu seaweed and spices for flavour may help. Soaking beans with 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or baking soda are other options.
Boil the beans in water for 5 minutes, remove from heat, cover and allow them to soak for 2 to 4 hours. (Soaking longer will not damage). Drain, rinse, add to fresh water and proceed with cooking.
Overnight soak: preferred method.
Soak beans 8 to 12 hours, drain, rinse, add fresh water and proceed with cooking.
Before soaking, pick through the beans and remove any that are discoloured or broken. Place the dried beans in a large bowl with an amount of cold water to cover and allow to stand at room temperature for 8 hours or longer. The soaking water should always be drained and discarded before cooking beans. Once the beans are drained rinse them under cold water and allow them to drain again.
When cooking beans use plenty of water to allow room for expansion (6 cups of water for every cup of bean). For cooking, place soaked, drained, beans in a heavy medium saucepan. Add 6 cups of water for every cup of beans and place over medium-high heat. Bring the water to a boil, skim off the foam, lower the heat to medium-low and simmer gently, uncovered, until tender.
• Spices that aid digestion is a bay leaf, cumin, anise and fennel. These can be added to the water near the end of cooking.
• Only add salt at the end of cooking, about 10 minutes before beans are done. Otherwise, the beans will not soften.
• A simple way to tell if you have soaked your beans enough is to slice a bean in half; if the centre is still opaque, soak more.
A busy lifestyle does not always allow time for soaking and cooking dried beans. Having canned beans on hand provides a quick meal option. When buying canned beans, consider these few tips:
• Buy canned beans that do not contain added salt or preservatives
• Look for beans that have been cooked with kombu.
• Rinse beans once removed from the can.
When Choosing Beans:
In China, a traditional practice exists in which legumes are assigned healing properties according to their Five Element color.
• Red: aduki, red lentil, kidney bean influence the hearth and small intestine.
• Yellow: garbanzo, yellow pea and soybean influence the spleen-pancreas and stomach.
• White: lima, navy, and great northern influence the lungs and large intestine.
• Dark, black and brown: black bean, black soybean, brown lentil influence the kidneys and bladder.
• Green: mung beans, green pea and fresh green bean influence the liver and gallbladder.
Featured Image: The Spruce