Winter diet, herb and lifestyle reminders for a healthy year ahead

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Although I've already done blogs this last year on how to stay in harmony with each season, I can't help but give another reminder today since we've just started the winter season. This is perhaps one of the most important times of the year to pay attention to what you eat, wear and do since the energy you store now will affect your entire year ahead. Interestingly, I am in Hawaii as I write this, but this information pertains to us here just as aptly as it does someone in snowy Montana.

Winter is the time to stoke you inner furnace '" to rest, nourish and replenish your reserve energies spent throughout the prior year. Follow the sun, going to bed early and getting up late. Since the outside cold drives the body's heat deep inside, choose foods and herbs to reinforce and support this.

Diet Suggestions for Winter

Eat all cooked food with more protein now. Especially good are lamb cooked with dang gui and ginger, oxtail or bone marrow soups, pork and beef, root and leafy green vegetables, aduki and black beans, roasted buckwheat, winter squash and walnuts. Cook fruit as well, adding spices like cardamom, ginger and cinnamon for digestion. A little salt and herbs high in mineral salts, such as seaweed and nettles, can be added to teas, grains and soups to help Kidney energy, the organ that normally flourishes at this time.

Vegetarians should especially only ingest cooked food, forgoing juices, salads, raw foods and soymilk since they have a cold, eliminative energy (tempeh and miso are fine). For juice, substitute drink hot cider, adding ginger, cinnamon and cloves. Be sure to cook all food with the warming spices listed above.

While spicy foods like salsa and curries seem warming, they also induce perspiration, which takes heat out of the body. Instead use internally warming herbs such as ginger, cinnamon, fenugreek, dill, cloves, cardamom, onions, garlic, cumin, fennel, fenugreek, dill and parsley.

Herbal Recommendations for Winter

Continue any immune tonics started in the fall, such as astragalus and eleuthero and add in Kidney tonics like deer antler, rehmannia, Chinese wild yam, walnuts and ashwagandha. Cook herbs with soups or in food '" an excellent way to increase nutrition and strengthen the body's reserves '" or decoct as teas. Tinctures, especially those made with red wine, are most appropriate in winter because alcohol has a heating energy.

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