Eating for the Season
Oct 30, 2015 11:27PM
As the winter season is transitioning in, it is important to keep our bodies warm to avoid seasonal maladies and from getting sick. The best remedy to achieve this is by making sure not only to consume nutritious foods, but also foods that are suitable in the cold weather.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), foods and herbs can be categorized into five different natures, namely “cool,” “cold,” “warm,” “hot” and “neutral.” Hence, it is best to sticks with foods and herbs that promote warmth during this season.
One of the most common and readily available cooking ingredients that promote warmness is ginger. Ginger is not only known for its warming properties, but also for its calming effect. Cut up several slices of fresh ginger and add them onto a bowl of hot soup or porridge. Nothing is better than a cup of hot ginger tea during this time of the year.
Cinnamon sticks could also be added into the ginger tea to spice up the taste of the tea. Cinnamon is known to promote blood circulation and effective in preventing illnesses such as flu. For the tea, stick with black tea. It is best avoid drinking green tea as it is considered a cold beverage and has a cooling effect (hence, it is more commonly drank during summertime in Asia).
Feel free to add garlic, onions and leeks into cooking dishes as they aid in providing a warming sensation. Black pepper, curry, turmeric and chilly powder have the same effect and are great in providing the dishes with an extra spicy kick and a more aromatic taste.
For fruit lovers, it is better to stick with neutral and warm fruits such as apples, avocados, durians (if possible to get them), cherries, longans and blueberries.
Healthy grains such as oatmeal, brown rice and glutinous rice are considered neutral foods. They are high in fiber, which help to maintain blood sugar and keep one fueled and energized throughout the day. High in vitamin E, sunflower seeds and nuts such as almonds, too, are considered warming foods that aid in activating metabolism that promote warmness. Top a handful of blueberries and nuts and sprinkle some cinnamon onto a bowl of oatmeal and a quick and hearty breakfast is served. In addition to nuts and seeds, almond milk also helps to “trap” heat in the body. Heat up a cup of almond milk and add a spoonful of unsweetened cocoa powder, and a warming beverage that relaxes the mind is prepared.
Meat, poultry and seafood are considered warm foods. Chicken and eggs are not only a good source of protein, but also vitamin B-12. According to Medical News Today, vitamin B-12 helps to prevent anemia and fatigue. Red meat such as beef and pork also aid in preventing anemia as the iron they contain is more easily absorbed by the body. Try to incorporate them into hot dishes such as stews and soups, but keep in mind to consume them in moderation. Like eggs, seafood such as salmon and codfish are a healthy source of protein. They also contain omega-3 fatty acids that the body is unable to produce in its own. According to University of Maryland Medical Center, omega-3 fatty acids are essential in maintaining the functioning of the brain and nervous system. For vegans or vegetarians, opt for beans. Red and black beans are beneficial to the heart and are a great complement in almost any dishes.
A meal would not be balanced and nutritious without vegetables. Although most raw vegetables such as tomatoes and cucumbers are considered cool and cold foods, once they are cooked or heated, they would change into warm foods. Vegetables that are suitable to consume during this season includes cabbage, pumpkin, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, carrots as well as cilantros.
In Japan, people would add a variety of vegetables alongside with other ingredients such as shrimp or beef into a pot of hot broth and let it simmer until everything is thoroughly mixed. The dish is especially popular during wintertime. While this is based on one’s preference, it is better to avoid consuming raw and cold foods and liquids (including those taken out from directly from the fridge) during the season. This may mean opting for roasted or steamed vegetables over salad or choosing oatmeal over cereal for breakfast.
Make sure not to get too hungry and eat balanced meal with sufficient carbs, protein and fats to not only to maximize your well-being but also to prevent yourself from falling sick for the rest of the cold days.
Tisha Claudia Lim is a fourth-year journalism student at the University of Maryland, College Park and an intern at Natural Awakenings Washington, D.C. She can be contacted at [email protected]