Friday, November 6, 2009

Warming Foods to Combat the Cold

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), optimal health is based on the harmonious flow of Qi or energy in our bodies. Our daily diet and nutrition provide an easy means to help harmonize this flow of energy. In TCM, it is considered healthy when our diets help our bodies to maintain a healthy interaction with our environment. The simplest way to accomplish this is by eating foods that counteract and balance the extremes of the season in which we consume them. For example, during the summer, warm and dispersing foods help to move our heat towards the surface of our body where it can be released, via an opening of the pores and sweating, and thus help prevent our interiors from overheating. Conversely, during the wintertime, TCM teaches us to utilize more salty and bitter foods which tend to cool our body’s exterior while helping to conserve and move our inner core heat deeper within our bodies.

Occasionally the extremes of a particular season can overwhelm us and lead to an imbalance and illness. This can occur with overexposure to either extreme cold or heat. If we find ourselves chilled after long exposure to cold, warming foods can help our bodies to regain equilibrium. According to TCM, getting overly chilled can lead to illness, so it is important to avoid long exposure to cold conditions.

A bowl of warming soup or stew can be particularly enjoyable and beneficial after a long day outside in very cold conditions. Here are some tips to increase the thermal nature of foods. 1) Try cooking methods that use a lot of heat, such as roasting, stewing, baking, or braising. 2) Use garlic, fresh ginger, and onion in vegetable sautés, soups, or stews. 3) Add warming foods and spices to cooler foods. For example, grate ginger on a salad, sprinkle cinnamon on cold milk. 4) Drink beverages room temperature or warmer, and avoid ice-cold beverages.

While these suggestions can help most healthy people, you should always consult a qualified nutrition practitioner if you need additional guidance on how to balance your diet individually.

Rainbow Root Vegetable Soup
Root vegetables are warming and sweet. This colorful stew-like soup will nourish you on a cold winter day.

2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and minced
4-5 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large parsnip, peeled and cut into half moons
2 medium carrots, cut into half moons
1 large rutabaga, peeled and cubed
2 medium purple potatoes, cubed
6 cups vegetable stock
Sea salt and crushed black pepper to taste

Heat stock pot to medium high, add olive oil. Sauté ginger and garlic for 1 minute. Add onion and a pinch of salt and sauté until they become translucent. Add carrot, parsnip and rutabaga and 3 pinches of salt and sauté for about 3 minutes. Add stock and bring pot to a boil. Turn heat to low and simmer for about 25 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Taste and adjust salt as needed.

Prep time: 40 minutes
Makes: 4-5 servings
Copyright 2009, Genevieve Sherrow, Original Recipe.

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