by Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac.
The Winter Solstice occurs when one of the Earth's poles has its maximum tilt away from the Sun, and is the longest night and shortest day of the year. In 2018, the Solstice occurs at 2:23pm PT on December 21st.
During all seasonal changes, it’s important to make lifestyle adjustments to adapt to the new season and optimize your health.
Winter corresponds with the Water element and the Kidneys. (Learn more about this here)
*Below are six foods that will help strengthen your Kidney energy to ensure a healthy Winter season.
Eat some pork. According to Chinese Medicine, the Kidneys house your essence, known as Jing, and relate to the gonads, your brain and your bones. Since every cell in your body requires fat for membrane integrity, a fatty meat like pork provides the best support for the Kidneys.
From a Chinese medical point of view, pork can also help strengthen the sinews and bones, decrease Wind spasms to alleviate neurological issues, and help treat muscle weakness and conditions such as fibromyalgia.
Have eggs for breakfast a few times a week. Considered a complete protein, eggs are another important wintertime food that support the Kidneys particularly in relation to the body’s essence, or Jing.
Sprinkle some seeds on your food. Seeds, including sesame, flax, chia, sunflower, and pumpkin, are important Kidney tonifying foods that also help build Jing.
Eat more fish and seafood. Seafood in general is related to the Water element. Therefore, seafood tonifies the Kidneys. Crustaceans including lobster, shrimp and crab are said to be more warming, or Yang, so it’s best to avoid them if a lot of inflammation is present. Mollusks including mussels, clams, oysters, and scallops on the other hand, are considered more Yin nourishing.
Also, fatty fish are generally high in omega-3 oils, which studies have shown to be beneficial for neurological function and brain protection. For instance, a number of studies have shown that higher intakes of omega-3 oils significantly reduce the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease as well as vascular dementia.
The bulk of these omegas are made up of of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaeonic acid (DHA). Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is found in the meat of coldwater fish, including mackerel, herring, tuna, halibut, salmon, cod liver, whale blubber, and seal blubber. DHA can be converted into EPA in the body.
Studies have shown that DHA supplementation not only improves memory in cases of Alzheimer’s disease but can improve age-related memory loss as well.
Since the brain is an extension of the Kidneys according to Chinese Medicine, both DHA and EPA are crucial for the health of this system.
Seaweed and freshwater algaes such as phytoplankton are the only plant sources of DHA and EPA, though in a low concentration except as a supplement, so these are especially important foods for vegetarians.
Cook with oils high in monounsaturated fats. Olive oil and avocado oil are especially beneficial to support healthy brain function and therefore the Kidney system. Just remember that olive oil has a low smoke point (about 200 degrees), after which it can become toxic, while avocado oil has a high smoke of about 500 degrees. Monounsaturated fats in general can help reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol while increasing “good” HDL cholesterol.
Since inflammation is a sign of internal heat, it’s best to avoid polyunsaturated oils as these types of oils get rancid easily and therefore can become toxic in a body with excessive heat and inflammation.
Add some spice to your meals. Spices such as cinnamon, pepper, cardamom, coriander, anise, and cloves are all warming for the Kidney Yang and particularly useful for someone who tends to have a cold body and fatigue.
Consolidating the energy of the Kidneys during wintertime is essential to rejuvenate and prepare yourself for the more active Yang seasons of Spring and Summer that follow.
In addition to your diet, it’s essential to get plenty of rest and sleep more during the Winter months. The shorter days and longer nights naturally encourage this and as long as you honor the seasonal changes and your body’s needs, you’ll enjoy impeccable health into the new year.
*Please note: the information provided in this article is meant for general health maintenance and not meant to be advice to treat disease or be appropriate for everyone. In general, diet must be tailored to the individual. If you want personalized recommendations, you can schedule a nutritional consultation and also ask about food allergy testing through our clinic.