by Michaela Rinkel - Acupuncturist, Chinese Medicine Practitioner
Here it is, my definitive list of excellent foods to keep you happy and warm during the freezing winter months.
Fennel - The seeds, bulb and fronds of fennel all feature heavily in a good winter diet. Fennel is warm and pungent, it moves blocked energy and strengthens a weak stomach, so can be used as a digestive aid. Try making a delicious salad dressing with ground fennel seeds, olive oil and vinegar!
Cinnamon - Warm, pungent and sweet, cinnamon is a hero when it comes to warming the body and getting rid of cold. It has warm and moving qualities, so is great for pain in the body, including period pain. Cinnamon is the first chinese herb we reach for at the very beginning of a cold, to quickly disperse the illness from the body and build our own protection. You can incorporate more cinnamon into your life by sprinkling it onto your morning oats, drinking it as a tea or adding it to stewed fruits and crumbles.
Ginger - Another hotty, ginger is pungent and warming, and is great for common colds, noisy coughs and noses, weak digestion after eating too many cold foods, and nausea. Ginger goes in everything! Try it in soups, teas, congees, stir frys, currys, steamed fish or grated fresh on salads.
Pear - The humble pear is the only food on here that is actually cooling. Pears have an affinity with the lungs, and are used in Chinese medicine as an expectorant. In winter we spend so much time under hot blowy heaters, that something cool and moistening for the lungs can actually be beneficial. In Chinese Medicine, the lungs are connected to the skin, so if the skin is dry, moisten the lungs (with pears)! My favourite way to have pears is stewed with lots of cinnamon to balance their cold thermal nature.
Sweet potato - Sweet potato is neutral in temperature, and sweet in flavour (obviously). Foods that are sweet and bland are perfect for building up weak digestive systems. Sweet potato is nourishing to the Spleen (in Chinese medicine the Spleen plays a big role in digestion). When your tummy needs a break from junk, treat it gently with some sweet potato. Sweet potato is delicious roasted, and can be added to most soups, stews or curries.
Recipe: Overnight oats Here is my favourite, easy recipe for hot and delicious overnight oats:
1/2 cup steel cut oats 2 cups water Cinnamon Ground ginger 1 apple Sultanas, extra spices optional
Rinse your oats, then add to a heat proof bowl or jug along with the 2 cups of water. Add a LOT of cinnamon and ginger. Chop up the apple and throw that in with the oats, add sultanas if you like as well.
Put the jug or bowl (not pour the contents, put the whole bowl) into a slow cooker - I put mine on top of a steaming rack, so that it doesn’t crack. Then add water into the slow cooker around the jug (like a double boiler) until it comes up to be about level with the water within the jug. You can cook the oats directly in the slow cooker without the double boiler method, but it will stick around the edges and form a crust, so this is up to you. I cook mine on low for 8 hours, but every cooker is different, so play around.
Serve hot with extra cinnamon, fruit, honey, milk and whatever else you like to have with your oats.