Strolling through the supermarket and loading up your cart with fruits and veggies might seem healthy. But eating certain produce this time of year can actually cause an imbalance in your well-being. In this post, Chef V uses ancient wisdom from the Far East to determine the healthiest foods to eat in winter.
It’s really amazing if you think about it. We have access to an amazing abundance and variety of all kinds of foods throughout the year. Blueberries in winter? No problem, thanks to it being summertime in Chile this time of year. Because of the global supply chain—a little sluggish at the moment but we won’t get into that—and hydroponics (growing produce without soil), we have at our disposal all kinds of produce and grains, no matter the season.
While we definitely should count our blessings and feel gratitude for this abundance, we shouldn’t absent-mindedly toss just any food into our shopping carts. This is true any time of year but at no other time is this food-shopping philosophy more important than in winter.
The stress of holiday shopping, low-UV sunlight that provides insufficient vitamin D, over-eating at holiday parties and the cold weather that drives us indoors zaps our immune system.
To have a healthy, balanced immune system, eat foods that are in season. That means no blueberries, apricots and other summertime fruits. I’ll share my list of the best foods to eat in winter in just a bit. But first, in addition to eating seasonally, there’s another principle of healthy eating this time of year I’d like to share with you…
Supporting Kidney Function In Winter
I’m a big fan of applying ancient medicinal wisdom into modern diet advice. For instance, according to the 5,000 year old system of traditional Chinese medicine, there’s one organ that’s vital for a balanced immune system in the winter.
Not to be confused with the organs you learned about in science class, traditional Chinese medicine organs involve more than the physical organ. They also include physical energy points (meridians) and directly impact emotional and spiritual well-being.
In ancient Chinese medicine, every organ is associated with a season. Winter is the season of the kidneys. Take care of your kidneys and your kidneys will take care of you. The kidneys in traditional Chinese medicine act as the body’s pilot light. If this light diminishes because of stress and poor diet, your vitality and health will suffer.
Best Foods In Winter To Support Kidney Health
Ok, enough with the Chinese medicine lecture. Let’s cut to the chase. What are the best foods to eat this time of year? Which foods are in season, are warming to the body and keep your kidneys working in balance?
Roots and Tubers
To stay grounded this time of year, we need food that’s pulled from the ground:
- Sweet potatoes
- Green beans
- Brussel Sprouts
Are you a fruitarian? Could you live off of fruit all year long? If you want to have a balanced immune system, you’ll increase your chances of staying healthy by eating fruit that’s in season only in winter. The good news is there are a few on the list this time of year that are ripe for the picking:
- Persimmons (eat in moderation; they’re high in fructose)
Grains and Legumes
Unless you’re on a super strict low-carb diet (keto), you don’t have to say no to grains. Eating a couple handfuls of a grain with a lean protein like wild salmon and healthy fats like avocado will help keep you full.
Here’s my list of the best low-starch grains and legumes (which also get a bum rap in the low-carb world) to eat in winter:
- Oats (purchase non-GMO because oats are one of the most heavily-sprayed crops)
- Wild rice
- Kidney beans (makes perfect sense to support kidney health)
- Black beans (soak them overnight in water to make them easier to digest)
Herbs and Spices
When the weather is frightful outside, herbs and spices that “warm the blood” as the ancient Chinese philosophers would say, might not be able to replace a wood-burning fireplace. But sprinkling these on your food or in your tea may support the immune system and actually make you feel a tad bit warmer:
- Cayenne pepper
- Red chili pepper flakes
Best Wintertime Veggies
And last but certainly not least, no wintertime food shopping run is complete without these veggies not already mentioned above:
- These 7 dark leafy greens that you can conveniently drink and have delivered to your home almost anywhere in the USA.
These kidney-supporting foods are in prime season right now. Load up your cart with them and have a healthy winter!