November 7, 2020

How To Keep Warm In Winter With Macrobiotics

There is help at hand. By learning how to adjust your diet to include more warming foods and less cooling foods, you may well feel a difference in just a few days. After some weeks or months it is possible to turn around long standing deep cold in the body and a lack of energy.

Oriental medicine sees foods in a different way to western science, including looking at the warming nature of foods and also how different cooking methods affect foods. In macrobiotics we look at foods according to whether they have more contractive, energizing, warming or yang affects on our body, and whether they have a more relaxing, opening or expansive effect.

YANG Warming Cooling YIN
Salt & Animal Foods Whole Plant Foods Tropical Foods & Plant Extracts
Shoyu soy sauce
Herb salt
Sea vegetables
Grain coffee
Tropical fruits
Nightshade vegetables
Vegetable oils
Grain-based alcohol
Grain sweeteners
Fruit juice
Herb teas
Cow’s milk, yoghurt
Soya, rice, almond milk
Wine, spirits
Stimulants e.g. cocoa, coffee, tea
Marijuana and other drugs

What Food Do We Need In The Winter?

In the winter we need to eat more of the warming foods to stay happy and healthy and in balance with the time of year. In the summer we are attracted to more of the cooling foods to keep us cool.

To take a few examples, if you have been out in cold weather do you feel like a hot soup or something ‘solid’ to warm you up, or a nice bowl of fruit salad?

If you are sitting on a beach in the hot sun for some hours, are you attracted to a nice hot stew or some fresh melon or other fruit?

So lets look at how you can eat to create a good amount of heat inside your body for the wintertime.

Eating for Warmth

1. Eat moderate amounts of good quality salt and salty seasonings, especially as soups

This may sound really strange, salt warms you up? Actually in small quantities it does just this. But it is also easy to overdo salt, so as well as using small quantities in your cooking, the most warming way to take it is with liquid to balance it, that is, as a soup!

Yes, hot slightly salty liquid will warm you up – ideally a home made broth soup like a miso soup, tamari broth or herb salt soup, but a cup of Bovril or an instant miso soup will also work well.

2. Eat longer cooked plant foods

Longer cooked vegetables, beans and grains like a bean and vegetable stew or casserole, baked parsnips and carrots, and short grain brown rice cooked for an hour.

For breakfast try whole oat porridge (see recipe below) a traditional food in the northern climes of Scotland.

3. Eat fish or meat?

In general animal foods have a more warming affect on the body – if you eat these then a small amount can help to warm you up. The most warming way is to make a fish soup or a meat stew.

4. Use oil every day

Oil used in cooking has a warming affect on the body – oil gets hotter than water, so foods fried or baked in vegetable oil take in a lot of heat, which they will then give your body.

Avoid Strongly Cooling Foods

1. Don’t eat lots of tropical fruits, vegetables and other foods

Nature is beautifully designed – the plants and foods that grow in hot climates generally have a much more cooling quality that those that grow in temperate or colder climates. Ideal for people who live in those countries, but not so good for us living in northern Europe in the middle of winter! So rather than oranges and bananas, eat apples and pears, berries, and dried fruits like raisins or apricots. Make a nice fruit crumble with warming custard, rather than eating a lot of raw fruit (which will also weaken your immunity to viruses).

Short grain brown rice is much more warming and filling than long grain or basmati at this time of year. Millet, whole oats and wheat and spelt also warm the body.

Root vegetables like swede, carrots, salsify, burdock, and parsnips all warm the body when well cooked.

2. Eat less raw food

Raw food cools the body, so great when the weather is summery and hot, or if your health condition is more of an overly hot type.

So have a cooked breakfast, not a cereal with cold milk, and use a mixture of long cooked dishes like beans and grains and baked vegetables, as well as some lightly steamed, blanched, fried or pickled vegetables to give some lightness and freshness to your meals.

3. Don’t eat refined sugar

Sugar is a funny one, at first it warms and energises the body as it is a quick burning food, so it can seem warming. But it then leaves the body feeling empty and cooler (which may make you want your next fix of it to bring your energy back up again) Eating a lot of sugar every day actually depletes your whole body of energy, as well as of a lot of vitamins and minerals.

4. Don’t over drink ‘yin’ liquids

It may seem that a nice cup of black tea or coffee warms you up – it does as first as the liquid is hot, but later these drinks actually cool the core of the body down. So having 6, 8 or 10 cups a day is really going to deplete you. Some people can even feel that one or two cups has a bad effect, especially those already very depleted such as chronic fatigue sufferers.

5. Use less spices, more herbs

Spice is nice, but too much acts like sugar on your body – first it creates heat, then it cools you down. This is why spices are traditionally used in hot countries, and not in colder countries. Actually they take the heat inside the body to the outside, giving us the sensation of heat, but also cooking down the core of the body.

Use herbs instead, this is what we find growing around us and were given in temperate climates to season our food.

Nature Balances Us

Nature works through balance, and we can use the Oriental concepts of yin and yang to create health and balance within ourselves. In my dietary consultations I have seen people who have suffered for years or decades of feeling cold and depressed in the winter, turn their health around and gain a deep warmth and positivity during the winter months.

Recipes To Keep You Warm

Whole Grain Porridge

Put ½ cup short grain brown rice, whole oats, millet or quinoa in 2 to 3 cups of water with a pinch of salt, add a lid and simmer on a very low heat until soft and creamy.

Rice and oats take about 1 ½ hours (you can cook for 45 minutes in the evening and then ½ hour in the morning) millet 40-50 minutes, quinoa 15-20 minutes.

Add a little rice milk, rice syrup, barley malt, roasted seeds, sesame salt or umeboshi paste according to your taste.

Fruit Crumble And Custard

You need: 2 dessert apples or 2 pears, medium rolled oats, chestnut or almond flour, sunflower seeds, sunflower oil, nutmeg or cinnamon, barley malt (also called malt extract).

1. Cut the apples or pears into quarters, remove the cores, and slice the fruit. Lay in the bottom of a ceramic baking dish, and flatten the fruit so the topping does not fall through it.
2. In a mixing bowl, add 1 cup oats, ¼ cup chestnut or almond flour, ¼ cup sunflower seeds, ¼ tsp grated nutmeg or cinnamon, and 1-2 pinches sea salt and mix together.
3. Mix 2 Tbsp odourless sunflower oil through the mixture so all the oats are coated with the oil.
4. Heat a jar of barley malt by placing in a pan with 2-3 inches or 5-6cm of water, and bring the water to a gentle simmer for a few minutes. This makes the malt much more runny, so it mixes with the other ingredients more easily. Mix 3-4 Tbsp malt into the mixture, and then spread evenly over the fruit.
5. Cook in an oven at gas mark 4 or 180 C for 20-25 minutes, until the topping is lightly golden.

For the custard you need: 300g soya milk, corn flour, vanilla extract, rice syrup and saffron (or a pinch of tumeric for a yellow colour).

1. Bring the soya milk to simmer. Add ½ tsp vanilla extract, 5 or 6 strands of saffron and a pinch of sea salt, and cook for 5 minutes.
2. Dissolve 2 Tbsp corn flour in 2 Tbsp of cold soya milk. Take the pan off the heat, stir in the corn flour, and then return the pan to the heat and keep stirring until the custard thickens.
3. Add 2 Tbsp rice syrup, stir in and cook for 2 minutes.
4. Taste your custard and see if it needs any more vanilla or rice syrup to have a great flavour – if it does add them and cook another 2 minutes for the flavours to blend together. If you like your custard thicker, add more corn flour.

What Next?

Consider signing up to our mailing list for more articles and courses.