Now is the time to change our cooking and food selection to help the body adjust to the cool and damp conditions of autumn and the downright bone-chilling effects of winter. Our food and cooking methods can make us warmer within, and heartier against the elements. Here is a guide to doing both.
Cooking For Fall
Cooking styles can dramatically change the warming or cooling effects of food. In general, we increase the warming effects of food by doing the following:
- Reduce the water content in cooking. When boiling vegetables, add less water than you normally would. Cover and let both the boiling and steaming effects combine to cook the food.
- Increase heat and the length of time food is cooked.
- Add more salt. This can be just a pinch more salt, or the addition of tamari, shoyu, or miso, all of which can make the food heartier and more savory.
- Cook more frequently with good quality oil, such as sesame, toasted sesame, and olive oil. Oil conducts heat, cooks the vegetables more deeply, and locks in their flavor.
- Stew vegetables with longer cooking on lower heat. Saute a variety of root vegetables in oil, or braise them before cooking, and then cook on a medium flame until the vegetables have become soft and combined their flavors. Stewing is a great way to give yourself greater vitality and make you heartier against the fall and winter weather.
- Add pressure, such as in pickling and pressing vegetables. Add salt to vegetables and place them between two plates, with a heavy weight on top, and press. The pressing draws out the water and the salt creates a mild fermentation process that pickles the vegetables.
- More soups, especially with warming and strengthening vegetables, such as carrots, squash, burdock, and onions.
- Baking, which occurs under high heat and is highly contracting. Baking is not only done under high heat, but is extremely drying. Indeed, the food isn’t ready until it’s entirely dry. Therefore it has a warming and drying effect on the body. For people with dry conditions – those with a dry cough, dry skin, or wrinkling — baking flour products is not recommended, at least not on a regular basis. It will literally suck moisture out of your tissue and exacerbate your condition. Baking vegetables, such as squash, pumpkin, carrots and onions, can warm the system and infuse a lot of energy into the food and body. Baking is better tolerated by those with moist conditions.
Eat More Warming Foods
Virtually all the following foods are warming and strengthening in fall and winter.
Most whole grains are warming, but the following grains are especially so.
Brown rice, especially short grain rice. Highly recommended for fall and winter.
Sweet rice. Warming and excellent for creating hearty condition in fall and winter.
Mochi. Pounded sweet rice provides strength, vitality, and greater resistance against the elements in fall and winter. Especially good in soup.
Buckwheat. Buckwheat, a native grain of Eastern Europe and Russia, is perhaps the most warming of all grains. It is especially medicinal for the kidneys and highly recommended as a grain in the winter. Eat as both buckwheat noodles, or soba, and as buckwheat groats.
Most beans are warming. Include the following during the fall and winter.
Great Northern beans
Interestingly, tempeh and tofu are cooling. Therefore, these foods are not as preferred as whole, cooked beans in fall and winter. Cook tempeh and tofu in soups, and with warming foods, to balance their cooling effects.
Soy milk is highly processed and very cooling and is not a recommended food.
The DNA in a root vegetable directs the foods energy downward, deep into the earth, or the body. Therefore, these are especially good for the lungs (particularly the lower lobes of the lungs), large intestine, and reproductive organs.
Highly recommended roots include:
Burdock, long considered a healing food for kidneys, intestines, and reproductive organs.
Hearty Round Vegetables
Vegetables that typically appear in late summer and autumn are ideally suited for the season. They are rich in nutrition and warming. Among the best are:
Warming Herbs and Spices
Spices can make cooling foods warm and hearty. Here are some mild, warming spices that can add flavor and help us adjust to the season.
Nuts and Seeds
One of the sources of protein, healthy fats, and nutrients for our ancestors were nuts and seeds. Here are warming and highly nutritious nuts and seeds.
Sesame seeds, both black and yellow.
We tend to crave animal food more in the fall and winter and consequently we eat more of it during these months. In general, animals that walk on the earth are warming, while fish is typically cooling. Since fish is preferred over beef and other red meats, it’s a good idea to using our warming cooking methods to increasing the warming effects of fish. We can do that by making fish stews and soups, by using warming spices, and by combining fish with warming root vegetables.
If your condition allows, certain animal foods can also make you warmer and increase vitality. These include good quality eggs (from free range, organic chickens), and organic turkey. Chicken soup can also be an occasional and strengthening food, especially in winter. All of these animal foods are warming.
Green and Leafy Vegetables
We want to eat a lot of green and leafy vegetables all year long. However, the most commonly eaten greens are cooling. Therefore, when cooking greens in the fall and winter, use longer cooking methods, and sauté regularly in high quality oils.
Like leafy and green vegetables, sea vegetables are cooling. Since these are also preferred in fall and winter, we want to adjust the cooking to make them more warming and comforting to the body. When cooking arame and hiziki, add sesame or sunflower seeds, or onion, all of which will warm the dish.
Foods to Minimize or Avoid in Fall and Winter
All of the following are very cooling, summer foods, and therefore should be minimized in the fall or winter.
Sauerkraut and pickled vegetables are warming and recommended, especially in fall and winter. They provide needed probiotics. They also alkalize digestion Eat pickles regularly throughout the fall and winter.
Fruit is cooling, as you might expect, since it appears in spring and summer. Therefore, when fruit is desired, cook it first. Also add cinnamon and thickening agents, such as kuzu, both of which are warming.
Dairy products are cooling and cause disease. They are especially poisonous in fall and winter. Avoid at all costs the following dairy products: ice cream, yogurt, milk, and cream, all of which not only cool, but cause dampness throughout the system. They will make you more susceptible to all kinds of colds, flus, and diseases. You will save yourself a lot of suffering by crossing these foods off your shopping list.
If we eat the health-enhancing, warming foods listed above, you will experience greater vitality and a hearty resistance to the cold. You’ll also be more likely to be strong against the any germ that floating around, as well. These foods and cooking methods can make the season especially warm and cozy.