There is stillness in the air. Everything is “silent” and latent. Waiting. The energy of winter is dormant waiting for spring. It is a stable energy, which flows like water. But, within that calmness already lies the potentiality of the resurgence of life.
In winter we must take special care with our kidneys and bladder. According to oriental medicine, the kidneys are home for our “essence”, called “jing“, which controls growth and reproduction. In short, water energy supports our ability to live fully, face challenges and undertake projects with vitality and enthusiasm.
The “water” transformation: organs and imbalance.
When the energy of the kidneys is out of balance, chi stagnates and chills and swelling (edema) occur. Water imbalance is related to sexuality because the kidneys are key to sexual function. They are responsible for filtering all our blood (which in turn transports oxygen to all the cells in our body). They are also responsible for eliminating toxins and waste. We understand that a car must always have clean filters. Why can we not understand that the same thing happens in our body? What happens when we refill the tank with poor quality fuel? Why then do we want our body to work well with “poor quality fuel”. It is normal that excess fat and mucus accumulate in the kidneys and, logically, it is more complicated to filter and excrete. There will be a renal fatigue, a wear, due to the continuous extra effort. Then the kidney will begin to retain fluid in the kidneys to try to dissolve the accumulation of morbid substance and it will swell. An intoxicated body is a bloated body.
One of the main causes of renal lithiasis can be the intake of refreshing foods (yin) (soft milk, sugar, raw foods, tropical fruits, soy milk …) and / or excessive intake of foods rich in oxalic acid (spinach , chard, beets, etc.)
So, what is most harmful for the “WATER” transformation?
- Baked flour and processed grains (flour, flakes, bread). They cause respiratory problems and mucus.
- Alcohol, wine, vinegars, refined sugars, soft drinks, stimulants (they all cause demineralization). Drugs are particularly harmful for the kidneys.
- Cold food: ice cream, ice cubes, cold drinks.
- Reduce the consumption of spices.
- Avoid dairy products of all types, shapes and colors (= mucus formation and respiratory problems)
- Avoid soy milk and raw tofu (it should always be cooked in some way)
- Avoid cakes, artificial leavening agents.
- Avoid nightshades (demineralizing): potato, eggplant, tomato, pepper
What can I eat to nourish the energy of the kidneys?
- Black or dark blue colour is the colour that characterizes the water element. When we have problems with the kidneys or water organs (also bladder), dark areas are noticeable, especially under the eyes, on the sides of the nose at eye level (adrenal area), therefore, beans such as azuki or black soy are especially beneficial.
- Generally speaking, the best foods for water organs are those we can find in and around the sea: seaweed (e.g. kombu), some fish and shellfish (eg, cuttlefish, squid, prawns, shrimp, oysters, clams, dried fish) ).
- Buckwheat (buckwheat grain and soba), rice, black rice
- Azuki beans, black soybeans
- Condiments: miso, tamari, shoyu, tekka,
- Shio-kombu, kombu tea
- Black sesame seeds
- Watercress, nettle, borage, parsley, turnip greens, radish leaves.
- Foods that help dissolve kidney and bladder stones: turnip, daikon, radishes and ginger.
Thus, medicinal cooking for the water transformation, related to winter, should be more elaborate, stabilizing and soothing, both physically and emotionally. We will use more heat when cooking, with a lid on, and more oil and salt (but not too much). We will favour cooking styles such as tempura, pressure cooking, long pickling, combine grains and beans in order to harness protein, etc. Some guidelines below:
- Long cooking styles
- Use round vegetables and roots
- Miso soup
- The amount of oil when sautéing vegetables, etc.
- Salty condiments: salt, miso, shoyu, tamari …
- Protein (to build up internal heat): more beans, fish and plant-based protein.
- If you miss fruit you can have some, provided that you cook it (e.g. make applesauce, baked or grilled apples, etc).
- Winter grains (e.g. grown rice, buckwheat, oats).
- Warming cooking styles: long stews, long sautéing, pressure cooking, plant-based butter.
- Drink herbal tea as soon as you feel you are coming down with a cold: rosemary, thyme, sage, kukicha, bancha.
- Occasionally you can add some sliced ginger.
A good home remedy for winter, beneficial for overworked or tired kidneys (yang), is azuki tea. For this we have to strain the azuki cooking liquid with kombu, add a few drops of shoy and drink it hot. Give it a try!
I’d like to share some recipes with you which are particularly good to strengthen water energy in the winter. Give them a try and let me know what you think! 👍