Nutrition in TCM has the main goal of restoring the body to balance, in order to correct states of deficiency or excess. For example, heating foods such as chilli, ginger, deep fried or alcohol should be avoided in “hot” conditions like those involving acute inflammation. Cooling foods, such as watermelon and cucumber, are advised against in “cold” conditions.
As wintertime means cold weather, we want to keep the body warm until spring makes its appearance. What makes a warming or cooling food along TCM principles doesn’t always mean its thermal temperature, but rather its energetic properties. This leads to some classifications that may seem odd from a Western perspective. While black tea is a warming drink, green tea actually has cooling properties! Pineapples, peaches and apricots are warming foods, even though they’re usually associated with summer fruit salads in Australia. They may be hard to obtain during winter, but you can enjoy coffee (unless you find it overstimulating) with a handful of walnuts or a pumpkin soup with ginger, garlic and chives. It’s the same situation for cooling foods. Apples, lettuce and celery aren’t surprising, but spinach, buckwheat and oysters certainly are if you aren’t used to the TCM classifications of food!
Of course, you don’t have to exclusively eat warming foods during winter. A one-on-one consultation with a qualified practitioner is best to determine the ideal meal plan for you, including the balance between warming and cooling foods.