While many of us in Florida experience winter a bit differently than our neighbors to the north – it is, ahem, eighty degrees in January as I type this – our bodies still experience the seasonal slow downs that the shifts in light and dark invite. Even in a mild winter, it’s ideal to give our bodies a break from the extra energy it takes to digest raw foods, and to warm our body, mind, and spirit with nourishing foods.
Unfortunately, the trend these days is to “detox” after a long holiday, and oftentimes those “plans” and “programs” promote raw, uncooked foods – that is, foods that are cooling to our body’s digestive energies, and can require a lot of energy to assimilate.
Rather than dive into a weeklong juice fast the first week of January, I prefer to work with more warming foods as a base of my winter diet, to honor my body’s alignment with the cycles of nature, and give it the extra energy it craves in this dark time of year. A few of my favorites include:
Kitchari is an ayurvedic recipe used in many instances as a base food for a cleansing protocol. This mix of rice, dal, vegetables and spices is so nourishing and warming, individuals who base a cleanse on kitchari find they feel nourished and sustained. The Ayurveda Institute gives a great recipe at this link.
Congee is a healing rice porridge that is slow cooked to allow optimal breakdown of grains for good digestion. I like to add warming spices like cinnamon and nutmeg to my congee for a sweet breakfast, or ginger and garlic for a savory dinner dish. The Great Kosmic Kitchen offers a great write up and recipe here of this ancient food.
Nothing warms my heart like some almond milk and turmeric. Golden Milk is the traditional name for this beverage. I take mine warm, with a dollop of honey, and I often mix in adaptogenic herbs like Shatavari or Ashwaganda to boost the balancing power of this blend. Turmeric is a well known anti-inflammatory and warms digestion while supporting the liver. I start with 1/2 tsp of turmeric to 1 cup of milk, adjusting upwards to meet my taste.
Whether a vegetable scrap stock, or a bone broth, nothing nourishes the body like a long cooked soup. Even NYC has picked up on the fabulous benefits of bone broth, offering to-go options at local restaurants.
Vegetable Soup Stock recipe
Bone Broth recipe
Roasting your favorite winter roots like beets, squash, yams. Chop or cube, drizzle with coconut oil and spices – my favorites are rosemary and garlic. Heat the oven to 400 and bake for 45-60 minutes, stirring halfway. Roasted roots are a quintessential winter food, and make a great base meal or side dish.
As herbalists, we have wonderful spicy herbs within our reach – cinnamon, ginger, clove, nutmeg, black pepper, and the like. Chai-spice blends make the perfect energizing tea to start the day, or warming blend to wind down the evening with. I like to take a cue from Rosemary Gladstar and add herbs like Kava or Chaga to my chai spices, which helps mask the odd flavor of these potent medicinals but prepare them in a way I’ll truly enjoy. Traditional chai includes black tea, which I omit since the spicy herbs tend to wake me up with plenty of vigor.
Try incorporating these warming foods on a regular basis to bring balance and health this winter!