Winter Foods for Health

During the cold months we tend to eat less green salads and melons and crave more warming foods. This is a natural progression and eating according to the season makes perfect sense. In Asian cultures this has been in practice for thousands of years. In the early 1980’s I studied with macrobiotic teachers learning about seasonal eating. This education preceded my naturopathic degree, but it still influences how I make nutritional recommendations today. A basic tenet  still heard today is to eat locally grown food. For good environmental reasons and planetary health it’s best to not eat foods shipped 100’s or 1,000’s of miles from  where it’s grown. So mid-winter pineapple and banana are fruits best not consumed. They are cooling foods which deplete our inner heat.

Green vegetables and whole grains are well suited for the colder months in northern climates. If you are living in a warmer climate this is less of an issue, but eating foods grown locally still applies. Warming foods consist of foods grown in the ground like root vegetables like carrot, parsnip, potato, but also cabbage along with squash like butternut and acorn. These plants take longer to grow compared to lettuce and yellow and green summer squashes. Raw foods are more cooling than cooked foods.  In his book Healing with Whole Foods, Paul Pitchford (Third edition 2002) writes how Asian medicine offers another dimension to foods for healing. He states how Traditional Chinese Medicine classifies foods and the treatment of disease according to cooling and warming properties of foods which are prescribed according to the state of the person and whether they are overheated (yang) or deficient (yin).


Green foods for winter include Swiss chard, broccoli, collard greens and brussels sprouts. These slow growing green foods are substantial and support liver function and natural detoxification.

Whole grains are very warming foods by their nature and should be consumed in moderation; vegetables should be the major food substance on your plate. The best warming grains according to Pitchford are: rice, wheat, whole barley, spelt, well-cooked oatmeal, and quinoa.


 Think of a bowl of steaming hot oatmeal on a cold winter morning.

Another important aspect of good nutrition in winter is taking time to slow down while eating!

  • Chew foods thoroughly 30-40 times per mouthful; liquified food digests the best.
  • Create a positive atmosphere while eating; no multi-tasking! You will digest everything better!
  • Allow 20–30 minutes per meal; take time to enjoy nourishing your body. No rushing!

As a naturopathic physician, I know the mind needs to be calm and positive to receive the  nutrients offered by the food. Bless your food and give thanks for the abundance all around.  Remind yourself when eating you are nourishing a temple:  your body, your mind and your soul. Specific foods are necessary for certain conditions for healing. Contact me at: for personalized consult.


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