Add some warming yang to your winter diet with dishes like this pot roast served on creamy mushroom grits. Photo by: Greg Dupree/southernliving.com
January 8, 2014 9:43:36 AM
After the deep freeze the Golden Triangle has weathered since Sunday night, today's forecast near 40 degrees sounds downright balmy, doesn't it? Thank goodness that's over. When Jack Frost blows in on a polar vortex, we tend to hunker down with warm soups, chili and stews. It seems the thing to do. We've always known what we eat affects our health, but have you ever wondered how certain foods impact our body temperature and the ability to stay warm?
For one perspective, we can look to the Orient. Traditional Chinese medicine asserts that food therapy can help maintain or restore our bodies' yin and yang balance. According to an article titled "Eat to Beat Winter Chill: How to Stay Warm Using Food Therapy" by Om Paramapoonya at hubpages.com, yin foods have a cooling effect and promote relaxation. Yang foods tend to heat up and invigorate the body. The extent a body is affected varies from person to person.
The effects don't necessarily have much to do with the actual temperature of the food, the writer notes. It's more about the internal impact. Ideally, every meal should consist of both yin and yang components, but the proper ratio depends largely on the individual's tendencies. Someone with naturally high body temperature, who tends to sweat profusely even in mild weather, will likely need to add more yin. Those who suffer from cold sensitivity and low energy will benefit from more yang, especially in winter.
What are they? A sampling includes beef, eggs, mutton, pork, poultry, oily fish and salty cheese. Add white and red meat fish, carrots, winter squash, potatoes, turnips and chili peppers to the list. You can add yang to the diet, too, with dates, coconut, blackberries, nutmeg, sea salt and soy sauce.
A few examples of yin foods include white sugar, white processed breads, pastas and pastries, soft cheeses, watermelon, apples and green beans. There is ample information on Chinese yin yang food therapy online; a simple search will produce numerous resources.
While we love to wrap our chilled hands around a mug of steaming hot chocolate in winter, ginger and ginseng tea are among the best heat-generating drinks, Paramapoonya tells us. It's been used in traditional Chinese medicine to improve blood circulation, relieve headaches and prevent chills and fever. Korean and Chinese ginseng are recommended. American ginseng cools down rather than heats up the body. (Keep in mind that ginseng could hinder the effects of some medicines, such as blood thinners, calcium channel blockers or antidepressants. Consult your doctor first.)
Other warming tips
Eat. Yes, body temperature can increase by up to two degrees once the digestive process takes place, Paramapoonya states. Well-balanced meals with appropriate portion sizes, plus small, healthy snacks once or twice a day, are recommended.
Drink? Not so much. While moderate alcohol consumption slightly increases the blood flow to the skin, which creates the sensation of warmth, excessive consumption tends to cause the body to produce a lot of sweat -- which is a quick way to lose body heat.
No doubt our Southern winter has more punches to deliver in the weeks ahead. Be ready with the yang. The recipes in today's food pages may help.
COMPANY POT ROAST WITH CREAMY MUSHROOM GRITS
Total time: 9 hours
Makes 6 servings
6 medium leeks
4 thick bacon slices
1 (4- to 4 1/2-pound) boneless chuck roast, trimmed
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup dry red wine
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 pound carrots, cut into 4-inch sticks
1 pound parsnips, cut into 4-inch sticks
1 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Creamy mushroom grits
Fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs, for garnish
For creamy mushroom grits:
1/4 cup butter
2 each 3.5-ounce packages shitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1 cup quick-cooking yellow grits
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
(Source: southernliving.com; December 2013)
DOUBLE CRUST CHICKEN POT PIE
1/2 cup butter
2 medium leeks, sliced
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 (14.5-ounce) can chicken broth
3 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 1/2 cups frozen cubed hash browns with onions and peppers
1 cup matchstick carrots
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 (17.3-ounce) package frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
1 large egg
(Source: southernliving.com; February 2011)
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.