Extraordinary Sources for Winter NutritionDec 29, 2022
Chinese medicine’s health “encyclopedia,” the Neijing Suwen, translated as ”The Medical Classic of the Yellow Emperor,” says that the corresponding relationship among all the “fives” (seasons, elements, organs, flavors, moods/emotions, colors, etc.) gives clear guidance on how to maintain harmony of body, mind and spirit during the natural cycles of each energetic season.
The color is generally considered to be black for the energetic season of Winter which runs from November 8 to January 17.
So how do we harmonize with Winter with the color black?
One way is through the food we consume during this time.
Believe it not, the Neijing Suwen prescribes the consumption of black foods.
In Chinese medicine:
- black foods are the best for Winter,
- green foods for Spring,
- red foods for Summer,
- yellow foods for late Summer, and
- white foods for Autumn.
Black foods tend to be rich in inorganic salt and melanin:
- Inorganic salt can help promote fluid metabolism and it is a detoxifer.
- Melanin can help restrict nitrosamine (a carcinogenic compound) and thus prevent cancer.
IMPORTANT FYI: Foods containing nitrosamines include cured meats, primarily, cooked bacon, beer, some cheeses, nonfat dry milk and, occasionally, fish.
One thing you’ll notice is a common thread running through these foods: antioxidants! Antioxidants are very important for slowing the aging process. It is widely believed that oxidation of cells causes them to mutate thereby causing an acceleration of the aging process.
Black, deep purple, nearly black foods contain lots of antioxidants. They tend to be overlooked in our diets and are just as nutritious as eating green foods which are already commonly accepted as ultra healthy.
“Black foods have more antioxidants than light-colored foods because of their high pigment content.” –Cy Lee, Ph.D., professor of food chemistry at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.
Black foods abound in natural plant pigments called anthocyanins (derived from Greek meaning “flower” and “blue”). This is what makes cherries red, blueberries blue, and blackberries black.
Actually, most black foods are blue-black or almost black. The darker the pigment of the food, the more anthocyanins are present. Anthocyanins belong to the flavonoid class of molecules and are essentially, antioxidants. The seed coat of black soybeans, for example, contains the highest recorded amount of anthocyanins.
Anthocyanins actually prevent ultraviolet damage and oxidation of the plant. They are believed to protect the body against free radicals and major chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and more.
During energetic Winter, balance your black food intake with yellow-orange vegetables, tubers and gourds. Put the emphasis on eating warming foods. Warming foods tend to be yang, promoting circulation and metabolism and placing an upward, outward influence on the body.
Now’s the perfect time for stews and soups. Many of the following ingredients can be incorporated into your one-pot meals, especially black garlic, black lentils or beans, eggplant and black polished rice. Be creative and enjoy!
Some health benefits of anthocyanin in black or nearly black foods include:
• Combatting and prevention of cancer
• Anti-aging effect
• Reduced risk of hardening of the arteries
• A more efficient fat burning metabolism
• Decreased cholesterol and improved blood circulation
Here’s More than a Dozen Nutritious Black Foods That Contribute to Health, Disease Prevention and Make Mealtime Infinitely More Tantalizing!
- Black sea salt (also known as Kala Namak): high sulphur content is very good for your skin
- Black pepper: stimulates food digesting enzymes
- Black tea: loaded with antioxidants
- Black polished rice or “Forbidden Rice:” called ‘forbidden rice’ because it once was reserved solely for the Chinese emperor and royal family, black Forbidden Rice contains loads of vitamin E for immune system support and eye health, anthocyanins, and antioxidants; rich in anthocyanins and more fibrous than white rice
- Black lentils: loaded with iron they are a great source of protein, lower cholesterol, stabilize blood sugar, help increase energy and facilitate weight loss
- Blackberries: may help reduce cognitive decline in older age and fiber rich
- Black currants: piquant deep purple black currants grow on a woody shrub in Central and Northern Europe and offer an entire array of nutrients not found anywhere else; in addition to an abundance of anthocyanins and antioxidants, they are antimicrobial (a story goes that French monks produced black currant liqueur to use for medical reasons such as treating snakebites); black currants strengthen the immune system, ease flu symptoms and soothe sore throats; the black currant is used to create the liqueur Crème de Cassis which could certainly also be quite enjoyably consumed for its nutritional benefits!; some nutritional supplement companies also manufacture encapsulated black currant oil.
More black foods follow the bonus recipe below.
?? Bonus recipe for the cocktail known as Kir Royale Using Crème de Cassis made from ultra healthy black currants:
Pour one part Crème de Cassis liqueur into a champagne flute; add four parts Mumm or Perrier Jouêt Champagne (or any of your favorite champagnes); garnish with a twist of lemon or a sprig of berries and enjoy!
The Kir became popular in French cafés in the mid-nineteenth century and was popularized by Felix Kir. Shortly after World War II, the mayor of Dijon, Burgundy, France, served the Kir often to promote his region’s fine products (wine and Crème de Cassis). You can use any favorite white wine to make a Kir and there are many variations, so have fun exploring the one that suits you best!
- Black beans: full of bioflavonoids that protect against cancer
- Black soybeans and black soy yogurt: high in isoflavones, a class of phytochemical, and a type of phytoestrogen or plant hormone resembling human estrogen in chemical structure and found to be beneficial in treating womens’ health issues such as breast cancer, hot flashes, and the discomfort caused by premenstrual and menopausal symptoms
- Black quinoa: though quinoa originated in the Andes, a pair of Colorado farmers experimentally planted quinoa on their farm in the late 80s only to discover that after several months not only did the quinoa thrive, it had somehow cross-bred with the North American grain lamb’s quarter to create a new variety of quinoa; it’s crunchier, more fibrous and bears a stronger flavor than other quinoas not to mention the health benefits from the anthocyanin content; it’s a complete protein, abounds in B vitamins, dietary fiber, vitamin E, iron, phosphorous, magnesium and zinc.
- Black sesame: enhances bone health and helps you sleep better; a great source of essential fatty acids so important for anti-aging
- Black wheat flour (also known as blé noir in french or buckwheat flour: crêperies in France offer “galettes de sarrasin” for lunch or dinner which are crêpes made with non-glutinous black buckwheat flour; buckwheat is actually not a grain but a seed from the rhubarb plant family.
- Black vinegar: made from brown rice; believed to help lower blood pressure
- Black fungus (also known as wood ear): rich in iron and vitamin K, regular consumption can help prevent atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease.
- Black garlic: contains twice the antioxidant levels as fresh garlic; it is made by heating whole bulbs of garlic over the course of several weeks, a process that results in black cloves, a process which appears to double its antioxidant content
- Eggplant: packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals
- Kelp: a major source of iodine, kelp helps regulate the thyroid gland
- Black mission figs: anti-cancer, fiber-rich, antibacterial
It may take some creativity to find some of the richly hued black and blue-black foods on this list. Go beyond your local grocery store and venture into health food and ethnic grocery stores, especially Asian, and the internet.
Hou, Joseph P. Ph. D. Healthy Longevity Techniques: East-west Anti-Aging Strategies. Authorhouse, 2010. Print.