Preparing for Winter: Nutrition

As nights grow longer from the autumnal equinox we prepare our minds for the absorption of what has been developing throughout spring and summer. It is a time to reflect and ground into one’s center, harvesting the fruits of the seeds planted earlier in the year and assimilating the contents into the unconscious mind, which will come to serve as freshly nourishing soil from which to sprout ever more healthy and bountiful growth. Thus the primary focus of winter is to create a foundation to build from. The key to the transition is that we are moving from a place dominated by the conscious mind, as it wants to focus in on every last detail, into the world of the unconscious mind, where thoughts are not linear and we need to be comfortable with the idea of zooming out and allowing all things to coalesce.

To achieve this process in a positive and formative matter, requires some filtering… Letting go of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that were not serving you, or will no longer. Just as a tree filters out that which is not necessary through the leaves as they drop to the ground, then composting to become fertilizer for next year’s growth, we must transmute those contents of the mind that are not supporting you in their current form. Negative thoughts transform into positive. Poison turns into nectar. Rest in the fullest expression of Yin to give birth to the most auspicious expression of Yang in harmony with your intentions. This requires patience, stability, and nourishment.

The first step is to recognize that the body and mind are inseparable. They are an integrated whole, the states of which reflect each other as one unified whole. It follows to say that in order to maintain a steady mind, we must maintain a steady body. This becomes challenging while transitioning to winter as it grows cold and our bodies become more susceptible to outside intruders. To stay strong we must nourish the immune system as our first line of defense. First and foremost, there is no replacement for a diverse and nutrient rich diet. Take special care to ensure adequate amounts of all your vitamins and minerals (and water!), and take note of those that have a special affinity for the immune system: Zinc, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, Omega 3 fatty acids and Vitamin D. It is also very beneficial to eat cooked food as opposed to raw, as it takes less energy to digest and helps your body to stay grounded and mind centered. When you feel confident that your diet is in order, there are some additions that can superpower your immune system.

Astragalus is a catalyst of immunity power. It is essentially food for your bone marrow, which is the core of your immune system. It provides nourishment to, and actually increases the number of stem cells in the marrow! Use astragalus to build up the walls and actively prevent attack from intruders.

Another active prevention measure is medicinal mushrooms such as Chaga, Cordyceps, Reishi, Shiitake, and Turkey Tail. These all have their own specific use cases, however their beta-glucan content serves as extremely powerful allies in the immune system.

Aside from the immune system, it’s also important to just stay warm in the winter and ensure that the energy in your body is circulating consistently. Diaphoretic herbs are those which spread heat through the body. This can happen by either actively stimulating the radiation from center outwards, or by relaxing tension that is interfering with the circulation. Drinking a tea with a balance of stimulating and relaxing diaphoretic herbs is a great way to ensure every nook and cranny of your body is accounted for. A chai tea with cinnamon and ginger is especially stimulating, while adding a bit of Elder flower will put just the right amount of mild relaxation to loosen up the pipes and complement that stimulation produced from the warming chai spices. If you’re the type that gets especially low energy during the winter, consider making a drink with raw cacao. The high quantities of theobromine will activate the body and mind, helping you to pierce through the often heavy weight that is synonymous with the winter months. Incidentally, cacao is also a great source of Magnesium which, along with B vitamins are crucial for maintaining a steady, stress-free mind-body. In fact, stress actually uses up your stores of B vitamins, while also inhibiting their absorption. Vitamin B deficiency inhibits Magnesium absorption, then magnesium deficiency inhibits vitamin D absorption which is critical to your immune system! Do you see the mind body connection there? All of the physical preparation has to happen concurrently with mental stability. Allow winter to be your reference point to reach back into your sense of calm. Just as music would be nothing without the contrast of silence, finding this stillness will act as a point of reflection coming into the new year, and the new seeds you plant come spring will reach even greater heights.