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Cold-weather Nutrition and the Skin

By: Pat Lam
Posted: September 25, 2008, from the October 2008 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
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Ginger is highly recommended to increase circulation, especially for warming cold limbs and lowering cholesterol. Legumes, including various beans, such as kidney, garbanzo, lentils and black beans, can be added to steamed rice, soups and stews to add taste, body and flavor. After the holidays, eat leftover turkey meat with whole grain breads, tomatoes and red leaf lettuce. These provide important nutrients, such as fiber and protein, and are wonderful on a cold winter day with a bowl of hot soup to keep the body warm.

Avoid high-fat foods since they will lead to sluggishness and weight gain. A good strategy is to try to stop eating just before you begin to feel full. During the winter months, it is recommended that you consume well-balanced, but moderately sized meals, and stay with warm, moist, nourishing foods, such as steamed rice and vegetables, congees, ghee and mushy soups.

Include some nuts in your diet, as well as herbs to keep the body warm. As an anti-aging strategy to beat the common cold, consume garlic and echinacea to strengthen the immune system. (Editor’s note: For more information about the role nutrition plays in anti-aging, check out Nutrition: The Healthy Aging Solution, Lam Skin, 2008, by Pat Lam).

Traditional Chinese Medicine

TCM is becoming more widespread in Western society. The Chinese believe that food is medicine and medicine is food, and if the correct foods are consumed, drugs are not required, since the body will heal itself. According to TCM, it is important to live in harmony with the environment in order to help the body adapt better to the current weather and remain healthy. It is believed that the body undergoes physiological alterations during changing seasons, and, therefore, different foods need to be taken into the body to balance and maintain good health.

In TCM, a balanced diet does not involve food plans, but relates to a diet that balances yin and yang, the two invisible forces that are in direct opposition to each other. The Chinese believe that everything can be classified as either yin or yang, and good health can only be maintained if both are balanced, because an excess of either one will lead to illness or disease. The belief that the fundamental substances—such as qi, the life force—are constantly in motion and exist everywhere, including within the body. The meridians, or energy vessels, in the body are analogous to blood vessels and transport qi and blood throughout the body. This is the essence of Chinese medicine and culture.