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Eat your way through a cold-free winter

WHEN Xiao Xue (Light Snow) starts, the weather should get colder with no reversion, according to the traditional Chinese calendar.

To protect yourself against the cold weather, doctors recommend foods with relatively high calories for most people so as to preserve your yang (hot) energy.

Xiao Xue, one of the 24 solar terms in the traditional Chinese calendar, indicates the start of snow falling in the country. The temperature will continue dropping and turns the rainfall into snow.

But as the ground is not yet cold enough, there are only a few light snow showers in north China and little will accumulate on the ground. And there will be even less snowfall in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River region including Shanghai.

As the second solar term for winter, Light Snow usually lasts from November 22 or 23 to December 7 or 8. It began last Monday this year and will end next Tuesday.

Entering Light Snow, Chinese farmers will prepare cold-proofing measures for the plants and start making preserved ham. Traditional Chinese medicine doctors suggest that humans should also prepare cold-proofing measures for themselves.

Yin (cold) energy surpasses yang energy in the universe, which leads to an unfriendly environment for the human body, according to Dr Pan Huaxin, a veteran TCM doctor specializing in internal medicine at the Shanghai Chinese Clinical and Medicine House.

"When the human body is attacked by a cold current, energy crisis may occur inside the human body," says Dr Pan.

Secretion of thyroxine and adrenalin increases with the cold weather, so as to accelerate the decomposition of protein, fat and carbohydrate to help protect the body from the cold environment. However, much energy (especially yang energy) is inevitably consumed in the process, leaving less to be stored in the body.

Keeping oneself warm by wearing heavy clothes can help reduce the consumption, and wearing a hat is also recommended, as TCM believes that the head is where all the yang meridians gather.

Increasing nutrition including calorie intake appropriately is also necessary in the season so as to help the body fight against the cold environment, according to Dr Pan.

Fat and glucose should not be skipped completely. Lean pork, egg, fish, dairy products, beans and other foods with rich carbohydrate and fat content are all recommended as the source of the required energy in winter.

The proteins in these foods are easy to absorb, and it also contains necessary amino acid that helps improve immunity. Yet Dr Pan warns against eating too much, in case of problems like high cholesterol.

Goose meat is especially recommended during the season. It contains much higher protein than that of duck, chicken, beef and pork, with low fat but high unsaturated fatty acid.

It is also believed to be a reinforcing food in TCM that can help reinforce energy, warm the stomach and benefit the five organs especially lungs, as recorded in "Ben Cao Gang Mu" ("Compendium of Materia Medica") written by famous herbalist Li Shizhen during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

A traditional saying goes that "if you drink goose soup and eat goose meat, you can avoid coughing all year around."

Stewed goose with turnip can greatly benefit lung energy and help relieve coughing, dissolve phlegm and relieve asthma. Eating goose meat or drinking goose soup often can help control diabetes development while supplying nutrition for the patients, according to Dr Pan.

Though goose can be recommended to most people as a winter reinforcement, especially for those with respiratory problems, it should be avoided for those with ulcers and skin itchiness as it is a fa wu (stimulating food). Those with high blood pressure and hardening of blood vessels should also avoid eating too much.

The cold weather and shortened day time may also lead to low mood. Apart from attempting to adjust yourself by doing outdoor activities in the sunshine, some anti-blue foods may also help. Foods with rich folic acid are usually recommended. That includes banana, graham bread, spinach, kiwi, oranges and soybeans.


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