Winter – Kidneys/Bladder – Water Element

By Karen Scobie

So, What Happens in Winter?

It’s the time for us to continue to pull energies inward, and take time to rest. In nature it is a period of hibernation. We need to emphasise the yin principle to become more receptive, introspective and storage oriented.  The cold and darkness at this time of year makes us seek inner warmth and allows us to warm our core.  It is the time to rest and to store our energy.  This is also the season we tend to add on a little extra weight especially around the middle to warm the area of the kidneys and bladder  The kidneys need to be protected and keeping them covered is a good idea. Buying a Kidney warmer is a great idea for the winter and this may stop us adding middle weight. Although it is a slower season we still must make sure we maintain some activity to maintain flexibility.   We live in is a cold damp country especially in the Winter and because of that we tend to be cold and damp we therefore crave warming foods.  Scotland is known as the curry capital of the world, this in part due to us looking for warming foods in the form of chillies, these disperse heat from the body making a damp situation worse as Chilli.

So to Help Us Feel Warmer…

… we should avoid chillies. Try using more ginger as this is so much better.  It does not disperse heat out of the body and it is antiviral, antibacterial and an expectorant, so it is a good choice for taking us through the winter months.  We need to make sure that we eat lots of warming foods like soups and stew, whole grains and roasted nuts along with dark beans, seaweeds, steamed winter greens are all helpful in fortifying the kidneys. We need to avoid too many cold salads, and cold drinks.  Drink hot drinks, use salads as a side dish to hot food or add a warm dressing.  Some raw foods are necessary for the enzymes but it should not be predominant in our diet at this time of the year.

Strengthening and Boosting Your Immune System – Beans!

Using adzuki and black beans are really helpful for strengthening the adrenals so use these regularly over the next few months.  They tend to be easier to digest than the larger beans, but if you find that beans are giving you wind, then using an inch piece of Kombu seaweed when you are cooking or a 1/2 a teaspoon of Asafoetida,  may help to break down the fibre in the beans and therefore make the much easier to digest. The seaweed will also add protein, minerals and vitamins to your cooking and It is also a great way to boost your metabolism.  Eating beans regularly can help the body burn off an extra 24% calories and this lasts for up to 24 hours.  Adzuki beans are also great support for the kidneys, so if you are under any pressure or stress, making some dishes with these beans is a good idea and also you can try drinking regular cups of Adzuki bean tea over the winter months.

What’s Appropriate for Winter…

Both the salty and bitter foods are appropriate for the winter, since they promote a sinking, centring quality which heightens the capacity for storage. Such foods cool the exterior of the body and bring the body heat deeper and lower.  With a cooler body surface we notice the cold less.  We need to use salt with care as in excess it tightens the Kidneys and Bladder. This may cause coldness and over consumption of water.  We also need to include protection of the heart-mind in the winter. This can be accomplished with the addition of a few bitter foods.  The bitter foods in season at the moment are turnip, celery, rye, oats, quinoa and amaranth.  Other foods include asparagus, alfalfa, lettuce, watercress and endive.

Salty foods include miso, soy sauce (good quality, fermented and without wheat), seaweeds, millet (the most alkalising of the grains), barley and any food made with the addition of salt (sauerkraut etc).  Once per day only of these is all you would need.

Seasonal Vegetables!

Eating lots Vegetables in season is always a good idea for our overall health and well being.

So try and aim for between 6 and 8 portions per day. Green leafy vegetables are good sources of fibre as well as being high in minerals,  root vegetables, carrots, parsnips, turnip etc are a great fibre source and they are good sources of antioxidants especially when cooked and blended (soups) the antioxidants like betacarotene become 15-20% more bioavailable  Try and make sure that you vary the vegetables, by making a variety of soups.  Having soup for breakfast is a great start to the day.

Stay warm, eat healthy foods in season, avoid white refined foods, caffeine in coffee and black tea (these disperse heat and have a diuretic effect thus affecting the kidneys) and make sure that if you are eating meat that it is less that 10% of your total calories.  This will keep your immune system at its peak over the winter months.

Having a warm Epsom salt bath 2/3 times per week can aid a restful nights sleep as magnesium is natures tranquilliser and a muscle relaxant. Add 2.5 cups to your bath just before bed.  Over the winter treat your body to food that strengthens it and some relaxation and meditation time and you may survive the winter untouched by any virus lurking around.

Adzuki Bean Tea

  • 1 cup of Adzuki Beans
  • 5cm strip of kombu seaweed
  • 4 cups of water

Place adzuki beans in a pot with the kombu  and soak for 4 hours or overnight.  Finely chop Kombu, add water and bring to the boil.  Lower the flame, cover and simmer for approx. 20-30 minutes. 

Stain out the beans and drink the liquid while hot.  You may continue cooking the beans for longer with additional water until soft and edible.

Adzuki Bean Sweat and Sour

  • 2 Cups of adzuki Beans – soak in cold water overnight with Kombu.
  • 15 cm piece Kombu
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup olive or sesame oil
  • ¼ cup Apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup rice syrup or Malt extract
  • 2 onions finely diced.

Pressure cook the beans in soaking water for 25 mins or You can used organic tinned Adzuki beans.

Pre-heat oven to 180C/350F. Mix the beans with the other ingredients in a bowl. Blending well and then transfer to a baking dish.  Cover the dish and bake in a medium hot oven for 30 mins.  Remove the lid ( if the beans look dry add some water) and bake for another 10/15 mins.  The onions and beans should be soft to bite. Serve with cauliflower mash or polenta.

These recipes were taken from – Macrobiotics for All seasons – by Marlene Watson Tara

Miso Soup – Very quick version For One

  • 1 teaspoon veg Stock  in 2 cups of hot water– Or use mineral broth or Dashi Stock, if you have them – 2 cups
  • 1 Teaspoon of Miso paste – Brown Rice Miso if you are Gluten intolerant or Barley miso.
  • 1 carrot cut into fine julien strips
  • Kale or Pak Choi – or both
  • Grated Ginger – juiced
  • 1 or 2 spring onions
  • Soba noodles – choose gluten free version is you are avoiding gluten.
  • 1 inch piece of Kombu (soak to soften this) – you can make It without this.
  • Put stock and water into a pot with the carrots and kale or pak choi and seaweed Simmer for 5 minutes then Add the Miso Paste ( mix with some hot water first). Cook for a further 5 minutes and then squeeze in the Ginger juice.

In a separate pan boil some water and add the noodles I use ½ bunch per person. These take only 5 minutes to cook. 

Add the noodles to a bowl with chopped spring onions and then pour on your Miso Soup.

This is nice for breakfast.

Winter Vegetable and Pumpkin Curry

  • 450g pumpkin flesh or butternut squash
  • 2 onions
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 900g selection vegetables (e.g. leeks, onions, parsnips, carrots, celeriac, turnip etc)
  • tin of organic chick peas – rinsed
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground fennel
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 60g creamed coconut
  • 1 1/4 cups vegetable stock
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper


Cube the pumpkin flesh. Dice the onion and crush the garlic clove.

Place the pumpkin, onion and garlic in a saucepan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sweat the vegetables in the oil until they begin to soften. Cover the pan and continue to sweat the vegetables until the pumping is soft. Process or mash the pumpkin and onion mixture to a smooth puree.

Cut the vegetables into pieces that will cook in an equal amount of time. Place in a saucepan with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sweat the vegetables until they begin to soften and brown.

Add the spices and cook for 2 minutes. Dissolve the creamed coconut in the vegetable stock and add to the vegetables in the pan. Bring to the boil and simmer until the vegetables are just cooked.

Add the pureed pumpkin, mix well and add chickpeas  and continue to cook for another  minutes to allow the flavours to blend. Season with salt and black pepper and serve with rice and salads. This dish freezes well.

Winter Nutrition by Karen Scobie