I like winters, not because I like the cold weather, but because I get to eat plenty of soul satiating food in this weather. It is the time of the year when a blanket of chill and slumber engulfs nature and living beings put their hibernation mode on. The outward energies are instead directed inwards, igniting the digestive fire in the belly. In short, your body feels like eating more and the food you eat in winters helps your body remain healthy throughout the year. Therefore, it is very important to know what to eat in winters to prepare your body for any climatic troubles.
Ayurveda and Winters
The great treatise on Ayurveda, the Charaka Samhita talks about the seasonal changes occurring in the body during Hemant Ritu or the winter season. According to it, as the outside temperature starts to drop in winters, the bodily temperature, Agni, starts to recede into the body. This causes an increase in the digestive fires, and if the right kind of food is not available it may severely affect the Dhatus or the building elements of the body. This impacts the Vata Dosha severely and could lead to diseases. Therefore, a proper diet should be followed in winters, especially by seniors.
Dietary Recommendations for Winters
According to Ayurveda, an ideal diet includes six distinct tastes, namely Sweet, Sour, Salty, Astringent, Bitter, and Pungent. However, in winter, the diet should include sweet, sour, and salty more than the rest.
Charak Samhita also suggests consuming oily foods to digest the excessive fire within the belly. Oil is generally considered evil in a healthy diet, truth is that wood pressed oils of mustard and sesame, etc. are extremely beneficial in winters if consumed in moderation. By consuming milk items, food items made of sugarcane and jaggery, freshly harvested rice, fatty, and oily food substances, and warm water, one can prevent early ageing and diseases in winters. However, one must consume food items as per their body capacity and health. The meat of animals that live in burrows is recommended. Pre-packed meat should be avoided, and only fresh meat should be consumed. Those who consume alcohol should consume alcohol that is made from sugarcane and honey. After understanding the type of winter food recommended in our traditional texts; let us now look at food items available in winters that are excellent for health.
Top Winter Foods in India
Ginger – Ginger generates a thermogenic effect, which means it produces heat inside the body, keeping us warm. It has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-viral properties, and boosts immunity. It is drying in nature, those suffering from piles should avoid consumption of raw ginger.
Jaggery (Gudd) – Jaggery is rich in antioxidants, iron, zinc, and magnesium and boosts the immune system. It helps to purify the blood. A small intake of Gudd after meals helps in the digestion process. People with diabetes should consume it in less quantity.
Nuts – Winters are the best time for the consumption of nuts. Nuts like peanuts, walnuts, and almonds are rich in omega fatty acids. They are the source of minerals, maintain energy levels and keep us warm. In small quantities, they can be had as mid-meal snacks. Always avoid drinking water after eating nuts.
Sesame Seeds (Til) – These aromatic seeds are rich in antioxidants and essential oils. You can make Til Laddu which is not only tasty but also the best food item which can be made with Til and Gudd.
Sweet potato – Sweet potatoes are the source of fiber, vitamin A, B6, and C. These contain magnesium, potassium, anti-oxidants and prevent loss of free radicals. They improve digestion. You can roast them on gas or coal; a tasty Chaat made of sweet potato can do wonders to your mood. Try it.
Citrus fruits – There are numerous varieties of citrus fruits grown in India. You must be familiar with some common varieties like orange, lemon, and Indian gooseberry (Amla) and some lesser-known types like grapefruit, galgal, etc. They are a rich source of vitamin C and boosts immunity. Since winters are known for ailments like flu and viral diseases, consuming these sources of vitamin C keeps infection away. One should enjoy them during the daytime under the bright winter sun.
Turmeric – Turmeric, the most common spice in our kitchens has anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties. Regular consumption of turmeric boosts immunity and generates antioxidants inside the body. Golden milk or milk boiled with turmeric should be consumed at night in winters on alternate days.
Ghee – Ghee is a super food. Some people consider Ghee as evil without knowing that it is a powerhouse of vital nutrients. It is a source of essential fatty acids, antioxidants, boosts immunity, generates heat, keeps the brain and memory sharp, and is good for body joints. It helps in the absorption of minerals and vitamins and removes dryness. 1-2 tablespoons of Desi Ghee should be included in the diet.
Pickles (Achar) – Achars made of seasonal vegetables like carrot, cauliflower, etc. are good for the gut. It helps in the growth of gut bacteria, which helps in the digestion process. It has probiotic properties and the consumption of pickles in moderation is recommended in winters.
Tea – An average Indian doesn’t need any introduction to tea. Winters are the best time for the consumption of tea. Green tea with added herbs like tulsi, bay leaf (tejpatta), elaichi, cinnamon (dalchini) is beneficial for overall health and should be consumed on alternate days.
Other than these recommended food items, one can opt for seasonal vegetables like Palak, Methi, Broccoli, etc.
After knowing the healthy winter foods, let us look into some precautionary measures to be considered before consumption of any food item. These are:
- Drink plenty of warm water in winters; avoid consumption of any aerated drink, that too directly from the refrigerator.
- Honey in scalding hot water should never be consumed, add kujja mishrey instead.
- Consumption of any recommended food items should be done according to personal health conditions and body nature.
- India is a large country, the intensity of winters varies all across the country, and therefore, it is recommended to consume food as per local conditions.
Many seniors don’t like winters since it is that time of the year when vatta and kapha dosha increase which leads to problems like joint pains, muscle cramps, cough, and cold. However, with the right food and a healthy routine, one can not only keep diseases away but also utilise this season to retrieve the energy spent during last year and accumulate new energies for the future.
Frequently Asked Questions
There is not a single rule that applies to every senior. Based on the body type and local climatic conditions, the diet should be decided.
Anything that grows during winter and suits your body should be consumed. Generally, food items that generate heat inside the body are consumed in winters like Ginger, Black pepper, Nu
Warm water is the best drink in winter. One can mix herbs like Tulsi, ginger, even lemon in it to make herbal teas that are good for your health.