Winter is a time of eating more, sleeping longer, and moving less. This makes us feel guilty. The best strategy, however, is to just relax and enjoy. According to Ayurveda, it is the body's way to keep itself warm. Of course, it doesn’t mean endorsing an unhealthy lifestyle!
Eating a healthy diet based on Ayurvedic principles helps us appreciate the winters — a season of bountiful vegetables, hot beverages and traditional sweets.
The drop in the temperature intensifies the digestive fire (jatharagni in Ayurveda) which helps in digesting foods rich in fats, proteins and complex carbohydrates.
What Does Winter Do to Your Health?
Ayurveda, the ancient science of well-being flourished at a time when human life was closely connected with nature. It studied the effects of seasons and rhythms and recommended a diet based on the energy cycles (doshas) of an individual and the season. Optimum health can be attained through the balancing of these doshas according to natural rhythms and cycles by following clear Ayurvedic guidelines on seasonal diet and lifestyle.
Ayurveda divides the winter season as early winter (Hemant) and late winter (Shishir). This is the season of kapha when the cold and heavy weather slows the pace of life. A balanced kapha is responsible for lubrication of joints, softness of the skin and immunity. However, excess of this dosha leads to dullness, weight gain, mucus-related illnesses and negative emotions.
Another aspect of winter is that the dry, cold weather aggravates vata which leads to joint pain, indigestion, and other issues. Ayurvedic winter diet aims to pacify both vata and kapha in winters.
Traditionally, these foods have always been in our diet. Moong dal or bajra khichadi, fresh vegetable pickles, millets like makki/bajra, bathua, palak, mooli, methi parathas, mixed vegetables like undhiyu, sesame, methi, gond and aata laddus and gajar halwa or moong dal halwa. A small piece of jaggery mixed with ghee, and a variety of gajaks provide essential nutrients to the body.
Ayurvedic Diet for Winters
Eat warm, lightly spiced and cooked food.
Include almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts, and dates.
Include asafoetida basil, cardamom, carrom seeds, cinnamon, clove, cumin, fennel, ginger, lemon, mustard seed, nutmeg, pepper, and turmeric.
Moong, black gram and masoor are beneficial.
Natural cold-pressed oils, mustard, sesame or any other depending upon the geographical region.
Ghee and white butter.
Vegetables like beets, carrots, green like fenugreek, spinach, bathua, radishes and onions.
Fruits like papaya, banana, apple, pomegranate and sapota.
Avoid heavily processed, chemical-laden and packaged food.
Avoid cold drinks, artificial beverages, and ice-creams.
Cooking the Ayurvedic Way
Annayoga or the Ayurvedic art of cooking assists in preparing food that is delicious, satiating and healthy. The cooking process is simple and becomes easier with planning. An Ayurvedic menu tries to include shadrasa — the six tastes in every meal, namely, sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent.
It emphasizes the Sattvic diet which is easy to digest and keeps the doshas balanced. Sattvic foods are abundant in Prana (the universal life-force) and mainly consists of fresh vegetables and fruits.
An Ayurvedic physician can give you a clear idea about your constitution and the list of foods to be included in your seasonal diet.
Create a monthly grocery list. Find organic stores or farmer’s markets in your city. They offer loads of fresh vegetables, fruits, unprocessed grains, herbs, and spices.
Include a variety of green vegetables, root/tubers, and seasonal vegetables like gooseberry and fresh turmeric root in your diet.
Boil gooseberries and remove seeds. Heat ghee or oil in a pan, add cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, and asafoetida. Add the berries, a pinch of turmeric, rock salt and fennel seed powder. Cook for five minutes. Cool and store in a glass jar. Have with every meal.
Shred ginger. Mix with lemon juice and rock salt and store. Have before meals. Make a fresh turmeric pickle in a similar way.
Boil dried ginger, cinnamon, clove and peppercorns for five minutes. Bring it to room temperature, add ½ tsp of honey and drink
Garlic chutney or pickle is good for digestion and immunity.
Eat a piece of jaggery at the end of the meal.
Plan combinations like dal and rice or bajra khichadi with vegetables, makki or bajra roti with seasonal vegetables, dal with veggies tempered with cumin and fenugreek seeds and rice.
A variety of parathas using cooked and mashed dal and vegetables.
With today’s hectic pace of life, eating an Ayurvedic meal may seem difficult. However, with some planning and motivation creating a practical and doable plan becomes possible. Eating home-cooked food is better than any takeaway options.
Winter is the time for weddings, parties, celebrations, family get-togethers laughter and fun. Take the first step and chalk out a plan to try these meals. Be healthy and happy to chill in the chill!
(Nupur Roopa is a freelance writer, and a life coach for mothers. She writes articles on environment, food, history, parenting and travel.)
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