Ayurvedic Diet for Winters
Who doesn’t love the cosy, pink winters? Think of the cool breeze, hot coffee, and a warm blanket. Aren’t you already feeling at peace? Well, I am!
There’s something special about the winter season. Be it the festivities or the colourful woollens, winters bear certain charm that one can’t explain but can only feel.
However, winter brings a different set of challenges too. This cold and dry season is not very pleasant for our bodies. Dry skin, chapped lips, brittle nails and high vulnerability to catch cold and flu can be extremely upsetting experiences.
Of course, we don’t want to be fretting over these troubles when there are many interesting things to do in winters. So, are there ways to keep these problems at bay? The rich and traditional Ayurvedic knowledge can actually work wonders. And since diet is the main source of several problems, let’s focus on what kind of diet does Ayurveda suggest for the winter season.
The winter season demands more energy to keep the body warm and fight infections. And while your taste buds might be craving for comfort food, let’s try staying away from the fried and spicy stuff and focus on a wholesome diet instead.
What Does Ayurveda Say?
According to Ayurveda, the winter season is divided into Hemanta (early winters) and Shishir (late winters). Interestingly, this is the season when nature is ready to nurture our bodies and mind. The digestive fire is high as compared to any other season and that’s the reason the food is digested better during winters.
Ayurveda suggests that for maintaining a healthy body it is important that the food we eat is close to its natural form. Our food habits in sync with nature or prakriti will lead to a healthy immune system. It is therefore important to focus on least processed and lightly cooked food which is easy to digest and assimilate.
Ayurveda defines winter as Vata season due to similar characteristics as wind – cold, dry, light and moving. Too much of Vata can lead to problems such as digestive disorders, skin problems, high blood pressure, etc. Winters with increased moisture can also trigger imbalance in Kapha dosha that can bring a sense of heaviness and lethargy, leading to quick weight gain. By following a good diet and practicing moderate exercise during winters, one can easily balance the these doshas and enhance body’s established immunity called yuktikrit.
Ayurvedic Diet for Winters
During winters, make warm and freshly cooked food an integral part of your meals. Try staying away from raw, junk, and processed foods. Here are some practical and effective diet tips recommended by Ayurveda for the winter season.
Eat Desi ghee
Ghee tops the list of oils and good fats in Ayurveda. Ghee or clarified butter made from cow’s milk is an essential ingredient in several ayurvedic medicines, treatments and recommended diet. Ghee is a great moisturizing agent and help fight skin dryness and frizzy hair. Ghee made of cow milk also aids digestion and balances hormones. However, it is important that to reduce the quantity of other oils and fats proportionately from your diet to avoid over-consumption of fats.
Hydrate your body
Yes, winter dehydration is possible. It’s quite easy to skip that glass of water during the cold season. In the absence of enough hydration, our bodies tend to lose a lot of essential moisture, leading to a lot of problems such as lustreless skin, dull hair and poor digestion. In winter season, Ayurveda suggests intake of warm water and other liquids to ward off cold and especially balance the kapha. Regularly drink warm water, soups, stews, and herbal teas to keep your bodies hydrated and supple.
Snack on dry fruits and nuts
Winter is a season of increased hunger. Our bodies demand more food and hence we must respect it by fuelling it with the right food and not any junk. Dry fruits and nuts work as great snacks for your in-between-meals hunger pangs. They are a great alternative to fried or oily snack and provide with adequate energy and protect bodies from cold. Grab a fistful of the mixture of almonds, walnuts, cashews, figs, etc. and keep your digestive fire alive.
Embrace fresh fruits and vegetables
Winters is a season of fresh fruits and vegetables. And since these are great source of vitamins, fibres and antioxidants, fruits and vegetables are highly recommended during the season. Eat more of the root vegetables such as carrots, white radish, onions, garlic, beetroot – since these are warm in nature and high in fibre. Winters is also the season of a variety of green veggies. Methi, palak, sarson are great sources of iron, vitamin A and Vitamin C – all of which help build immunity.
Spices are important
Spices will help keeping the body warm, reduce mucus formation, and fight sore throat and runny nose. Include spices such as cinnamon, turmeric, cloves, black pepper and cardamom. In fact, if you happen to catch cold, a simple mixture of turmeric, ginger juice, black pepper and honey can work wonders. And yes, don’t forget your adrak wali chai (in moderation though).
Try cow milk
Ayurveda considers milk as a complete and wholesome meal. Cow’s milk is considered better as it is easy to digest and is known to promote Ojas – the factor responsible to build body’s immunity. No wonder it is the next best thing to breastmilk for the newborn. However, especially in winters, avoid consuming milk as shakes or even with bananas as it lowers the digestive fire. The best time to drink milk is about 30 minutes before bedtime. Add some turmeric and a dash of cinnamon for a good night sleep and muscle repair.
Millets and legumes
Millets were the original staple meal of India and are a great alternative to wheat and maida. In Ayurveda, millets are considered sweet, heating, dry and light and are full of nutrients. Include jawar, bajra, makka and foxtail millet in your diet in various forms such as bhakri, rotla, porridge or laddoos. Millets are known to nourish prana and improve appetite.
Legumes are the next important food items for winters. These are filling and provide high protein as found in meat, cheese, eggs, and fish. However, for people who are new to legumes should go slow at first because these are heavy for digestion. Do include legumes such as chickpeas, soybean, lentils and kidney beans in your diet in form of salads, soups or curries.
Gear up for winters, my friend!
Don’t worry if your appetite is stronger in this season. You body needs that energy to build immunity and fight cold. A well-balanced diet and regular exercise will make winters much more fun that you could think of. The simple principle of Ayurveda is respect mother nature and embrace it in every form including our diet.