With cold wintery days upon us, it’s important to stay on top of nutrition and stay healthy. For most of us, the winter season is loaded with potential health setbacks, so it’s important to stay vigilant and be aware of the health risks associated with winters. Shorter days, colder weather, reduced daylight, and holiday bingeing gives us reasons aplenty to shrug our exercise routines and hibernate. Even those who are health-conscious tend to take a break during the winter season. The flurry of festivities and celebrations in the winter months ensures that the excess food intake and lack of physical activity, along with other environmental factors, results in toxic build-up, which eventually leads to winter-borne diseases such as asthma, sinusitis, respiratory infections, common cold, aches and pains, arthritis, immune compromised infections, weight gain, sleep issues, hypertension and even heart attacks.
Diet plays an integral part in staying healthy during winter. The switch to winter produce offers an exciting mix of seasonal and colourful veggies and fruits that are delicious, wholesome and packed with nutrition to cope up with the season’s changes. It is advisable to eat a variety of foods from the five major food groups and load up on a diet rich in micronutrients and fibre to stay active and positive. Here’s what you should pile load on to enjoy the winters and the delicious foods that come with winter.
Up your Fibre intake
Fibre is an important ingredient of our daily diet plan. It is recommended that an adult consumes at least 30 g fibre every day. Fibre is essential in keeping the blood sugar and cholesterol levels in check and promote absorption of nutrients. Incidents of diabetes, coronary artery diseases and bowel cancers were observed to be low among communities, who traditionally consume more fibre in their diet.
Pump up with Anti-oxidants
Anti-oxidants are a group of powerful substances, which are present in fresh fruits and vegetables, and are responsible for inhibiting the oxidation of other molecules in the body. Antioxidants protect the body from damage caused by oxygen, peroxides and free radicals. Free radicals are believed to be responsible for the development of diseases of blood vessels, cancers, and auto-immune diseases. Some of the most important sources of antioxidants that we can consume on a daily basis are goji berries, blueberries, pecan nuts, kidney beans, cranberries, coriander, clove, cinnamon, oregano, turmeric, cocoa, cumin, parsley, basil, ginger, thyme, etc.
Check your Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamins and Minerals are micronutrients that are essentially needed for the body in trace amounts to do important vital functions. They contribute to our immunity, help to heal wounds, perform cellular repair, convert food into energy and maintain healthy bones. Some of the most important vitamins are A, D, E, K, B complex and Vitamin C and minerals are calcium, zinc, magnesium, sulphur, and selenium.
It is recommended to avoid foods that are too heavy, oily, deep fried, spicy and acidic in nature as they lead to vata and pitta (life forces) imbalance in the body. Instead eat foods that are good for digestion and help your overall health including honey, wheat, soup made of pulses, spiced buttermilk, etc. Some of the easily digestible spices such as garlic, asafetida (hing), pepper, ginger, turmeric, cumin and coriander also keep us warm.
Drink Herbal Tea
Natural and herbal teas such as lemon, ginger and green tea have anti-bacterial properties. They keep your body immune, soothe your sore throat, and fight other body disorders. An Ayurvedic herbal tea made by adding a pinch of mulethi, pepper, long pepper and ginger is ideal to consume in the cold weather; plus, it also helps to improve digestion.
Winter Vegetables and Fruits
During winters, the digestive fire becomes powerful because of the obstruction from flowing outward due to external weather. The peak in digestive fire may cause emaciation of body tissues. According to Ayurveda, the increased digestive fire demands heavy-to-digest food such as meat soups, food prepared with grains and pulses, freshly harvested vegetables, and more.
During this season, dried fruits are acceptable in small quantities, so as not to further accelerate the fire causing rapid digestion. Fruits that are exceptionally heating or sour such as bananas, cranberries, and green grapes are best avoided. Instead opt for seasonal vegetables and fruits such as sweet apples, apricots, berries, cherries, coconut, dates, figs, melons, oranges, pears, papaya, pumpkin, beans, cucumber, zucchini, winter squash etc.
Also, keep in mind that fruits and fruit juices are best enjoyed alone– 30 minutes before, and ideally at least 1 hour after, any other food. This helps to ensure optimal digestion. However, this rule does not apply to fruits that are usually considered as vegetables (avocados, cucumbers, tomatoes, etc.).
Include Herbs During Winters:
1. Basil or Tulsi provides relief from chest congestion by dilating the airways in the lungs. One of the easiest and most convenient ways of boosting your immunity system is to have 1-2 cups of Tulsi tea daily. Consumption of hot tea neutralises the cold coming into your body from the external environment and hence regulates your internal temperature.
2. Turmeric is great for your health and is well-known for its anti-inflammatory properties. During winters, turmeric works wonders in improving your immunity and keeping diseases at bay. Try including it in your food or you can even add it to hot milk and drink every night.
3. Triphala is a combination of three herbs—amla, beheda, harde—and is a potent antioxidant. Triphala aids the digestive capability of the body which tends to be down during winter.
4. Liquorice is associated with curing respiratory issues since ancient times. It's one of the finest cures for cold, sore throats and related problems.
5. Ginger contains anti-inflammatory gingerols and shogaols in ginger root help to relieve a sore throat quickly; and they also kill rhinoviruses, which cause respiratory infections like cold.
6. Pepper is added to tonics for treating cold and cough. Pepper also provides relief from sinusitis and nasal congestion. It has an expectorant property that helps to break up the mucus and phlegm depositions in the respiratory tract.
Dr. Manoj Kutteri, Wellness Director at Atmantan Wellness Centre, has two decades of experience in the wellness industry in India and abroad, Doctorate in Health Sciences from the United States and carries extensive knowledge in the mind-body medicine, along with a forte in Naturopathy, Ayurveda, Nutrition, Acupuncture, Yoga & Physical Culture and Psychology.