Why our grandmothers made gond ladoos in the winter months. Plus, benefits of amla (and amla achaar), and other foods to boost immunity and add variety to the dinner plate.
Cold weather affects more than just your wardrobe and heating bill. Your body also experiences changes in energy levels, metabolism and even food preferences. Until the cardigans and mufflers go back into the closet along with naphthalene balls, it is a good idea to adapt your daily diet to the winter months too.
Winterizing your diet can be both healthy and tasty, says Gita Ramesh, Jt Managing Director, Kairali Ayurvedic Group, and Author of The Ayurvedic Cookbook, Get fit in Just Two Weeks.
“People are mostly aware about Dinacharya in Ayurveda, but Ayurveda also has Ritucharya, which means to change your diet in tune with the change in season. This helps to acclimatize the body according to the external weather and build immunity,” Ramesh says.
According to Ramesh adding turmeric, ginger, garlic, pepper, etc., in your meals helps greatly in the winters as they help combat ailments such as the common cold and indigestion. “Avoid cold things like curd, grapes as well as refrigerated stuff. This also means one should avoid foods that are not available or grown in your vicinity, since nature never intended you to have these. They are the major cause of digestive problems,” explains Ramesh.
Winter and hunger
Have you noticed that you feel hungrier during winters?
Nutrition experts believe that the urge to binge on food at the first hint of chilly weather may be deeply ingrained in our biological makeup. It’s a survival impulse from an earlier time, when our bodies would have tried to store up all the calories they could to help us survive in times of scarcity – much in the same way that wild animals put on body fat in preparation for hibernation. Another factor to consider is consuming calories also serves to warm the body up, as essentially you are adding energy to your system. Because when it is cold outside, your body has to work harder to maintain its temperature, and you could feel an urge to eat more.
The trick is to look for foods that take longer to digest and in turn help raise your body temperature and make you feel warmer. “Include slow-cooked food, fermented foods, spiced teas, ghee, root vegetables (except potatoes), stews, and meat, if you consume non-vegetarian food. All these foods help to keep the gastric fire stable and keep metabolism at its peak,” says Dr Arun Pillai, Director, Spa & Wellness, Dharana at Shillim.
Here are some food items that you must include in your winter diet:
If you love your greens, winters is the time to go the whole hog. According to Ramesh, spinach and mustard greens are excellent sources of many vitamins and minerals, and can be a great help to tackle joint pains that become more painful during winters. Mustard greens especially are rich in beta-carotene. Our bodies need beta-carotene to improve eye and bone health. Mustard greens also contain high amounts of phytonutrients called glucosinolates. These help protect us from all the nasties of free-radical damage.
Toss them in a salad, juice it up as a smoothie or make a simple subzi.
Ghee has been an Ayurvedic favourite to treat a variety of winter woes. According to Ayurveda, our foods too are of certain nature; warming, cool and neutral. Ghee is said to be a warming food. It is one of the best things to include in your kitchen pantry this nippy season. “Ghee is loaded with natural and healthy fats that cut out the triglycerides or trans fat and keep you full for longer. It also protects the inner lining of your digestive organs, giving it Kairali Ayurvedic Group – Monthly Report – January 2022 – April 2022 Communications Inc lubrication. You can add it in your subzi, temper your dal with it or simply smear some on your rotis,” says Shweta Shah, Nutritionist and Founder, Eatfit247.
Root vegetables often have bulbous growth in the roots. The growths are essentially food storage for the plants to feed themselves through the winter months. These roots are packed with nutrients and antioxidants, but low in calories. No wonder mooli ke parathe, gajar ka halwa and kanji take over the Indian kitchens in the winter.
There are some winter staples that you can’t get enough of, and gond is one of them. Remember those good old days when our dadis and nanis used to make us eat yummy gond ladoos? Well, that’s because this edible gum is very healthy, and especially beneficial in winter.
“Gond helps you tackle cough and cold which is a common complaint in this weather. It’s also excellent to deal with low Vitamin D levels in vegetarians. Gond is a natural lubricant for our joints, hence helpful for those with back and joint pains which get aggravated in the cold,” explains Shah. Remember to drink plenty of fluids when consuming gond, though.
Sesame seeds are great for keeping your body warm in winters, says Dr Pillai. These tiny seeds are filled with calcium and iron. You can indulge in them in the form of ladoos or chikki with sesame seeds, peanuts and jaggery.
This superfood contains vitamin C. It is also an excellent detoxifying agent and helps to increase immunity. “The best way to eat amla is to eat it raw with a sprinkle salt or chili powder. You can even juice it for a drink in the morning or make a chutney with green chillies and salt. If you like pickles, amla pickle is a great way to add nutrition to your diet. You can safely eat one to two spoonsful of amla pickle every day, as most amla pickles are water-based and do not contain much salt,” says Shah.
Cravings and emotional eating are also high this time of the year. Avoid grabbing those sugary and processed snacks, which can drag your mood down over time. Instead, Dr Pillai recommends apples or boiled corn. Snacks made of wheat or chickpea flour are another alternative. Ramesh suggests jowar or ragi pancakes. You could also nibble on spiced fox nuts (makhanas) and snatch back the power from a gloomy winter day.