A diet that harmonizes with natural cycle will enhance one's flow of energy and harmonize the functional activities of all organs. A diet that is not in harmony with the movements of nature will drain one's energy and bring about diseases.
Ayurveda has defined the correct diet and lifestyle in detail, not only according to the individual body constitution but also according to the relationship between the seasonal changes and the person's constitution. The seasons in India are divided into 6 seasons:
· Early winter (Hemant)
· Late winter (Shishir)
· Spring (Vasant)
· Summer (Grishma)
· Monsoon (Varsha)
· Autumn (Sharad)
The Diet for winter season is given below:
Winter Season (Hemant and Shishir)
· Vata constitution: Predominantly, vata people feel very cold in the beginning of this season (Hemant) along with body aches. However, their digestion is good compared to autumn. They should have frequent small meals. They should take plenty of hot soups with carom seeds (ajwain) and asafoetida (hing) to ward off gas problems. Towards the end of the winter, when it rains and is very cold, vata people should eat well all foods as their digestive fire is at the maximum.
· Pitta constitution: These people feel best in the winter season as this is the most comfortable part of the year as far as their health and digestion is concerned. This is because the cold season very naturally balances the hot constitution of the pitta person. The only thing which a pitta person must watch out is overeating as pitta people tend to go overboard with the fried foods etc.
· Kapha constitution: For kapha people, winter is the toughest month because they tend to get problems with their sinuses and also respiratory problem. They must not eat heavy foods and should eat more of hot soups along with a dash of garlic, ginger along with hot spices like cinnamon etc.
In order to counter the cold weather, the skin pores close to trap the heat inside our bodies, leading to a heat build-up inside our body. This is a natural tendency and one tends to feel hungrier in winters.
Our metabolism slows down in winters and our energy levels are lower than usual. During this season, the human body, in order to keep itself warm, generates a lot of energy. This warmth intensifies the capacity of the stomach, which helps digest the food and strengthens the digestive system of a healthy and strong person.
Role of different food items
Use spices such as ginger, lemon, cumin, ajwain, turmeric, asafoetida and honey in your food is advisable. These food ingredients help improve digestion. So you don’t suffer from acidity or nausea due to overeating in winters. They help in increasing body temperature.
Consuming butter milk with cumin powder while eating or after meals is beneficial. It is better to reduce the intake of non-vegetarian and oily foods in winters. Milk, clarified butter, mawa, rabri, kheer, cream and sweets are foods that provide energy.
Moderate consumption of fat, especially 2 tsps of ghee from cow’s milk daily, helps produce enough heat in the body and is good for skin and joints.
Wheat, millet, maize, gram, moong, black gram and masoor are especially beneficial.
High-energy-dense wholegrains, especially bajra and makai (corn); energy and protein-dense whole legumes, nuts and oilseeds help increase the body temperature.
During winter, one likes to eat gajar halwa and dishes prepared with sesame seeds and jaggery.
Seasonal fruits and vegetables
It is best to consume seasonal fruits and vegetables, as they are loaded with nutrients. For example, orange, sweet lime and amla that are available in winters are rich in Vitamin C, which helps build immunity. Juices of amla, carrot and tomato are highly beneficial. Amla products like murabba, amla juice and chawanprash are beneficial in winters.
Leafy vegetables like methi, palak and sarson that are rich in Vitamin A and Vitamin C are good antioxidants.
Root vegetables such as carrots, white radish, onion and garlic are preferable, as they are warm in nature.You should also consume carrot, radish, tomato and cucumber in form of salads.
The body needs more calories to keep warm during the winter season. This can be provided by consuming starchy roots like potato and yam.
Other food items like groundnut, date, papaya, banana, apple, pomegranate and cheeku are also beneficial. It is good to eat dates boiled in milk for two hours after evening meals.
Soups are an excellent and easy way to incorporate all the dietary elements of the winter diet; and soups cooked in a slow-cooker are ideal. Baking or roasting vegetables and meats will give you the added benefit of warming your home and filling it with an aroma that will nourish your spirit.
The following diet is advisable in winters:
· A cup of herbal tea infused with ginger, tulsi, lemon grass, cardamom, pepper & honey
· A warm cup of cow’s milk with haldi at bedtime
· A bowl of lentil soup
· Make sure that you drink enough water (8-10 glasses of water daily) even if not thirsty
It is important to incorporate sesame seeds and groundnuts in your food during winters, as they are rich in proteins and help overcome the cold. Many Indian dishes use groundnuts as the main ingredient. Sesame seeds can be used to make til laddus.
It is best to bake, broil, roast and slow-cook foods in winter season.
Mustard oil is great for winter season as it is rich in vitamins and antioxidants.
Being high in calories, it is good for the season and it is recommended in cholesterol reduction programs.
Flaxseed oil, very rich in omega-3 is recommended for seasoning of salads.