What Foods Should I Eat in Winter?
Winter - 'tis the season to bundle up, slurp warm soups and stews, and slowly wrap up the year with your loved ones. It's something about this time of the year that everyone gravitates more towards comfort food and warm beverages which made me really curious as to why we do what we do. Of course besides the obvious reason which is to stay warm. Do we simply eat those foods to keep ourselves warm or is there more to it? Also, flu season is at its peak; a good nutrition packed with vitamins and minerals will certainly help boost our immune system. Recently, I have been reading a little on ayurveda, an ancient system of natural healing based on the principles of three doshas (energies that make up every individual, which perform different physiological functions in the body) namely vata, pitta, and kapha (this article explains each one in more detail). They also offer an interesting perspective on which foods to eat more of and why.
Seasonal eating: Going to the farmers market is not nearly exciting in winter months but try to include a wide variety of fruits and vegetables that are in season and grown locally if possible. Look out for different squashes, Brussels sprouts, root vegetables, dark-leafy vegetables, and a variety of onions this winter. Dark orange vegetables such as sweet potatoes, winter squash, and carrots provide immune nourishing beta-carotene. In terms of fruits, pomegranates, apples, and citrus fruits are at their prime around this time of the year. Some studies have found tremendous differences in the vitamin C content of spinach harvested in summer versus winter.
Seasonal Recipes to Try:
Get Vitamin D: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or more commonly known as winter depression is still a mystery to most scientists but most agree that it is caused by lack of sunlight. The best way to beat winter blues is to get as much sun as possible. There is a growing amount of research into depression and vitamin D although the results are still inconclusive. Fatty fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel, tuna, and eel, certain types of mushrooms, fortified D milk and orange juices are some ways to get vitamin D into your diet as well.
Try : Salmon en Papillote
Eat healthy fats: Eating moderate amounts of healthy fats such as nuts, nut butters, seeds, avocado, extra virgin olive oil is a great way to boost up omega-3 fatty acids and other essential nutrients. Healthy fats provides satiety, reduce inflammation, and decreases the urge to eat empty calories esp during SAD. Dried nuts and seeds provide bodies with natural oil and keep our bodies warm and regulate our body temperature. Some of my favorite nuts and seeds include pumpkin, chia, pistachios, walnuts, and almonds. According to Ayurveda, our body is able to handle oils, fats, fresh milk products (yogurt, cheese), and sweet, sour and salty foods better. Since the external atmosphere is cold, the body like to retain heat and it attempts to preserve it. As a result, the digestive system naturally become stronger and is able to metabolize heavy foods such as fats and dairy products.
Spices and herbs: Heating spices like black pepper, mace, nutmeg, cinnamon, star anise, saffron, turmeric, caraway, cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper; and herbs like garlic, ginger, sage, rosemary etc. are wholesome for winter cooking. These herbs and spices helps improve blood circulation and keeps you warm. In Ayurveda, foods that are sweet, sour and salty are considered to be beneficial in cold, dry winters while bitter and spicy foods are thought to increase dryness in the body.
Hydration: It's very easy to get dehydrated in winter as factors such as cold dry air, wind chill, inadequate fluid intake, and shivering can contribute to dehydration. Drink plenty of fluids such as water, hot tea, lemon + hot water etc to stay hydrated. My favorite is to drink Nepali-Chiya, spiced milk tea with lots of ginger, cardamom, and black pepper.
Besides eating, activities such as warm baths, oil massages, and long walks can help keep our health in check. It is natural for us to wanting to stay in bed a little longer because our body knows the sun isn't out yet...get ample of rest. During this time of the year, the metabolism slows down and we are most likely to get congested, fall ill, and pack a little extra weight. Rather than fighting natural tendencies, listen to your body, and embrace those changes in order to stay fit and healthy during winter months.
What are some of your favorite winter foods and activities?