India is known for its diverse languages, food, culture, and festivals. The intensity and duration of winters across the country are also so diverse that it becomes a meme-worthy debate! With cold and dry winters already making people snuggle into their sweaters and shawls in some parts of the country, other parts are still slowly transitioning from the harsh October heat to the slightly pleasant temperature drops. Here is a short read about how to make the most of the winters while also maintaining good health.
Embrace Seasonal Produce
Winter brings its own bounty of fruits and vegetables. Incorporate these seasonal choices into your diet to benefit from their nutritional richness. Some examples include sweet potatoes, mustard greens, radish and radish green, carrots, green peas, amla, fresh turmeric, and so many more! The Undhiyo, mooli ka paratha, sarso ka saag, thalipeeth, fresh turmeric pickle, amla chutney, etc that are traditionally enjoyed throughout the nation are not only delicious but also provide essential vitamins and minerals to support your health.
You may have realised that your hourly trips to the water cooler at the office or school go down as the temperature drops. But it is essential to remember that although you might feel less thirsty during the winter, it’s crucial to stay hydrated. The dry indoor air and the cold weather can dehydrate your body. Use of winter heaters can further add to the dehydration as they tend to draw moisture from your skin. Opt for herbal teas, warm water with a wedge of lemon or orange, or vegetable-based soups to maintain your fluid intake without really forcing yourself to drink water. Soups and stews can not only help with hydration but if made with a variety of vegetables, pulses, legumes, lean meat, spices, and even nuts, they can make for a wholesome and nourishing meal. In areas where temperatures drop too low, the cold and dry air moving through your nose can irritate the inner lining of the nose and cause nose bleeds. Try using humidifiers and protective gears to breathe in more comfortably. Avoid excessive caffeine and alcohol, as they can contribute to dehydration.
Protein is essential for maintaining muscle mass and feeling satisfied after meals, especially during winter when you tend to reach out for an extra helping of food. Ensuring that all your meals contain any one protein source like dals, whole legumes, soy, dairy, nuts, eggs, meat or fish can keep your energy levels up and support immune function.
Incorporate Healthy Fats
Don’t forget to add a teaspoon of ghee to your dals, rotis, bhakris, and khichadi or the sesame seeds to your temperings while you enjoy their warm comforting taste. Healthy fats, such as those found in nuts, seeds, sesame oil, peanut oil, coconut oil, ghee, etc provide essential nutrients and help keep your skin and hair healthy during the dry winter months. Additionally, they help your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K.
Take care of your immunity
Winter is flu season, so it’s crucial to support your immune system. Although there are no real ‘superfoods’, you must ensure the intake of essential nutrients to maintain good immune function. Vitamins A, C, and E, zinc, iron, selenium, good quality protein, etc can help you keep infections at bay. The cardamom, cinnamon, basil leaves, cloves, and ginger in your masala chai can be great for your immunity if the sugar and full-fat milk are dialled down.
Don’t forget to maintain an active lifestyle during the winter. The end of the year can be the time when you just want to hit the snooze button and snuggle in your blanket, but it is also the time of the ‘new year new you’ hashtags. Exercise is vital for your overall well-being and can help combat the winter blues. Consider indoor activities or morning walks in the sun to get your heart rate up at least once a day.
Enjoy the season
While it is important to be mindful of what and how much you eat, it is okay to occasionally indulge in some of your favourite winter treats, like hot chocolate, tilgul ladoos, gajar halwa, moong dal halwa, panjiri etc. They are all loaded with nutrients and nostalgic childhood memories.
Healthy eating during the winter is all about nourishing your body with seasonal, nutrient-rich foods that provide warmth, support your immune system, and keep you energised. By making mindful choices in your diet and staying active, you can enjoy the winter season while maintaining your health and well-being.
Cause who likes to be down with a fever when your friends are planning a badminton playoff or going for that trek you were dreaming of?! Stay warm, stay healthy, and make the most of this cosy season!
Written by Girija Damle
Edited by Dr. Sripriya Venkiteswaran