With the onset of supermarket and modern storage techniques, all raw produce is available year around. Due to their continuous availability, we forget the importance of consuming seasonal foods which comes with its own advantages over consuming foods which are not meant for the season. Seasonal winter fruits and veggies taste better, have vibrant flavour and nutritionally superior. When the produce is ripened naturally, the nutrients and antioxidants are preserved. If picked before it’s time and artificially ripened, the nutrients get depleted within a few days.
Winter season brings with it frequent episodes of respiratory infections and lower immunity levels. Weight gain is commonly observed due to hunger pangs and food cravings with reduced physical activity, which leads to a slower metabolism. Look for winter foods which are meant for the season, at its height of seasonality or freshness, keeping even vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals present in them in its freshest form. The warmth of certain foods along with nutrient dense seasonal winter foods helps tackle illness and achieve a higher level of fitness.
Cereals and Grains
Opt for Makki ki Roti, as complex carbohydrates present in it provides energy that is sustainable throughout the day, which is very much needed in winters when we tend to feel lethargic. Dietary fiber present in it promotes regular bowel function, delays nutrient absorption which helps in maintaining blood sugar levels and blood cholesterol levels. Dietary fiber also works for weight loss by trapping the extra fat and providing a feeling of fullness. Choose Rajgira which provides both carbohydrates and protein that requires more energy to digest, producing more heat and improving our metabolism. Health benefits of Rajgira is also attributed to its high content of Calcium which plays an important role in improving bone density and decreases the risk of osteoporosis. It also contains Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium and Selenium required for overall health. Being richest in iron content among cereals, it helps increase Haemoglobin levels. It has good amounts of Lysine, an essential amino acid our body cannot manufacture. Lysine helps reduce anxiety, improves skin and hair health and is also needed for calcium absorption, good gut health, and for metabolizing fats. It is richer in fat content than other grains and most of the fats are goods fats which provides much-needed warmness. Winter is the perfect time to consume oats providing instant warmth and satiety. Beta glucan, a soluble fibre present in it, helps in weight management besides improving immunity.
Also read: Foods You Should Eat Before Your Workout
Nuts and Oilseeds
Nuts and oilseeds tackle cold weather by providing small doses of energy and keeping us toasty. Almonds (Badam) and Walnuts (Akhrot)together are a good source of Phosphorus, Magnesium, Calcium and Potassium. Vitamin E along with Flavonoids in Badamnourishes the skin prevents premature ageing, improve heart health, bone health, eye health and brain health. Vitamin B7 in Walnuts keep our skin, fingernails and hair healthy. Sesame seeds (til), and Flaxseeds (Alsi / Jawas)provide Protein, Good Fats, Iron, Dietary Fibre, Zinc, Selenium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium and Calcium. Omega 3 fats present in Flaxseeds & Walnuts have the potential to prevent and treat cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, arthritis and certain types of cancer. These essential fatty acids help reduction in the triglyceride levels, controlling blood pressure and boost immunity. It is also helpful for overcoming mood, behaviour and attention issues. Selenium and Zinc provide protection from some viral infections. Add ½ – 1 teaspoon of ground or roastedflaxseeds& sesame seed and a handful of almonds &walnuts mixture to cereals, yoghurt, salads, snacks, soups, baked foods and variety of dishes.
Ginger can help keep our body warm due to the presence of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds namely Gingerols. Gingerols get converted to Zingerone on heating which aids in decreasing fat cells and gets converted into Shogaols on dehydration. Dried ginger is twice as spicy as fresh ginger and packs more heat.
Turmeric and Black Pepper is a remarkable combination to obtain bountiful health benefits. Together these spices can increase cholesterol elimination from the body, protect the liver from damage caused by toxins, relieve joint pains or stiffness, and manage diabetes, also suppressing the actions which lead to obesity and cancer.
Use a variety of spices like ajwain, cinnamon powder (dalchini), nutmeg powder (jaiphal), and clove powder (laung) as these are good sources of minerals and also aids in digestion. With a pungent aroma, these spices contain various antioxidants that increase the body’s metabolism and generate heat. Few pinches of these spices in hot beverages can provide relief from nasal congestion and boost immunity. One can get more creative and use these aromatic spices in own ways in a variety of dishes.
Fruits and Vegetables
These winter fruits and veggies have various micronutrients and phytochemical substances which help fight inflammation, combat stress and diseases.
Choose Sulphur containing vegetables like Broccoli, Cabbage (Patta Gobhi), Cauliflower (PhoolGobhi), Radish (muli), Turnip (shalgam) which assist in making Glutathione in the body, a powerful Antioxidant and Liver Detoxifier. Obtain Beta Carotene from Carrots (Gajar) and Spring Onions (Hara Pyaz)which increases the number of infection fighting cells. Eat Beetroots (beet) rich in Folate and flavonoid Betalain. All these antioxidants help flush out toxins and reduce liver fat. Once the liver is cleaned of toxins, our bodies are more capable of maintaining blood cholesterol levels in desirable range.
To together reap the benefits of Vitamin C and Potassium, choose Guava (Peru), Amla, Orange (Santra), Pummelo (Chakotra/Papnus), Custard Apple (Sitaphal), Pomegranate (Anar), Star fruit (Kamrakh / Amrakh), Strawberries, PhoolGobhi, Patta Gobhi,MuliAmaranth leaves (Chaulai /Math), Fenugreek leaves (Methi), Beet Greens (Beet Patta), Mustard leaves (Sarson ka Saag), Bathua, Radish leaves (MuliPatta), Hara Pyaz, Gajar, Beet, Muli, Green Peas (Matar), Lettuce, Field Beans (Val Papdi / Semi ki Phalli), Water chestnut (Singhara) and Broccoli. Vitamin C which is a strong antioxidant enables the body to synthesize White Blood Cells which help fight off infections. It helps reduce the duration and severity of colds and helps manage Respiratory Tract Infections. It forms collagen in bones and muscles, is a wound healer and keeps our teeth and gums healthy. If one has high blood sugar levels, it is best to limit fruits to 200 -250 grams per day.
Potassium, Folate and Magnesium are the key nutrients for keeping your blood pressure under check and are also found to be cardio protective. Choose MuliPatta to get adequate Selenium along with Chaulai /Math and Beet Patta which provides both Magnesium & Selenium in good amounts. Most leafy greens, Matar, and Val Papdi/Semki Phalli are rich in Biotin (Vitamin B7)and Folate. Deficiency of Folate is linked to frequent sickness, poor immune function, chronic low energy levels, poor digestion, pale skin and irritability. Choline present in Matar is crucial for liver and brain health. Get enough Calcium from all dark green leafy vegetables to prevent inflexible and creaky joints and improved bone health.
Vitamin K which is known as blood clotting Vitamin is present in all leafy vegetables is also beneficial for bone health and low levels of this Vitamin is associated with a high incidence of fractures. Leafy vegetables also contain a compound namely Thylakoids which increase satiety, reduces hunger and cravings for palatable food. Studies have found that consumption of foods rich in thylakoids release satiety hormones in the blood and act as appetite suppressants. It also delays fat digestion, increases the levels of appetite reducing hormones, reduces craving for all sweet snacks, salty snacks and sweet & fat snacks which is common during winter. Thus incorporating leafy veggies on regular basis during this season can help manage weight issues too.
Inputs by Ms. Swati Bhushan, Chief Clinical NutritionistHiranandani HospitalVashiA Fortis Network Hospital