The winter season arrives with its pleasures and pains. We look forward to enjoying seasonal specialties, keeping warm, and strengthening immunity to avoid seasonal illnesses.
Winter in India is traditionally a time to enjoy fried snacks like kachoris, samosas, pakoras, and sweet dishes like moong dal halwa or gajar halwa. However, indulging in heavy food, rich in sugar or fat can create nutritional imbalance and impact health in an adverse way.
Ayurveda divides the year into six seasons, Vasanta (spring), Grishma (summer), Varsha ( monsoon), Sharda ( autumn), Hemanta (late autumn), and Shishir (winter). A great way to be healthy in any season is to follow Ritucharya (Ayurvedic seasonal regime). Sharda, Hemanta, and Shishir are the winter months. The cold weather enhances Agni, the digestive capacity and it is a good time to build health.
Ayurvedic Winter Thali
Nature bestows a lovely bounty in winters. We get fresh leafy vegetables, tubers, roots, beans, amla, ginger, raw turmeric, and more. Fresh fruits like guava, ber, water chestnuts, green chana and jowar are easily available.
“Winter is the time to build good tissue and muscle and also train your digestion”, says Ayurvedic Gut Specialist, Healer and Consultant . The Agni (digestive fire) is the sharpest in the winters and our meals should comprise of good fat, spices, leafy greens, and root vegetables.
“Any food that is hot, well-spiced with a good fat is recommended by Ayurveda”, Nidhi explains.
A winter thali based on Ayurveda should include a dessert, root vegetable dishes, dal, green vegetables, moist fleshy vegetables, a variety of rotis , pickled ginger and buttermilk (tadke wala chaas) tempered with asafoetida, cumin seeds, curry leaves and ginger.
First Course: Sweet
Dessert is the first course. “Sweet or madhur rasa comes first in Ayurveda because the agni is the strongest and therefore the heaviest comes first”, explains Nidhi. You can also begin your meal by eating a small piece of ginger soaked in lemon juice to kindle the Agni, she suggests.
Sweet dishes made by combining sesame, dates and jaggery, almond halwa, lapsi (daliya cooked with jaggery) or gajar halwa are a few options. Spices like cardamom and dry ginger powder should be used while making these dishes.
Use of spices is strongly recommended by Ayurveda in winters. The spices and herbs help to make it hot, add astringent, and bitter tastes to your meal. Every meal in Ayurveda should be a balance of all the six tastes (sweet, sour, salty, spicy, bitter, and astringent). An Ayurvedic thaali should be based on this principle. Therefore, peppercorns, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, carrom seeds, fenugreek and nigella should be used in the food.
What Should Your Platter Contain?
Regarding the vegetables, Nidhi suggests, sweet potato chat as a side dish, cooked green leafy vegetables, especially sarson and methi as these are warm and have tikta rasa (bitter taste), moist and fleshy vegetables like bottle gourd or squash. Any dal can be consumed in winters. This is the best time to have urad dal according to Ayurveda as the enhanced Agni helps to digest it well.
Make bajra, makki, or wheat with carrom seeds and finely chopped leafy greens like fenugreek, mint, or coriander to make it healthier. Serve with ghee to ensure good fat. Bajre ka daliya a moist, heavy, warm, and well-spiced dish is a good option. Good fat is required in the winters.
Mint and coriander chutneys can enhance the flavour of any meal and give you a good dose of micronutrients. Leading nutritionist, Rujuta Diwekar recommends green garlic in her list of 10 superfoods for winters on her Instagram account. Green garlic is anti-inflammatory, rich in antioxidants, strengthens the immune system, is good for the heart, and reduces anemia.
Green Garlic Chutney Recipe
5 sprigs of finely chopped green garlic (use both green and white parts)
1/4th cup of coriander leaves chopped
1 tbsp roasted sesame seeds
3 green chilies
juice of 1 lemon
salt to taste
1 tsp oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp asafoetida
Grind roasted sesame seeds first. Then grind chopped green garlic, coriander leaves coarsely. Add salt, lemon juice, and sesame powder. Blend again for 2 minutes. Heat oil in a pan and add asafoetida and mustard seeds and temper the chutney. Enjoy it with bajra or makki rotis.
Points to Remember
Avoid stale and cold food
Avoid red chilli powder
Avoid cold juices, smoothies, ice-cream, milkshakes, and frozen food
Consume, warm, moist, well-spiced food
Avoid processed and packaged foods
Avoid colas, tea, and coffee especially with meals
Ayurveda is a science that helps us to live a healthy life. If we opt for local and seasonal produce, our meals adhere to the Ayurvedic guidelines easily. In India, traditional seasonal meals have a strong Ayurvedic base. Yes, do enjoy Sarson ka saag and Makki roti, undhiyu, vegetable khichadi, and kadhi, or bajra roti, chane ka saag, and garlic chutney.
Today, with the overload of information, and marketing we are going away from our roots. Try these tips and follow the ancient science of good living with ease.
(Nupur Roopa is a freelance writer and a life coach for mothers. She writes articles on environment, food, history, parenting, and travel.)