Winter is the cycle of the season where one feels a sense of heaviness. There is less of sunlight which brings in making a person very lethargic and makes a feeling of tiredness and just don’t want to do any activity but merely sit doing nothing. There is lots of moisture in the air. The calm peaceful nature can also be seen a bit oppressive at times and can leave us weighed down, stagnant or uninspired.
Each season has its own quality that affects our inner beings working. Having said all this to what degree it affects an individual depends according to our own nature. Some like the winter very much and some like the summer. It’s how our nature and body reacts to the seasons. This is why precisely a seasonal routine is so important and is related to Panchakarma.
A change of diet as well as lifestyle changes are required and remain helpful at the time of any seasonal induced imbalance. At such a time an individual’s diet should be balanced and contain all the six tastes. One also needs to regularly drink warm water or consume other hot beverages like turmeric milk and herbal tea.
Winter is also a time when the season brings along with it dry skin, very dry hair since the moisture from your body is reduced during this season due to the cold wind blowing. One can notice that the skin during this time becomes very scratchy and rough. At such a time Ayurveda (as a must) prescribes warm oil therapies which would make the person feel active too. Warm oil also helps in keeping your immune system strong during these tough dry months.
Winter also is a time when an individual sees his or her digestive system become weaker as compared to other seasons. Therefore during these months one does not just eat warm food but the intake should also be light spiced. Yes and most important is that the food should be cooked well and less raw foods should be consumed.
In Ayurveda the immune system is called vyadikshamatva and is attained by Ojas. It is a fine vital energy, present all over the body. It is important to highlight that the unhealthy food and habits, reduce the ability of the cells to cope with all diseases including viral infections. Ayurveda recommends the dairy products such as homemade milk, paneer or cottage cheese (type of Indian cheese), as well the popular Indian cow’s butter – ghee, for boosting the Ojas enegry. Preferred food is also the Moong Dal (Indian stewed red lentils and vegetables), which is easily digestible in the stomach and is very nutritious. Immune stimulating foods are also considered to be the apples, because they contain a rich amount of antioxidants, soluble and insoluble fiber, that have cleansing effect on the intestines. Among kitchen spices, one should include asafoetida, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, cumin, fennel, ginger, lemon, mustard seeds, nutmeg, pepper and turmeric that are highly helpful.
Ayurveda has always prescribed that we as humans were never supposed to have food which do not grow in our locality or foods which are not homogenous. According to Ayurveda consumption of non localised food is the main cause for indigestion, bloating, gasses and other digestion related issues. One should therefore consume a lot of vegetables especially ones that grow during the season like raddish, carrot, spinach, beetroot, corn, beans, turnips etc.
The food items that balances the vata, pitta and kapha (the vital energy) that builds immunity in the body are a must during all seasons. A balanced diet is also very necessary to maintain the overall wellbeing. The green leafy vegetables are also recommended for a weak immune system – spinach, kale and curly-leaf cabbage. When stewed and spiced with immune stimulating spices, they become a powerful immune stimulant. They provide the organism with calcium, iron and other valuable nutrients that have a cleansing effect on the bowels. Broccoli, cabbage and the cauliflower contain a lot of antioxidants, flavonoids that also stimulate the immunity. Also, the wholegrain foods such as quinoa, amaranth, flax seeds also have a positive effect on the weak immune system, because of the content of fiber and valuable nutrients that clean the whole organism from the toxic substances.
Soups become very important especially during winters as they are loaded with disease fighting nutrients and their warm nature help against flu or cold. Their consumption during these times become the most ideal since not only are they good appetisers, they are mostly semi liquid in nature, are warm, help one stay hydrated and keep the stomach full, thus help against overeating. Soups also help boost one’s immune system.
Among other foods one should increase the intake of ghee during this time. Ghee contains butyric acid, a short chain fatty acid which reduces the inflammation of stomach cells: It will improve digestion. It is very essential to maintain the lipid remembrance of cell especially the brain tissue, the lack of ghee results in many memory problems. Ghee acts as good rejuvenator – because it contains conjugated linoleic acid which will helps in preventing tumor and cancer, reduces inflammation and lowering the blood pleasure. Ghee also impacts in weight loss. Ghee soluble substances have the ability to pass the blood brain barrier and placental barrier. So target site can be reached soon. It also helps in retaining moisture of skin. Medicated ghee has the ability to remove those high lipids and sugar levels, any block or even extra growth within or outside the cells. (This should be done under medical suppressive – should assume the status of digestion etc).
Ayurveda uses ghee in most of its medicinal preparation. Lehyam and Gritham contains ghee which with herbs gives a load of healing and rejuvenating benefits. It is an antioxidant.
In topical use in the preparation of oils too ghee is used.
Frozen food should be completely avoided. Sticking to a daily routine is the most important and a must in winters to keep up the freshness in you and have an appropriate balance.
One has to take immunity boosting Lehyam and Gritham during winters that will increase energy and gives more strength to your body.
Here is a list of foods according to your tridosha (Vata, Pitta and Kapha)
Vata: Warm, nourishing foods with moderately heavy texture, plus added butter and fat are good for stabilising Vata. Choose salty, sour, and sweet tastes as well as soothing and satisfying foods. Warm milk, cream, butter, warm soups, stews, hot cereals, raw nuts, and nut butters are good for Vatas. All sweet fruits (so long as they are extra-ripe) are good. Spices: Cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, dried- ginger, cloves, and garlic.
Pitta: The best foods for Pittas are cool or warm, not steaming hot foods. Bitter, sweet, and astringent tastes are ideal. Take cool, refreshing food in summer or hot weather, like salads, milk, and ice cream. Herbal tea, specifically mint or licorice root tea are pacifying to Pitas. Cold cereal, cinnamon toast, and apple tea is a good breakfast for a Pitta. Vegetarian foods, in general, are the best for Pittas, as consuming red meat tends to heat the body from the fat. They should consume abundant amounts of milk, grains, and vegetables.
Kapha: Warm, light, and dry food is favourable, or cooked light meals. Kaphas do best with lightly cooked foods or raw fruits and vegetables. Any food that is spicy is good for Kaphas such as very hot Mexican or Indian food, especially in winter. Dry cooking methods (baking, broiling, grilling, sautéing) are preferable for Kaphas over moist cooking such as steaming, boiling, or poaching. Foods such as romaine lettuce, endive, or tonic water are good for stimulating the Kapha appetite, while preferred spices are cumin, fenugreek, sesame seed, and turmeric.
– Gita Ramesh is the Jt MD of Kairali Ayurvedic Group.