Eat warm or hot foods that include fresh vegetable stews or soups in winter, says Ayurveda  |  Photo Credit: iStock Images
Have a lot of hot soups and stews made from seasonal vegetables and fruits that are abundantly available in winter
Eat fresh foods, nutritious foods. Avoid frozen, processed, stored foods even if you can reheat them. That kills their energies and you will be eating empty calories.
An Ayurveda expert, a vaidya can help you design your diet for winter and a yoga expert can tell you what asanas are best suited for the cold season
Winter’s here. It is also Diwali festivities time. You had changed your diet and lifestyle during the monsoon season and now that winter is here, you are again forced to change your style of clothing, food, and even activities.
Our ancestors had it all figured out. They knew that changes in seasons were inevitable and that man must change his or her diet and lifestyle accordingly, so as to synchronise the same with the seasons of Mother Nature. Our ancestors, therefore, spaced festivals all the year-round, to signal specific changes that had to be ushered in at certain times of the year.
Ayurveda and Seasons:
Ayurveda is a science, that teaches that to have a healthy and balanced life, it’s important to stay in perfect harmony with nature. To stay in rhythm with the natural cycle of seasons, one may have to make changes to the diet and lifestyle but to be able to do that effectively, one must understand the way our immune system, digestion, and energy levels change with the alternating seasons.
Ayurveda and Ritucharya:
Ayurveda has laid down a system of seasonal living, also known as Ritucharya. Ritu means season and Charya means regimen. When one follows these regimens as per the tenets of Ayurveda, it helps our body and mind acclimatize to the different seasons.
From one solstice to the other (there are two in a year – winter and summer solstices) – Ayurveda divides the year into two periods or Ayanas. The 6 Ritus are split into Uttarayana or northern solstice and Dakshinayana or southern solstice – with 3 Ritus in each.
Vasant (spring), and
Sharad (autumn), and
Hemant (late autumn)
Ayurveda says that each of the seasons contains different elements and energies. Our body suffers diseases and illnesses if there is an imbalance in these elements and energies.
Here is what Ayurveda prescribes for the winter season:
1. Change your diet:
Ayurveda classifies foods as Sweet (Madhura), Salty (Lavana), Pungent (Katu), Sour (Amla), Bitter (Tikta), and Astringent (Kashaya). While normally one must have a balance of all tastes, your winter diet, however, should include the sweet, sour, and salty tastes more than the astringent, bitter, and pungent tastes. Choose sweet, sour and salty foods as these are the type of foods that are in rhythm with your body in winter. Sweet, sour, and salty foods are better suited for this time instead of bitter, astringent, and pungent tastes. Sour amlas, for example, will give you the precious Vitamin C and also help you build immunity, ward off respiratory diseases and disorders.
Avoid chilled beverages and cold food, processed or/and frozen food since it may have an adverse effect on the immune system. Eating or drinking hot foods and beverages respectively will help balance the Vata and Kapha perfectly for winter. Eat fresh, organic, easily digestible, and wholesome foods. Consume more fresh milk, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and ghee.
2. Rest well:
One tends to be less drained out in winter, as compared to summer. But the days are shorter and nights are longer. Your body has to be synchronised with the Sun’s rhythm. Remember the word Circadian rhythm that scientists now talk of? You should give your body and mind an ample amount of rest. Going to bed early and rising early can help you to create the perfect balance.
3. Slow down:
Winter is the time to take life slowly, meditate, to reduce stress to a great extent. Having a planned and organized routine for your daily activities can help you avoid clutter and confusion and reduce anxiety.
4. Exercise: WInter is a good time to exercise, but beware of muscle injuries and muscle pulls. Ayurved prescribes yoga as a great way to calm your mind and stay healthy. There are different movements of the body or asanas that help produce heat in the body for the cold season and are ideal for balancing Vata and Kapha.
5. Maintain a regimen:
Eat, drink, exercise, rest at regular and proper intervals. Avoid skipping meals, Your dinner should be your lightest meal of the day. Have dinner at least three hours before going to sleep. Munch on nuts and raisins soaked in water if you feel hungry in between.
Avoid too much spice, oil or fat, though you must eat a balanced amount of these in winter. Boiled food is one of the best options for winter. Have plenty of soup, stews, and broths made from seasonal vegetables and fruits available in abundance in winter. Carrots, beets, green leafy vegetables as well as other root-based vegetables are extremely beneficial and can be had steamed or otherwise.
Having a glass of hot or warm haldi doodh or turmeric milk ensures your winter immunity stays at its peak. Have a glassful two-three hours before sleep, It will induce peaceful sleep and warmth in your body.
Ancient Indians passed on the knowledge through generations through various Vedas. The key to living a balanced life and maintaining healthy levels of Vata and Kapha was by aligning one’s body and energy with nature. Following the lifestyle and diet changes Ayurveda prescribes, one can lead a mindful and healthy life.