Best winter superfoods to stay healthy this season
Let this winter be the season to partake in enjoyable seasonal pleasures, rather than a season of chilly dark mornings where you have to endure symptoms of colds and flu. Including winter superfoods to your diet will go a long way in boosting your immunity and helping fight off the bugs. You also have to assess your lifestyle habits and ensure having regular exercise, positive attitude and a good night's sleep.
Tips to stay well this winter
Boost your diet
Ensure a diet rich in lean proteins, whole grains, dairy products along with a healthy helping of winter fruits and vegetables. These are packed with vitamins and minerals such as carrots, oranges, green leafy vegetables and sweet potato.
Walking in the sunshine during a chilly morning is definitely a great mood booster. Schedule your walks over the week and reward yourself for sticking to it. Be sure to spend time warming up before you start your exercise as it can take a little longer for your joints to loosen up in the cold weather.
Frequent hand washing is one of the best ways to avoid getting sick and spreading illness as it limits the transfer of bacteria, viruses and other microbes. This is important during winters when we tend to cough and sneeze more frequently.
Skin gets dry, itchy and flaky during winters due to reduced humidity, drinking less water or possibly due to reduced circulation which may decrease the flow of blood and nutrients to the skin. Aim for drinking at least two liters of water through the day. Herbal teas and warm soups are also good for fluid replenishment.
A study has found lack of sleep can result in a substantial decrease in the white blood cells that help to fight infection in the body making the body more vulnerable to catch colds. Regular moderate exercise, relaxation techniques and fixed sleep routine of around 6-8 hours helps promote sound sleep.
Winters are times when everyone craves warm comforting foods that satisfy constant cravings. Winter foods help you keep warm and provide necessary nutrients to brave this season. Here are some top tips to have a healthy and energetic winter.
- Include fresh vegetables and fruits/ dry fruits, dairy products, nuts/ oilseeds, whole grains/ legumes and ghee.
- Some spices also have anti-microbial properties that protect us from colds and infections. They also act to increase digestive enzymes and cellular metabolic function, and ensure complete assimilation of nutrients.
- All animal foods fall into the warming category, including lean dairy, meat, fish and poultry.
- The most warming vegetables that are good for your body are root vegetables like carrot, potato, onions, garlic, radish, yams, sweet potatoes, beets, turnips etc. and hearty winter greens like palak (spinach), methi (fenugreek), sarson (mustard), muli (raddish) etc. These foods are loaded with rich sources of nutrients like beta-carotene and vitamin C. Have plenty of soup, stews, and broths made of winter foods.
Let's look closer into some specific super winter foods.
Carrots and sweet potatoes
Dig into some fresh juicy carrots as 'Gajar ka halwa' or in soups and stews. Rich in vitamin A, they help fight cold and flu and also protect from infections which are common during this season.
Warm spices like mustard, cinnamon, black pepper, fenugreek, ajwain and suva (dill) seeds are beneficial during winters. Mustard, ajwain (carrom seeds) and suva seeds are a valuable remedy for winter coughs and flu, stimulating appetite and digestion and increasing blood circulation.
Methi (dry or sprouted) is very beneficial for bone and joint problems that surface more during winters.
Turmeric, especially the fresh light and golden yellow variety (resembles ginger), is a potent anti-microbial immunity builder. The curcumin present in turmeric holds the magic; this is what makes turmeric the strongest anti inflammatory superfood.
Methi, Palak, Sarson ('methi-theplas', 'sarson-ka-saag', 'palak paneer') are a good source of beta-carotene and Vitamin C, which are powerful antioxidants that help fight disease and build immunity. Others in this category are coriander, amaranth, celery, radish greens, etc.
Whole grain cereals and pulses
High energy and protein foods provide the required fuel to combat the cold. That's why many Indian households make 'sheera/ halwa' (rava, whole-wheat flour, moong-dal, vermicelli, daliaa, badam); 'halwa' (gajar, doodhi, pumpkin); 'paak' and 'ladoos'. Makai and bajra rotis also have warmth inducing quality and are excellent during winters.
Nuts and dried fruits
Papaya and pineapple are believed to provide warmth. Amla is loaded with Vitamin C, and is very good to step up your immunity. That's the reason why 'amla juice' and 'amla muraba' are available in plenty during winters.
Dates and dried fruits are warm in nature and are highly recommended during winter months. Not only are they a good source of fibre, iron, magnesium, calcium and vitamins (C and B3), they are also a good source of energy. Consume them as they are or as ladoos, barfi, pulp or added to milkshakes and smoothies.
A fistful of nuts like almonds, pistachios, walnuts and seeds like pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds should be an essential part of the daily diet. They provide the essential vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids and also the required warmth to the body.
Herbs and seeds
Basil (tulsi) is a herb that protects against colds and fever and helps strengthen immunity.
Apart from being an antiseptic, holy basil is also rich in vitamins A, C, iron and also helps combat respiratory disorders. It keeps the body warm, flushes out toxins and boosts metabolism.
Ginger (fresh and dry varieties) is very warming. Sliced ginger with lime and salt is a common accompaniment with meals, while ginger can be added to tea, lentils and vegetables. Dry ginger powder made into tiny ladoos with jaggery and ghee is excellent for combating winter chills.
Sesame or til ladoos and til chikki are excellent and easy to stock warmth providing snacks. Sesame seeds can be sprinkled on salads, breads, pastas and pizzas. This is because sesame seeds are rich in iron and calcium and help maintain the body temperature.
Jaggery has excellent warmth giving properties. It helps dilate the blood vessels; due to which heat is generated in the body. Besides this; jaggery or 'gur' is a rich source of minerals like iron, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus. Its an excellent remedial source for acidity, indigestion, migraine and fatigue.
Most important in the list of winter foods; rich in antioxidants, digestive aid for absorption of vitamins and minerals. Ghee is excellent for skin and hair health too. Ensure to have just 1-2 teaspoons a day as excessive consumption of ghee can increase fat intake and may create health problems.
Fact: Feeling hungrier in winter?
- As temperatures fall, experts say, our winter appetites can spin out of control. It's very common to feel hungrier at this time of year
- Cold weather leads to a drop in our body temperature, which means our appetite gets stimulated as a result.
- Eating winter food helps boost metabolism, subsequently leading to a rise in body temperature.
- During winter, the body works harder and spends more energy trying to keep you warm. So the desire to eat more comes from your body's natural increase in energy use.
Though winters are an excuse to binge and indulge, we suggest you to incorporate winter superfoods along with regular exercise to stay healthy and boost your immunity. Eat right at right times in right amounts and enjoy the winters.