Winters are not just about covering ourselves up with layers of woollen clothes, but equally about the foods that help us stay warm. When included in the diet, many foods, spices, herbs and drinks can generate natural heat in the body. They can benefit people who can't adjust well to low temperatures, or who may have weak immunity.
1. Snack on figs and dates: Figs are a great source of calcium, potassium, and fibre. They improve blood haemoglobin levels, aid digestion, and help prevent constipation. Dates are rich in magnesium, iron, natural sugars, B vitamins and fibre. Both nutrient-packed foods can help stay warm during winters and boost energy levels.
2. Include ghee in diet: Ghee is a winter essential as it naturally helps keep the body warm. It provides energy and good fats that keep our digestive system and heart healthy. Ghee also helps to prevent sluggishness that is common in people during winters. But remember, moderation is the key. Hence, limit its intake to 2-3 teaspoons a day.
3. Add honey to salads and beverages: Replace the regular processed sugar with honey to add sweetness to your winter beverages as it is naturally warm. Opt for organic honey and read the nutritional label as most of the honey sold in the market these days is often adulterated with simpler forms of sugar like glucose and corn syrup. However, people having diabetes should avoid including honey in their diet.
4. Add warm spices to your food preparations: Spices like clove, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, star anise, mace, amongst others, not only add flavour to the foods but also provide much needed warmth during winter season. Being versatile, they can be used in multiple ways. You can add them to your curries, vegetable/dal preparations, teas, coffees or herbal teas. Saffron is another useful spice that you can add to the list of important winter foods. It is popularly consumed with milk. Boil a few strands of saffron in milk for a few minutes and add 4-5 raisins to it.
5. Increase the intake of Vitamin C: This micronutrient is a powerful antioxidant that protects us against various ailments by helping in immunity build-up. Vitamin C can be obtained through foods like guava, kiwi, broccoli, amla, lemon, and orange.
6. Keep track of your carbohydrate intake: The levels of serotonin hormone (also known as the feel-good hormone) drop in winter. Due to this, our body can crave more carbohydrates. However, excessive consumption of carbohydrate-rich foods can be harmful. Ensure that you include complex rather than simple carbohydrates, as complex ones are richer in fibre and therefore give satiety for longer. Some good sources of complex carbohydrates are whole grains, legumes, beans, oats, brown rice, and quinoa.
7. Jaggery and sesame: Organic jaggery is not just a better alternative to regular white sugar, but it also helps to keep the body warm naturally. Jaggery can also aid in digestion when taken in small amounts. Sesame seeds can fight various respiratory disorders which can trigger during winters. Sesame is also a good source of calcium and manganese. You can include sesame and jaggery in your diet by adding them in laddoos or sesame jaggery bars.
8. Ragi: Ragi is a nutritious millet loaded with potassium, fibre, and calcium. Due to its rich calcium profile, ragi becomes the best choice for vegetarians and pregnant ladies. It is also helpful for diabetics as it is loaded with fibre. Ragi can help treat anaemia, anxiety, and depression in people.
9. Nuts And Seeds: While incorporating nuts and seeds is recommended throughout the year, consuming them in the winter months is even better, as these are nutrient-dense and rich in good fats. Fats help to keep the body warm and provide healthy calories. Nuts and seeds are a good replacement for animal proteins. They provide micronutrients such as magnesium, zinc, iron, calcium, copper, selenium, phosphorus, and potassium. However, it is always recommended to adhere to the portion size.
10. Consume more green vegetables in winters: Winters are an absolute delight for all vegetable lovers as it brings along a variety of green vegetables like methi, sarson, palak, beetroot greens, amaranth, and others. All these are rich in antioxidants which help control weight, prevent heart diseases, and control blood pressure levels.
11. Water intake: Water intake tends to decrease in winters. However, including enough fluids is essential for the proper functioning of the body. Make sure to include atleast 3-4 litres of water daily. If you don’t prefer plain water you can have lukewarm water or some flavoured water like ginger / cinnamon infused water.
12. Be physically active: Winters can restrict physical activity as people tend to become lazy to get out of their comfort zone and involve in any workout. But, it is imperative to devote atleast 30 minutes to exercise daily. In the absence of it, one can have a sluggish and slow metabolism, which may also lead to increased weight.