Put your raw salads, smoothie bowls and juices aside, the Winter season is here. It’s time to replace your refreshing, crunchy, light meals with a winter splendid menu laden with nutritionally rich, warm soups, abundant winter grains, freshly baked breads, pies and root vegetables, joined with winter greens that proudly peak under the snow cover and break the morning frost. As the temperature drops, and the sun makes a short run on horizon, nature falls into its hibernation period, pulling its juices back to its core, preserving and replenishing its strength for the upcoming spring when it will grow, flourish and ripe.
Just like nature, we should too, draw our senses inward, take a well deserved rest, replenish our energy and savour the stillness so much needed now. It is the time to settle the body, mind, and spirit to restore the balance and recharge the strength that will carry us through the rest of the year.
As the energy shifts inward, keeping us warm deep within, the strength of Agni, our digestive power, is at its maximum, just as our appetite. This invites and allows us to eat more, enjoy heavy and nutritionally more dense foods. We have natural cravings for rich and abundant meals which will stimulate our own healing powers. A steaming hot bowl of creamy soup, generously seasoned with olive oil on top, and a piece (or two, why not?!) of freshly baked rye bread feels so satisfactory, grounding and warming. Exactly what we need when snow flakes cover the doorway.
With cold and windy qualities, the winter season is a vulnerable time for Vata types. If you naturally have tendencies towards dry skin and hair, brittle nails, poor circulation and aversion to cold, this is an important period to adjust your diet and lifestyle to counterbalance the changes in the environment. Follow the guidelines below, keep yourself warm and well nourished with warm, unctuous, heavy foods, consumed regularly in substantial amounts. Restrain yourself from fasting and cleansing techniques. Reduce dry and raw food, as well as those with pungent, bitter and astringent tastes.
However, if you are a Kapha type, a person who loves to eat, especially heavy foods rich in fat and sugar, and isn’t a big fan of physical activity, you probably enjoy this season most. These guidelines might sound like a perfect excuse to satisfy your natural desires even more. Instead of turning into a couch potato, dress well and go outside. Take a long, brisk walk through the winter scenery, inhale fresh, crispy air and awaken your inner healing powers. Winter is cold, damp, foggy, and heavy, so it is generally the season of Kapha.
If you indulge yourself in too much cold, fatty, unctuous, salty and heavy foods, creamy, sugary desserts, with insufficient physical activities, your Kapha dosa will accumulate throughout the winter and show its symptoms in spring as excess mucus, hay fever, running nose, colds, and overall lack of energy, also known as spring fatigue.
Enjoy steamed vegetables, stews and soups, moderately seasoned with oil. As much inviting as it might sound, skip daily naps and pull yourself outside to soak up that little sun that might be peeking through the grey clouds.
Winter Foods to Favour
- sweet, moderately sour, and moderately salty tastes, while limiting pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes
- fruits: apples, apricots, berries, dates, figs, kiwi, lemons, limes, oranges, prunes, raisins. Fruits are best consumed cooked, baked or soaked (dried fruits).
- vegetables: asparagus, beets, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, mustard greens, okra, radish, root vegetables (carrots, onions, parsnip, leeks, potatoes, turnips), rutabaga, spinach, winter squash, radishes, garlic
- legumes: lentils, mung beans, navy beans, kidney beans, soy products (miso, tofu, tempeh, shoyu or tamari)
- grains: amaranth, barley, buckwheat, corn, oats, tapioca, brown rice, quinoa, wheat, rye, seitan
- nuts and seeds: all are good, in moderation, lightly toasted
- oils: ghee, olive, safflower, sunflower, safflower and flaxseed oil
- beverages: all beverages should be consumed at room temperature, warm or hot. Enjoy herbal teas, chai, ginger tea, pour yourself a glass of red wine and enjoy in a good company.
- spices – fresh and dry ginger, cinnamon, clove, black pepper, coriander seeds, cumin and fennel seeds, cayenne, chillies, in moderate amounts all spices are supportive for digestion during winter months
- dairy – butter, soft cheeses, cottage cheese, sour cream, boiled, spiced milk with a pinch of dried ginger, cardamom and nutmeg
- sweeteners: honey, molasses, jaggary
Winter Lifestyle to Embrace
Caring for your body, mind and spirit is just as important as choosing health supporting foods. Keeping yourself warm at all times is your winter reprieve. When spending time outside, cover your head and protect the neck, hands and ears. Wear and surround yourself with warm, natural fabrics of warm colours. Place a wool rug on the floor, throw plenty of warm blankets around the living room, lit candles and aromatherapy lamps. Create an atmosphere that is warming, inviting and relaxing for long days spent indoor. This is a good time for socialising. Organise dinners, hand-crafting afternoons and tea ceremonies with your family and friends. Nothing feels more warming but a good laugh and long talks with your loved ones.
Deeply nourish your skin through daily rituals of practicing Abhyanga or self-massage with warm oils such as sesame oil, followed with warm bath. You might break that morning sluggishness by dry-brushing the skin starting from toes, covering whole legs inside out, arms, shoulders, chest and finishing with your abdomen, performing strokes always towards the heart. This will stimulate the lymph flow, remove dead cells, improve circulation and deeply energise. Follow with warm oil-massage to sooth the skin.
Embrace the long, dark, cold winter season and allow yourself to rest, create space and cherish stillness. By withdrawing your senses, redirecting most of the outward energy into the core, observe, reflect and refocus. Spring will soon come and you will rise strong and enthusiastic to make your body and ideas flourish.