Winter is here and most of us are enjoying the slight drop in temperature. The cooler weather makes us crave comfort foods like tea, coffee, spicy foods, alcohol, fried foods, chocolates, hot soups and stews. The popular belief is that winter is the time when appetites are whetted, the metabolism improves and hence, one can afford to eat slightly more calories. However, this is only true if you are living in freezing conditions, as in the north of the country. But the fact is that most of India experiences mild and sunny winters. Thus for most of us, our calorie requirements in winter are similar to those in summer.
There are other, more natural ways to stay warm in winter. Certain foods generate heat and help cope with the falling temperature. The heat produced in the body by these foods is called diet-induced thermo-genesis. The energy released during digestion and assimilation eventually helps increase body heat.
Keep yourself warm and drive away infections this winter with these heat-generating foods:
Traditional grains like jowar, bajra, barley, oats and corn have great warming properties. Whole pulses like moong, chana, matki and soyabean are also quite useful for driving away the chills. Have them in the form of gruels, in rotis, or boiled.
Besides generating heat, spices like cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, garlic, cloves and pepper also contain phytochemicals that act as decongestants, are anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory. Ginger and garlic especially are great decongestants and improve blood circulation.
Hot soups and stews are definitely the season’s favourite. A bowl of healthy and wholesome soup is not only nutritionally sound, but will also make you feel full and prevent you from eating junk food. Avoid ready soup mixes as they contain high amount of starch and preservatives. Homemade soups and stews are the way to go.
Snack on unsalted nuts and dry fruits like almonds, cashewnuts, raisins, walnuts and apricots. They are nutritionally dense and take longer to digest, keeping your appetite in check. Have them in appropriate quantities (6-8 pieces) and balance the intake with a healthy dose of exercise.
Have grilled and roasted foods that stimulate the body to produce additional heat. Avoid binging on fried pakodas and samosas.
Seasonal fruits and vegetables like dark green vegetables, carrots, pumpkin and amla, are great sources of iron, folate and vitamins A, B complex and C, which boost immunity and combat viruses and bacteria that cause infections.
Cut down on caffeinated beverages like energy drinks, coffee and tea. High levels of caffeine in the body cause dehydration.
Water is one of the most neglected nutrients during winters. Sip water, juices, green tea and kahwa at regular intervals throughout the day to keep yourself warm and hydrated.
Limit the intake of alcohol. It is nothing but empty calories. Besides, the calorie laden side-dishes that accompany your drink lead to additional weight gain.
Drink the juice of one stick of fresh haldi and one amla daily. It’s helps protect you from infection.
Keep your skin supple
The dry and cold weather in winter robs the skin of valuable moisture leaving it dull, dry and flaky. However, you can avoid this by drinking sufficient water and incorporating Vitamin E and Omega 3-rich foods like nuts, fish oils and flaxseed.
Hair care tips
Winter is a great time for people who have an oily scalp, as the hair does not seem sticky as during the summer. However, if you have dry hair or scalp, you need to take additional care. Restore moisture levels by avoiding excessively hot water while washing your hair and by using a mild shampoo. Always oil your hair before washing it to bind the moisture within. Also use a conditioner regularly.
Dr Anjali Mukerjee is a nutritionist and founder of Health Total, a nutrition counselling centre.