Having a Healthy Winter & Early Spring – Part 3

 

In this last article on our Winter series we will look at diet and herbs that help us live in balance with the winter’s energies.

 

 

Diet

 

Winter dietary habits come quite naturally. Winter is actually the season when the digestive fire is the strongest. The body requires more fuel to stay warm and healthy in the winter months. When it is cold our body constricts the skin pores and superficial connective tissue to prevent heat loss. This directs heat away from the peripheral tissues and into the body’s core, igniting the digestive capacity. We crave a more substantial and nutritive diet at this time of year.

 

In General

 

Aim to spark the digestive and metabolic system!

Have the largest meal at lunch, smaller at dinner. Allow three hours digestion before bed.

Eat foods that balance the dominant dosha or pacify the dosha that has become aggravated.

 

Favour – warm, cooked, slightly oily, well-spiced

- light, dry, warm

- pungent, bitter, astringent tastes

- all spices are good, invigorating warming spices are best

 

Decrease – sweet, sour, salty tastes

- salt as it retains water

 

Avoid – cold damp foods, excessively sweet foods, overly heavy foods and frozen food

- too much wheat, pasta, bread, dairy

- eating before bed

- napping after meals – leads to ama (toxicity) due to suppressing the digestive fire

- cold/ iced beverages

 

Drink hot water/ tea several times a day to remove toxins from body.

Don’t take excessive liquid with meals as it impairs digestion by dampening agni.

Doing a one day liquid fast on juice or soup is very beneficial for kapha.

 

Foods

 

Favour lighter fruits – apples, pears, pomegranate, cranberries, apricot. Decrease heavier ones – banana, avocado, pineapple, orange, peach, coconut, melon, dates, figs.

 

Lots of vegetables – generally all are good but limit sweet and juicy ones like sweet potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini. Favour hearty and heating veg – radish, cooked spinach, onions, carrots and other root vegetables.

 

All spices are good especially the pungent ones – pepper, cayenne, mustard seed and ginger garlic, chilli’s but limit salt.

 

Grains – barley, corn, millet, buckwheat, rye.

Decrease oats, rice and wheat.

 

Legumes are generally good for kapha, well cooked, and well spiced and with ghee to not aggravate vata. Avoid soy as it is cooling. And if you eat them, eggs (especially poached or hard boiled) and meats like chicken, turkey, rabbit and venison are good to have in winter more than the other seasons due to the increased agni.

 

Decrease dairy although you can use small amounts of ghee.

 

Avoid most sweeteners. Honey is good. Others increase kapha and lead to blocked sinuses, allergies, colds and lethargy. Take tablespoon or raw honey every day (do not cook with honey as it forms toxins).

 

Decrease all nuts and seeds, favour pumpkin and sunflower seeds.

Decrease red meat, favour white chicken, turkey, unfried eggs and freshwater fish.

Have small amounts of fat and oils – extra virgin olive oil, ghee, corn, sunflower, mustard and safflower.

 

When the slimy, mucous quality is high, avoid mucus accumulating foods such as cheese, ice cream.

 

 

black pepper

 

 

Drinks 

 

Favour room temperature or warm beverages. A great tea to have is made by boiling for 5 mins half a teaspoon ginger, half a teaspoon cinnamon, pinch of cardamon and of clove. Have during or after meals. This counters the cold quality, increasing heat, improves circulation and eliminates mucus from the system, stimulates digestion and sharpen dull taste buds. Others herbs to use in tea are cumin, fennel.

In place of medicated ayurvedic wines that stimulate the digestion down to a cellular level, sipping some red or dry white wine with your meals over winter is recommended if agni needs stimulating. And if you are partial to some hard liquor, winter is the best time to have some though it may aggravate the doshas.

Though dairy is reduced over winter, a cup of boiled milk with a pinch of turmeric, dried ginger or nutmeg before bed helps sound sleep and is not overly congestive.

 

 

Suggested Meals for the Different Doshas

 

For Vata

Breakfast – Oat, semolina or creamed wheat porridge with milk if desired, chai or breakfast tea.

Lunch – Unyeasted bread (chapati, tortilla, pita) with ghee, vegetable lentil soup, mung dal kitchari, steamed vegetables, squeeze of lemon juice. Warm water or ginger tea.

Dinner – Baked sweet potato with ghee, basmati rice, dal, vegetable casserole.

Snacks and Drinks – 5 to 10 soaked and peeled almonds, spiced chai or grain coffee with milk, ginger, cinnamon, clove tea, cumin, coriander, fennel tea, hot spiced milk – especially good before bed.

 

For Pitta

Breakfast – Oat porridge with milk or ghee as desired, chai with sweetener if desired.

Lunch – Unyeasted bread or basmati rice, beans and vegetable curry, baked potato or sweet potato, squeeze of lime juice on meal. Cumin, coriander, fennel tea.

Dinner – Mung dal kitchari with ghee, mung dal and vegetable soup with unyeasted bread,

seasonal vegetables, squeeze of lime juice.

Snacks or Drinks – Sweet apple or pear, chai, mint tea, warm spiced milk with ghee before bed.

 

For Kapha

Breakfast – Rye, oat, cornmeal, buckwheat porridge with spices. Breakfast Tea with honey of desired. A warm and hearty breakfast is good in general in winter because of our increased agni. If you have a strong kapha tendency, you can skip breakfast and have ginger tea instead.

Lunch – Unyeasted rye bread or corn tortillas, baked potato, cabbage or cauliflower curry, squeeze of lemon juice on meal. Sip hot water or ginger tea.

Dinner – Basmati rice and spiced veetables, potato, carrot and cauliflower casserole with basmati rice or mung dal kitchari. Squeeze of lemon juice with meal.

Snacks or drinks – Apple, pear, unsalted, baked corn chips with salsa, spiced black tea, ginger, cinnamon and clove tea. Other teas – ginger, cinnamon, dandelion, chamomile, peppermint, spearmint, hibiscus and orange peel.

 

 

When wanting to become more aware of our eating habits and the effects of our food as medicine the following signs can help direct us in understanding what’s happening;

 

Signs of excess vata – gas, bloating, constipation, anxiety.

Signs of excess pitta – acidity, diarrhoea, irritability.

Signs of excess kapha – lethargy, low energy after meals, brain fog.

Then we can start to adjust our diet to correct these imbalances.

 

Tridoshic winter foods are berries, mango, soaked prunes, soaked raisins, asparagus, cooked carrots, green beans, leeks, okra, cooked onion, amaranth, basmati rice, quinoa, mung beans, ghee, goats milk, freshwater fish, punpkin seeds and sunflower seeds.

 

 

Winter Spices

 

Herbs

 

As we have outlined, healing with energetics, we use the opposite qualities. The same rules as apply for food apply for herbs. The following herbs are invaluable in supporting us offering a more subtle and refined healing compared to food.

 

Chywanaprash – very good for building immunity, preventing common cold and sore throats. A medicinal jam, it is usually very tasty and has great healing benefits. Made of in the region of 40 herbs (dependent on recipe) it is a very powerful anti-oxidant, aids in rejuvenation, recovery from disease, improving mental clarity, treating breathing disorders and heart problems. Take in warm water/ milk.

 

Trikatu – The three spices formula made of ground ginger, black pepper and long pepper. It awakens the digestion, digests and destroys toxins, alleviates coughs and asthma and benefits breathing, removes fat and obesity, is a rejuvenative especially to kapha and the lungs and alleviates nasal congestion. Traditionally combined with honey to make a paste (honey clears mucus and helps with cleansing).

 

Cardamon – good for digestion and protecting the chest from coughing etc. Particularly good at clearing excess kapha from the stomach and is also good for nausea, acidity and gas. Good for sore throats and freshens the breath.

 

Ginger – known to destroy toxins, it enkindles the digestive fire while also rejuvenating the body. It cleanses the blood and cells, helps with absorption of food in the intestines, prevents arthritis and protects the lungs. Known as a universal medicine that helps everybody and all diseases!

 

Tulsi – Good for settling the nervous system and digestive system, it also helps protect us from seasonal colds and fevers, building immunity and rejuvenating the spirit. It aids with sleep and dispersing negative thoughts, clearing the mind. Seen as a sacred herb, with protective virtues, in latin it is named ‘sanctum’.

 

Turmeric – with reference to kapha, it stimulates the metabolism of the plasma, clearing toxins, excess kapha and excess fat tissue. Also used traditionally to clear kapha accumulations in the lower abdomen. It also reduces pathogenic bacteria, purifies the blood, liver and nourishes the heart.

 

 

With herbs and teas etc I highly recommend the Pukka products. The plants are harvested at optimum time in healthy conditions. This results in medicinal grade herbs of potency compared to many herbal teas with tasteless herbs carrying the name of the herb more than it’s power.

 

Hopefully this has helped elucidate the governing principles in balancing a cold and damp winter. Namely, stimulate and invigorate! In every approach – food, drink, waking, exercise, herbs, daily patterns and more!

 

Wishing you the very best for this new year!

 

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