Both Ayurveda and ancient Chinese medicine seem to agree that foods we consume have a certain predetermined effect on our body. Broadly, foods can be categorized according to their “warming” or “cooling” qualities, while some are neutral. Depending on the season and on one’s body type, a balance of all three categories is recommended. As ancient wisdom tells us, certain foods only appear in their respective seasons because they have a role to play in our physical wellbeing.
What then, are the warming foods that we must consciously include in our diets in the winters?
Cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, mace, nutmeg, chilli—all of these spices are known to contain anti-inflammatory properties that keep cold-related joint pains at bay. Intrinsic to traditional Indian cuisines, these are easy to incorporate in our diets; in fact, they make rich curries and chaats more delectable!
A variety of yams appear in the markets all over the country in the winters—take for instance, the gorgeous purple yam that an Undhiyu cannot do without or the sweet potatoes that are absolutely irresistible when baked in smoking embers. Simply roast these for dinner alongside a comforting bowl of soup, and you’re set!
Beans and legumes
A plethora of fresh beans (field beans, French beans, cluster beans, etc.) and dried ones (rajma, chowli, etc.) also appear during the Indian winter. While the fresh ones can be quickly stir-fried, the dried ones can be rehydrated and used in blended dips, soups and stews.
Fresh and dry ginger are both known to have warming properties. They are anti-inflammatory ingredients, and friends of the respiratory tract, clearing it of mucus. Fresh ginger is great in pickles or salads and teas as well as in cooking whereas dried ginger is a great addition to traditional Indian sweets such as Halwa.
Long before the lattes came along, turmeric had quietly secured its place in our Indian kitchens. Not just as the pinch of powder that goes into a mugful of bedtime milk but also as a fresh turmeric pickle or a freshly ground masala for a curry, the success of which rests purely on the use of fresh root turmeric. Antioxidant, this humble root does much more to our bodies than we will ever know.
It’s not always important to study nutrition or science to know what to eat—simply look in the local markets—they are the best teachers! Indulge in the gajaks, tilpattis, sattu parathas, bathua raitas, and gond laddoos this season—they will not just warm your bodies and keep you free from disease, they will also warm your hearts with memories of an innocent childhood and prompt you to make new ones.