Winter is a time of reduced physical activity for most of us in Kashmir. The warm hamams, dull cold days and easy availability of fast foods including the delicious harissa at our fingertips make winter a time for unhealthy eating.
Rising Kashmir’s health correspondent Mansoor Peer, talks to doctors of different specialties about foods, drinks, fruits and vegetables to be consumed in winter months and their health benefits.
Fruits are widely recommended for their health-promoting properties. Fruits have historically held a place in dietary guidance because of their concentrations of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, especially antioxidants.
Dr Farooq Ahmed Ganie, Assistant Professor of cardiovascular thoracic surgery SKIMS Srinagar said additionally, fruits are recommended as a source of dietary fiber.
“The winter season may not be that colorful itself but it is known to provide an array of colorful fruits that are good for health,” he said.
Moreover, seasonal fruits are always best to have as they provide the exact nutrients your body requires for the current climate.
Colder temperatures can cause several health problems such as common cold, viral infections and dry skin.
“Seasonal fruits in diet during winter months help to improve immunity and promote overall health and happiness,” he said.
Dr Ganaie along with Dr Khalid Ur Rehman, MD physician and Medical Officer J&K Health Services recommend fruits that are highly beneficial to remain healthy during winter season.
Topping the list of fruits is the apple “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” is not too far off from the truth. Apples are likened to superfoods as they are filled with so many nutrients, it seems impossible that one little fruit could help so much, but it does! From Vitamin B, which maintains RBC count, to antioxidants, which help ward off diseases, the apple will keep you out of the doctor’s clinic.
Apples are rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals. They contain pectin, which promotes gut health. The antioxidants present in apples reduce the risk of heart attack and diabetes. The vitamin C present in them helps boost immunity.
Considered as appropriate support for weight loss and lowering the risk of diabetes, apples are known to fight asthma and battle cancer.
Oranges, while not necessarily winter crops, are always available and always a good option. The slightly sour and sweet fruit contains vitamin C, fibre, potassium, folate and thiamine among others.
Vitamin C content helps boost the immune system to help you fight off infections and promotes skin health. Consuming oranges is said to reduce the risk of cancer and kidney disease. The folate present in oranges helps prevent anemia.
Extremely cheap and seemingly always in season, bananas are a great source of potassium. The American Heart Association (AHA) encourages people to lower their intake of salt, or sodium, and increase their consumption of foods that contain potassium which helps in optimization of blood pressure and reduces strain on the cardiovascular system.
A banana provides almost 9% of a person’s daily potassium needs. Bananas contain water and fiber, both of which promote regularity and encourage digestive health. One banana provides approximately 10% of a person’s fiber needs for a day.
It may be hard to find a pineapple in your local market. But if you have the opportunity to, especially during the winter, purchase and eat it. Pineapple is chock full of Vitamin C and manganese, a nutrient that helps in the formation of bones and regulating blood sugar.
Kiwis are flavorful, healthy, and unique and are rich in vitamins and antioxidants. Throw a few of these fuzzy little fruits into your cart to fight off that cold weather. This fruit is most commonly available during the cold months. Kiwis are packed with a variety of nutrients such as iron, fiber and antioxidants. Kiwi promotes skin health and prevents early aging of the skin. They also contain minerals such as magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, copper, and zinc.
A goddess among fruits, the pomegranate is not only known for its legendary origins but its sheer number of health benefits that range from containing tons of antioxidants to aiding in the prevention of certain cancers. Add pomegranates to your winter diet and enjoy the health benefits and sweet-sour taste of every scrumptious seed.
The sweet, juicy and delicious grapes are jam-packed with vitamins which helps to bulk up your immune system, fortify your bones, and heal your injuries faster.
Whether you pick green, red or purple grapes, they’re all highly nutritious fruits that are equally delicious. Grapes are rich in fibre, making them good for your digestive system.
The natural phytochemicals (anthocyanins and resveratrol) present in grapes help to reduce inflammation, thus preventing risks of several chronic inflammatory diseases.
Among the best fruits to eat in winter, rambutans are among the most nutritious fruits out there. This tropical fruit that has wild red hair, well, how else can this be put, is white on the inside and is considered related to the lychee. A big plus about having the tropical, native to Malaysia fruit is that it helps in digestion and is even known to aid in weight loss.
Grown in California, Arizona, Florida, and Texas, tangerines are among the best fruits to eat in winter and also a fruit that is easily available during the cold season. A popular citrus fruit that is typically found in warm climates is a great source of fiber for the body.
You don’t need anyone’s permission to have some persimmons. But let’s keep the oddity in communication at bay and get straight to why it’s always a good idea to have some persimmons. Considered to be a versatile fruit, and among the best fruits to eat in winter, the persimmons are sweet and versatile and are packed with lots of minerals and vitamins. There’s a range of goodness packed in this orange if it must be said. Apart from promoting good heart health, the persimmon is also known to reduce inflammation.
Vegetables that keep you healthy during winters
Eating vegetables every day is important for health. Vegetables are a good source of dietary fiber, a type of carbohydrate that helps pass food through your digestive system.
Studies show that fiber may also improve vitamin and mineral absorption in the body, which could potentially raise your daily energy levels. Dr Tasaduk Hussain Itoo, a public health expert suggested some vegetables that keep one healthy during the winter months.
This vegetable has the highest amount of carotene when compared to other vegetables. Besides, it is a good source for vitamin B, C, D, E and K. One can eat them raw or cook them.
Cauliflower has no cholesterol and is low in calories. It gives protection against cancer. It contains minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron. It cooks fast so it is very convenient.
This is a root vegetable about the size of an apple. It has a sweet taste and starchy texture containing fibre, folates, vitamins and minerals. A variety of turnips are available in the market during winter months.
Radishes are available in abundance during the winter season. They are pungent or sweet in taste, containing potassium, lots of roughage, folic acid and ascorbic acid. One can either cook it or even eat raw.
Spinach leaves are one of the healthiest vegetables in the world. It contains antioxidants like flavonoids and carotenoids along with multiple vitamins and minerals as it is rich in vitamin A, C & K and contains omega-3 fatty acids. Avoid boiling or cooking it too much in order to get complete nutrition.
Potatoes are excellent and inexpensive vegetables that should be included in one’s winter diet. Rich in fiber, beta-carotene, vitamins A, B6 and C, and antioxidants, sweet potatoes offer various other health benefits. As an added benefit, they are fairly low in glycemic index.
This vegetable is rich in Vitamin-K and contains essential B-Complex vitamins. It also contains folic acid, ascorbic acid including all other necessary minerals. Besides being cooked with other vegetables, one can have it raw in salads and add it to soups. It provides potential anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits.
A vibrant and colorful vegetable offers numerous health benefits. Moreover, they are extremely delicious and contain iron, Vitamins A, B6 and C and many vital minerals. These micronutrients help in the liver detoxification process, lower the risk of diabetes, obesity and heart diseases. Apart from this, it boosts our immune system and helps fight inflammation.
The tender leaves of the mustard plant are made into a green vegetable curry and are served with flatbread made with cornmeal. These leaves contain vitamin A, K and carotene and flavonoid antioxidants. These help in reducing iron deficiency anemia.
Foods for winter
Dr. Rehana Kousar, Consultant maternal and Child health said a combination of a sedentary lifestyle and eating a diet rich in fat and calories is a recipe for disaster.
“Most people who walk or exercise during summer give up in winter because of the cold and less daylight hours. Plus, the body is hidden in layers of clothing inside a pheran making it difficult to see the rolls of flesh and fat that accumulate on our bodies,” she said.
“Let’s remember that moderation is the key in eating. It is perfectly okay to eat harissa or a pizza or mithai once in a while but do not make it an everyday affair or binge on it. Also do not forget to exercise,” she said.
As far as diet is concerned Dr. Rehana simplifies it for better compliance:
Lean meat is a good source of protein with a low fat and calorie content. Red meat like lamb or beef is a good source of protein but you need to trim all the visible fat to make it lean.
Poultry is a good source of lean protein along with vitamin B and choline (keeps nerves healthy). Ensure meat is cooked thoroughly and never reheat cooked meat repeatedly.
Another good source of low-fat, high-quality protein is fish which is available in abundance in Kashmir. Fish is packed with omega 3 fatty acids which reduce the risk of stroke and maintain heart health. It also contains vitamin D, B2, calcium, phosphorus and zinc.
The American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least two times a week as part of a healthy diet. Eggs are also a superb source of protein and very easily available, easy to cook and can be cooked in literally hundreds of ways. A good and cheap source of lean protein is pulses and grams which should be incorporated in the diet.
Nuts and seeds
These tiny but mighty superfoods are a heart-healthy snack and powerhouses of nutrition. Eating a few almonds or a couple of walnuts daily can reduce cholesterol.
However, avoid the processed salted and fried variety available in the market. Similarly, walnuts are rich in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids and promote good heart health.
Rice and wheat are staple foods in Kashmiri households. They help to keep us full and satisfied but the key is to eat less refined stuff and reduce the portion size.
Leafy greens are brimming with fiber, vitamins and minerals and are a low-calorie option. In addition to our local haakh, try eating radish and turnip greens, dandelion greens (handd), cauliflowers and broccoli.
A lot of households use sun-dried veggies in winter. Although it is an age-old custom, we should limit its use because during the process of drying fungal contamination occurs and eating too much of it can lead to cancers of the GI tract.
Sugar can give us a happy boost which is short-lived but the bad effects are alarming. Keep off sugar. If possible, give up sugary drinks completely. Among Kashmiris eating bakery goodies like cake, bakarkhani, kulcha is a very big factor in causing diabetes and obesity. Eat but in moderation as a treat not as a daily routine.
Soups especially trotter/bone broth:
Also called pachi in local parlance, trotters have a lot of bone, tough connective tissue and skin. It needs to be cooked slowly for the meat to become tender. It is a rich source of collagen, protein and fat and lacks carbs and fiber. Besides being yummy on a cold winter evening it helps fight joint pain, inflammation and gives healthy skin.
Drinks to consume during winter
Drink plenty of water. You can drink cold water or warm water but keep yourself hydrated at all times. Most people do not drink water in winter but we sweat a lot in winter and need water to replenish the losses as well as for metabolism.
Kehwa with Dalchini or cinnamon is a wonderfully flavored drink. Cinnamon contains a compound that helps to reduce inflammation and is also helpful in maintaining blood sugar. Add some ginger for a boost.
We can have tulsi tea, ginger tea and our regular tea in winter for warmth and hydration but do not add sugar. Honey is also a source of sugar and gets converted to glucose in the body. Hence, go slow on sugar or sugar substitutes.
Although every Kashmiri loves noonchai (salt tea), the salt content has to be reduced. Please go easy on salt and sugar this winter.
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