Welcome to February! We would like to acknowledge that this is a CHALLENGE and may not always be the easiest to keep up with. Just do your best—your health and immunity will thank you. This time of year provides an excellent opportunity to expand your taste buds and take advantage of all the variety and flavors winter offers.
Local seasonal foods are not only good for your health, they’re easy on your wallet!
When produce is in season, the abundance of the crop usually makes it less expensive. Start monitoring what you spend at the grocery store—I think you’ll be surprised how much you save!
February is winter’s last push before spring thaw. It’s often the most difficult time to maintain healthy immunity, stamina, sleep, elimination, and a stable good mood.
How Nature Balances Vata Each Winter
According to Ayurveda, the three tastes that should predominate in winter to balance vata and stabilize the nervous system are sweet, salty, and sour. Most of us get more than our share of sweet and salty, but few get enough sour to stay warm, insulated, and thriving during winter months. Fall-harvested (and winter-eaten) nuts and grains are considered sweet in nature. Salt, as we all know, will melt snow and is therefore a perfect antidote to the winter’s cold. But how do we get enough sour?
Sour is not very common in this culture, and perhaps that’s why we insidiously become deficient in vitamin C during winter, since this is the vitamin C taste. One report found as much as 23% of the population depleted in vitamin C.1 Lemons are winter-harvested and loaded with vitamin C as are grapefruits (my third choice after limes) and oranges, but oranges have been hybridized to be too sweet.2
Squeezing a lemon on a salad, cooked veggies, your fish, or in your water or tea is a great regular habit to ensure you get the vitamin C you need to provide the antioxidant protection of your fat-soluble vitamins, in particular for your vitamin E.3
The Sour Winter Wonder Berry
Perhaps the most powerful berry in the world, which researchers have named “the wonder berry” is the amla fruit, aka Indian Gooseberry or amalaki (Emblica officinalis or Phyllanthus emblica). Depending where in India that amla tree is located the fruit is harvested between October and April and is considered a fall-winter berry, boasting 10-20x more vitamin C than an orange, and during a season when vitamin C is harder to come by!4-5 Just one 500mg Amalaki capsule has more than 200% of the recommended daily value of vitamin C, according to one source.4-5 The amount of vitamin C in amalaki has been debated, so I wrote a fairly comprehensive article on the subject. You can read up on it here.
Amalaki is the dried version of the amla berry and because of its very sour, high vitamin C taste, sources suggest that it naturally preserves the vitamin C when drying and is better absorbed than others forms of vitamin C.4-5
We RecommendAmalaki: The Best Vitamin C Berry
How Vitamin C Balances Vata
In the study mentioned above, vitamin C acts as an antioxidant protecting fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin E and other delicate fats from being oxidized or going rancid. In the study, not only did vitamin C protect fats, it regenerated depleted vitamin E.1 According to Ayurveda, fats balance vata and the nervous system, but good fats are easily damaged. Due to the importance of these fats, it is not a mistake that sources of vitamin C like lemons and amalaki are used to help balance vata—their sour vitamin C content protects good fats, maintaining vata balance in the winter. Winter-harvested fruits like lemons and winter-harvested berries like amalaki are nature’s solution to balancing vata during the winter months.
In addition to being a winter source of vitamin C, offering antioxidant protection for your fat soluble vitamins, and balancing weight, blood sugar, blood pressure, and healthy cholesterol, amalaki is absolutely loaded with additional health- and immune-boosting benefits that are key for optimal winter health.1-5
Boost Your Mood In February
Besides the risks of losing healthy fats, serotonin levels also drop during darker months, thought to contribute to the seasonal mood disorders. The number of hours of sunlight exposure each day is directly linked to the amount of brain-circulating BDNF and serotonin, which presents a real problem in the winter for those living above or below the equator.
According to Ayurveda, the extremes of each season accumulate at the end of the season. Late February is when we will see the accumulation of winter’s harsh cold and dry properties.
Finding the antidote to these extremes is key in February. I always suggest taking ashwagandha, an immune-boosting, sleep-promoting, endurance- and stamina-boosting winter herb that is warm, heavy, and sweet.
This month is the time for warm, heavy, and sweet foods. Sweet should come from nuts, grains, seeds, and some raw, hard cheese.
Vitamin D3 is also a main driver of immunity and, in February, after four months of less sun, the time to supplement is NOW.
Heavy, Warm, Insulating Foods
- Ghee is made up of butyric acid as its primary fat, and the microbes in the gut also make butyric acid! This fat is the primary fuel for colon cells, does the major driving of immunity, and feeds other good microbes throughout the intestines. Add to your soups and other dishes!
- Winter squash (acorn, butternut, spaghetti) is rich in omega-3s and beta-carotene, which are important for a strong immune system. Winter squash is an easy seasonal vegetable because of its versatility and long-term storage qualities.
- Nuts and seeds are naturally high in protein and fat, providing much-needed insulation for these cold months. They are high in omega-3 fatty acids and minerals, which are also important to store each winter. In general, nuts are most balancing during winter.
- Animal proteins are very acidic in nature, driving high-quality proteins and fats deep into tissue storage sites. Acidity allows this to happen more efficiently than more alkaline plant-based proteins.
- Olive oil is loaded with antioxidant polyphenols, which support healthy cardiovascular function and winter insulation.
- Avocados are about 85% fat and harvested during the winter in warmer climates, making them the perfect winter fruit. They are high in omega-3 fatty acids as well as carotenoids, which are powerful antioxidants.
Sweet, Sour, Salty Foods
These foods calm vata. When temperatures drop and cold aggravates our nervous systems, we become less able to handle stress, have more trouble sleeping, and experience more feelings of anxiety. We live in a vata-aggravated society, but fortunately, nature provides the antidote!
- Sweet: This does not mean sugar, treats, and desserts. Choose naturally sweet foods. Nourish the sweet taste with winter squash and root veggies like carrots and whole grains.
- Sour: Think lemons and pickles. These will strengthen and fire up digestion. Eat more sauerkraut and other fermented foods this season: the lactic acid wards off bad bacteria. Sour taste reflects acidity.
- Salty: These foods are warming and increase circulation. If you add salt to your food and want to know what kind of salt is best, please see my article Confused About Salt?
One of my favorite foods to add to my meals and drink as a warming tea during winter is ginger. It is called the “universal spice” because it balances all body types and has a host of health benefits. It’s a great agent for digestion, circulation, and thinning mucus. It has immune-building properties and creates a great environment for microbes to proliferate.
My Two Favorite Ginger Recipes
- Ginger Pizzas: Cut ginger root into dime-size slices. Spread on a plate and sprinkle with salt and fresh lemon juice. Chew on one or two before meals to boost digestive strength. Store in fridge until mealtime.
- Ginger + Honey Paste: Squeeze some ginger in a garlic press and save the juice. Mix equal parts ginger juice with raw honey and a pinch of salt. Take 1 tbsp before meals to fire up your digestive furnace (i.e. increase stomach acid production). Store in fridge until mealtime.
Organic is Best
Be mindful that if you don’t buy organic foods, pesticides and fertilizers will eradicate strains of beneficial microbes in the mouth and digestive system. The newest research tells us that gut microbial diversity (the presence of numerous strains of good bugs in the gut) and gut bacterial richness (microbial count) are the two most important criteria for determining optimal health, immunity, blood sugar, and weight.
If organic foods are not easy to find where you live, do your best. Wash all produce with vinegar and water to remove topical pesticides and remove peels. Relax and dine. Eat your food with love and gratitude.
Winter Grocery List
Ayurvedic Skin Secrets to Get Your Glow Back this Winter: Each winter, our skin is severely challenged to maintain its elasticity, youthfulness, and glow. Lucky for us, nature has a plan to deliver inner and outer skin protection during the skin-harsh winter season, with none other than its harvest!
10 Reasons To Take Vitamin D This Winter: During the winter, the sun is too low in the sky for most of the US to receive adequate UVB radiation or vitamin D. Many experts believe that, for optimal health, levels should be maintained between 50-80 ng/mL year round.
Combat Winter Woes with the Right Fiber: In nature, certain fibers predominate in different seasons to deliver specific and timely health benefits. This winter, make sure you board the right fiber train to boost digestive function and support immunity.
10 Reasons To Eat Walnuts This Winter: While walnuts are a fall-harvested tree food with nutrient-rich deliverables that are ideal for winter, their overwhelming health benefits should nominate them for a year-round source of protein, healthy fats, and phytonutrients.
These fantastic recipes are gifted to us by the lovely Emma Frisch, a cook, blogger, freelance food writer, and former farmer. She is Co-Founder and Director of Culinary Experience at Firelight Camps and was a top finalist on Food Network Star, Season 10. Emma’s recipes fall right into place with the rest of our diet and seasonal eating recommendations.
All photos and recipes by Emma Frisch.
Take 15% off Ashwagandha, Gentle Digest + Liquid Sun Vitamin D3 through March 2, 2019.
Use coupon code Challenge at checkout screen in the online store.
Cannot be combined with other discounts.
|Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), also known as winter cherry, is becoming a favorite adaptogen with many Western herbalists because of its unique nourishing and stabilizing properties. An adaptogen is an herb with overall nervine tonic benefits–energizing the body when it needs it during the day and calming overactive nerves for easy and restful sleep at night. It helps support healthy weight loss, detox, cognitive function, hormone balance, sexual health, and the immune system, all of which can be negatively impacted by stress.||Gentle Digest is a combination of Ayurveda’s five spices for digestion: ginger, cumin, fennel, coriander, and cardamom. They have been time-tested for thousands of years and have a library of good science to support their digestion-boosting benefits.||Liquid Sun Vitamin D3: Liquid Sun™ Vitamin D3 is cholecalciferol derived from lanolin and provided in a liquid base of sunflower oil and purified water. In this formula, vitamin D and sunflower oil are combined using a special micro-emulsification process designed to create a natural micellized matrix, which, when coated by the stomach bile, will encourage absorption.|
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