This article is excerpted from Dr. John’s new Ayurveda 101 eCourse in partnership with Yoga Journal and Kripalu’s Larissa Hall Carlson.
In This Article
Stay Healthy In Winter
Winter is governed by air and is cold and dry. Our skin gets dry, our sinuses begin to dry out, and even our joints dry out. If the dryness of winter is not mitigated by foods and activities that are warm, moist heavy and oily, the body will dry out. Dry skin may be just a minor inconvenience of winter, but when dryness infiltrates the intestinal and respiratory tracts, it can cause a chain reaction of imbalances.
When the intestinal tract becomes overly dry, it can lead to sluggish and dry bowels, gas and bloating, and increased levels of toxicity. Also, the intestinal wall is where researchers believe 80% of the body’s immune system lives, which can be compromised when the intestinal skin dries out. Unfortunately, this happens most commonly in the winter when we need our immunity the most.
When the skin that lines the respiratory tract dries out, the mucus lining can become hypersensitive, forcing the production of excess mucus. As the body makes more mucus to combat the seasonal dryness, the excess mucus can become a breeding ground for undesirable bacteria. Just like in the intestines, the body’s optimal immunity depends on the healthy balance of mucus production in the sinuses and lungs.
Fortunately, nature’s harvest of warming, higher protein and fatty foods in the winter helps to balance its cold and dry extremes. Eating off of my Seasonal Grocery Lists provides the perfect antidote for the extremes of each season to keep each body type balanced. If seasonal foods are eaten in the summer, fall and winter, your immunity — which depends on a healthy mucus lining — will be prepared to defend you through the long winter.
5 Foods for Winter Wellness
- Root veggies
Beets, carrots, potatoes, and sweet potatoes grow underground all summer, giving nature time to build more density in the form of concentrated proteins and fats. Root veggies are truly nutritional powerhouses – they are rich in fiber, minerals, vitamin A, and vitamin C, and loaded with antioxidants.
- More fat
During the winter months, a higher-fat diet provides insulation along with the nutrients you need to rebuild and rejuvenate before nature’s new year come spring. Higher fat foods also lubricate the mucus lining of the intestines, lungs and sinuses. My favorite fats for winter are olive oil, avocados, ghee and coconut oil.
- More protein
Proteins are the building blocks for the body, and during the winter, these are essential nutrients for structural strength, skin health, immunity, and more.
If you’re not a vegetarian, it’s good to eat a little bit more animal meat this time of year (it doesn’t need to be more than 10 percent of your diet). Animal proteins are very acidic in nature, and thus drive high-quality proteins and fats deep into the tissues storage sites. The acidity allows this to happen somewhat more efficiently compared to plant-based proteins, which are more alkaline.
Nuts and seeds are naturally high in protein and fat, and provide the much-needed insulation in the winter – especially for Vata types. They are high in omega-3 fatty acids and minerals. Seeds are somewhat preferable in the winter over nuts because they are lighter and easy to digest.
More ideas for getting protein this winter: whey protein powders, spirulina, yogurt, and eggs.
- Fermented foods
Fermented foods have been a way to preserve foods for the long barren winters for thousands of years. So ’tis the season for eating them, but always in smaller, condiment size portions. A 20-ounce bottle of kombucha is quite excessive. Consider these important foods, but don’t overdo them.
Fermented foods support healthy gut microbial immunity during the winter months. Fermented foods also warm the body – a welcome benefit in the wintertime. Try eating more fermented cheese, yogurt, and sauerkraut.
- More fiber
One of the best ways to antidote the cold and dry of winter is by increasing the amount of soluble fiber you eat. When soluble fiber mixes with water, it becomes slimy and lubricating for the gut. This is one of nature’s strategies to insulate the gut from the coldness and dryness of winter by soothing, warming and lubricating the intestinal walls. So when the cold sets in, be sure to enjoy a warm bowl of oats and have a pot of lentils ready for dinner.
To best support your winter soluble fiber intake, I recommend favoring: oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, grains, peas and some fruits and veggies like okra and Brussels sprouts.
Source: The 3-Season Diet. Harmony Books, 2000. New York
*Republished and reinvented with permission from Yoga Journal 2016.*