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Winter Is Here: Indian Foods To Keep You Warm And Healthy This Cold Season

Indian winter is here and so is the cold. From December to February, most parts of the country are blanketed by the freezing weather, with Delhi, Tawang, Leh and Gulmarg being the coldest in the country. The coldest months are from December and January when the temperatures average around 10 -15 °C.

Health experts say that while piling up winter clothes and getting the heater fixed at home, most people often forget the important and easiest way to surge through the winter -eating foods that can help keep you warm and healthy during the cold months.

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Winter Season And Food Habits

The seasons have changed, but why not your food habits? Winter is a time when you indulge in more eating habits to keep yourself warm and at comfort. It is also true that our body needs more energy during winters to keep itself warm. Therefore, the calories get burned faster and even metabolism rate is high during the winter months (bonus: this helps in speeding up belly fat loss).

In winters, you need to eat foods that increase your immunity, as the chances of catching infections and cold-related diseases are high [1]. But, if you take care of what you eat, you can prevent yourself from becoming vulnerable to airborne infections such as cold and flu, by adding foods to your winter diet that can help improve your immunity and keep you healthy [2][3].

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Read on the article to find some healthy and tasty Indian (and other) winter foods that can help keep you warm and illness-free.

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1. Honey

One of the best foods for Indian winter, honey is rich in many nutrients and natural sugars that give you a rapid energy boost. Honey can boost our immune system and make it stronger, and avoid the onset of infections, which can be associated with its antibacterial properties [4]. Honey also help with a sore throat, a common issue most people face in the winter.

2. Ghee

Desi ghee is widely consumed in India and across the world for its astounding health benefits. Ghee is rich in fat-soluble vitamins, essential fatty acids, and vitamin A. Ghee can help balance your body heat and temperature due to the presence of essential fatty acids in it [5].

3. Jaggery

Jaggery is another comforting food high in calories and is commonly consumed in parts of India during the winters to stimulate body heat [6]. Jaggery can be added to sweet dishes and to caffeinated drinks, to keep the body warm.

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4. Cinnamon

Adding cinnamon to your dishes during the winter can help boost your metabolism and thereby generate heat in the chilly weathers [7]. Cinnamon powder mixed with rose water is effective in treating dry winter skin and drinking cinnamon-infused water can help manage coughs and cold as well.

5. Saffron

The aroma and flavour of saffron is a stressbuster and drinking this red gold (world's most expensive spice) help warm your body. Boil 4-5 saffron strains in a cup of milk and drink it warm to get rid of the winter blues.

6. Mustard

Mustard is another pungent spice that is known to keep your body warm during the winters. Both white and brown mustard possesses a major pungent compound called allyl isothiocyanate, which can bring up your body temperature in a healthy manner [8].

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7. Sesame Seeds

Sesame seeds are used in Indian sweet dishes such as chikki, which are popularly relished during the cold winter months. These seeds are known to heat your body and make you feel warm during the winters [9].

8. Millet (Bajra)

Also known as pearl millet, bajra is popular in Rajasthan. Bajra is a humble healthy Indian food which has been consumed in India since the pre-historic times and is a great addition to your diet during the winter season [10]. You can make rotis, khichdi, vegetable and millet mash.

9. Ginger

Ginger has been widely used as a spice or folk medicine around the world. Ginger contains pungent polyphenols known as gingerols like 6-shogaol, 6-gingerol, and zingerone which have thermogenic effects and are known to warm up the body [11].

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Some more foods that can help warm you up during the winter season:

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10. Chili Pepper

Chili peppers contain a chemical compound called capsaicin that can directly induce thermogenesis, a process through which the body's cells convert energy into heat. Capsaicin triggers a receptor found in sensory neurons, creating a heat sensation, and increasing the body temperature [12].

Warning: Excessive consumption of chilli pepper can cause intestinal distress in some people. The symptoms may include abdominal pain, a burning sensation in your gut, cramps, and painful diarrhoea.

11. Black Pepper

Black pepper contains piperine, a compound that gives black pepper its pungent taste, which can help keep your body warm during the winters. You can gain the benefits of black pepper by adding it to hot soups and stews.

12. Onion

Onions have been used in traditional Chinese medicine to keep the body warm and to manage the cold weather. Adding (raw) onions to your food (salads) can help raise your body temperature and keep you warm during the cold winters.

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13. Garlic

A commonly used herb in Indian cooking and world cuisine, garlic has high amounts of calcium, potassium, as well as certain sulphuric compounds that are good in preventing the onset infections and healthily increase your body heat [13].

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14. Root Vegetables

Root vegetables such as turnips, carrots, radish, and parsnips are mostly eaten during the winters. Because they contain a compound called allyl isothiocyanate that helps keep your body warm. Sweet potatoes are also a healthy addition to your diet during the winters [14].

15. Whole Grains

Whole grains are an excellent source of complex carbohydrates, which take time to digest in the body. During this process, the body uses extra energy to digest the food, and this, in turn, makes your body warmer [15]. Add whole grains like brown rice, oatmeal, cracked wheat etc. to your diet.

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16. Beef

Beef is a great source of monounsaturated fat, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and other nutrients like protein, iron, zinc, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin D, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium. When you eat beef, the body spends extra energy in breaking down the food and this in turn generates body heat [16].

Some other foods you can try during the winter season are as follows:

  • Green tea
  • Fennel seeds
  • Turmeric (golden milk, add to curries)
  • Nuts like cashews and almonds
  • Brussels sprout
  • Egg
  • Soups
  • Seafood like salmon and tuna
  • Red bell peppers
  • Here is a list of dishes you can try this winter season, which is equally healthy and tasty:

    • Gajar ka halwa (carrot dessert)
    • Sarson ka saag (mustard leaves curry)
    • Sakarkand rabdi (sweet potato dessert)
    • Gond ke ladoo (acacia gum, wheat flour, almonds and cashew)
    • Beetroot-coconut/carrot stir fry (South Indian dish beetroot thoran and carrot poriyal)
    • Lapsi (made with ghee, dry fruits, broken wheat, and raisin)
    • Chikki (Indian nutrition bar made with nuts and jaggery)
    • Raab (a drink made with millet flour)
    • Thukpa
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On A Final Note…

Boiled foods are one of the best options for winter. Have plenty of soup, stews, and broths made of winter foods. It is best to avoid pre-cooked or packaged meals and choose freshly cooked seasonal vegetables and fruits for your winter diet.

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