By Ankita Mehta
After braving the cold and the brutal Canadian wind all day long, I find devouring a steaming bowl of chicken veggie soup or a plate of spicy lamb curry as comforting. Eating has always been my go-to cure for stress and now from binge eating in stress I seem to have evolved to binge eating in cold; well, since eating makes one happy (yes, I fact-checked this), it helps combat the gloom that the cold brings with it. And when there are diets for summer than so are diets/foods meant for winter (I think of it as a diet cause these are healthy alternatives).
How a cold body reacts to a warm touch, similarly, eating or drinking something hot sends a rush of blood in our body giving us a sensation of being warm. And this is not just limited to eating literally hot food but also food which is hot in nature. From where I come (up North in India) we eat some of these ‘superfoods’ as we like to call them. Horse gram, Mutton (Lamb or Goat meat), ginger, poppy seeds, flax seed, ghee/Indian Clarified Butter (I legit put a spoon in my Indian food even here!) are a few to name. These superfoods are not just going to keep you warm but will also keep your gut strong! For a South Asian take on “hot” foods, making your meals spicy can make you feel warmer as well. And this food feels warmer when had in the comforts of home, it not only ups the temperature in your kitchen -- but often the entire house -- becomes warmer (both figuratively and literally). When the air is frigid outside, your house always has your back!
Food for lifting your mood:
During the peak of winter, natural sunshine may decrease by 60%, significantly reducing our vitamin D intake. The only deal-breaker for this brutal winter has been shorter days and longer nights here, for one I have started sleeping early! But lack of sunlight common cold weather phenomena also causes something known as ‘winter depression’, the reason why we sometimes feel gloomier than other days! Known as S.A.D., or seasonal affective disorder. And craving carbs is common when is struck by winter depression. I like to switch my options and choose complex carbohydrates over cake or cookies or anything sugar. Whole grain bread and pasta, brown rice, legumes, millet, and whole oats are some of the best choices for complex carbs. According to a Canadian government study, About 40% of Canadians are below the cut-off for Vitamin D levels in winters, nearly one-third of the population is vitamin D deficient. However, in winter, between the two equinoxes (September 22 to March 20), at our latitude, there is very little UVB radiation (thank god for that!). Vitamin deficiencies, particularly vitamin D deficiency, contribute to depression and mental health instability.
Staying supple and hydrated:
I have been awake for over three hours now and I still don’t feel thirsty! Bravo. Well, if you are living in the cold, you empathise with me better, the last thing on our (fellow-cold warriors) minds is a glass of cold water or iced tea! Unfortunately, one becomes dehydrated just as easily in cold temperature as one does in warm weather. A cup of warm tea is an excellent choice to combat the cold weather. I like to start my day with a glass of hot water with either cinnamon powder or lemon with honey, followed by a cup of green tea. Yes, I am not a coffee-person (you can pick a beef with me after you finish reading this article). Well, A cup or two of coffee is fine to drink but it does not count toward your day’s water intake. Drinking tea counts toward a healthy daily intake of 2-3 six or eight-ounce cups of water. Ginger in normal or green tea, is particularly a good option, as the spice naturally warms the body. Spiced tea is a good alternative if you are a South Asian you know what I am talking about. Hot cider is also another hydrating yet comforting choice. And let’s be fair, no one goes off alcohol in winters so, a few healthier options to stay hydrated and warm, a glass of brandy or a hot toddy is just what your doctor would also approve. And my favourite sources of hydration has to be orange since it is what I call a double-whammy; you are Vitamin-D fed and also hydrated!
Ok, a little winter fat won’t kill us:
Just as clothes act as a layer, fat too acts an as insulation in winters to protect us from the cold, but that’s not the only reason why we could use some fat. Studies show that our body uses fats to facilitate the absorption of vitamins A, E, K and D. Foods such as oily fish, milk, fortified cereals, yogurt, egg yolks, nuts, nut butter, olives, avocados, and tofu are a few healthy carbs. If you are a sucker for red meat (mutton not beef in my case), keep in mind the serving or portion size and try to limit it’s consumption to three, preferably two times weekly.
Well, just because we’re more likely to crave mugs of hot chocolate and bottomless bowls of cheesy pasta or noodles from late fall to spring, it doesn’t mean we necessarily need all those extra calories.