To keep warm in the chilly months, you can do more than just donning a sweater or upgrading your winter wardrobe. Instead, keep your body warm from within by adding seasonal ingredients to your diet. Spoiler alert: There’s no meat in this list for the hardcore non-vegetarians.
Whether you want to eat healthier or simply lose weight, mustard greens aka sarson leaves can help you achieve it all. High in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, these leafy greens help to detoxify the body and reduce the levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol in the body. A good source of iron, calcium, vitamin A, C, E and K, along with phytonutrients such as phenols, your body will definitely thank you for making this veggie a part of your winter diet. Studies suggest that these leaves can help manage diabetes, thanks to their low glycemic index. Weight watchers, mustard greens are known to have a high fibre content which helps you stay full for long, preventing cravings.
How to: While in North India, sarson da saag is a mainstay in most homes during winter, there are other ways to enjoy this veggie. You could either steam them and add to your soups and broths or simply sauté them along with spices of your choice.
Widely consumed in the northern parts of India, this winter favourite is rich in amino acids and fibre. According to USDA data, it is also low in calories, just 43 calories in a 100 gm portion. Besides, this veggie is also a good source of micronutrients such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, and vitamins A, B6 and C, all of which help to counter many of winter’s negative impacts. However, since these leaves have a high oxalic acid content, they should be consumed in moderation, as excessive consumption could result in kidney stones.
How to: The most preferred way to have bathua leaves is in the form of a saag, however, you could even fold the steamed leaves into your chapati dough or stuff them into your parathas to reap their many health benefits. You could even toss them into your raitas.
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Ponkh is nothing but freshly harvested jowar (white millets) or sorghum that’s eaten while the grains are still juicy, bright and tender. A nutritional powerhouse, ponkh is rich in calcium, iron, protein, fibre and antioxidants. They are easily digestible thereby providing health benefits that make it a worthy addition to your winter diet. A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry states that these seeds are naturally gluten-free, making it a binge-worthy snack even for those who are gluten intolerant.
How to: Ponkh is often eaten raw or slightly roasted. In Gujarat, the favoured way to wash it down is with a glass of chaas or lassi. Known as hurda in Maharashtra, it is eaten in the form of bhel. Maharashtrians also use this ingredient to make a flatbread called thalipeeth. The Whole Grains Council states that sorghum’s “neutral, sometimes sweet, flavour and light colour” allow it to easily absorb other flavours.
Date Palm Jaggery
For Bengalis, nolen nur or date palm jaggery, is a staple winter sweet food or a dessert in itself which is usually relished at the end of a meal. Made from the sap of the date palm tree, this ‘medicinal sugar’ is a healthier alternative to sugar. Unlike sugar, it remains unrefined and unbleached retaining all its nutrients. It is a good source of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron and carotene, according to the National Institute of Nutrition. This natural sweetener is also rich in magnesium, and is packed with antioxidants which in turn help reverse the damage done by toxins and free radicals.
How to: Nolen gur makes for a great sugar substitute and lends itself beautifully to almost any sweet dish, thanks to its smoky flavour and rich aroma.
A study published by the US National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) states that these slimy leaves contain large amounts of all of the amino acids. They also boast a high protein content and are rich in potassium, calcium, phosphorous, iron, ascorbic acid and carotene. They are a good source of beta-carotene, and are said to have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help relieve symptoms for people suffering from arthritis, acne, asthma and common cold.
How to: Like any other leafy green, these leaves can be cooked whole, turned into a sabzi or can be blended into smoothies and soups, thanks to their distinct flavour. They can also be added to stews, sauces, curries, and even herbal teas!
The vrat-friendly singhara or water chestnut is known to have a high flavonoid content, vitamin A, B1, B2, B5 and E, a good amount of antioxidants and also antimicrobial properties, according to a study published on the NCBI.
How to: The whole singhara could be used to make khichdis, in vegetable and meat preparations. The atta on the other hand could be used to make parathas, chillas and even puris. You could also use singhara to make some healthy halwa, barfi, laddus and pudding to satiate your sweet tooth.
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These seeds are best eaten during the winter season as sesame is known to produce heat in the body, thereby helping you stay warm. A 2014 study published by the NCBI states that these seeds are high in protein, vitamin B1, dietary fibre as well as an excellent source of phosphorous, iron, magnesium calcium, manganese, copper and zinc. The study also states that these seeds have a lowering effect on cholesterol, giving you enough reasons to add these tiny treats to your diet.
How to: While til ke laddoos and til chikkis are fond ways of reaping the benefits of these seeds in winter, you can also toss them into your salads or sabzis and other meat preparations. These seeds also help add an element of crunchiness to stir-fried rice and pulao recipes.
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