With every new season comes new produce. Markets are filled with newer, seasonal vegetables and suddenly you remember the recipes and dishes from the year before! In the north there is a flood of fresh greens, from mustard and fenugreek to spinach and even salad leaves like arugula. Since the other parts of the country don't see as much of the cold, the change is more obvious in fruits. There is a plethora of citrus fruits available and over a dozen varieties of apples from the mountains and abroad. The idea of seasonal vegetables was driven by nature's nurturing instinct. This were the foods that were ideal to combat the season, like watermelon in summers is meant to cool you off, similarly hearty, warming foods in winter keep you warm. So this season warm up with the Top 5 foods that are ideal for your health and can be made into yummy dishes too!
Top 5 Winter Foods
Pumpkins can be found in plenty of different varieties in the winter season. This makes it a versatile vegetable that has a full, slightly sweet-ish flavor with plenty of mass, so one pumpkin can feed many. It can be cooked in a variety of ways too, from roasted, toasted, and pureed to mashed and curried as well. Pumpkins are an excellent source of vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant. It also has plenty of fiber which is great for the digestive system which tends to be sluggish in the winter weather. Add pumpkins to dals, soups and dry vegetables, you can make sambhar with it or even add cubes to Pav Bhaji to make it more winter healthy!
Fresh 100 gms of spinach contains about 25% of daily intake of iron; one of the richest among green leafy vegetables. Iron is an important trace element required by the human body for red blood cell production and is integral to healing and building immunity. Its leaves also contain a good amount of minerals like potassium, manganese, magnesium, copper and zinc. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure. Spinach is freshest in the winter season; you only have to be careful about washing and cleaning it properly and do not overcook and destroy the natural vitamins and minerals in the leaves. Best is to blanche spinach and add to soups, salads, dals, curries and even as fillings in tikkis, sandwiches or paranthas.
In India we use pomegranates or 'anaar' in both sweet and savoury foods but you most likely consume it in juice form. From a heart-health perspective, Pomegranate juice is rich in antioxidants (more so than other fruit juices). It also helps build immunity which keeps you from getting frequent coughs and colds in winters. Drinking pomegranate juice is also said to improve blood flow to the heart and it is a natural cleanser as well. Add pomegranate to your salad for a sweet-tangy crunch or top a plate of chaat with the seeds. Since all the fibre is in consuming the entire seed, it is also advisable to use Pomegranate seeds in every day meals and snacks!
- Citrus Fruits
Citrus fruits, including lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruit, are at their juiciest in the wintertime and can add a lot of healthy value to your daily meals and snacks. Citrus fruits are loaded with vitamin C-one medium orange delivers more than 100 percent of your daily dose, citrus fruits are also rich sources of flavonoids. The predominant flavonoid in these fruits is credited with boosting "good" HDL cholesterol and lowering "bad" LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. The vitamin C content helps build immunity warding off infections. Enjoy orange juice, or add to salads!
Carrots contain Vitamin C which aids collagen production in the body. Collagen is a type of protein that is vital for the maintenance of skin elasticity. It helps prevent wrinkles and locks the process of ageing. Vitamin A, being an antioxidant, also attacks the free radicals to prevent signs of ageing and keeps your eyes healthy too! Winter time is when the sweet, softer, crunchy carrots are in season. Carrot contains a variety of nutrients and antioxidants along with Vitamin C and these will boost your immune system. Regular consumption of carrots creates a protective shield for our body from winter ailments like viral fever, coughs and colds. Make delicious carrot halwa or dry vegetable preparations with carrots. You can also add grated carrots to fillings for sandwiches and paranthas.