What jaggery is to winter, water chestnuts are to autumn – foods that are particularly beneficial in their respective season. Kavita Devgan lists five such items that you must incorporate in your diet this year
Traditional Indian diets are often based on eating according to the season. Some food items are specifically consumed in summer because they cool the body, and some in winter because they warm the body. Consuming them in healthy quantities during their corresponding seasons translates to a stronger immune system, better digestion and several other health benefits. This year, get stocked up on these foods to breeze through every season!
Jaggery, or gur, is an extremely good digestive. A small piece after a meal is beneficial at any time of the year, but particularly so during winter, since, according to Ayurveda, jaggery has a hot potency (termed taseer). This implies that, as your stomach digests it, heat is generated naturally in your body. Also, blood vessels tend to get constricted due to low temperatures and jaggery can help dilate them to improve blood flow, thus further aiding the body to heat up. Jaggery has been used as a traditional remedy for respiratory disorders and throat problems, both common during the colder months.
It soothes irritation in the throat, eases any accompanying pain, keeps the lungs warm and dilates the respiratory tract. It is also rich in minerals such as phosphorus, iron, magnesium, zinc, selenium and potassium, along with multiple antioxidants that help boost the immune system. Another important aspect of jaggery is its ability to reduce the impact of damage caused to the lungs due to pollution.
How to eat it
Make peanut chikki at home: Skin, roast and coarsely crush peanuts. Heat jaggery in water until you get a thick consistency and bring to a boil till it becomes hard (test its consistency by putting a drop in cold water – it should crack after you take it out). Add the peanuts and mix thoroughly. Grease a tray, spread the mixture over it, roll into a flat sheet of your desired thickness, cool and cut into squares to consume.
Tempted to down another chilled drink to beat the heat? Don’t. Drinking or eating something cold doesn’t actually cool your body. Instead, you need to consume foods that cool your body naturally, from the inside. Gulkand, a preserve made from rose petals and sugar, is one such food. According to Ayurveda, gulkand pacifies certain heat-causing elements in the body, thus cooling it down and alleviating heat-related problems such as lethargy, itching, aches and exhaustion. It is a great digestive tonic too, and works by reducing stomach heat and acidity. Gulkand is also a blood purifier and aids in removing toxins from the body. Yet another benefit of this food is that it helps reduce excessive perspiration and body odour.
How to eat it
Consume one or two teaspoons of gulkand daily, or try a banana gulkand milkshake. To make the latter, blend one banana, one tablespoon each of gulkand and sugar, and two cups of milk to make a smooth puree. Top with ice cubes and consume chilled.
Autumn: water Chestnut
The low-calorie singhara is a perfect snacking option in autumn, when it is in season. Water chestnuts are not only delicious but also a powerhouse of nutrients. They are free of fat, cholesterol and gluten, are very low on sodium and contain a good amount of fibre as well! They are an excellent source of potassium, a mineral that is essential for the proper functioning of muscles and nerves. Water chestnuts are a great detoxifying agent, and also help reduce water retention and blood pressure by balancing the body’s sodium levels.
How to eat it
You can eat water chestnuts raw, or have them stir-fried with plenty of garlic and chilli flakes, or with mustard seeds, curry leaves and dried red chillies. They can make a crunchy addition to a salad as well.
Spring: Buckwheat flour
The transition from winter to summer demands additional nutrition, and buckwheat flour, or kuttu ka aata, provides exactly that. Known to improve blood circulation, lower blood cholesterol levels and control blood glucose, buckwheat flour is packed with high-quality protein and offers lysine, the amino acid missing from regular staples like wheat and rice. This is a particularly big advantage in vegetarian diets, where an adequate amount of goodquality protein can be a challenge.
Buckwheat flour is loaded with fibre, both soluble and insoluble, which not only keeps you full for a longer time but also helps in detoxification. It also contains a lot of B-complex vitamins including riboflavin (vitamin B2) and niacin (vitamin B3). It is also rich in trace minerals such as phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper and manganese. Moreover, buckwheat flour is gluten-free and is the only grain with a decent amount of quercetin, a food component that keeps the heart healthy, improves immunity and enhances energy.
How to eat it
Buckwheat crepes with honey or maple syrup are a great start to a day. You can also make them savoury by adding some shallots, stuffing them with assorted vegetables and seasoning them with salt and pepper.
The author is a nutritionist and the views expressed in the article are her own