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January is a tricky time of the year for the doshas. As we slowly head into winter, kapha accumulates as the climate gets excessively cold, moist, and heavy. This is also when vata may get a little out of hand in areas where the climate remains very cold and dry. But the good news is, our digestive fire tends to be the strongest around this time of the year. So you are hungry more often and have the digestive capacity to eat more than usual. All you need to do is ensure what you eat is wholesome, warm, nourishing, pacifies kapha, and does not aggravate vata.
In short, it is time to bring in the sauerkraut, vinegar, pickles, cherries, berries, leeks, onions, asparagus, beetroot, Brussels sprouts, spinach, and other foods that combine warmth to counter vata along with kapha-balancing pungency.
Fermented Foods in the Season
A simple Ayurvedic principle for good health is to eat what’s in the season. This is a good time to gorge on fermented probiotic delicacies—pickles, kombucha, beet in sauerkraut, carrots, garlic, and other vegetables like kohlrabi, celeriac, etc. Since these foods are pre-digested due to fermentation, it is easier for your body to digest them further, and their nutritional value is preserved. Open up to a new and surprising range of flavors as you create warmth, increase body moisture, detoxify, and fight dryness.
Root Vegetables and Spices
This is the time for soups and broths loaded with the goodness of seasonal root vegetables like carrots, parsnips, turnips, onions, and beets, along with the added richness of hot and bitter spices such as ginger, garlic, cayenne, fenugreek, bay leaf, and peppers. These are warming and supply much-needed minerals and vitamins, support better circulation, and balance sugar levels. Their bitter taste is a good counter to kapha accumulation and makes them naturally cleansing for the body.
Berries, oranges, tangerines, and grapefruit provide a range of tastes from sour to bitter—ideal for the January weather. The other fruits you can try and get your hands on during January may be cooked apples, apricots, bananas, cantaloupe, dates, figs, limes, papaya, peaches, prunes, or mangoes.
Foods Rich in Vitamin-D
You also need to ensure you are getting enough essential vitamins from your food, especially vitamin D, which tends to lower in the body during these dry, cold months of reduced sun exposure. Shitake mushrooms, dairy, egg yolk, or cereals can get you the good old vitamin D to maintain energy levels and promote the absorption of other vital minerals during winter.
Move to Light Grains
Now, to manage heavy kapha, try switching to light grains like buckwheat, quinoa, brown rice, barley, rye, and millet for any or all meals. You can try oatmeals, khichadi (lentil and rice preparation), barley risotto, or cornmeal.
Keep yourself sufficiently hydrated in the season. Drink warm instead of iced or cold beverages. Add heating spices and herbs like ginger, saffron, cardamom, clove, or cinnamon to your tea. These will help clear your respiratory channels and support digestion.
Legumes and Dairy
You can have legumes like brown lentils, moong beans, tofu, and dals, in your meals to keep kapha under control, but be sure to cook them well with sufficient spices. Add ghee to balance vata.
Typically, Ayurveda recommends that you go easy on dairy during the winter months but have a cup of milk spiced with turmeric, nutmeg, and black pepper for a daily dose of tryptophan.
Here’s a quick winter recipe for a light yet filling, tangy yet vata-balanced meal that is vegan, soy-free, and nut-free!
RECIPE: Vegan Potato Sauerkraut Pancakes
2 Cups shredded russet potatoes
1.5 cups sauerkraut
2 Tbsp. chopped rosemary
2 Tbsp. chopped thyme
2 Tbsp. chopped sage
2 Tbsp. chopped chives
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (unbleached)
1/2 cup chickpea brine or baking soda (1/2 tsp.)+acv (1 tsp.)
Salt and black pepper (ground) to taste
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- In a large bowl, combine grated potatoes, sauerkraut, herbs, flour, salt, pepper, and chickpea brine. Let sit for 5-10 minutes.
- Once again, mix the batter well.
- Heat a large non-stick skillet or cast iron skillet over medium heat.
- Pour oil to coat the pan.
- Once the oil is heated, pour the batter into the skillet to make pancakes of the sizes that you want.
- When the edges start turning brown (the bottom of the pancake should be golden brown), flip them over to heat the other side.
- Once both sides are golden brown, plate and serve with sour cream.
Delicious and crunchy—enjoy!