In general winter has a bad reputation – flu season, cold weather, weakened immune system, dry skin, and on top of that the inevitable cold season weight gain. Sounds pretty horrible! But according to Ayurveda, winter is one of the best times to strengthen immune system and lose or maintain weight. (Isn’t it a pleasant surprise?)
Besides it is the time of the year, when according to ayurveda, you can have a delicious desert without any guilt.
Winter Medicine – Warm Dessert
This ancient discipline divides seasons according to their qualities and prescribes a certain lifestyle and diet to maintain a perfect balance of health. Jan and Feb in NYC is still cold, mostly dry and windy which according to Ayurveda are characterics of Vata. In excess, the these qualities may manifest themselves as dry or brittle skin, lips, hair, nails or bones, digestion problems, or emotional “dryness”. The “light” quality may manifest itself as being underweight, having insomnia or feeling “spacey” or insecure. Since Vata is inherently cool – cool weather, cool foods, the cool seasons can increase Vata.
Ayurveda defines ”medicine” as a substance that can decrease the excess dosha by providing the opposite qualities to it. For example, if Vata has increased due to excess activity, a quiet, calm environment can be a medicine. If it has increased due to excess dryness, wetness can be the medicine. One of the wonderfully practical aspects of Ayurveda is that anything can be used as a medicine because everything that exists has a quality. This includes but is not limited to: herbs, foods, colors, drinks, environments, smells and lifestyles.
Qualities opposite to Vata are moist, grounding, warming, smooth, oily and stabilizing. It is therefore best to seek out environments, routines, and foods that possess these opposite qualities at this time of year. You might be already guessing what it has to do with the guiltless desserts that I mentioned in the title… Winter is the best time to enjoy warm rich desserts!!!
Winter Immune System
Bala, which literally means “strength,” is the Ayurvedic word for immune system. In Ayurveda, immunity is connected with the digestion – when it is strong and appetite is good, then immunity is strengthened. On the other hand, what weakens digestion weakens immunity. It’s that simple.
One reason that winter is a good season for building immunity is that the digestion is stronger in cold weather. Just as your home’s heating system works harder in cold weather, so your inner digestive fire stokes up when the air turns chilly. People feel hungrier, and can actually digest food better in winter, thus nourishing their bodies more. We tend to think that winter season is bad for immunity because as appetite increases, people start eating more junk food and heavy, hard to digest foods, and thus weaken their immunity. Other seasons are better for purifying, but winter is the time to build up and nourish all systems–the hair, the nails, and the skin.
Immune-Boosting Winter Desserts
Here are some basics for choosing foods, especially desserts that will help you strengthen your immunity system, improve your skin if it is dry, stabilize digestion, and maybe even shed those holiday pounds.
Foods that nourish and balance the body in the cold, dry, winter season are the sweet, sour and salty tastes. Warm foods are ideal, as long as they are not deep-fried and are cooked with easy-to-digest oils such as ghee or olive oil. Avoid cold or ice-cold foods, as cold foods and drinks douse the digestive fire and decreases immunity.
Since Sweet is one of the most pacifying tastes for Vata a home-made dessert is a well justified part of a Vata balancing diet.
It Is Best To:
- Stick to warm desserts
- Be generous with warming spices such as cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, cumin, cloves, turmeric, peppercorns.
- Use sweet and ripe fruits, especially dates, figs, bananas, apricots, pears
- Experiment with desserts made out of orange squashes, pumpkins, sweet potato, and beets
- Add a dab of warm milk (almond or dairy), coconut oil, or ghee to counterbalance Vata’s dryness
- Make dessert using oats, and other hearty grains
- Add nuts and nut butters
- For sweeteners use honey as it has warming and immune strengthening qualities. If cooking in high heat, try coconut crystals or stevia
With my passion for research and sweets, I created a short list of my favorite winter desserts in NYC and, at the bottom, you’ll find a list of easy ayurvedic dessert recipes. Enjoy!!!
- Sweet Rice from Mapi Ayurveda
- Berry Fruit Cobbler Warm and nourishing dessert from Ashley
- Flourless Ginger Muffins Detoxinista Megan is a superstar when it comes to creative healthy recipes and amazing accompanying pictures
- Spiced Apricot Compote I love spices and apricots…
- Curried Stewed Fruit Want to try something unique?
- Spiced Poached Pears Delicious treat for a grounded and happy Vata
- Pumpkin Vegan Bourbon Bread Pudding Vegan and yummy
- Carrot Halwa Can’t say enough about carrot halwa! I love it!! Substitute for almond milk, add stevia instead of sugar, and coconut butter if excluding all dairy. Easy to adapt and still tastes amazing!
- Cherry Banana Coconut Butter Bread Oh She Glows is a queen of baking healthy treats!
- Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal A special warm treat from Chocolate Covered Katie. Will you have it for breakfast or dessert?
If you are not feeling to cooking, one of the best things about living in NYC is that someone will always cook for you:). For the lazy days, try one of these:
The Best Vata-friendly Desserts in NYC:
- Rice Pudding (Tiffin Wallah at 127 East 28th street or any other Indian restaurant where they serve it warm with cinnamon, rasins, and cloves for added vata pacifying boost)
- Quinoa pudding (Life Thyme Health Food Market at 410 Avenue of the Americas– try to warm it up, it tastes even better!)
- Baklava (Gulluoglu Baklava cafe at 982 2nd Ave– hazelnut milk or pistachio are my favorites but they have a huge selection of homemade Turkish treats)
- Pumpkin Cinnamon Cream Torte with roast pears (spelt) – (Angelica Kitchen at 300 East 12th Street)
- Spiced hot chocolate – (Organicoa at High Line between 15th and 16th sts)
Question to you: What are you craving the most this Winter?
Love and Warm Spicy Chocolate!