Healthy people eat salads, right? Beds of raw arugula, kale, spinach and mesclun, wahoo! Vegetables are undisputedly great for our health and salads are chock full of them. It’s easy in the spring and summer, when fresh veggies are plentiful and cheap. But what are we supposed to do in winter?
It all depends on your dietary beliefs. Do you tend to lean towards Ayurvedic tradition and lightly cook your greens in winter? Or are you a diehard green smoothie fanatic year round? Which way is healthiest? Experts are not so eager to agree…
According to Ayurvedic wisdom…
Winter is the time of year when we all need/crave more warming foods, no matter what your constitution or dosha. Ayurvedic practitioners suggest that eating lightly cooked vegetables promotes healthy digestion, internal balance and sustained energy levels throughout the cold season.
Light cooking also unlocks certain nutrients, making them easier to absorb in the body. (Think lycopene in tomatoes, which is more bioavailable after being gently cooked.) Traditionally, winter is a time when we have greater energy demands, so making things easy to digest is beneficial. And although cooking does destroy a portion of certain nutrients (like vitamin C), the majority of the heat-sensitive vitamins and fiber still remain intact and highly digestible.
And, not to state the obvious, but greens are generally not locally in-season during colder months. For those looking to eat seasonally and/or Ayurvedically, root veggies, hardy winter greens and steamed frozen vegetables are the best options, all of which generally benefit from some sort of cooking.
According to modern nutritional science…
Many modern nutrition experts and raw foodists hold steadfast in their argument that raw veggies are detoxifying and hugely important for the body year-round. While Ayurveda offers some excellent guidance, some nutrition experts disagree on the exclusion of raw greens from your winter diet. Holistic nutritionist Daphne Javitch says, “I agree with a lot of Chinese and Ayurvedic principles about seasonal eating; and of course the body craves warm foods in the winter and we should eat more of them. But from a cleansing, healing perspective, there’s not a day when it’s wrong to eat raw, water-containing fruits, vegetables, and green juices.”
That’s true, eating raw greens is never a bad idea. Raw fruits and veggies are living, energetic foods that contain loads of insoluble fiber and beneficial enzymes that support our natural detoxification pathways. (However, some experts also claim that our stomach acids actually destroy these enzymes during the digestive process, so that point is hotly contested.) Raw veggies also boast potent anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties. A raw diet has actually been shown to help highly inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. Could cooked greens have the same powerful effect? They do for those managing blood sugar...
Still confused? Do what feels right for you and your body. No one is arguing that greens aren’t good for you. Greens are the O.G. superfood. Whether you decide to continue drinking green juices, smoothies and salads or incorporate more steamed greens and warming root vegetables, just make sure you continue to get your veggies.
How do you consume your winter greens? Does your green veggie intake tend to decrease in the winter? Share your experiences with the community below.
Related on Care2:
- A New Year’s Cleanse for People Who Hate Cleanses
- 4 Easy Ways to Improve Digestion
- Natural Cures for These 5 Common Winter Maladies