Winter is actually the season when the digestive fire is strongest. The body requires more fuel to stay warm and healthy in the winter months, and the cold weather forces the fire principle deep into the core of the body—igniting the digestive capacity. Our bodies therefore crave a more substantial, nutritive diet at this time of year, and you will likely find yourself eating larger quantities of food. A supportive winter diet will be aimed at pacifying kapha without increasing vata or visa versa and, for many, appropriate winter dietary habits actually come quite naturally.
In general, you’ll want to focus on eating warm, cooked, slightly oily, well-spiced foods, favoring a balance of the sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes. Drink room temperature, warm, or hot beverages and avoid iced or chilled drinks, if possible. You can increase heat and circulation while encouraging clean and clear respiratory passages by drinking a tea boiled for five minutes with ½ teaspoon each of dried ginger, cinnamon and clove.
Teas made with combinations of ginger cinnamon, and black pepper or coriander seeds, cumin seeds and fennel seeds encourage strong digestion and can be taken after meals. Hearty, heating vegetables like radishes, cooked spinach, onions, carrots, and other root vegetables are generally well received this time of year, as are hot spices like garlic, ginger, black pepper, cayenne, and chili peppers. Cooked grains like oatmeal, cornmeal, barley, tapioca, rice, or kitchari make a terrific breakfast, and lunches and dinners of steamed vegetables, whole wheat breads, and mushy soups are ideal.
Legumes are generally good for kapha, but they should be well-cooked, well-spiced, and garnished with a dollop of ghee so as not to aggravate vata. If you eat them, winter is also a great time to enjoy eggs (especially poached or hard-boiled) and meats like chicken, turkey, rabbit, and venison.
And while dairy is best reduced in the winter months, a cup of hot, spiced milk with a pinch of turmeric or dried ginger and nutmeg before bed can help to encourage sound sleep and should not be overly congesting. It is best to reduce or avoid cold, damp foods, excessively sweet foods, overly heavy or oily foods, and frozen foods. You may also find that your body responds well to an occasional one-day water or juice fast. In fact, if you are prone to kapha imbalances like colds, coughs, and sinus congestion, the junction between fall and winter is a great time to do a cleanse.