HEALTH: What’s healthy to eat in winter

Community Health Jan 10, 2014 at 4:01 pm

Kalayaan_GdeVera_GREYAs we experience these below zero temperatures which have gone as low as -40, to stay healthy we need to be mindful of our food choices. I know it can be difficult as all food seem to be available in the grocery stores all year round. It is always best to try eating in season and according to the weather. For example: eat cooling foods such as salads and tropical fruits in the warmer weather and warming foods such as stews and soups during winter.

Choose to eat more contractive foods such as root vegetables, winter squashes, stews, casseroles, bean soups and some fermented foods as well.  Cooking contracts vegetables, reducing their volume which makes it more concentrated, it also makes digestion less stressful and nutrients easily assimilated.

It is always a good idea to eat in season and when possible choose organic and locally grown, but what is in season during the winter?  Root vegetables such as potatoes, winter squash which was harvested in October can last all winter long when stored properly.  Cooking these foods will allow the nutrients to be more available to absorb. Below is a list of major cooking techniques from most expansive to most contractive.



* Boiling

* Steaming

* Sauteeing or stir frying

* Broiling

* Baking

* Deep Frying

* Pickling

To get a better understanding of how cooking contracts or expands food think of boiling and pickling as opposites.  By boiling food water is added which expands the foods and minerals are lost in the cooking process, pickling on the other hand adds minerals such as sodium (salt) and water is lost, therefore contracting the food.  To get the most of your vegetables during these colder months try cooking them in stews and soups as it will soften the cellulose and fibre in starchy foods such as squash and makes their nutrients more available and easier to digest.



Here is a quick and easy recipe for Vegetarian Chilli that will warm you up:

Serves 6 — Prep and cooking time 35 mins.


2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chipotle chile powder
coarse salt and pepper to taste
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch dice
3/4 cup tomato paste
1 can Black Beans, rinsed and dried
1 can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 can diced tomatoes with green chiles
1 can diced tomatoes


1. In a large pot, heat oil over med-high. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent and garlic is soft, about 4 minutes.  Add cumin and chili powder, season with salt and pepper, and cook until spices are fragrant, 1 minute.  Add zucchini and tomato paste; cook, stirring frequently, until tomato paste is deep brick red, 3 minutes.  Stir in black beans, pinto beans, and both cans diced tomatoes.  Add 2 cups of water and bring mixture to a boil.  Reduce to a medium simmer and coo until zucchini is tender and liquid reduces slightly, 20 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

Fermenting and canning foods improves their longevity and increases nutritional value.  Believe it or not there are many fermented foods that we consume already, such as bread, cheese, yogurt, kefir, wine, beer, pickles and sauerkraut.  Fermentation has been practiced for thousands of years especially in warmer climates before refrigeration was available.  Milk from cows, goats, sheep, yaks, camels, and buffalo were fermented into cheese and was the staple food of early nomads, Hindus, North Africans and Europeans.  In Japan fermented grains and vegetables such as tempeh, miso, shoyu which are fermented soy products are used daily.  In Thailand they ferment fish sauce called nampla or mod man, while fermented black beans are used in Thailand, Vietnam Cambodia and China, Korea has made Kimchi a staple in their dishes.  There is a reason that all these different cultures fermented foods, not just for its keeping qualities but also because it makes bland foods tastier, and richer, but most important it increases the nutritional richness.  The good bacteria that if formed during fermentation provides enzymes and vitamins to improve digestion and assimilation of nutrients.  Fermented foods improve intestinal flora and helps digestion of protein and carbohydrates, but keep in mind that too much of anything can have a negative effect for example, too much miso can result in water retention and back aches as well as short temper, because of the high sodium content it will stress the kidneys.  A great way to get fermented foods in your diet is to add miso as a condiment instead of salt, and sauerkraut can be made with shredded cabbage and salt placed in a mason jar, kept away from sunlight (covered or in a cabinet for 3 days)

For more information on how to ferment please refer to:

* The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz - This is a great all-around resource on fermentation in general, fermentation problem-solving, and fermentation health benefits.

* Cultures for Health- This is an online resource for fermentation cultures and equipment, but I also turn to them for a lot of information on fermenting.

References: Food and Healing, Annemarie Colbin Recipe from Martha Stewart


(Kalayaan Garcia de Vera is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist who graduated at the top of her class with honours at The Canadian School of Natural Nutrition. As a member of the Canadian Holistic Association of Nutritionist Professionals, she has conducted weight loss studies and detoxification workshops. Her website is