The harvest festivals - Pongal, Makar Sankranti, Bihu, Lohri—from all corners of India are a time to be filled with gratitude for the sun, weather, and the farmer. While the name of this day may differ in each state, it is the spirit of celebration that unites the country. The harvest season marks the end of winter and the onset of spring, signaling the availability of seasonal products that are fresh, healthy and optimal for consumption.
From green leafy vegetables to colourful fruits, grains and legumes, this season supplies some rich finds that are also added to the delicacies of the harvest festival. Celebrity nutritionist Rujuta Diwekar shares four tips that will help you understand the significance of seasonal eating, its health benefits and indulge in the harvest season with the right spirit while keeping traditions alive.
Make ‘essential fats’ a part of your diet
Eat local, seasonal food to equip your bodies and mind to deal with the hard work that comes with the onset of the harvest season. The main nutrient that these festivals celebrate is what modern nutrition calls ‘essential fat’. Coconut, til (sesame), groundnuts, milk, ghee—each one of them is loaded with fats that are unique in their molecular structure, lending them an ability to allow the body to burn fat over other available fuels like carbs or protein.
Exercise regularly so that you don’t feel guilty while indulging in your favourite delicacies
Technically, the body is supposed to have unlimited stores of body fat that can be burned, and if we can use what sports nutrition calls an ‘ergogenic aid’, a nutrient which teaches or manipulates the body to burn more fat, we can see an increase in ‘endurance performance’, or stamina. So if you are one of those who complains about lethargy in the winter, who makes plans to work out but doesn’t get out of bed, maybe all that you need is some therapy.
And just because this therapy comes along with a celebration, is good to taste, melts in your mouth and doesn’t have the seriousness and sadness of medicine doesn’t make it any less potent. So bring on that chiki, gajak, laddoo, pongal and yes, have it exactly the way it is meant to be had—with joy, family, laughter and generous doses of the other goodies.
Make family food traditions to share with your closed ones
Sankranti Til gul ghya gaud gaud bola, amcha til-gul sandu naka, amchyashi kadhi bhandu naka. (Here take this sesame-jaggery ball and speak sweetly, don’t drop it and never fight with me.) The hidden meaning is—don’t ever drop the food traditions passed over from generations, I welcome you to experience the nutrients in local seeds, natural sugars and relish the sweetness of meaningful traditions.
Til is the new black
Til or sesame is great for the health of bones, brain and the heart, thanks to its naturally high levels of phytosterol, fibre and copper. On my recent trip to London, I saw huge til guls being sold in posh cafes as seed balls. Seeds are the new rage in the West and til is our indigenous produce, so it’s heart-breaking when we turn to oats to lower cholesterol, and have almost stopped making til gul at home, sharing them and eating them together as a community.
Rujuta shared the tips in her audiobook Eating in the Age of Dieting available on Audible.
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