Summer is pitta season. With the mercury rising, the days are becoming long, warm and dry. As summer progresses and the days get warmer, dryness also starts increasing making the vata dosha also start slowly rising. Pitta is hot, light and sharp. Vata is dry. Our goal should be to balance these properties by using the law of opposites.
In this post, we will focus on Ayurveda summer diet do’s and don’ts.
Focus on foods that are cool, mild and unctuous. Favor cool foods over very hot foods. So, a room temperature or slightly warm soup is preferable to a hot, piping one. Each food has a cooling or heating effect or veerya on the mind and body. For example, cucumbers and watermelons are cooling, while peppers and ginger are both heating foods. Favor mildly flavored foods like fresh fruit and vegetables rather than spicy and overly flavored foods like spicy curries and sharply flavored salsa. Include more moist foods like light soups and juicy fruit and avoid drying foods like popcorn, granola etc.
Tastes that help balance pitta are sweet, bitter and astringent and those that throw it out of balance are sour, salty and pungent. Sweet fruit like grapes, watermelons and other ripe fruit are good examples of foods to include from the sweet taste. Sweet foods are nourishing, building and energizing and counter the depleting effect of summer. Bitter greens are good examples of bitter foods to include during summer. The bitter taste is known for its cleansing and detoxing effect that is especially necessary in summer. Foods that cause the dry, puckering feeling in the mouth like persimmon, banana skins and some teas are astringent in taste.
The digestion is weak during summer. So, focus on eating fresh, easy to digest, simple, light foods, rather than heavy, processed or deep-fried foods that are difficult to digest. Light warm soups, salads, fresh fruit, organic nuts and seeds, whole grains and pulses should be the mainstay of your diet.Try this simple, mild, easy-to-digest, tridoshic Mung Soup recipe this summer. Avoid deep-fried, overly cheesy, highly processed foods, leftovers and too much ice-cream. You may also find that your appetite automatically reduces during summer. Over-eating when the digestion is weak, leads to formation of ama/toxic buildup, indigestion, flatulence and other such digestive disturbances, which can be avoided by eating smaller amounts of food. However, starving or skipping meals will be counter-productive. Staying well-hydrated helps with the digestion and also expulsion of toxins in the body. Drink room temperature water rather than ice-cold water because any cold beverage will diminish the digestive fire and lead to a host of other skin and digestive problems.
Sweet fruit like apples, ripe berries, melons, ripe mangoes, grapes, cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots, pears, dates, coconut and astringent fruit like pomegranate are great for the season. Avoid sour fruit like unripe mangoes, sour apples, grapefruit, cranberries, sour grapes etc.
Vegetables like green leafy vegetables, cucumber, asparagus, celery, cauliflower, okra, zucchini are great. Avoid peppers/capsicum, tomatoes, raw onions, mushrooms, eggplant, radish, turnips, green chilies, garlic.
Favor grains like wild or basmati rice, wheat, barley, quinoa, oats, amaranth. Avoid millet, brown rice, buckwheat and corn.
Most kinds of legumes like lentils, black beans, garbanzo beans, green mung beans, black eyed beans, kidney beans are a great addition to your diet in summer. Urad dhal can be avoided since it is heating and heavy.
Nuts and Seeds:
Include nuts and seeds like pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, and soaked and peeled almonds. Avoid peanuts, cashews, almonds with peel, pine nuts, walnuts, sesame seeds, chia seeds, pecans, macadamia nuts, pistachios.
For oils and fats, coconut oil, ghee, sunflower oil, olive oil are good choices. Avoid sesame oil, corn oil, safflower oil.
Favor organic brown sugar, rock sugar, date syrup instead of honey and jaggery, both of which are heating.
Use mild spices in your cooking such as coriander, cumin, fennel, fenugreek, cardamom, turmeric, mint and saffron. Avoid chilies, garlic, ginger, pepper and other such sharp and overly heating spices.
Ayurvedic Herbs or Foods:
Amalaki (amla or Indian gooseberry) and triphala are great pitta reducing Ayurvedic additions to include in your diet during summer. Amalaki is cooling, is great for the skin, hair and digestion and is a great source of Vitamin C. Do try out this Indian Gooseberry Drink recipe that is a delicious summer beverage. Triphala which is a combination of 3 fruit viz. amalaki, haritaki and bibhitaki is a mild purgative that helps to remove the liver toxins that tends to get accumulated during the hot summer months.
photo credit: Butterfly getting his eats… Schmetterling auf der blume via photopin (license)