Fall is the season of transition – after the hot summer and before the onset of the cold winter, when Mother Nature sheds its excess baggage to conserve resources for the challenging weather that is approaching. Falling leaves in dazzling, beautiful, warm hues, the warmth of summer slowly turning to crisper, cooler weather, a palpable wind that slowly gains in strength, fall is a “cold” reminder to us to shed all excess and go back to the core of our existence!
Fall is characterized by its dryness, windiness, lightness, coolness, roughness, subtlety and erratic weather. The very same qualities will see an increase in our bodies and minds as well during fall. Skin becomes dry, flatulence, gas and wind become more problematic in some during this time, spaced out feelings, coldness in the body and mind, and erratic digestion, behavior etc. start manifesting more. Fall is vata season – the dosha made of air and ether – characterized by these very qualities.
To counter the effects of these, we need to change our diet to include more of the opposite qualities. More moist and oily or unctuous, heavy and grounding, warm, smooth and nourishing foods will help us balance the vata that will inevitably start to increase in our systems from the environment. Vata favors sweet, sour and salty tastes – so fall is also a time to favor these tastes and reduce the other 3 tastes i.e. bitter, pungent and astringent. In general, fall is a season when the agni (digestive fire) is not at its strongest because of the reduced warmth in the environment, as compared to summer, so we need to take care not to put extra pressure on the agni by eating foods that are harder to digest. Due to weaker agni or variable agni during fall season, we need to pay extra attention to our diets to avoid improperly digested food that will lead to toxic build-up (ama) and ultimately reduce immunity and be a precursor to illness.
Moist or Oily: Ghee is a great addition to the diet that provides great lubrication to the body from the insides. It is also a great digestive aid and is a good addition to your diet now. Kaphas can also eat ghee, but should do so in moderation. Fall is the season when you can indulge in good quality nuts and seeds like almonds (peeled is better to reduce ingestion of tannic acid in the peel), walnuts, pistachios, cashews, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds etc. Quality oils like sesame oil and olive oil are also good to include in your diet. Avoid dried fruits. Keep yourself well hydrated with warm water. Other warm fluids like herbal teas are great during fall. Steer clear of sugary sodas and other caffeinated drinks.
Heavy: Include grounding root vegetables in your diet. Sweet potatoes, potatoes, yam are all good to include as stews, soups, curries, gravies etc. Other good vegetables are squash, pumpkin, beetroot, carrots etc. Avoid greens and other leafy vegetables or reduce your consumption of these.
Warm: Fall is the time to go easy on raw, cold salads and opt instead for more cooked, lightly seasoned foods. Instead of reaching out for the cold cereal boxes for breakfast, try to have a warm, cooked cereal meal like oatmeal with milk or other breakfast porridge mixes. Drink warm water instead of cold water. Warming spices like clove, cardamom, cumin, ginger, black pepper, turmeric are a great addition to your diet in this season.
So, remember – unctuous, grounding, and warm foods in fall. Also, a crucial part of the fall season is to eat meals at regular times every day.
In general, these are some good foods from the individual groups for fall season:
Grains: Favor rice, wheat, oats, quinoa. Avoid millet, amaranth, rye, barley, corn.
Dairy: Include warm milk, butter, ghee, home-made yogurt (room temperature), fresh cheese (paneer).
Fruit: Favor bananas, avocados, papayas, dates, figs, soaked raisins, oranges, cooked apples, lemon/lime, and other sweet juicy ripe fruit. Raw apples, pears, grapefruit, watermelon in moderation.
Vegetables: Favor sweet potatoes, potatoes, yam, pumpkin, squash, beetroot, carrot, okra. Greens, cabbage, lettuce in moderation.
Legumes and lentils: Favor mung dhal (split green and split yellow) and mung bean, urad dhal (a little harder to digest), kidney beans.
Spices: Most spices are good for vata/fall season. Cumin, coriander, fennel, asafetida, ginger, black pepper, turmeric, clove, cardamom, cinnamon, curry leaves, bay leaves, mustard seeds are good.
Sweetener: Jaggery and honey are both good during this season since they have both have a heating after-effect (vipaka). Raw sugar is also fine. Avoid white sugar.
Here are some recipes that you can use for fall.
Herbal Tea for Fall:
Sipping on a herbal blend of tea through the day will help keep vata at bay. Here is an example of a simple spiced tea that you can use for the fall season.
- Water (4 cups)
- Cumin seeds (1 tsp)
- Fennel seeds (1 tsp)
- Dried ginger (1/2 tsp of powder or a small 1/2 inch piece)
- Cinnamon (a 1-inch long piece)
- Cardamom (1 pod) (not in picture)
Boil 4 cups of water. When the water reaches a boil, add the seeds and powder and keep covered for a few minutes. Strain after 10 minutes or so and sip through the day. Discard the water if you haven’t finished it by the end of the day. Don’t carry it forward to the next day.
This tea has a wonderful, calming aroma that is very relaxing to the senses, in addition to its other therapeutic benefits.
Mixed Vegetable Fall Soup
- Zucchini (1/2 dark green, 1/2 light green – you may use whatever kind of zucchini you have)
- Beans (a handful)
- Carrot (1 medium or a handful of baby carrots)
- Collard greens (don’t use too much of greens, adding a little is great)
- Sweet Potato (1/2 medium)
- Tomato (1 medium)
- Broccoli (a few florets)
- Spring Onions (2)
- Salt (to taste)
- Italian seasoning (1 tsp)
- Black pepper powder (to taste)
- Ghee (1 tbsp)
In a little ghee on medium heat, in a pressure cooker, add some dried Italian seasoning. Add the white of the spring onions and saute for a minute or so. Add the remaining vegetables, chopped roughly. Add sea salt or regular table salt, pepper and saute till the vegetables sweat a little. Add water, close the cooker and wait for 2 whistles, and switch off the flame. Grind until smooth or grind coarsely, depending on your preference. This is a quick, yummy and healthy fall soup recipe that you can use for dinner or lunch.
Flavorful Khichidi for Fall
- White Basmati Rice (1 cup)
- Moong Dhal (split green or split yellow) (1/2 cup)
- Mixed Vegetables (carrots, beans, sweet potatoes, zucchini)
- Mustard seeds (3/4th tsp)
- Cumin seeds (1 tsp)
- Cloves (2)
- Cinnamon (a small 1/2 inch piece)
- Cardamom (2)
- Bay Leaf (1 or 2)
- Asafetida (hing) powder (a pinch)
- Turmeric (haldi) powder (1/2 tsp)
- Black pepper powder (to taste)
- Coriander powder (1 tsp)
- Dried red chilly (optional) (to taste)
- Salt (to taste)
- Fresh grated coconut (optional) (1 tbsp)
- Ghee (1.5 tbsp)
Wash and soak rice and moong for 10-30 minutes. In a pressure cooker, heat ghee on a medium flame. Add mustard seeds, when they crackle, add all the seeds and powders (except for salt) one after the other. Add the chopped vegetables. Saute for a minute. Add the soaked rice and dhal mixture. Saute for a few minutes. Add salt and grated coconut. Add 4 cups of water. Close the cooker. After 3 whistles, reduce the flame to simmer and cook for 5 minutes more. This will yield a mushy texture for khichidi. Play with the recipe (amount of water and time to cook) to get a texture that suits your family’s taste.
This fall, choose wisely and live well!