Seasons affect our well-being. Different body types require different food types. Ayurveda has the answer
BY GITA RAMESH
Each season has its own quality that affects our body’s working. To what degree it affects an individual depends on our nature. Some like winter while others prefer summer. That is precisely why a seasonal routine is so important; thus we can talk about Panchakarma.
Come winter and there’s a sense of heaviness as the sunlight appears weaker than what we are used to. Some people feel lethargic. The calm and peace of nature can sometimes become a bit oppressive and weigh us down, and make us feel uninspired.
A change in diet and lifestyle can help adjust to any seasonal induced imbalance of the doshas. A balanced diet would normally contain all six tastes. One needs to regularly drink warm water or consume other hot beverages like turmeric milk and herbal tea.
Winter brings with it cold winds that dry your hair and skin. The skin becomes scratchy and rough. Ayurveda prescribes warm oil therapies which also help energise and make a person feel active. These warm oil therapies in addition keep the immune system strong through these tough, dry months.
The digestive system becomes weaker in winter as compared to other seasons. During these cold months, therefore, one does not just need to eat warm food; the intake should also be lightly spiced. Yes, there’s even a right season for certain spices. Most importantly, the food should be cooked well. In these months it is advisable to consume less raw food.
In Ayurveda the immune system is called vyadikshamatva and is attained by Ojas. This is a fine vital energy present in the body. It is important to highlight that unhealthy food and habits reduce the ability of the cells to cope with diseases including viral infections. Ayurveda recommends the use of dairy products such as homemade milk, cottage cheese and ghee for boosting the Ojas or energy. Moong daal with vegetables is nutritious and easily digestible in this season. Apples are considered immunityboosting as they are rich in antioxidants, soluble and insoluble fibre, and help cleanse the intestines. One’s kitchen should ideally include asafoetida, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, fennel, ginger, lemon, mustard seeds, nutmeg, pepper and turmeric, all of which are highly beneficial.
Ayurveda has always advised a diet that is rich in locally grown and seasonal produce. We humans were never meant to have food not grown around us. According to Ayurveda, the consumption of non-local food is cause for indigestion, bloating, gas and other digestive conditions. One should therefore consume a lot of vegetables, especially those that grow during the season like radish, carrot, spinach, beetroot, corn, beans, turnips, and so on.
The food items that balance the vata, pitta and kapha (the vital energy) that builds immunity in the body are a must in all seasons. A balanced diet is necessary to maintain overall well-being. Green leafy vegetables are recommended for a weak immune system—spinach and curly-leaf cabbage, for example. When stewed and spiced with immunity boosting spices, they become a powerful immunity stimulant. They provide the body with calcium, iron and other valuable nutrients that have a cleansing effect on the bowels. Broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower are high in antioxidants and flavonoids that improve and stimulate immunity. Wholegrains such as quinoa, amaranth and flax seeds have a positive effect on a weak immune system, because of the fibre and valuable nutrients that clean the whole organism of toxic substances. Soups become important especially in winter as they are loaded with disease-fighting nutrients and their warm nature helps against flu/colds. This is an ideal winter food as it works well as an appetiser, it is mostly semi-liquid, warm, helps one stay hydrated and keeps the stomach full, thus helping against overeating. Soups also help boost one’s immune system.
An intake of ghee during this time is recommended. Frozen food should be completely avoided. A daily routine is of utmost importance and a must in winter to keep up the freshness in you and have an appropriate balance in yourself. Immunity-boosting leham or grilham help increase energy and provide strength to the body.
Eat according to your tridosha (vata, pitta and kapha)
Vata: Warm, nourishing foods with moderately heavy texture, with butter and fat are good for stabilising vata. Choose salty, sour, and sweet tastes as well as soothing and satisfying foods. Warm milk, cream, butter, warm soups, stews, hot cereals, raw nuts, and nut butters are good for vata. All sweet fruits (so long as they are extra-ripe) are good. Spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, dried ginger, clove, and garlic are good for this body type.
Pitta: The best foods for pitta are cool or warm, not steaming hot foods. For breakfast pitta should consume something light like idli, millets (like raagi and jawar) or pancakes with honey porridge or seasonal fruits, if steamed, can be had. They should include moderate ghee wherever they can in the diet plan. For other meals soups can be the best for them along with all kinds of green/ steamed vegetables. Any member of the gourd family is ideal for them. Do note that nothing raw can be given for pitta. Bitter, sweet, and astringent tastes are ideal. Herbal tea, specifically mint or liquorice root, are pacifying for pitta. Cold cereal, cinnamon toast, and apple tea is a good breakfast for a pitta. Vegetarian food in general is the best for pitta, as consuming red meat tends to heat the body. They should consume abundant amounts of milk, grain and vegetables.
Kapha: Warm, light and dry food is favourable, or cooked light meals. The kapha type do best with lightly cooked foods or raw fruits and vegetables. Any food that is spicy is good for kapha such as very hot Mexican or Indian food, especially in winter. Dry cooking methods (baking, broiling, grilling, sautéing) are preferable for kapha over moist cooking such as steaming, boiling, or poaching. Foods such as romaine lettuce, endives or tonic water are good for stimulating the kapha appetite, while preferred spices are cumin, fenugreek, sesame seed, and turmeric.
(Joint MD, Kairali Ayurvedic Group)