Seasonal diet transitions are a key part of rutucharya or seasonal routines that are central to Ayurveda's svasthavritta--maintenance of optimal health. In the twenty first century, however, climate change is altering the way we negotiate seasonal transitions.
We've had the hottest July on record in the Northern Hemisphere, followed by an August that, for the first time in history, was hotter than July. September saw storms and unaccustomed heat. As we enter autumn, we've seen some chilly nights and cool days, alternating with heat more suited to late summer. How do we work with this situation where we have to excpect the unexpected?
Cool days and chilly nights fit our normal picture of fall in our four-season climate. Bursts of hot days and warmer nights--'Indian Summer'--are closer to the Sharad season described in the Ayurvedic texts as part of the subtropical six-season climate. "Getting exposed suddenly to the warm rays of the sun, the pitta, which has undergone increase during July and August (monsoon season) becomes greatly aggravated during Sharad".
So here are a few key points:
- Uncertain weather and swings between heat and cold disturb vata
- Indian Summer greatly disturbs pitta
- The texts recommend tikta ghee, a ghee medicated with bitter herbs: consult an Ayurvedic practitioner to see if this is right for you.
- The bitter, sweet and astringent tastes sholud be used in this season.
- Food should be easily digestible such as kitchari
- Use warm soups, kitcharis, dals and sauces to help control vata
Normally, two weeks are devoted to transitioning diet from one season to another. With the current swings between fall and Indian summer, keep the transitional diet going until the weather settles into fall. On hotter days, make use of cucumber or mint to cool and calm pitta, on cooler days go for seasonal foods such as yams, pumpkins, carrots and beets. Calm both vata and pitta with apples and use apple recipes appropriate to your constitution. Since the bitter taste is the foremost taste for this season, enjoy bitter gourd recipes. And since the sweet taste calms both vata and pitta, indulge in some Ayurvedic desserts or seasonal fruit chutneys. Drink cooling mint teas on hot days and warm tulsi-ginger teas on cool days.
Some useful recipes:
For cooling on hot days
For warming and soothing vata
For the bitter taste (with deliciousness!)
For the sweet taste
Alakananda Ma is a Certified Ayurvedic Doctor (NAMA) and graduate of a top London medical school. She is co-founder of Alandi Ayurveda Clinic and Alandi Ayurveda Gurukula in Boulder Colorado, as well as a spiritual mother, teacher, flower essence maker and storyteller. Alakananda is a well known and highly respected practitioner in the Ayurveda community both nationally and internationally.
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