Every wondered why summertime is all about salad, watermelon, ice teas and fresh seafood on the barbeque? Come winter nothing is as attractive as curling up by the fire with a warm, nourishing soup or stew? While we naturally think of the seasons as summer, autumn, winter and spring, Ayurveda divides the year according to the prevalent dosha during each period.
So, instead of the four traditional seasons, the year is broken down into vata season, which goes from late autumn into early winter; kapha season, from the coldest part of winter into spring; and pitta season, which includes the hottest, longest days of the year—from late spring into early autumn.
What do we eat when?
It’s important to understanding which dosha, or energy, rules each season, so you can choose to eat the best foods, not only for your body type, but also for the time of the year.
In summer, we crave light and cooling foods because they balance pitta’s heating nature. In winter, we go for heavier, oiler, comfort foods, which are in balance to vata’s cold and light qualities.
If you think of this intuitively it makes sense – when the temperature drops, we need warmth and when it’s hot outside we need cool. Similarly, when it’s wet out, we need dry.
Summer diet (pitta season)
During the long hot summer months when we’re out and about – at the beach, being social and enjoying the long days and nights – we naturally want to eat small meals and light food during this time to balance pitta’s fire energy.
Your digestive fire is at its weakest during this time so especially when you have those stinking hot days - you may not even feel like eating. There’s nothing wrong with skipping a meal, just keep up your fluids.
Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy products (like milk, cottage cheese, yoghurt, butter and ghee) and if you decide to eat meat, summer is a great time to enjoy white meat or seafood.
Autumn diet (vata season)
When the autumn winds roll in, you’ll want to be eating oily, nourishing foods that are high in protein, fat, stimulating and warming. Hot meals will nourish your inner reserves, and add moisture to the drying qualities of vata.
Oatmeal, tapioca and rice porridge, with warming spices like cloves and cinnamon, are good autumn breakfast staples. For lunch, steamed veggies, hearty soups and stews will fill you up and ground you. This is also the perfect time of year to enjoy meat, eggs and grains.
With summer fading away, it’s wise to limit cooling and drying foods like raw vegetables, cabbage, broccoli, popcorn and dried fruit.
Winter diet (kapha with vata undertones)
Come winter we feel more inclined to slow down, and retreat. We’re not as social and will probably want to eat more than in the previous seasons. Those nights when the sun goes down before you get home, and a lot of the day is spent indoors can also become oppressive, even leaving you feeling stagnant and stuck.
Winter is primarily a kapha season – but if you live somewhere that’s cold and dry, you might have to work on balancing vata as well.
During winter our digestive fire, agni, is the strongest and we need to eat more to stay warm and get through the cold months. You’ll also be wanting to drink a lot of hot teas, soups and cooked breakfasts. If you eat warm nourishing foods and not heavy rich foods you will not put on weight like a bear but give your body nourishment to heal in these months.
Like the animals who hibernate, winter is the perfect time to catch up on sleep and get early nights – try be in bed by 10pm and up in the morning by 6am.
Spring diet (kapha season)
As the cold days start to subside and the new flowers come out, spring is a distinct kapha season. It’s all about renewal.
Diets will become lighter once again, you won’t feel like you need to consume the calories that you’ve been eating during the cold winter months. You’ll be craving fresh fruit, vegetables and salads once again.
Starting the day with a light breakfast (maybe just fresh fruit) will do wonders and cooked grains with some spices to mobilise the kapha from the winter will make sure you don’t get the negative effects of all the heaviness accumulated in winter come out in spring - that’s the spring hay fever and cold and flu time.
Vegetables, tofu, fish and eggs make good healthy lunches and dinners at this time of year.
Transition from one season to the next
It’s not only important to know how to manage our health and what to eat throughout each season, but also during Ritusandhi (RIH-doo-SAHN-dee)! It means the "joining" of seasons, or the eight days before solstice and the eight days after.
During this transition period from one season to the next is when we tend to get sick as our bodies are used to the routine, food and lifestyle of the last season.
The best way to avoid falling victim to the flu, asthma or other inter-seasonal ailments is to boost immunity by eating the right foods.
The best foods to balance you in-between the seasons are those that are calming to the digestion and ones that stimulate your digestive fire. This is the time to lighten your food and do a inbetween season detox.
If you can incorporate foods that are appropriate for the upcoming season while weaning off foods from the last season you’ll stay fighting fit and healthy in the transition time between seasons.
Shop at farmer’s markets where the foods will be seasonal – nature is good at setting this all up perfectly for us.
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