As the hot, relaxing days of summer come to an end, we’re preparing to shift into the cooler, more structured gear of fall. One way to make the transition a little easier on ourselves is to eat with the seasons, an ancient Ayurvedic approach to wellness.
What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda — life knowledge — is one of the world’s oldest healing systems, originating in India thousands of years ago. It’s founded on the belief that health is a balance of mind, body, and spirit, and it upholds a holistic approach to treating the whole body.
According to Ayurveda, each person is made up of five basic elements: space, air, fire, water, and earth. These elements combine to form three bodily energies, known as doshas: Vata (space and air), Pitta (fire and water), and Kapha (water and earth). In Ayurvedic medicine, your dosha determines your physical, physiological, and mental character, as well as your vulnerability to certain diseases. (To find out your dosha, take a quiz!)
In addition to governing our physical constitution, the doshas also comprise the universe in which we live. In the West, we use a four-season calendar, whereas Ayurveda divides the year into three doshas. Because we’re made up of these universal elements, Ayurveda believes that we benefit enormously from adjusting our lifestyles and diet with the changing seasons.
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Pitta is characterized by heat and fire, and it corresponds with digestion, metabolism, and energy production. This season can be very drying due to the intense heat, so we crave cooling, damp foods like fresh fruits and vegetables. Salads, smaller meals, and dairy are all great to eat during this season. Spicy foods are best avoided during Pitta season. Check out this list of ideal foods to eat and ones to limit.
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Lightness, movement, and dryness are the primary characteristics of Vata. Vata governs movement in the body, the activities of the nervous system, and the process of elimination. As the air cools and dries in fall, we turn toward warmer, comforting food. The change from summer to back-to-school and the holiday season can also bring stress and overstimulation. During this season, it’s important to eat nourishing, grounding foods like soups, root vegetables, teas, and lattes. For more specific guidance, reference this list.
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Kapha is responsible for the structure of the body. It is the principle that holds cells together and forms muscle, fat, bone, and sinew. Characterized by heaviness and moisture, Kapha season calls for warm, cooked, slightly oily, well-spiced foods. Warm grains for breakfast and hearty vegetables and soups for lunch and dinner support a winter diet. It is best to limit or avoid cold foods, dairy (due to its congesting nature), and excessively sweet foods during this time. Find a list of recommended foods here. In the damp spring, diet shifts to seasonal vegetables and lighter meals. Spring is also a time for purification, so it’s a good time to detox and cleanse. Learn more about supporting a spring diet here.