What Ayurveda has to say about your Summer Diet
Living Ayurveda isn’t difficult. It’s an intuitive science designed to connect our bodies to the current season. So, if you already listen to your body’s needs, you are an Ayurveda baby. And the more Ayurveda you learn, the more it validates your healthy choices.
We are all born with the intuition for seasonal living. However, we cycle through times when we are out of touch. Intuitive living is developed by building self-trust. This happens when we follow through with positive self-care choices, understand the body’s cues, and then respond to them compassionately.
Just because we have a craving it doesn’t mean that our deep intuition is talking. Ayurveda establishes a basic set of laws which helps us to discern in which direction to take a craving. Our taste buds crave what we have already been eating. Past choices create stored memories which increase the likelihood that we will make the same choice tomorrow as we did today. For example, if we wake up every morning and eat cereal, then tomorrow morning our bodies will crave cereal.
The body establishes habits that can be hard to break. We have to decide if we want a different outcome when our poor choices result in fatigue or illness.
One poor decision is not a big deal. We may not feel too bad or too bloated after eating junk food. But over time toxicity accumulates. We feel the consequences of ignoring the body’s innate wisdom. Signs appear, such as lethargy, excess weight, lack of motivation or disconnection.
Ayurveda acknowledges three seasons of harvest: fall/winter; spring and summer. As long as our daily dietary routines remain aligned with external living conditions, i.e. the temperature and weather conditions, the body remains relatively stable.
But if we start eating foods that are too heavy in the summer or foods that are too light in the winter, our body will accumulate toxins. The signs of toxicity will remain relatively low in the heart of the season in which they accumulate. These minor symptoms could be experienced as fatigue in the summer or poor circulation in the winter.
However, when the weather changes or when we move from one type of climate to another, small symptoms become large symptoms and they may turn into disease. Thus we experience the greatest bodily imbalance at the turn of the seasons or at any major juncture in our lives. Allergies come in spring and fall as the weather changes from cold to hot and then back again from hot to cold. Rashes break out toward late summer and early fall as autumn compounds the heat with winds.
If we eat appropriately in season, we lessen the chance for disease to rear its ugly head. Eating locally grown foods in the appropriate amounts is nature’s best medicine. So, how do we eat in summer?
In the summer, our digestion is at its weakest. Because of high outdoor temperatures, the body redirects internal energy toward cooling itself. It doesn’t want much food. Digestion in general is a heating process and the more diverse and complex the food we eat, the hotter the body gets. We see this inner dichotomy when we feel like taking a nap after a medium to large meal.
To help the body in summertime, eat cooling foods which are simple for it to break down. Fruits are cooling. They are also easy for the body to process while being relatively filling. Some of the best summer fruits are watermelon, pomegranate and fresh raw apples. For veggies and savory dishes, think cucumber, cilantro and summer squash.
Veer away from spicy and heated foods. Go for raw foods like salads and eat smaller amounts. Even if we are used to eating a certain amount of food, we can notice that our bodies are satisfied with less.
For the past three years I have been a diehard intermittent faster. But I realized intermittent fasting is less appropriate in the summer, when fasting for long periods of time means eating bigger meals. The body simply doesn’t want large meals when it’s really hot outside.
When fall rolls around, it’s okay to transition into heavier foods. The wind picks up and these foods ground the body. Spring is the body’s natural time for cleansing. In March and April, eat lots of cleansing greens, berries and astringent foods like mung beans.
Let go of the idea of there being only one way of eating year round. The body needs different foods at different times. It can be scary to change the way we eat when a certain method has worked in the past. One way of eating can work for a while but then it gets old. The body needs variety in nutrition and the mind needs an attachment reset every season.
Adopting the practice of changing your diet seasonally not only keeps the body younger and healthier, it keeps the mind flexible. It prevents us from seeing the world through a single lens and reminds us that both health and perspective are fluid, not fixed.