Fairfield County Edition

Nature Knows Best

An Ayurvedic Approach to Summer Eating

As the summer heats up, so does the heat in our bodies. Ayurveda, an ancient system of health and wellness from India, can point us in the right direction for having a cooler summer. Ayurveda teaches that balancing the body through eating the right foods at the right time of year is the key to keeping it healthy and free from disease. Local markets are the perfect place to see what nature has for us in the summer season. Rich in cooling fruits and colorful vegetables, the bounty of summer provides us exactly with what our bodies need to recover from the cool, wet weather of spring.

According to Ayurveda, the five basic elements of Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth exist within the substances of our bodies as doshas. The three main doshas are Vata (air and ether), Pitta (fire and water) and Kapha (water and earth). Each season of the year also corresponds to these doshas and, therefore, our bodies need to “balance” the elements of the seasons. Diet plays a key role in maintaining the balance within. For example, spring represents Kapha dosha; as the cool, wet rains drench the earth, eating cool, sweet foods in springtime will create an excess of mucus. The idea is to eat foods with the opposite qualities, which nature readily provides for us.

Summer represents the time of Pitta, which is a combination of fire and water. As the sun’s rays increase and warm the earth, we need to maintain our sense of “cool” by eating foods such as cucumbers, lettuce, fruits and so forth. Once the body overheats, it tries to release that heat on its own, often times through the skin in the form of rashes, acid-indigestion, puffiness, allergies, and even temper. By introducing cooling foods and eliminating heating, spicy foods, the body is able to maintain a balance in harmony with the season.

Cooling Foods to Increase

• Vegetables: beets, corn, cucumbers, fennel, beets, squash and zucchini

• Herbs: parsley, cilantro, thyme, basil, mint and dill

• Fruits: berries, dates, melon, peaches and plums

Heating Foods to Avoid

• Spicy foods

• Alcohol (red wine)

• Red meats

• Sour dairy products

• Coffee

• Salty foods

• Egg yolks

• Anything fried or oily

• Vinegar

• Raw tomatoes and onions

• Orange juice

Other summer lifetime guidelines include massaging with coconut oil; choosing moderate activities such as swimming, moderate yoga and walking; taking cool baths; staying out of the midday sun; and drinking room-temperature water so as not to slow digestion.

By the summer’s end, astringent foods—such as apples and pears—begin to appear, helping the body release any excess heat left over and preparing the body for the coming fall season.

Books such as The Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook: A Seasonal Guide to Eating and Living Well by Kate O’Donnell and The 3 Season Diet by John Douillard are two that can help us learn more about the Ayurvedic approach to healthy eating.

Jamie McKee is a high school English teacher and licensed massage therapist who works at Salt of the Earth Therapeutic Spa in Woodbury and Salt of the Earth Sanctuary in Woodbury. Specializing in Ayurveda wellness services, McKee offers massage, facials, marma therapy, and will be offering monthly workshops on Ayurvedic diet and lifestyle. See ad, page 21.

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