Similar to the teachings in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Ayurveda also believes that summer is a time for cooling foods (click here for a TCM guide on healthy eating during summer). Ayurveda also believes that summer is a time for cooling foods. Summer, is a “pitta season” according to Ayurveda. “Pitta” refers to the Fire and Water elements and during the “pitta season” these elements can overpower the other elements that make up the human body, namely Ether, Air and Earth. This results in an imbalance. An imbalance of these five elements Fire, Water, Ether, Air and Earth manifests itself as an illness, discomfort or pain.
Like TCM, to re-balance this imbalance, Ayurveda recommends adapting one’s diet and lifestyle to accommodate the change in season. How much one has to adapt, depends on each person’s body type which is referred to as “dosha”. Three categories of “dosha” can be identified: “vata”, “pitta” and “kapha”. A “pitta dosha” type person is more likely to experience an imbalance during summer (the “pitta season”), than a “vata” or “kapha” person and therefore may have to make more lifestyle and dietary adjustments to “pacify pitta” compared to people of the last two body types.
Fruits and fruit juices:
Fresh, juicy, fully-ripened, tree-ripened fruits and freshly juiced drinks consumed at room temperature or lightly chilled, not ice cold are cooling food choices during sweltering summer months.
Eat ripe, juicy fruits such as watermelon, mangoes, honeydew and cantaloupe freshly plucked ideally or freshly squeezed into juice. Sip room temperature natural, coconut water.
Cooling vegetables such as cucumber and zucchini are good options during summer while vegetables with “heaty” properties such as turnips, radishes, tomatoes and hot peppers are not recommended.
Eat cucumbers as a refreshing salad, or sip room temperature “cucumber water” – water with a few slices of cucumber.
Sweet, astringent and bitter flavors:
Ayurveda recommends sweet, astringent and bitter flavors during summer while reducing or avoiding salty, sour and spicy flavors. Sweet here refers to naturally sweet flavors. Refined sugars and foods heavily sweetened with refined sugars such as carbonated drinks are best avoided or reduced. Pulses, grains, milk and unrefined sugars such as jaggery fall under the “sweet” flavor profile. Refined sugars, sugary drinks and sugary foods should be avoided. Intake of certain sour foods such as vinegar and yogurt are recommended to be reduced during summer.
Try “thandai” ठंडाई, a creamy drink of fresh milk, dried fruit, nuts which is sweetened with unrefined jaggery and flavored with cooling spices such as fennel and rose petals. This is a popular wholesome and cooling summer beverage in India. Click here for Culinary Connoisseur’s “thandai” recipe which uses no refined sugar. Click here for Culinary Connoisseur’s “thandai” recipe which uses no refined sugar.
Most spices tend to have “heating” properties however, there are a few that have cooling properties and these are recommended to help pacify “pitta” during summer. Fennel, mint, coriander, rose petals are considered cooling. “Heating” spices such as onions, garlic, chilies, black pepper, black mustard seeds and dry ginger could be reduced.
Try a cooling fennel tea, sipped at room temperature.
Foods to Reduce Or Avoid:
Ice cold drinks, particularly during meals
Carbonated, sugary drinks
Processed, sugary foods
Oily, spicy, salty foods
Alcohol and wine
Highly processed foods such as ready-to-eat instant meals, canned foods and “junk foods”