Do you feel cold and dried out in winter? Puffy and congested in spring? Overheated and lethargic in summer? If so, listen up!
As I have mentioned before, Ayurveda is all about living in harmony with nature. When we live our lives attuned to nature's rhythms and cycles, there are profound benefits for our health and sense of well being.
Because our internal landscape mirrors Mother Nature's. This is where paying attention to seasonality becomes important.
In *winter, the temperature drops and the air becomes dry with winter winds. Similarly, our bodies become cold and dried out in winter. This can result in rough, cracking skin, constipation, dry, brittle hair and nails. We can prevent these unfavorable ailments if we eat what nature harvests in the autumn in the lead up to winter. Nature ensures we stay balanced by providing us with an abundance of root vegetables, which are chock full of vitamins and minerals to combat the dryness, and nuts and grains which are loaded with essential fatty acids and proteins to insulate and warm us against the cold.
In spring, the rain softens the ground and plants start to sprout out of the soil. Similarly, our bodies re-hydrate after a cold and dry winter and start holding on to more water. Sometimes the excess fluid results in excess mucus production and feeling bloated or puffy in our extremities. Nature provides the perfect antidote with a harvest full of cleansing and decongesting foods such as bitter greens, sprouts, onions, and garlic.
In summer, when the days are long and and the nights are short, we are more active but also susceptible to overheating. Nature provides a plentiful harvest of high-carbohydrate fruits and vegetables throughout the summer to cool and energize us for the long hot days.
*For these purposes, fall and winter are lumped into the same season because in nature there are three harvests (spring, summer, autumn) where the autumn harvest provides the foods to see us through the winter.
As you can see, the Ayurvedic methodology is the application of intelligent opposite qualities. From this perspective, you combat an excess or deficient quality with it's opposite in order to restore balance in the body. We don't need to study Ayurveda to understand and apply these concepts because nature does it for us. What we do need to do, though, is respect nature's wisdom to feed us what we require during the various seasons throughout the year. Eating in connection to the cycles of nature will give your body what it craves and what it can best utilize for maintaining your weight, mood, and energy levels.
So how do we eat as nature intended?
Frequenting the farmer's markets is a great way to facilitate eating seasonally. Added bonus is that you will be eating local too! If this is not feasible for you, no worries, just try to follow some of the suggestions below to feel fantastic all year round!
WINTER (high protein)
In winter, we crave foods that are most nourishing during cold, dry winter days. We want to eat more foods that pacify winter qualities, such as those that are sweet, sour, heavy, oily, moist and hot. This will most likely be in the form of soups, stews, roasted veggies, hearty grains, and warm teas. It's best to limit foods that are bitter, light, cold and dry, such as salads, raw vegetables, chips, legumes, and ice cold beverages. For vegetables, pumpkin and Brussel sprouts are brilliant, as are root veggies, such as beetroot, carrot, leek, parsnip, sweet potato, and turnip. Fruits with winter-balancing properties are avocados, bananas, dates, figs, grapes, lemons, limes, oranges, and pears. Winter is a great time for grains (think yummy porridge), as well as increasing consumption of nuts/seeds, dairy, fish, meat, oils, and spices.
SPRING (low fat/low calorie)
Spring is the time for 'spring cleaning' the body and burning off the excess fat and protein stored over the winter. In essence, eat the opposite way that you did in winter. With all the moisture around, we need bitter, astringent and pungent (spicy) foods to cleanse and detoxify. Start hammering those bitter greens, sprouts, peas, cabbage, broccoli, chilies, garlic and onions, in the form of salads, steamed veggies, raw soups and smoothies. Eat lighter fruits such as cherries and berries. Spring is a good time for eating beans and legumes, as well as grains, such as barley, brown rice, buckwheat, rye and millet. Try to reduce oils, heavy meats, nuts, sweeteners, and dairy as these all increase spring qualities.
SUMMER (high carb)
In summer, we need lots of energy to keep us up and running so feel free to dominate all those delicious fruits and veggies on offer. Eat foods that are cool, sweet, bitter, and astringent to cool the body down on hot days and dry up the excess moisture from spring. Summer veggies include asparagus, artichokes, bell peppers, cucumbers, green leafy veg, broccoli, cauliflower, seaweed, celery and zucchini. Sweet fruits such as tomatoes, grapes, cherries, melons, coconuts, mangoes, pomegranates, pineapples, and plums are great choices. As we are prone to overheating in summer, it's best to avoid heating foods that are spicy, salty, or sour. Eat lighter meats such as chicken and turkey, and freshwater fish. Oats and barley are good grains for summer.
Eating seasonally isn't about abstinence or restriction of certain foods you love; it's about enjoying the fresh, delicious, seasonal abundance on offer at the different times of year. The key here is tapping into your intuition and tuning in to what keeps you feeling balanced and healthy throughout the changing seasons.
If you are keen to learn more, pick up a copy of The 3-Season Diet by John Douillard. I love this man.
Since it's winter here in Aussie land, here is a recipe for a warming, grounding, slow roasted winter vegetable soup. Perfect soup for a Sunday evening in the trackies and under the doona.
- About a kilo, or 2 lbs, of winter vegetables, chopped into 2 inch pieces - I used pumpkin, carrot, parsnip, sweet potato and onion
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- couple of sprigs each of rosemary, thyme, and sage
- 4 cups of vegetable stock
- sea salt
- black pepper
- 1 bunch cavolo nero, de-stemmed and shredded
What to do:
Preheat the oven to 150 C / 300 F. Arrange vegetables in a large baking tray in a single layer, drizzle with melted coconut oil, season with salt and pepper, and put in the oven. Roast for about 3 hours, turning every hour, and adding the herbs and 1 cup of hot water to the tray in the last hour. The vegetables should be very tender and caramelized when you take them out.
Remove stems from herbs and discard. Add herbs, vegetables, and stock to a food processor and blend until smooth.
Steam the cavolo nero over boiling water for about 3-4 minutes.
In bowls, add the cavolo nero, ladle in the soup, and garnish with extra herbs and a drizzle of coconut oil or ghee.
Yummo! Enjoy x
P.s. If you're after some more winter-pacifying tips, check 'em out here.