Charlotte Jernigan is our resident Ayurveda expert at Natural Epicurean.
Chef Charlotte is a Lead Ayurveda Chef Instructor and a Certified Ayurveda Practitioner with the National Ayurvedic Medical Association (NAMA).
She studied Ayurveda, Sanskrit and Jyotish at Mount Madonna Center in California and the Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Botany from the University of Texas.
How do you adjust eating habits for the hot, humid weather of summer to avoid aggravating inflammatory tendencies and Pitta dosha?
Since Kapha and Pitta share the element of water, but are opposites when it comes to hot and cold, this sets up a quandary for the diet. A few simple guidelines, however, can be sufficient to balance between these two types of biochemistry in most cases.
Reviewing the fundamentals, Kapha is associated with the elements of water and earth which are both cool. It dominates in nature in winter and in the cool days of early spring. It is cool, stagnant, and solid but wet, like cool clay, or it is sticky and viscous like slimy algae on a rock. In the body these might correlate with stubborn hard to lose pounds or high cholesterol in one person or perhaps persistent phlegm or mucous for another. The “antidotes” in the Ayurveda dietary guidelines are light, dry, warm foods that dominate in pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes. There is lower intake of sweet, sour, and salty tastes. Sweets and desserts are discouraged except in small, infrequent portions which use healthy, alternative sweeteners like dried fruits and brown rice syrup. Oil is used sparingly except for essential fatty acids (EFAs). Foods are served warm and dry. All spices are allowed. There is moderate use of peppers and chilies and heavy use of fresh herbs of all types.
Pitta is associated with the water and fire elements which dominate in summer or days that are hot and humid. It is hot, prone to action and less-solid but also wet, like swamp-mud, or it is sticky and warm like oozing tree sap. In the body these might correlate with inflamed joints, organs or limbs in one person or with skin outbreaks that ooze or weep in another person (acne, eczema, hives.) The “antidotes” in the Ayurveda dietary guidelines are light, dry, cool foods that dominate in sweet, bitter and astringent tastes. There is lower intake of sour, salty and pungent tastes and no peppers or chilies. Sweets and desserts are allowed in moderation as long as they use healthy alternative sweeteners. Oil is used sparingly except for essential fatty acids (EFAs.) Foods are served room-temperature or chilled and dry. Spices are restricted to those that are less pungent. There is very low use of peppers and chilies but heavy use of fresh herbs that are not too pungent.
NINE SPECIFIC SUGGESTIONS FOR KAPHA-PITTA EATING:
1) Vegetables, especially green, leafy vegetables should make up the bulk of your daily diet. Consider all above-ground vegetables as fair game. Use roots and tubers in moderation in meals where you want to skip the grains.
2) Consider salads, slaws, and simply prepared vegetables to be the centerpiece of the meal. All leaf-wraps are great along with occasional nori rolls, Vietnamese spring rolls or stuffed grape leaves, especially if stuffed with vegetables, or legumes.
3) Use fresh herbs everyday, such as parsley, cilantro , dill, mints, chives, chervil, thyme, hyssop, marjoram, tarragon, etc. Some fresh herbs, such as oregano, rosemary, and sage, are more pungent so are used with less volume and frequency in hot weather. Galangal, ginger root and all fresh chilies are used sparingly or less frequently in summer.
4) Dry spice mixes can be sprinkled on salads, slaws and stir-fries so that you can cut back on salt, vinegar, mayonnaise, oil dressings and sauces. Dried herbs and spices are only fresh for about six months. Go to your local spice shop or herb bar and get vibrant new mixes.
5) Puffed or popped grains and whole grain crackers are preferred over breads.
6) Steamed grains such as amaranth, barley, couscous, millet, and wild rice are better for KAPHA but even einkorn, farro, kamut, teff, quinoa and wheat berries can be tossed directly into salads and stir-fries so that they are kept to moderate portions.
7) Legumes of all kinds fit very well in the Kapha and Pitta diet. Canned beans are great to fill out a quick light meal but with a little forethought you can cook fresh beans and lentils. For larger, whole beans, keep some one-cup portions soaking in your refrigerator (change water frequently until you use them.) These are ready to cook on short notice and, using a pressure cooker, you can have freshly cooked lentils or beans ready after 5-25 minutes under pressure, depending on the type.
8) Stay away from our western cultural habit of eating sweets, dairy and creamy foods for breakfast. When you awaken from the lethargy of a good sleep, the last thing your body needs is cold, creamy sweet foods. Sorry to say that this includes most typical smoothies. Review the preceding seven suggestions for breakfast ideas…and don’t be afraid to think outside the box!
9) Fresh fruits are best eaten alone so fit them in as between meal snacks. Best summer fruits for Kapha and Pitta are apricots, sweet berries, cherries, limes and peaches with moderate use of grapes, lemons, mangos and pineapples. Watery, irritating or sour fruits, such as kiwis, melons, plums, and tomatoes should be eaten the least frequently. Use banana in moderation only.
Next week, we will continue with Part 2 in this series with Dietary Guidelines and Cooking Methods.
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