We start beating the heat of summer from the moment we walk into our local grocery store —or farmers’ market.
It’s here, among the aisles lined with vibrant greens, juicy fruits, and aromatic herbs, that we make the choices to keep our body and mind in harmonious balance throughout the summer season.
These mouthwatering foods counterbalance the inherent fire of Pitta dosha, which is exacerbated by the external heat, but they also offer the perfect excuse to escape the warmth of the stove to prepare wonderful, delicious, and refreshing recipes.
These are the summer fruits and vegetables that will keep you cool, calm, and collected.
Understanding pitta dosha in summer
As the golden rays of summer illuminate our days, it’s imperative to understand the energies that govern this season.
Within Ayurveda, the ancient science of life and well-being, the three doshas—Vata, Pitta, and Kapha—are central. Each dosha corresponds to a combination of elements that has its own unique set of characteristics.
In summer, it’s Pitta Dosha, a blend of the fire and water elements, that takes center stage.
Pitta Dosha is characterized by hot, sharp, light, and oily qualities. These attributes can manifest both in the environment and within our bodies.
With the increase in temperature, there’s a stimulation of the digestive fire or “agni”, leading to symptoms such as irritability, skin rashes, excessive thirst, and indigestion.
The foods we consume can either exacerbate the fiery nature of Pitta or help pacify it.
To bring harmony within, it’s advisable to make use of the principle of like increases like and opt for foods that counterbalance the hot and sharp qualities of Pitta, as opposite qualities bring balance.
Think of consuming foods that are cool, moist, heavy, and mildly sweet. These properties help in soothing the internal fire. Include plenty of leafy greens, cucumbers, melons, coconuts, and grains like basmati rice.
Equally important is how you consume these foods.
Choose meals that are lightly cooked and avoid overly spicy, overly cooked, or fried items. Eating in a calm environment and chewing your food well are also essential.
Read Ayurvedic Tips for Summer: A Guide to Survive and Thrive to learn more.
The six tastes in Ayurveda and their importance in summer
In Ayurveda, food is not just about the nutritional values it brings to the table; it is also about the tastes and the energies they carry. There are six tastes in Ayurveda: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent. Each taste corresponds to different elements and has various effects on the doshas, the mind, and the body.
In summer, the season of Pitta, it’s recommended to favor the sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes:
Sweet corresponds to the earth and water elements, and has a cooling and grounding potency. Further, it counteracts the hot and light qualities of Pitta body types.
Bitter is the taste of coolness and lightness, often found in leafy greens. It helps cleanse the body and clear excess heat and moisture. Adding bitter greens like kale, dandelion greens, or turmeric to your diet can be highly beneficial during summer.
Astringent taste, associated with the air and earth elements, has cooling and drying properties. It supports the absorption of excess moisture and can soothe the burning sensations often experienced by Pitta individuals. Foods like legumes, pomegranate, and green apples are astringent and can be incorporated into your summer meals.
The wisdom of Ayurveda guides us to align our internal vibration with the changing seasons through conscious food choices.
Summer lemonade recipe ⇊
Summer fruits that cool the body
When the sweltering summer heat reaches its peak, nature, in all its wisdom, provides us with an array of delectable and cooling fruits. These fruits not only quench our thirst but also have incredible Ayurvedic properties that help balance the excess heat.
Here are some summer fruits that are particularly cooling:
- Ayurvedic Properties: Sweet in taste, cooling in energy, and sweet in its post-digestive effect.
- Benefits: It helps to flush out toxins, quench thirst, and alleviate heat-related conditions such as inflammation and burning sensations.
- Incorporation Ideas: Enjoy fresh watermelon slices or make a refreshing watermelon juice with fresh mint leaves.
- Ayurvedic Properties: Sweet in taste, cooling in energy, and sweet in its post-digestive effect.
- Benefits: Coconut supports the digestive system, nourishes the tissues, and cools the mind and body.
- Incorporation Ideas: Drink fresh coconut water, use coconut milk in curries or cereals, snack on unsweetened coconut flakes or prepare this yummy coconut and broccoli soup.
- Ayurvedic Properties: Although heating in energy and slightly sour, when ripe, mangoes are sweet in taste and post-digestive effect and considered cooling.
- Benefits: Mangoes are rich in vitamins, improve digestion, and have a cooling effect when consumed in moderation!
- Incorporation Ideas: Make a mango thandai, or cook it with rose water and cardamom for a soothing breakfast.
Berries (Strawberries, Blueberries)
- Ayurvedic Properties: Berries are generally sweet and astringent, with cooling energies, and a sweet post-digestive effect.
- Benefits: They are rich in antioxidants and support the immune system.
- Incorporation Ideas: Make a berry compote to add to your morning cereal, or eat them as a snack.
- Ayurvedic Properties: Sweet and slightly astringent, grapes are cooling and hydrating.
- Benefits: Grapes are beneficial for the heart, aid in digestion, and pacify Pitta dosha.
- Incorporation Ideas: Enjoy them fresh.
- Ayurvedic Properties: Sweet and astringent, apples are cooling, rough, and light.
- Benefits: Apples are known to be high in fiber, which aids digestion, and their cooling properties help in reducing excess Pitta dosha symptoms.
- Incorporation Ideas: Eat them fresh or sliced with a sprinkle of cinnamon, or cook ripe apples with ghee and spices for an easy-to-digest breakfast option.
- Ayurvedic Properties: Sour in taste, limes can be heating if consumed in excess, but in small amounts, they can actually be cooling and alkalizing.
- Benefits: Limes are rich in vitamin C, which boosts the immune system. They also aid in digestion and have a refreshing taste that can be invigorating in the summer heat.
- Incorporation Ideas: Squeeze fresh lime juice into your water, make a cooling limeade with mint, or use it as a dressing on salads and other dishes for a tangy twist.
Remember to consume summer fruits in their ripe, fresh, and natural form.
Summer vegetables to keep you hydrated
During summer, it’s essential to keep your body hydrated. Vegetables with high water content are not only refreshing but also packed with nutrients that your body craves during this season.
Let’s explore some of these vegetables from an Ayurvedic perspective.
- Ayurvedic Properties: Cucumbers are sweet and slightly astringent, with a cooling energy, and sweet vipaka.
- Ayurvedic Benefits: Their high water content helps to keep the body hydrated and cools down the excess heat of Pitta dosha.
- Simple Recipes/Ways to Consume: Eat cucumbers fresh in salads or juice them with a hint of mint for a cooling drink.
- Ayurvedic Properties: Zucchinis are sweet in taste and have a cooling virya, and a pungent post-digestive effect.
- Ayurvedic Benefits: They are light and easy to digest, making them ideal for balancing Vata and Pitta body types.
- Simple Recipes/Ways to Consume: Use zucchini in stir-fries, make zucchini noodles as a lighter alternative to pasta, or add them to summer soups.
- Ayurvedic Properties: Kale is bitter and astringent, cooling, and has a sweet post-digestive vipaka.
- Ayurvedic Benefits: They help to purify the blood and cool down the liver, which can get overheated in summer.
- Simple Recipes/Ways to Consume: Make fresh salads, use kale in green juices for a nutrient boost, or lightly sauté them with cooling spices like fennel and coriander.
- Ayurvedic Properties: Celery has a slightly bitter taste with cooling and slightly astringent properties. It has a pungent vipaka.
- Ayurvedic Benefits: Its high water content, along with its cooling properties, helps to hydrate and reduce inflammation in the body. This is especially beneficial in calming the excess heat and fire of Pitta dosha in the summer.
- Simple Recipes/Ways to Consume: Juice it for a revitalizing drink, or add it to salads and stir-fries for an extra crunch.
- Ayurvedic Properties: Summer squash is sweet and mild, with cooling and grounding potency.
- Ayurvedic Benefits: It is light and easily digestible, making it perfect for balancing Pitta.
- Simple Recipes/Ways to Consume: Grill slices of summer squash with a sprinkle of herbs, add it to pasta dishes, or create a refreshing summer squash salad with lemon dressing.
Okra (Lady’s Finger)
- Ayurvedic Properties: Okra is sweet and slightly astringent, with a cooling efficacy.
- Ayurvedic Benefits: It is known for its mucilaginous content, which is soothing for the digestive tract and can be beneficial for cooling and lubricating the intestines, helping to balance the burning sensation that can accompany Pitta dosha in summer.
- Simple Recipes/Ways to Consume: You can make a classic okra stir-fry with spices adjusted to be cooling (like coriander and fennel), or add it to soups.
Explore the versatility of these summer vegetables and utilize them in your kitchen to balance the body’s energies.
Inviting balance: beyond food
While the food we consume plays a significant role in pacifying Pitta dosha in summer, Ayurveda also emphasizes the importance of integrating corresponding lifestyle practices. These protocols not only complement our dietary choices but also ensure that our minds and spirits are aligned with the natural rhythms of the season.
Yoga can be a great lifestyle addition
In summer, it’s ideal to focus on gentle and cooling poses. Moon salutations (Chandra Namaskar) can be particularly good as they cultivate the Yin energy of the moon, contrasting the intense Yang energy of summer. Other poses like the Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana) or Fish Pose (Matsyasana) open the chest and encourage deeper, cooling breaths.
Pranayama, or control of the breath, is also a powerful tool in Ayurveda
During summer, Sheetali Pranayama, also known as Cooling Breath, can be very effective. To practice Sheetali, sit comfortably, curl the sides of your tongue to form a tube, and inhale through this tube. Then close your mouth, and exhale through your nose. This breath is believed to cool the body and mind, and is particularly beneficial for pacifying Pitta dosha.
Spending time in nature
Embrace the soothing gift of nature by spending time near bodies of water such as lakes, rivers, or the ocean. The natural coolness and the calming sounds of water can have a relaxing effect on our emotions and thoughts.
We must recognize that our bodies are not isolated from the world around us; rather, we are deeply intertwined with the cycles and seasons of nature. Summer is a symphony of warmth, growth, and vibrant life, and by aligning our internal rhythms with this energetic cadence, we can create a sanctuary of well-being within ourselves.
Are there any foods that you consume which could aggravate Pitta? How can you gently transition towards more cooling and hydrating foods?