Extending beyond the produce aisle and into the pantry comes a unique seasonal list from the preventative based medical system, Ayurveda. All the essential ingredients to cook a seasonal based meal or make a snack. From oil and spices to nuts and seeds, this time-tested science assesses the seasonality of all ingredients for a whole-listic list. For summer, the list includes foods that support digestion, help keep the body and mind cool, prevent hyperacidity and are nutritionally rich in the elements not provided externally. While also prepping the mind, body, and spirit for the season to come.
In viewing foods through the same lens as the season, the Rishi’s of Ayurveda assessed which foods are balancing for each season. They considered their elements—ether, air fire, earth, and water along with their heating or cooling energy (virya). Leveling the playing field—so to speak. An approach enabling this preventative based medical system to compare their similarities and differences. Simply speaking, foods that differ in the elements and energy from that of the season, will promote balance. While ingredients with the same elements and energy can lead to imbalances.
In a medical system that emphasizes individuality when approaching patient care, there’s no surprise that seasonal foods also come with some nuances. Such as avoiding oversimplification by grouping food into good or bad buckets. Taking away from individualness of a person or the situation. Rather the list includes foods to to enjoy, reduce or avoid. With the individual taking into consideration their personal constitution and food preparation.
For example, a person’s whose primary constitution is pitta may need to reduce foods rich in the fire element. To prevent pitta imbalances. Whereas, a person experiencing pitta dosha, an imbalance, may need to avoid fiery foods completely. A person with a constitution less dominant in pitta dosha can also experience a pitta imbalance. Considering quantity and ingredient combinations are essential factors in approaching seasonal eating in Ayurveda. In the summer, consuming a high quantity of heating foods on a repeated basis or cooking a meal that includes mainly heating ingredients could create pitta imbalances in anyone. As said by many a teacher, “eating balanced dishes, fosters balance within you.”
When it comes to seasonal eating, the basic principle to keep in mind is ‘like attracts like and opposites balance’. An integral concept of this 5,000-year-old medical system developed with the intention to empower humans to have greater autonomy over their health. The statement’s simplicity has a depth that comes alive on a body, mind and soul level as self-awareness and the practice of a medical system heavily focused on lifestyle habits further develops. An approach that encourages agency over one’s well-being.
In regards to summer-friendly foods, a list greatly helps in preparing well-balanced meals. With the help of many trusted Ayurveda texts, we have compiled a list of foods that harmonize with the summer season. As well as, foods to reduce or avoid in a season where the elements of fire and water take center stage.
Ayurveda’s Food List for the Summer aka Pitta Season
Tastes & Qualities of Summer
- Enjoy: sweet (naturally), astringent, bitter
- Reduce: sour, salty and pungent
- Enjoy: a combination of light & heavy, cooling, moist, alkaline foods
- Reduce: dry, greasy
- Avoid: spicy (red chili), overly acidic foods
Produce, Dairy & Meat
Dairy (sweet tastes)
- Enjoy: Cow’s Milk, Yogurt w/Whey, Cottage Cheese, Cream, Paneer, Soft Goat Cheese, Goat Milk,
- Reduce/Avoid: Greek/Thick Yogurt, Feta Cheese, Sour Cream, Hard Cheeses
Meats (sweet tastes)
- Enjoy: Buffalo, Chicken, Turkey, Fresh Water Fish, Rabbit, Venison
- Reduce/Avoid: Cow, Duck,Goat, Lamb, Pig, Salt Water Fish, Shellfish, Eggs
Fruits (sweet/astringent/sour tastes)
- Enjoy: Apples, Apricots, Avocado, Bananas, Berries, Cherries, Coconut (milk too), Dates, Figs, Grapes, Guava, Mango, Plums, Pomegranate, Raisins, Melons—choose fruit at it’s ripest so it is at it’s sweetest
- Reduce/Avoid: Sour fruits—Berries, Cherries, Lemons, Limes, Pineapple, Plums, Tamarind
Vegetables (sweet/bitter/astringent tastes)
- Enjoy: Artichoke, Arugula, Asparagus, Bell Pepper, Bok Choy, Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Celery, Collards, Corn, Cucumber, Dandelion, Fennel, Green Beans, Jicama, Kale, Karela (bitter melon), Leafy greens, Okra, Peas, Sprouts, Squash, Potato, Sweet Potato, Zucchini, Watercress
- Reduce/Avoid: Raw Red Beets, Raw Carrots, Onions and Tomatoes, Eggplant, Hot Peppers, Kohlrabi, Mustard Greens, Turnips, Radish, Spinach
Grains (sweet tastes)
- Enjoy: Wheat, White Rice (milk too), Barley, Bran, Spelt, Tapioca, and Couscous
- Reduce: Oats (including granola), Quinoa, Brown Rice, Buckwheat, Corn, Millet, White Flour, Rye, Refined Flours
Seeds & Nuts (includes “milk”) (sweet tastes)
- Enjoy: Pumpkin, Sunflower, Blanched Almonds, Flax, Hemp
- Reduce/Avoid: Blanc and White Sesame Seeds, All Nuts (except those listed above)
Oils (sweet taste)
- Enjoy: Avocado, Ghee, Olive, Coconut Oil/Butter, Sunflower, Walnut
- Reduce/Avoid: Sesame, Safflower, Corn, Apricot, Almond
Sweeteners (sweet taste)
- Enjoy: Unrefined Sugar, Dates, Maple, Coconut Sugar
- Reduce/Avoid: Brown Sugar, Jaggery, Succanat, Molasses, Honey, White Sugar
Pulses/Lentils/Beans (astringent tastes)
- Enjoy: Beans, Lentils, Chickpeas, Split Peas, Chana, Mung, Pigeon Peas, Black-eyed Peas, Sprouted Lentils
- Reduce/Avoid: Red Lentils, Black Lentils
Spices/Herbs (pungent/bitter tastes)
- Enjoy: Aloe Vera, Chamomile, Fennel, Coriander, Cilantro, Cardamom, Dill, Jasmine, Licorice, Lotus, Mint, Turmeric, Cumin, Rose, Saffron, Turmeric, Ginger Powder
- Reduce/Avoid: Black Pepper, Basil,Cinnamon, Oregano, Rosemary, Tarragon, Thyme, Ginger(fresh), Garlic, Mustard Seeds, Asafetida, Anise, Cloves, Raw Garlic, Nutmeg, Cayenne, Caraway, Horseradish
*each taste provided in parenthesis can be applied to one or more foods within the category. For example, a spice can be pungent and/or bitter in taste.
Reduce or Avoid sections: consider the quantity and/ or how food is combined. For example, using excess black pepper on eggs or red meat can be quite heating. Whereas using black pepper in a coconut milk based curry or white rice is balancing.