6 Ayurvedic Foods to Cool Pitta
Foods like limes keep a cooling balance so we can stay strong, maintain energy, and fully enjoy summer.
Have you ever wondered why it is hotter in August than in June when the sun was closer and the days were longest?
There is an elegantly simple principle in Ayurveda that states: “Heat accumulates.” Wherever there is fire, and water or matter close enough to absorb its energy, heat will accumulate. Summertime is nature’s most poetic expression of that dynamic.
After the Summer Equinox, when the sun gets as close to our part of the world as it will be in any given year, its fiery rays are absorbed by tour planet’s earth and oceans, holding its warmth, and continuing to accumulate heat incrementally over the course of these dog days.
It is the same dynamic that makes the day warmest mid-afternoon despite the sun being strongest at noon when it is most directly above. This dynamic plays out everywhere in nature. Ayurveda calls this Pitta.
Because the burn of Pitta causes depletion and deterioration, Ayurveda suggests ways to cool and calm in the summer. The best way to do this is to decelerate. This is the season to really stop and smell the roses. Slow to nature’s pace, and enjoy the cooling power of roses, as well as lavender, jasmine, chrysanthemum, sunflower, and most summer flowers.
Summer in the Kitchen
At the end of a hot day who wants to cook?
Trust your feelings and eat light. Look for foods that are tonifying, refreshing, and cooling. Focus on the sweet, astringent and bitter tastes like cucumbers, summer squash, peas, avocado, corn, leafy greens, and green beans, to balance Pitta. (See more on this in "The Ayurvedic Medicine of Taste.")
Due to the tendency to perspire this season, nature provides foods high in minerals to replace electrolytes, regulate body temperature, and maintain energy. Cucumbers, potatoes, melons, bananas, almonds are all rich in minerals, especially potassium—
good for balancing that extra dash of Himalayan salt that will satisfy cravings this time of year.
Here are six summer helpers to keep your cool:
Not only does lime help make water a delicious thirst-quencher with more vitamin C than a lemon and twice the amount of juice, adding lime to your water increases the absorbability of nutrients by up to five times. The citric acid in lime stokes your digestive fire, while its abundant minerals creates an alkaline reaction in the system that can help relieve heat-related issues such as inflammation, peptic ulcer, dehydration headache, and skin eruptions.
Mint is an excellent herb for Pitta as it dilates and cools. Toss with salads, rice dishes or beans, infuse in drinking water, blend into tonics and smoothies, or simply chew on the leaves for a breath-refreshing relief on summer days.
One of the great spices for Pitta, fennel aids digestion without increasing “heat” in the body. Sauté the seeds when cooking, or crush and stir into sauces and dressings. Chew on fennels seeds after a meal to improve metabolism.
Balancing for all mind-body types, cilantro is especially wonderful for Pitta. Anti-inflammatory and a powerful chelating agent, try to have a teaspoon of cilantro daily in summer.
5. Coconut Water
Ayurveda considers that sweat and blood are similar. Therefore, while sweating is beneficial for regulating body temperature, we need to immediately replace the lost nutrients. Coconut water is nature’s closest substitute to blood plasma, and therefore quickly absorbed for high-speed restorative hydration.
6. Himalayan Salt
With some 88 vital minerals, Himalayan salt, also called pink salt, restores much of what we lose when we perspire. When taken in moderation, it can be a safe alternative to table salt. Add a pinch of pink salt to a pitcher of water with slices of cucumber, lime juice to taste, and a small handful of mint for summer’s perfect refreshment.
A word of caution
Alcohol is heating, and therefore can be dehydrating. Avoid red wine, whiskey, brandy and rum in summer as they are especially heating.
One final note
A dab of sandalwood on the middle of your forehead is cooling, as are mineral baths at room temperature, and coconut oil massaged into the scalp or on the feet before bedtime. Roses are also considered cooling. Organic rose petals can be added to salads, milks and mint tea for internal cooling. Rose essential oil is calming, soothing and reassuring on hot days.
Overheating can be profoundly depleting so it is important we keep a cooling balance to stay strong, maintain our energy and fully enjoy summer, the sweetest of seasons.