“When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. When diet is correct, medicine is of no need.” —Ayurvedic Proverb
In late autumn and early winter, Vata dosha takes over. Of all the three doshas, Vata—whose qualities are dry, light, cool, rough, subtle, and mobile—is the one that can be the most challenging to keep balanced. And imbalance during this time most certainly affects digestion.
Holidays: A Recipe for Vata Aggravation
Winter and holiday foods are heavier to digest. If you travel (especially plane rides) or meet a dozen people over two days or get into long conversations or attend multiple gatherings … all the loud noises, constant chatter, and incessant stimulation can throw Vata off balance. As can eating at inconsistent times, drinking that extra glass of wine, playing board games late into the night while munching on snacks, getting into bed at odd hours, snacking on dry foods like chips and popcorn, and feasting on incompatible foods. It’s all a recipe for Vata aggravation.
Given that like increase like according to Ayurveda, to keep the Vata dosha grounded during fall, it’s best to choose warming herbs and spices to offset the cold and dry energies. Food should be moist, cooked, warm, easy to digest, and moderately spiced. In Ayurveda, there are six tastes used to balance our doshas. Vata is ruled by sweet, sour, and salty tastes. Vata is impaired by pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes.
5 Warm Ayurvedic Spices
During this season, you’ll want to incorporate ginger, cumin, cardamom, coriander, and fennel into your diet to balance Vata and support your digestive fire.
- Cardamom: This aromatic spice helps with a myriad of digestive difficulties, from belching to vomiting and sluggish digestion. Cardamom is considered an excellent digestive, especially beneficial in reducing bloating and intestinal gas.
- Coriander: Gently stimulates appetite and digests toxins. It also soothes an irritated digestive system.
- Cumin: It has carminative (flatulence-reducing) properties. The seeds are said to enhance the quality and the performance of digestive enzymes, which helps with improving poor digestion and Vata digestive disorders.
- Fennel: Renowned for its ability to stimulate the appetite, strengthen digestion, and provide a comfortable post-meal experience.
- Ginger: It stokes the digestive fire, whets the appetite, and improves assimilation and transportation of nutrients to targeted body tissues.
You can add spices like cinnamon, turmeric, asafetida, and black pepper to your foods. Mustard seeds, basil, bay leaf, dill, garlic, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, rosemary, turmeric, and saffron are a few other spices you want to incorporate into your cooking.
Everything Delicious for Vata Season
Though not a spice, salt and high-quality fats like ghee or olive oil can be grounding and nourishing too in this season. Be it curry, pickle, soup, stews, casserole, or teas—spices make everything delicious and hearty during Vata season.
Don’t feel overwhelmed about cooking with spices or Ayurvedic principles. If you look at some of your favorite holiday recipes, you probably recognize they already include many of these spices. Butternut squash soup, for example, includes ginger and nutmeg. Rosemary is a classic herb for potatoes, and if you eat fish, fennel is a great condiment.
[Read: “3 Ayurvedic Herbs to Calm Autumn Anxiety.”]
Post-holiday meals like khichadi can include asafetida, turmeric, cumin seeds, and mustard seeds. Curries include fennel or cumin or mustard seeds. Get creative and open to spices and become a home apothecary during the holidays and other times.
In this season, instinctively, we start to crave warmer foods. You turn to your InstaPot or Crockpot or stove a lot more to prepare meals. But when we commit crimes against our wisdom—throw in the holidays, large gatherings, and travel into the mix—things can go awry. That’s why, even though studies show that our digestion gets stronger during the winter season, the holidays and associated stress combined with erratic lifestyle can throw water on Mother Nature’s plans to boost our digestive strength.
Ready to eat? Check out these 5 Ayurvedic tips for easing digestion.