This time of year, it is so important that we change our diet to help us to stay cool. Our daily food intake can make us feel hot and irritable or keep us cool. Ayurveda, an ancient yet extremely relevant science from India, teaches us about the “virya” or energetics of foods. Are they heating or cooling? What is the long term effect of a food on the system?
There are six tastes in Ayurveda -pungent, salty and sour are heating while bitter, astringent and sweet are cooling. In Ayurveda we try to maintain balance by applying the opposite qualities. For example, when it is hot outside, we try to eat things that keep us cool and modify our lifestyles to avoid very heating activities. Rather than sitting in the sun, spend time in the moonlight!
In terms of diet, we should focus more on foods that are the three cooling tastes – bitter, astringent and sweet.
Here is a video where I discuss this topic:
The bitter taste is very cooling, reducing, and detoxifying. It helps to draw toxins out of the tissues.
You find the bitter taste in greens like arugula, collards and kale. Aloe vera is very bitter and also good for eliminating excess heat from the body. It is not necessary to switch to an all-bitter diet, because this would be excessively reducing to the bodily tissues. It is instead better to focus on including the bitter taste in at least two of your meals.
The second cooling taste is astringent. This might seem like a strange taste. Astringency gives the property of decreasing and constricting the tissues. Astringent substances like honey are good for healing the tissues due to this property. Astringent substances are also good for minimizing the appearance of the pores – think of rosewater or clay, both used to improve the skin’s appearance. We find a large amount of astringency in raw bananas….not a yummy food to include in the diet. Other more palatable foods include cucumbers, pomegranate, cranberries, and turmeric. Beans are considered to be a combination of astringent and sweet, making them a perfect food when looking to stay cool.
The mildly sweet or neutral taste is the third taste the helps with head, and should be the mainstay of our diet. The sweet taste increases tissue development and supports immunity and reproduction. It gives us strength. We are all familiar with the pure or refined sweet taste – found in sugar and candy. In ayurvedic terms the sweet taste includes neutral foods that are building and sustaining to the body such as whole grains, root vegetables and other complex carbohydrates. We should try to make these foods the cornerstone of our meals, replacing oily fried foods and heavier animal proteins. Dates are also sweet and a much better choice than refined sugars.
Drinks are a great way to cool off – so choose the juices from fruits like pomegranate and cranberry or coconut water, which is very cooling and rehydrating. Cheers!