Most of us are familiar with the idea of having a “seasonal diet”, or eating fresh foods during their peak harvest. It helps that are bodies seem to have an internal guide that makes us crave hydrating, sweet melons during the summer heat waves and warm, savory pumpkin breads during winter’s cold snaps. Another way to look at these seasonal changes and how they relate to our digestion is through the lens of Ayurveda (eye-r-vay-duh) medicine. Ayurveda medicine originated in India, and is one of the world’s oldest medical systems and a sister science to yoga. The main purpose of Ayurvedic treatments is to bring the body and mind into balance according to your constitution, or dosha. The three doshas are pitta, kapha, or vata, and their attributes are described using the 5 elements: earth, wind, fire (feeling groovy yet?), water, and air.
If you’re feeling confused, don’t worry. This way of thinking holistically about our bodies and tying our constitutions into the elements is super unfamiliar to Westerners. However, Ayurvedic medicine is still the main form of healthcare in India, and is practiced by many homeopathic doctors here in America as well. And some of it just makes plain sense. We won’t go into the different doshas and their attributes in this post, but feel free to explore on your own. This quiz is a good place to start understanding what attributes go into discovering your dosha, or if you want to take a deep dive into Ayurveda check out this book by Dr. Svoboda.
So on to the more easily digested (pardon the pun) and applicable part of Ayurvedic medicine, which is diet. Fall is the season of “vata”, which is characterized by being cool, light, dry, and erratic (um, hello, quintessential Arkansas fall). According to Ayurveda, the vata dosha must be balanced with more grounding elements in order for us to transition harmoniously into the new season. How do we do that? I think you’ll like the answer – eating lots of savory, oily, soft foods that are high in fat and protein.
Think hearty, warm soups full of good fats (bone broths full of collagen, omega 3, avocado oil, ghee, and moderate amounts of coconut oil) and grass fed proteins. Steam your veggies and eat them warm instead of raw and cold. Lean towards foods that are salty, sweet, or sour, and stay away from bitter or spicy meals. Keep it oily, hot, and dense.
So there you have it, full permission to indulge in some of our favorite fall and winter pastimes. If you’re watching your waistline then take into consideration the extra calories you’re consuming with your increased fat and protein intake, and consider eating a couple of large meals during the day instead of many small meals and snacks. This keeps your insulin levels from constantly spiking, and helps heal your gut lining. As always, cutting off your eating by 7pm or 8pm gives your body plenty of time to digest your food and focus on restoring and healing while you sleep (it also helps reduce late night useless calories!).