The Best Foods for Summer Are Easy to Find…
Summer means pool parties and beach vacays! There are also foods for summer. By eating seasonally and enjoying all the delish fruits and veggies that are growing right now, you can harness these foods for summer health.
As we write this, we’re in the high heat of Oklahoma summer. We’ve crossed the threshold of the Summer Equinox and rounded the corner of Independence Day. Now we’re about to settle into those slow, sultry, oppressively hot, triple-digit-heat days of July and August.
It’s official y’all: in the northern hemisphere we are straight up inside Pitta time of year.
In an earlier podcast episode, and corresponding blog post, we introduced you to the concept that specific tastes correspond with each of the five elements, and each dosha responds to the six types of tastes in particular ways. So let’s put on our Ayurvedic prescription shades and take a closer look at the elements that dominate the summer season and the foods (more specifically the tastes) that will serve to keep us cool versus those that exacerbate our hotness. (We know you are hawt hot, but here we’re talking high inner temps, ladies).
Seasonal Eating for Summer
This is the season of lighter, cooler fare and nature provides these in abundance. Crisp, homegrown salads and sweet, drippy mangoes. There’s nothing better on a hot summer day at the beach than giant chunks of cool, juicy watermelon, amirght?? (But leave the vodka out of it!)
Pitta dosha is made of the fire and water elements and when pitta is aggravated, the qualities of fire increase in the body and mind. This can present as too much heat in the digestive tract–hyper acidity, reflux, heartburn, as well as hot flashes and night sweats. There can also be a tendency toward irritability and anger. Us babes of a certain age are already sweaty, salty, and pissed, even when it’s not 108 degrees outside. Studies even indicate that crime rates increase with the rise in temperature, particularly between June and September.
From the Ayurvedic perspective, this is the time of year where hot, salty, sour qualities prevail. And right there we have three of the six tastes! Bada-bing-bada-boom.
If we follow the Ayurvedic principle of opposites, which is, “Like increases like, opposites balance,” we understand how those three tastes will only amp up our heat. So, what’s a fox to do?
Favor the opposite qualities!
Yaaaassssss!!! To beat back the heat, we will bring in more sweet, slightly bitter, and astringent foods and bevvies to the patio pool party.
Did You Say Sweet?
When we’re talking about the sweet taste, don’t rip open the box of Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies or Hostess Cupcakes just yet. Instead, fill your plate with the true, natural sweetness that’s found in juicy fruits like peaches and plums, root vegetables, and most grains. The sweet taste is grounding and nourishing, cool and heavy. These qualities counter the light, hot, and mobile characteristics of fire. Think brown rice, avocado, fennel–oh that reminds me of an excellent recipe. You can find it here!
Bitter is Better
The bitter taste is beneficial for the blood and relieves burning and itching. Neem oil is a great example of an herb that is wildly bitter and used in Ayurvedic medicine for heat-related skin conditions. Some examples of where you’ll find the bitter taste on your plate is in artichokes, and lettuces like kale, endive, and chard. It’s even in black tea.
And what about coffee?? Yes, we hear your cries.
Well, there’s a time and a place for everything, but summer isn’t the time for coffee–it’s much too acidic. But before you write us off completely, we’ll throw in a compromise. Cocoa is bitter. So you know what that means? Keep nibbling (in moderation please!) on those squares of the darkest chocolate.
Astringent–WTH Does That Even Mean?
This one used to elude us, too. Astringency is the taste that dries your mouth up when you eat or drink it. It’s the taste that makes your cheeks draw in. This isn’t the pucker you get when you’ve popped a lemon drop in your mouth. When you do that, your taste buds and salivary glands explode, right? Suddenly your mouth is watering. That’s definitely not an astringent pucker, that’s the opposite–that’s a sour pucker. Save that for another season. 😉
The astringent quality is found in the skin of grapes, the tannins in your red wine. You’ll experience the astringent taste when you eat a handful of walnuts or take the first sip of green tea. It’s that borderline tartness in your chilled glass of hibiscus tea (without the simple syrup).
Astringency basically equates with dryness. It compresses and absorbs. And since pitta has the water element – and the water element is prominent in summertime (hello sweat and humidity) – eating/drinking astringent foods can help to counter and absorb excess moisture.
A few more examples are legumes, extremely green bananas, broccoli, and most raw veggies. This is the time of year to get creative and indulge in those colorful, prana-rich mason jar salads.
Putting it All Together, aka Foods for Summer
So now you’ve got a good idea of what to favor for the next few months. If this concept of eating for taste rather than eating for calories or macronutrients is new to you, we invite you to start shifting your thinking. The world of culinary opportunities explodes when we eat for taste. For the next two weeks, simply notice what is on your plate and identify where you have the sweet, the bitter, and the astringent. If it’s there, great! Well done. If it’s not there, great! Now you know where you can add more vibrance, abundance, and flavor to your meals.
Parting (Flavor) Shot
Ok, we want to send you off with one more tantalizing treat for Your Royal Hotness.
The pomegranate, with its many seeds, is a symbol of fertility and abundance. Pomegranates are also sweet, astringent, bitter and cooling, making them a true superpower for our Pitta Princesses. Adding a shot of aloe vera juice provides an added boost of coolant that can curb hot flashes, calm inflammation, and soothe an irritated GI tract. Here it is, the Pom Sparkler! Bottoms up, babes.
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