Eats for Autumn
If you know us, you know we love food. All the food. And we are especially fascinated with the way foods–both directly and indirectly–impact our health.
The burgeoning field of study called “nutritional psychology” is quite exciting to us for many reasons, primarily because it validates what ayurveda has been preaching for centuries–that the tastes, smells, and qualities of food directly affect our brain (our psychology), our physiology, and our mood. In fact, if you’re interested in exploring this further, we strongly recommend you get your hands on This is your brain on food: an indispensable guide to the Surprising Foods that Fight Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, OCD, ADHD, and More by Uma Naidoo, for an intriguing and approachable look at the science and psychology behind nutrition.
The Science of Seasonal Eating
As you’ve learned in a previous episode, foods which are naturally available to us in the summer serve a purpose. They are sweet, juicy, and cooling, providing the properties we need to combat the intense heat of the season. Mother Nature provides, does she not?
The foods that she abundantly offers us in the fall are quite different, of course. So, let’s explore the best foods for the fall season and why we’re recommending them.
To begin, be sure you’ve checked out our last podcast episode – The Ayurvedic Approach to Autumn. In this conversation, we identified three factors that serve to keep us grounded and balanced as we glide into the fall season. The first of which is to seek warmth. More specifically–warmth in our foods. That means both in temperature and in flavor. Raw salads, cold smoothies, and dry, crunchy crackers? Time to just say “no.”
Soups and Stews
Ever notice how we have a desire for creamy soups and hearty stews this time of year? Not surprisingly, there is science behind that. Just as our food supply shifts with the seasons, our microbiome shifts too. That craving for denser foods also has an explanation in Ayurvedic medicine. Because the qualities of vata season (fall and early winter) are cold, light, dry, rough, and mobile, we aim to increase the opposite qualities in our foods (remember the rule of opposites?). And fortunately, Ma Nature comes through for us, as she always does. So go ahead and lean into those hearty soups, the sweet, stewed fruits, and the moist meats (roasted turkey and duck) for the non-vegetarians.
There are three tastes in particular that counter the dry, cold, and airy personality of autumn: sweet, sour, and salty. But before you head to the kitchen to make a pitcher of margaritas, let us unpack those three tastes and explore how they provide a sense of balance for the vata time of year.
Sweet: The sweet taste is cool, grounding, nourishing, and somewhat heavy. This taste in particular is the foundation of a vata-pacifying diet. We aren’t referring to the sweetness of processed sugar, but the sweetness found in grains, root vegetables, and juicy fruits.
Sour: When you pop a lemon drop, your whole mouth waters and comes to life! That’s the sour taste in a nutshell–enlivening and moistening. You don’t need to consume 32 ounces of kombucha (in fact, please don’t!), but a squeeze of lemon or lime juice in your hot water will suffice. Or perhaps a splash of vinegar or miso. Think of the sour taste as simply a digestive aid and a compliment–or condiment–to bring out other flavors.
Salty: Saltiness is another quality to stimulate your appetite and digestion. Salt also helps to retain moisture (vata is dry). There is already plenty of salt in the typical western diet so go easy; salt is a seasoning.
Now that you know what tastes serve us best, we’ll help you find these qualities in your foods.
Root veggies for the win! They are sweet, dense, and heavy. Fill your recycled-jute tote bag with carrots, beets, parsnips, sweet potatoes, and the late summer squashes such as acorn and butternut.
Sweet and nourishing, grains are a large component of the fall foods category. Opt for whole grains such as wheat, brown rice, and oats. These are the comfort foods that bring us the nourishment and grounding needed to combat the cold and erratic winds of fall and early winter.
Legumes and beans can be dry and light but when they’re well-cooked and moderately spiced, they provide a wonderful bolus of protein and fiber. Look for lentils and split peas, and enjoy all the soupy dahls.
The right spice combination can add warmth and digestive aid to just about any meal. When we think of fall spice, we think of chai. Experiment with cinnamon, clove, cardamom, allspice, and nutmeg. All of these fall into the ‘dipana’ category which means ‘digestive.’ They warm us from the inside out and serve to keep our agni (digestive fire) burning.
Apples and pears are abundantly available to us in early fall. As we move closer to early winter, you’ll find heavier, unctuous, and sweeter fruits such as figs, dates, and pumpkins. This is the time of year to cook your fruits rather than eating them raw. For our smoothie-lovers out there, we strongly encourage you to try a warm date shake instead. Dates are great and truly one of our favorite fall fruits.
- They are rich in vitamins, minerals, potassium
- They’re also a terrific source of protein, fiber, plus vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, and C
- They are high in iron and great energy boosters
- Fruits build ojas and increase sexual stamina
We’ve got a couple of delicious ways to get these nutritious love nuggets on board, check out these tasty recipes!
Speaking of Spiced Ghee Dates, as you may recall, in our last episode and blog post, we talked about the importance of incorporating warmth, oil, and routine into our daily activities this time of year. If you could enjoy a warm, spiced ghee date every afternoon at 4pm (instead of a Pumpkin Spiced Latte), you’re checking all the boxes! The dates are warm, they’re soaked in the ghee (oil), and by carving out a window of time each day to treat yourself, you’ve established a sweet and nourishing fall ritual!
So, what are you eating this fall? Do you have foods that you look forward to or that you only eat during this time of year? We’d love to hear what you think when you try the recipes we’ve suggested. And we’d especially like to hear how you are planning to create warmth and routine into your fall feasts.
xo – ace & lb
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