The Energetics of Ice Cream, According to Ayurveda

Kripalu School of Ayurveda

It’s ice cream season again! As the days grow longer and New England heats up, so too does our hankering for a massive waffle cone of Milky Way Galaxy—cool, decadent, and delicious.

Sadly, for many of us, eating ice cream can create some uncomfortable consequences: gas, bloating, and all-around digestive distress. Loads of side effects for one afternoon of hedonistic fun.

Fear not! If you savor frequent trips to your local scoop spot, below are a few strategies to make this delicious food more friendly for your body. But, before I provide you with an antidote to the heavy and cold qualities of ice cream, let's geek out with some Ayurvedic theory. Here are the energetics of ice cream.

  • Taste, or rasa = sweet
  • Potency, or virya (how it will affect the temperature of the body) = cold
  • Post-digestive effect, or vipaka = sweet

As a general rule, foods that have a sweet taste are thought to be primarily composed of the elements earth and water. These elements are what give us substance and heft. Ayurveda recommends that we consume all six tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent) at each meal. These six tastes each contain two of the five elements (earth, water, fire, air and ether). By consuming all six tastes, we are also making sure that we get a bite of each element in every spoonful.

Eating too much of any one taste can create an imbalance. For example, eating too much of the sweet flavor will increase kapha dosha. Like the sweet taste, kapha is also composed of the elements earth and water.

Consuming too much of the earth and water elements may lead to the following conditions:

  • Allergies
  • Excess mucus
  • Weight gain
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Lack of motivation
  • Inertia.

Therefore, balance is key.

Due to its cold nature, ice cream will increase both vata and kapha. This is because both doshas lack the fire element. While this chilly dessert will pacify fiery pitta, the production of ama, or toxins, is inevitable.

Ice cream, or really any cold food for that matter, creates toxins because it hampers the strength of the digestive fire. As a result, food is not processed as efficiently, or sometimes at all, which compromises our health.

Unfortunately for Ben and Jerry, cold dairy plus sugar is not the most ideal food combination, according to Ayurveda. However, if you are going to eat ice cream, here are some techniques and remedies to make the experience even more stellar.

  1. Consume your cone during the pitta time of day, roughly between noon and 2:00 pm. (Pitta hours are from 10:00 am and 2:00 pm, but you’re probably not eating ice cream at 10:00 am…right?) This is the time when the sun is at its strongest, as is our digestive capacity. If you opt for ice cream during these hours, you have plenty of time to fully digest it before hitting the hay.
  2. Have a ginger appetizer before you indulge. Take a small knob of ginger root and slice it into thin rounds. Add a squirt of lime juice and a pinch of salt. Consume two or three slices about 15 minutes prior to your cone to get your digestive fire blazing.
  3. Opt for ice cream flavors that incorporate a bit of spice, such as ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, or even cayenne. Flavors like Mexican Chocolate are not only amazing—spicy and cooling at the same time—they also give you the added benefit of digestive support.
  4. Cardamom: Cardamom is thought to be the VIP antidote to ice cream. Due to its mildly pungent and hot nature, it helps balance both cold and sweet foods. When added to dairy products, cardamom helps reduce the production of mucus. You can carry a tiny bag with you and sprinkle it on your ice cream. (Another cardamom tip: Add it to coffee to help neutralize the acidity.)

Try one or try all of these tricks and see how it goes next time you hit the ice cream parlor of your freezer. Your belly will thank you.

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Lauren Gernady is an Ayurvedic Health Counselor, a 500-hour Ayurvedic Yoga Teacher, a graduate of the Kripalu School of Ayurvedic (KSA), and a former intern and Academic Coordinator of KSA.

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