How to Eat in Summer, According to Ayurveda

Summer is the pitta time of year—when pitta dosha, consisting of the fire and water elements, rules. Pitta is one of the three Ayurvedic doshas, or qualities, and each person’s unique constitution contains all three—although typically one quality predominates.

In hot temperatures, pitta can get out of balance, leading to skin irritation, indigestion, nausea, and frustration. What we eat can either exacerbate or ease pitta. “According to Ayurveda, cooling foods are not necessarily colder in temperature; rather, they have a cooling energy,” says Lauren Gernady, faculty for the Kripalu School of Ayurveda.

Here are six tips for choosing foods that cool your body and calm your mood.

Put the lime in the coconut. Larissa Hall Carlson, Kripalu Schools faculty member and Ayurvedic practitioner, recommends drinking lots of water and coconut water, with a squeeze or several slices of lime. 

Go for the greens. Choose leafy greens with a bitter, astringent flavor, like watercress, arugula, spinach, and kale. Other great foods for balancing pitta include cucumber, cantaloupe, watermelon, and berries.

Steer clear of pitta-aggravating foods. These include overly salty, oily, fried, and spicy foods, including onions, garlic, processed, and canned foods, says Erin Casperson, former Dean of the Kripalu School of Ayurveda.

Add herbs to your meals. Mint, cilantro, and basil all have cooling properties, and are surprisingly nutritious, too. “Basil and other green herbs are incredibly balancing biochemically,” says Kripalu faculty member and nutritionist Annie B. Kay. “Those wonderful flavors in herbs come from their volatile oils and flavones—phytonutrients with anti-inflammatory and cancer-preventing qualities.” Try this Cilantro-Mint Chutney.

Lay off the iced coffee. “Caffeine is very stimulating and dehydrating,” says Hilary Garivaltis, Kripalu presenter and executive director of the National Ayurvedic Medical Association. Instead, go for herbal teas, and wait until the ice melts before you sip, as ice dampens the digestive fire.

Try this balancing spice blend. 

Sprinkle this cooling combo on your yogurt, cereal, fruit salad, or grilled vegetables.

3 tablespoons cumin seeds
3 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
2 tablespoons ground turmeric

Over medium-low heat, dry-roast the cumin, coriander, and fennel seeds for two minutes, or until they release their fragrance. (Learn more about dry-roasting spices.) Add the ground turmeric, and roast for 30 seconds more. Immediately place on a plate to cool. Once the spices have cooled, grind together in a coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle. Store spice blend in an airtight glass jar.