Winter for Pitta

Banyan Operations & Research, Erin Johnson


You may be among those who love the winter months. The cold, heavy, and slow qualities of the winter season balance your internal heat, lightness, and the sharp, penetrating nature of your mind. You can take advantage of the winter season to clear out any lingering pitta and truly reset your baseline for health.

Foods to Favor

Your body will probably do well following the general recommendations for a winter diet. Foods that will be especially supportive include berries, soaked prunes, soaked raisins, asparagus, green beans, leeks, okra, rutabaga, amaranth, basmati rice, seitan, ghee, warm milk, and sunflower seeds. While you will be able to tolerate more spices than usual during the winter months, be sure to use plenty of your pitta-friendly standbys: cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, fennel, fresh ginger, mint, parsley, saffron, tarragon, turmeric, and vanilla. Of the herb teas recommended for the winter, the CCF Tea (Cumin, Coriander, and Fennel) will be the most appropriate for your system.

Acceptable Seasonal Indulgences

This is the one time of year when you can probably tolerate some of the heating foods that would normally be too much for your fiery nature: eggs, meats, an occasional glass of dry red wine, caffeinated teas, a cup of coffee or espresso, or a bit more fire and spice in your meals. You’ll also do well with some sweet, nourishing treats like Hot Spiced Chai or Maple Tapioca.

Foods to Minimize

While you can certainly eat them in moderation during the winter, don’t overdo sour, heating foods like bananas, cranberries, grapes, grapefruit, pineapple, tamarind, cooked spinach, miso, hard cheeses, and sour cream. Fermented foods, trikatu, and the recommended herbal teas with dried ginger, cinnamon, clove, or black pepper may also prove too heating for you, especially if you tend toward excess acidity.

Lifestyle Adjustments

Chances are, your life is already full of a sharp sense of focus and purpose, so rather than enhancing those qualities this winter, see if you can ease into the softness of the season. Relax your expectations a bit, slow down, and try to receive the gentleness ushered in by the winter season. A sense of routine will be very beneficial for you, and be sure to build in some time for stillness and solitude. For your morning oil massage, you may find that sesame oil is too heating for your skin and scalp. If this is the case, you can cut your Sesame Oil with half Sunflower Oil or Coconut Oil. The cold weather will allow you to indulge your athletic drive and push yourself a bit harder, but try to release any attachment to your level of performance and maintain an attitude of relaxed effort instead. For yoga, incorporate plenty of standing poses, twists, and cultivate a sense of surrender in your practice with some forward folds. You may be able to do some gentle inversions during the winter but be watchful for excess heat rising into your head. If you practice pranayama, Surya Bhedana (Solar Breath) may be a bit much for you, so favor Nadi Shodana (Alternate Nostril Breathing), Kapalabhati (Skull Shining Breath), and Bhastrika (Bellows Breath). In the evening, retire closer to 10 p.m., before your mind becomes activated by the heightened pitta in the atmosphere at this time of night. And, if you feel like you’re getting too much sleep, feel free to rise before 7 a.m.