Summer is the season of pitta, the body's fire principle. Pitta's qualities are hot, light, mobile, sharp, and oily. It governs the heat in the body and it is primarily responsible for digestion, perception, and intelligence. Because pitta shares many of the same qualities as summer, it is more common for our bodies and minds to suffer from conditions resulting from aggravated pitta during the summer months. As it gets hotter, pitta-type physical imbalances such as inflammations, infections, skin irritations, hyperacidity, heat rashes, and diarrhea are more common, and pitta-type emotional imbalances such as impatience, anger, and intolerance are experienced more often.
Simple adjustments in our diet and lifestyle will help us avoid these conditions and maintain a state of balance.
- As a general rule, select foods and drinks that are naturally sweet, bitter, and/or astringent.
- Limit or avoid things that are pungent, salty, and sour especially: hot spices (such as cayenne, garlic, dry ginger, mustard seed, and hing), breads that contain yeast, fermented foods, caffeine, and alcohol.
- Drink six to eight glasses of cool water per day. In Ayurveda, it is believed that extremely cold or iced drinks extinguish the digestive fire. For optimum health, it is best to take all drinks cool, warm, or at room temperature.
- Enjoy sweet fruits like apples and berries rather than sour or citrus fruits.
- Eat plenty of sweet and bitter vegetables like cucumbers, spinach, celery, and zucchini rather than pungent veggies like raw onions, hot peppers, and tomatoes.
- Choose white, wild, or basmati rice rather than brown rice and go for quinoa, barley, and bran rather than rye, corn, and millet.
- If you can tolerate dairy products, use ghee, cow's milk, goat's milk, unsalted butter, and unsalted cheese. Ice cream is ok, on occasion. If you are prone to congestion or weight gain it may be better to avoid it. Sour cream, buttermilk, and salted dairy products are not recommended, especially during the summer.
- If you eat animal products, do so moderately, and try to limit it to the white meat of chicken or turkey, freshwater fish, or egg whites.
- Use an abundance of cooling spices like cilantro and fennel. Avoid heating spices like cayenne, chili peppers, and mustard seeds. Fresh ginger is ok, but do not use dried ginger. Sprinkling coconut on foods is also a cooling treat.
- If you eat nuts, choose almonds. Soak and peel them for healthiest results.
- If you drink alcohol, choose beer and dry white wine, in moderation.
- Chamomile, dandelion, fennel, licorice, and mint teas are best. Coffee and yerba mate are not recommended. If you drink coffee, add cardamom to support digestion and bring a sweet quality to the coffee.