Tips for Winter to Spring Seasonal Eating in Ayurveda
One basic yet profound teaching of Ayurveda, the wisdom of life, is remembering that we are a reflection of nature. The elements of Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth are the building blocks of life and are all inherently within us and outside of us. In a culture of doing, it might be easy to miss the transitions of the seasons and how that affects us physically, emotionally and mentally. The transition from Winter to Spring can be tricky as they are complete opposites in many ways.
The energy of Winter or (Vata season) when Air and Ether are dominant, is cold, rough, dry, mobile and light. The earth during this time is providing us with heavy, nourishing root vegetables like sweet potatoes, squashes, and brussels sprouts. Using more ghee and high quality fats like avocado can be helpful. It’s also the season to incorporate more wheat, dairy and humanely raised meat if that’s part of your diet. These foods help to balance the rough, dry and light qualities of the season which can show up as dry skin, anxiousness or fear, insomnia or constipation.
Vata season is a time to slow down and get grounded. Sitting by the fire, reading a book and enjoying a hearty soup, fresh baked bread or a casserole most nights is the perfect remedy for balancing the moving, anxious, drying energy of the fall and winter time. The trouble may come when we keep these heavy habits as we transition into the Spring.
Spring is Kapha season, where Earth and Water are dominant. It’s dense, sticky, cold, and heavy. We can start to feel this as nausea or a change in appetite, lethargy, or extra mucus. The earth is beginning to grow pungent, bitter and astringent vegetables like ramps, dandelion greens, mustard greens and asparagus, all meant to melt and counter the heaviness of the season. The Spring season is meant to be a time of movement, changing up our routine from laying on the couch to going for more brisk walks. It’s the time to eat brothy soups with those bitter greens and use more spices like chilis, cayenne, ginger and black pepper. When we incorporate that lightness, warmth, and movement, we are more equipped to combat seasonal allergies, depression, coughs and congestion, as well as improve our digestive strength.
One easy way to be in alignment with yourself and nature is to begin to implement seasonal eating! Check out your local farmers market, a Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) or a local food co-op to gather all of the foods that grow seasonally. You also may want to consider doing a gentle seasonal cleanse. Ayurveda recommends that we cleanse twice a year: in the Fall and in the Spring. In the Fall to release excess heat from the body that accumulated throughout the hot months and in the Spring to release the excess of heaviness that accumulated during the Wintertime. These gentle cleanses prepare our immune system for the coming season, improves digestion, and helps us maintain a healthy weight for our unique body type.
Overall, Ayurveda adheres to the 80/20 rule, meaning 80 percent of the time, eating seasonally and making proper lifestyle choices like yoga and appropriate self care will help keep our health in check. The other 20 percent of the time we may just want to go out to dinner, order pizza, or indulge in your favorite comfort food. While Ayurveda teaches us to listen closely to what our bodies need seasonally, it is very much about the middle path! Enjoying life to its fullest, engaging with nature and ourselves while supporting us with these tools for better balance is the goal of Ayurveda.