A cooling summertime meal


When temperatures rise outside, pitta can heat up inside, causing irritability, excess sweating and anger, among other symptoms. What "food as medicine" should you reach for to find balance? The answer is in the Ayurvedic concept of virya, the warming and cooling effects of foods.

What are cooling and warming foods?

What we eat affects our bodies and minds for hours and days after. If you are feeling hot and irritable during the summer, eating heating foods, such as chili peppers or fermented foods will further increase pitta dosha and make the heat and irritation worse. Likewise, if you are feeling fearful and anxious in the cold of winter, eating cooling foods, such as cucumber or coconut, will cause even greater vata dosha imbalance and increased fear and anxiety.

As you seek to understand virya, remember that the property of cooling is different than a cold temperature, and the property of warming is different than a hot temperature. Foods with cooling properties can be eaten warm and still bring balance to pitta.

Favoring cooling foods in the heat of summer adds a powerful dimension to using food as medicine. As always, there are exceptions – if you feel cool in the summertime, eating cooling foods can send you more out of balance. Schedule a health consultation to create a personalized plan for your unique state of health.

Summer foods to balance pitta

As the weather heats up, there are many cooling foods to choose from. Some of our favorites include:

  • Coconut (all forms: oil, water, flakes, etc.)

  • Mint

  • Hibiscus

  • Cilantro

  • Coriander

  • Fennel

  • Cardamom

  • Adzuki beans

  • Mung beans

  • White basmati rice

  • Steel cut oats

  • Wheat

  • Cucumber

  • Bitter greens (kale, collards, dandelion)

  • Zucchini

  • Summer squash

  • Sweet potatoes

  • Fruit (astringent and sweet fruits, such as dates, berries, apples, pears and mangos. Sour fruits, such as grapefruit and pineapple, are more warming)

  • Milk (including ghee and paneer)

We’ve included a pitta-pacifying recipe that includes several of these cooling foods: adzuki beans, coconut oil, fennel and coriander. Serve this with chapati and sautéed zucchini and kale and you have a complete pitta-balancing meal. Set up a table in the shade of a backyard tree and share this meal with pleasant company.

Summertime supper of cooling adzuki beans

Serves 4
Preparation time: 35 minutes

You’ll need

2 Tbsp. coconut oil

1/2 cup adzuki beans, soaked overnight

1/16 tsp. asafoetida (just enough to fit on the tip of a knife)

½ tsp. mineral salt

3 tsp. fennel powder

2 tsp. coriander powder

3 tsp. fresh grated ginger

Here’s how

Pressure cooker method

Warm coconut oil in a pressure cooker over medium heat. Add asafoetida, fennel powder, coriander, ginger and salt. Cook 1 to 2 minutes until the aroma comes up. Drain the soaked adzuki beans and add to the pressure cooker, stirring well to coat with spices and oil. Add water to cover the beans by about 1/8th inch. Cover and bring to pressure. Reduce heat and cook for about 22 minutes, or until the beans are soft. Allow the pot to return to pressure naturally. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Regular pot method

Follow recipe above, but add additional water to cover beans by about an inch. Boil for about an hour, or until tender.

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