Ayurvedic healing rests on the simple, yet profound principle that like increases like and opposites decrease each other (or, as Hippocrates wisely put it, “opposites are the cure for opposites”). So to find balance during the hot summer (Pitta) days, you may counteract the warm weather by including more of what Ayurveda considers “cooling” foods, while limiting or avoiding “heating” foods. For example, water with cucumber slices and mint leaves (think spa water) is an excellent all-day everyday summer beverage to cool and calm, along with a coconut-mint-lime cooler (recipe below).
- Heavier whole grains (rice, wheat)
- Root vegetables (sweet potatoes, carrots)
- Natural sweeteners
- Sweet fruits such as bananas, mangoes, and melons
They are, in general, cooling in nature. Bitter foods are cooling as well as detoxifying. These include almost all of the leafy greens (kale, collards, dandelion greens, etc.). Astringent foods are also cooling, and all legumes (lentils and beans) fall in this category. Also astringent are cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, etc.), most raw vegetables, jicama, pomegranate, and cranberries.
Tastes to be used in moderation or to be avoided during the fiery (Pitta) summer, especially by those who have a lot more fire (Pitta dosha) in their constitutions, are the tastes that have the element of fire in them. These include the pungent, sour, and salty tastes. Pungent spices include cayenne, black pepper, horseradish, garlic, and onions. Sour-tasting foods include citrus fruits, lemons, vinegar, and tomatoes (especially tangy Roma). Salty foods include all types of salts, soy sauce, and tamari.
Examples of cooling foods (that you should indulge in during summer) include:
- Grains: Basmati rice (white), quinoa, and oats
- Fruits: Melons (especially watermelon), grapes, berries, pears, and avocados
- Vegetables: Cucumber, summer squashes (zucchini), celery, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, and leafy greens
- Herbs: Cilantro, mint, and dill
- Legumes: Most legumes and beans, especially mung beans (whole and split), red lentils, and chickpeas
- Nuts: Coconut is especially cooling in all its forms, including water, oil, and pulp
- Seeds: Pumpkin and sunflower
Examples of heating foods (that you should use less of or avoid during summer) include:
- Hot spices or excessive use of spices
- Fried foods
- Tomatoes (especially the tangy kind, like Roma)
- Fermented foods (kimchi, sauerkraut)
- Sour citrus fruits (and in excess)
- Nuts (especially in excess)
Include the three Cs in your summer diet—generously use cucumber, cilantro, and coconut to stay calm and cool. Here are five easy-to-prepare cooling summer recipes featuring the 3Cs and more Pitta-pacifying summer produce and foods (four dishes and one beverage). Make and serve each dish as a stand-alone or as a side. Together, these recipes make a complete, delicious, and well-balanced meal.
Zucchini and Dill Pilaf
A simple and delicious grain dish with one of summer’s bounty—zucchini.
- 3/4 cup white basmati rice, rinsed and strained
- 1/4 cup quinoa, rinsed and strained
- 1/2 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
- 1 1/2–2 cups grated zucchini
- 1/2 cup chopped dill
- 2–3 tablespoons organic coconut oil
- 2 cups water
- Salt to taste
Melt the coconut oil in a saucepan over medium flame. When the oil is warm, add the ginger and stir for 10–15 seconds until fragrant.
Add the rice and quinoa and stir for 30–40 seconds coating them with the oil-ginger mixture. Add the water, stir well, and let mixture come to a boil. Add the grated zucchini and stir. Cover with lid, reduce heat, and simmer for 10–12 minutes.
Add the dill and salt to taste, gently stirring with a fork. Cover.
Serve warm with coconut vegetable curry, green chutney, and green summer salad (recipes below).
Coconut Vegetable Curry
A satisfying sweet potato and chickpea stew chock-full of seasonal summer veggies and healing spices.
- 1 cup dried chickpeas (garbanzo)
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon sliced ginger
- 1 can organic chickpeas (garbanzo) (rinsed at least a couple of times and drained)
- 2 cups sliced sweet potatoes/yams
- 1 cup chopped green beans
- 1 cup broccoli florets
- 1 cup sliced carrots
- 2–3 cups seasonal greens
- 3–4 tablespoons coconut oil
- 3/4–1 cup coconut milk (fresh/organic canned)
- Water as needed
- 2″ piece ginger
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1/4 jalapeno
- 1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds
- 1 tablespoon whole fennel seeds
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- Salt to taste
If cooking dried beans, rinse well, cover them with water and soak overnight. Strain, rinse again, place them in a large pot, and add water (at least 3 – 4 cups for every cup of dried beans.) Cook on the stovetop or pressure-cook—with turmeric and ginger. Pressure cooking and cooking with spices improve digestibility of beans. Beans (all legumes, lentils) should always be very well-cooked (soft and sometimes even mushy to improve digestibility).
Add the oil to the pan (medium flame). Add the whole coriander and fennel; stir for 5 seconds, until sizzling and fragrant. Add the ginger, garlic and jalapeno mixture and stir for 1–2 minutes—until the raw smell dissipates.
Add the sweet potatoes/yams and stir to coat with spices. Add the ground spices (cinnamon and turmeric). Stir to coat the sweet potatoes. Cover the pan.
Allow the sweet potatoes to cook for 12–14 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes. Add a little water (1/4 cup) as needed (if the dish starts sticking to the bottom of the pan). Add the green beans, broccoli, and the carrots.
Stir and cover the pan with a lid.
Cook for another 8–10 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes. Add the chickpeas and coconut milk then stir. Add additional water if required for a stew-like consistency.
Cover with lid and let the mixture cook for 3–4 minutes. Add greens 3–5 minutes before turning the stove off, depending on the cooking time of the greens. Check to ensure vegetables and greens are cooked just right.
Add salt and stir.
Serve with basmati rice/quinoa for a complete meal.
Refreshing Summer Salad
Summer’s bounty in a bowl–greens, herbs, cucumbers, and tomatoes.
Ingredients for salad:
- 4 cups chopped romaine lettuce or torn butter lettuce
- 2 Persian cucumbers, sliced
- 2 sticks of celery, sliced
- 2 scallions, sliced
- 12–16 sweet cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 cup diced avocado
- 1/4 cup each chopped cilantro, parsley and mint
Ingredients for dressing:
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Juice of 1 medium lime
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- Salt and pepper to taste
In a small bowl whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing. Combine all the ingredients for the salad in a big bowl. Add dressing and gently mix the salad.
An herbaceous and mildly sweet and spicy condiment to enliven any meal.
- 1 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- 1/2 cup mint leaves
- 1/2 jalapeno
- 1″ ginger
- 1 garlic clove (optional)
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds (whole)
- 2 medjool dates or 1 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
- Juice of 1/2 lime
- Water as required (approximately 1/4 cup)
- Salt to taste
Pureé all the ingredients in a blender.
This chutney (spicy condiment) is a version of the versatile traditional Indian green chutney. Use as an accompaniment/condiment to rice and vegetable dishes (such as the one above) as a spread, marinade, or dip. Consider using it in cucumber sandwiches as a spread.
Refreshing mocktail perfect for hot summer days.
- 4 cups coconut water (preferably fresh/raw/organic)
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1/4 cup mint leaves
- Sugar to taste (optional)
Combine the ingredients in a pitcher and stir. You can also blend the ingredients in a blender, for a stronger tasting beverage.
Keep the ‘dog days’ of summer at bay, and remain ‘cool as a cucumber’, by including these cooling, hydrating, and calming foods in your diet as much as possible. Feel the difference for yourself. I wish you all happy cooking & eating, and a very happy summer!
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