During vata season, which goes from late fall into early winter, cool and dry weather becomes more predominant (in the Western hemisphere) and the same transitions we see in nature – the changing colors of the leaves as they fall, the dry and cool air – also occur within our bodies.
Vata season can bring about more dry skin, achy joints, respiratory viruses, dry coughs and mucus, constipation, anxiety, insomnia, and digestive discomfort. Those that have a vata-dominant constitution will be more likely to experience these imbalances.
In addition, appetite naturally peaks during the autumn months as the body prepares to insulate for the cooler weather. The blood gets pushed deeper into the body to protect the vital organs, leaving the extremities more cold and dry. With more blood pumping to the stomach, appetite increases. Planning to diet during this time may not be them most ideal, especially for those that already have vata imbalance or are vata dominant. Eating a healthy Ayurvedic diet of heavier, rich foods in moderation may be the better approach.
According to Ayurveda, the primary way to bring the body back into balance is through the principles of opposites. A vata balancing diet will include more warm, cooked, unctuous foods and less cold, raw, dry foods.
Ayurveda also classifies foods according to the six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, astringent and bitter. Vata pacifying foods include the tastes: Sweet, Sour and Salty.
Naturally sweet foods include in season fruit, root vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, oils and dairy (not sugar!)
Some raw fruit is ok, however, stewed or baked fruit (such as apples or pears) are much easier on the digestive system and offers the added warmth and sweetness needed to pacify vata. Stewed apples help to increase ojas in the body – the subtle life essence that is said to be the end product of perfect digestion. Additional fruits appropriate for a vata balancing diet are peaches, plums, mangos, papayas, grapes, avocados, oranges and bananas.
Root vegetables are an ideal food for vata season as they are rich in the vitamins, antioxidants and nutrients we need to sustain a healthy immune system, such as beta carotene and Vitamin C. It’s best to eat your vegetables well cooked instead of raw during this time. However, if you do eat raw foods, try to eat them mid-day when digestion is the strongest. It is recommended to add ghee or oil to all vegetables to support digestion and nourishment in a healthy Ayurvedic diet for vata.
Choose whole grains that are naturally sweet and easy to digest such as rice, oats, amaranth, quinoa and sprouted wheat. Avoid the more rough, dry grains such as oat bran, corn, rye, granola, crackers, cold cereal, barley and buckwheat. For added digestive support stir some ghee or oil into your grains when cooked.
Most organic dairy is vata-pacifying and appropriate for this time of year (however, as we begin to approach kapha season, where colds and congestion can predominate, you may benefit from reducing it.) Fresh yogurt, milk, eggs and soft cheeses are all vata-pacifying. If you drink milk, make sure you boil it with a pinch of some warming spices such as turmeric, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and/or nutmeg and drink it warm. This is the optimal way to drink milk for ease of digestion and absorption of nutrients.
FATS AND OILS
Healthy fats and oils such as ghee, olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, sesame oil and nuts and seeds help to provide the additional insulation and grounding the body needs to offset vata’s cool and airy qualities. Sesame seeds, walnuts and pecans are especially warming (and delicious!) Fats and oils also help to support digestion, lubricate the joints to stave off pain and keep the skin moisturized.
LEGUMES AND BEANS
Lentils are sweet, but astringent, so should be cooked with some oil and spices to support Vata.
Due to the drying nature of vata, it is important to adequately hydrate. Reduce or avoid diuretics such as coffee and alcohol as they are ungrounding and depleting to the body.
Spices and herbs don’t just taste delicious, they also help with digestion and contain essential antioxidants that keep the immune system strong. Our Authentic Chyawanprash™ jam contains 35 different ingredients, including spices, botanicals and herbs, along with linoleic-rich fats. It is excellent for overall immune support, but especially great as a respiratory tonic.
It’s not just what you eat that impacts your health, but how you eat it. During vata season, and for those prone to vata imbalance, regularity is the key taming vata's scattered and ungrounded energy. Eat at regular times throughout the day. Sleep and wake at regular times throughout the day and do your best to maintain as consistent of a schedule as possible.
What are your favorite vata balancing diet dishes for fall? Share them with us in the comments section below!