Ayurveda categorizes all things into a balance of vata, pitta, and kapha. These attributes create everything in the universe, including our bodies. Vata is air and space, which have the qualities of movement, are light in weight, and feel dry and rough. Pitta is composed of water and fire, which have qualities that are sharp, hot, and penetrating. While kapha has the qualities of damp, stable, and sticky since it is composed of earth and water.
Seasons of the year are divided into vata, pitta, kapha as well. Late fall and winter have the dry, roughness characterized by vata, so it is considered vata season. Summer and beginning of fall have qualities that are hot and penetrating, so it is considered pitta season. Kapha has the qualities of damp, stickiness and heaviness, which is similar to spring and early summer.
People often fall ill between seasons or when there is a rapid weather change, which makes perfect sense in Ayurveda. In winter we have the strongest digestions due to the dry, rough qualities of winter. Our bodies want heavy, moist foods to relieve the internal dryness in the body and can therefore process this food well. For example roast beef, potatoes, and gravy all offset the light, dry qualities of vata. A richer meal will balance and ground the body. But when springs appears, and we continue to eat these heavy food, mixed with the damp, cold qualities of spring; we get congestion. This often appears as sinusitis/allergies/colds, but is really the onset of too much of the same qualities in our diet as in out body. This is when we must switch to light, dry foods to offset the damp, moist environment.
Kapha favors the bitter, astringent and pungent tastes. Often not the favorite in the American diet, these flavors will keep digestion going rather than getting clogged up with damp, heavy foods that create mucous and congestion. Another important aspect of spring is eating less. A good rule of thumb is to fill the stomach 1/3 full of food, 1/3 full of liquid, and to leave 1/3 empty for optimal digestion. We need less energy in spring, our digestion is weaker, and we don’t want to cause an imbalance due to the heavy shift from dry to damp.
So what are recommendations for a healthy spring/kapha diet?
Pungent: Pungent foods have a spicy, hot flavor like that found in chilies, radishes, turnips, raw onions, and most spices. Spices include: cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, cumin, ginger, garlic, and paprika.
Bitter: The bitter taste predominates bitter greens, like kale, dandelion greens, collard greens, and is also found in bitter melon, Jerusalem artichokes, eggplant, dark chocolate, and in kapha-pacifying spices like cumin, neem leaves, saffron, and turmeric.
Astringent: The astringent taste is the chalky quality found in foods like legumes - chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, pinto beans, and soybeans are classically astringent in taste and very kapha-pacifying. Some fruits, vegetables, grains, baked goods, and spices are also astringent in taste - like apples, cranberries, pomegranate, artichokes, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, popcorn, rice cakes, crackers, basil, coriander, dill, fennel, and parsley.
Suggestions for a kapha diet:
Fruits and vegetables that are cooked are preferred.
Consider 2 meals instead of 3 – do not snack between meals. Incorporate lighter meats, like chicken, fish, shrimp, turkey, and venison. Take a tea or coffee for breakfast. A golden milk latte is an excellent dessert or meal replacement.
There are several Ayurvedic treatments for sinus/allergy sufferers during kapha season. Nasya is a treatment with warm, medicated oil that is applied to the nasal cavity to reduce inflammation and promote healing of the sinuses while the facial area is palpated to promote detoxification and clearing. There are also several herbal formulations that can aid digestions, break down mucous, and support healthy breathing. Throughout the month of April receive 10% off any treatment by mentioning The Tea on Health when you book with Brownsville’s own ayurvedic practitioner, please contact LA Ayurveda at 310-614-3669. Therapies range from $85 to $45 and can be viewed at www.laayurveda.com.