Nature’s pantry works to a twelve month cycle. This is helpful to remember when we’re considering our dietary needs. Rather than approaching our diet from the narrow perspective of today or this week, a more appropriate way is to look at obtaining the full range from “the pantry” over an entire year.
When we tune into the seasons and the rhythms that move through the twelve month cycle, we find ourselves in the flow of the perfection that is nature, and in touch with our own inner nature and nutritional needs.
Cooling Foods in Summer Heat
In the summer when the sun’s heat causes heat to accumulate within the body, it’s ideal to reduce your intake of warming foods like red meat, garlic, raw onions and tomatoes…these foods will only add to the heat and aggravate pitta dosha. Instead, focus on foods that counter the heat by cooling the system such as cucumbers, leafy greens, and coconut in its many forms. When the weather takes a dive towards the end of autumn, it’s the perfect time to begin reintroducing these warming foods, just when the body needs them.
We are talking here about the thermal nature of foods. Food energetics has been an essential missing piece in modern nutrition, but seasonal eating is also about the things we are more familiar with like proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.
Carbohydrate and Protein Habits
In summer, make the focus on carbohydrates in the form of seasonal fruit and vegetables, and appropriate grains and legumes. Eat the foods that are naturally abundant at this time. In the days of the hunter/gatherer, the need for hunting was reduced when plant food was plentiful.
Another reason for decreasing the focus on protein in summer is to do with our digestive strength. Proteins and fats are harder to break down than most carbohydrates, and when the sun is high in the sky and the temperatures soar, our internal fire of digestion wanes. We simply do not have the digestive capacity to process large amounts of heavy protein. Certain legumes and white meats are appropriate forms of protein during the summer but keep it to around 10% of the diet, which is generally enough to sustain. As winter kicks in, up the amount of protein and fats in your diet and reduce your carbohydrate intake to maintain balance.
Balancing Hot and Cold, Heavy and Light.
Let’s look at wheat. Wheat is a building food. It is cold and heavy in nature, and as such is difficult to digest.
Wheat is a nourishing grain and good to include in the diet (except in the case of Celiac), however its benefits are more likely to be recognised when eaten in late autumn through winter, when digestive fire is strong, and the body is building.
In moderation, wheat is also good in summer as it cools and nourishes, although it can tend to weigh you down if eaten in excess.
In spring however, the body is in cleansing mode. Eating wheat at this time of year interrupts the cleansing process and is likely to leave you feeling heavy and fatigued.
The same is true of dairy…it’s a building food. Cow’s milk has qualities similar to wheat and is best to avoid in spring when the body is cleansing. Its cold nature makes it good for summer heat (when prepared and consumed appropriately), and it can be taken well into winter when paired with warming spices to counter the cold aspect.