Ayurvedic medicine advises that we eat in accordance with the seasons. Eating with the seasons, of course, entails eating whole, organic foods that have been locally grown and freshly picked. However, eating with the seasons also requires that we support and pacify our doshas in a way that compliments prevailing weather patterns. The pitta dosha, for example, governs heat. We feel pitta’s energy more strongly in the months of July, August, and September. In Hawaii’s hot climate, though, we must be conscientious of pacifying pitta energy throughout the year. And that means eating the body cooling foods Ayurveda prescribes in hot weather.
The Significance of Consuming the Body Cooling Foods Ayurveda Prescribes
Why is it so essential to consume the body cooling foods Ayurveda recommends? Pitta energy is not inherently bad; it promotes proper digestion and assimilation and supports a healthy, efficient metabolism. But when the weather gets hot, pitta energy goes into overdrive. The accumulation of excess heat in the body can cause pitta-induced inflammatory conditions. These include, but are not limited to, irritated skin, rashes, acne, heartburn, anger, and irritability.
In Ayurvedic medicine, food is the greatest healer. Eating pitta-stimulating foods, like heavy, oily, or spicy foods can exacerbate pitta during hot months. It is thus essential to eat the pitta pacifying, body cooling foods Ayurveda recommends during hot times to prevent illness.
It is important to note that cooling foods are not always cold in the literal sense. Rather, they have cooling energy, pacifying the hot and fiery energy that pitta releases in the body. Below are a few body cooling foods Ayurveda prescribes for hot days, and that are therefore essential to consume regularly in Hawaii’s hot tropical climate.
Fruits and Fruit Juices
Most fruits and fruit juices are among the body cooling foods Ayurveda recommends. Their high water content and refreshing taste cool and pacify pitta energy, amplifying vata and balancing the body’s doshic forces. Grapes, melons, and pineapples are particularly pitta pacifying. Lucky for us, pineapples are quite abundant in Hawaii! For others living in Hawaii, consuming star fruit, sugar cane juice, and papaya can help cool the body on hot days.
Fruits are also excellent because they are sweet, and sweet foods balance pitta. Sweet fruits like cherries, pears, mangoes, cucumber, and zucchini are thus excellent choices on a hot day. Avoid sour fruits like citrus, which can increase pitta energy.
Again, be wary that cool does not mean ice-cold. Consuming foods or beverages that are too cold dampens the digestive fire, slowing metabolism. While you want to pacify your pitta fire, you don’t want to completely put it out! A drink at or just below room temperate is best for cooling the body and balancing the doshas.
Dairy is also among the body cooling foods Ayurveda recommends. Butter, milk, and ghee are all cooling, nourishing, and nutrient-dense foods that effectively pacify pitta energy. Ensure that you are consuming these foods at cooler temperatures to maximize their pitta pacifying capacities.
It is important to note that not all forms of dairy are created equal, especially in pacifying pitta energy. While other dairy products like sour cream and yogurt might be cooling, they are also sour. Sour foods can actually exacerbate pitta energy and thus produce heat in the body. Furthermore, non-organic varieties of milk, butter, and ghee contain higher levels of toxins, or ama. High ama increases the likelihood of doshic imbalance and can thus aggravate pitta in some individuals. Be sure to source your dairy organically and, if possible, locally.
There are several herbs that qualify as body cooling foods Ayurveda embraces. The most obvious, of course, is mint. A room-temperature tea made from boiling fresh mint is an excellent well to cool pitta energy and, by extension, ease inflammation. But there are other herbs and spices that work to cool the body as well. These include fennel and coriander, which can both be incorporated into cooling, healing dishes or made into teas. Rose petals, too, are cooling. Rosewater in cool, lightly sweetened milk makes for a delightfully delicious, pitta mitigating drink.
Ayurvedic medicine also considers whole grains body cooling foods. Foods like rice and bread are thus excellent choices on a hot day. They’re even better if they’re cold, as in a cold cut sandwich or chilled rice dish. Grains are also sweet foods, meaning they balance and pacify pitta’s sour quality.
Like dairy, not all grains are equal. Organic whole grains are best for cooling the body because they are lower in dosha-aggravating ama. Grains should be properly cooked as well to ensure digestibility and proper assimilation. And grains with added salt can actually aggravate pitta, so check the sodium content of whole grain products before consuming them in the heat.