During the golden season of Autumn, according to Ayurveda, strength, energy and vibrant health are maintained by increasing the elements of Fire and Water in ourselves to counter the increase of the Air element in the Fall environment. We increase this “fire” by eating warm, cooked meals, seasoned with sweet, pungent spices, and including sour tastes as well.
Before we go any further, it is helpful to know your Dosha and the role it plays in each seasons. For a quick overview or refresher, please see my post “What’s Your Dosha?“
Sour taste is the best to warm Vata as it combines fire and water, the two primary elements that balance Vata. Fermented foods give the sour taste. Examples are capers, olives, pickles, miso, tempeh, tamari, sauer kraut and other cultured vegetables, kefir, sour cream, crème fraiche, yogurt, buttermilk, aged cheeses especially from goat or sheep’s milk, and wine. Cheese and wine, however, are high in histamines so avoid them if you are intolerant or have seasonal allergies.
The pungent taste, composed of fire and air, is more drying and therefore should be used in moderation. For Vata conditions, use “sweet spices” as the sweetness balances the drying quality of the “fire” in the spice. Excellent Autumn spices include ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, black pepper, Himalayan salt (in small amounts), cumin, coriander, caraway, fenugreek. Ginger is the ideal spice for Vata. It is gentle on the belly, yet gives a powerful boost to the digestive fires.
Most aromatic compounds in spices are lipophilic, which means they tend to combine with or dissolve in lipids or fats far better than in water. Sautéing in ghee or oil, therefore, not only enhances fragrance, but also extracts flavor and healing properties to the oil, which can then be dispersed throughout the food efficiently. The oil in the food then carries the potency of the spices to the deeper tissues of your body for optimal efficacy.
Remember spices are like medicine. When used properly they can nurture, restore, strengthen and heal.
Heating your spices and cooking your food in moderate amounts of ghee or oil increases the Ojas, or “water” element in the body that gives longevity, endurance, immune strength, and a reparative, rejuvenative action that combats stress.
Nourishing Ojas is also gained from foods that are sweet in taste, including root vegetables, fruits such as apples, pears, figs, dates, grapes and raisins, all grains, dairy products including cheese (paneer, cottage cheese are light and easy to digest), cream and yogurt, nuts and seeds.
Cooking your food is essential this season to warm the body. It is also like giving a little rest to your digestive fire ~ all of which is a great reminder that Autumn is a time to turn within, to warm and to rest.
Observe nature and learn from her. These days she is conserving her energy. How can you follow her example? What helps you root in, enjoy stillness, and quietly move through life with that gentle stability that conserves energy?
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