You don’t need a thermometer to tell you how hot it is. The way you feel – limp, languid and dripping with perspiration – is enough. It’s summer, the season in which the energy called pitta predominates in the environment, and you feel it in every way.
Pitta is a cosmic energy that has several properties. It is hot, dry, dehydrating, transforming, radiating or glowing and has a high level of force. Pitta is one of a triad of cosmic energies – the other two being kapha and vata. These energies are present in all matter and life forms, including humans and food products.
When the pitta energy dominates the environment, you get a hot and dry summer. When it dominates a personality, you get someone who is characterised by leadership traits, glowing skin (though prone to acne) and a sharp temper. Among foodstuffs, eggs and garam masalas are pitta-predominant, and maladies like acidity and ulcers are caused by pitta. Health problems can arise when we eat pitta-predominant foods such as eggs, meats and garam masalas in a pitta season like summer. So here is a guide to the foods that are best for this season.
All cereals don’t have a cooling effect on your body, so it’s important to know what you’re eating. Cereals that cool your body must be high in kapha (coolness and moistness) which balances pitta (heat) and vata (air – in this season, hot air). These include:
Rice: Rice has a high water content and is easily digested. Natural rice is rich in iron and vitamin B complex and is a good source of healthy carbohydrates. Natural rice is also called brown rice or unpolished rice. You can eat rice as a poha (rice flakes), idli, dosa, and cheela.
Barley: Because its energy is vata-kapha, barley is the complete summer cereal. It is nutritionally rich in phosphorus and also contains calcium and iron. Barley is excellent for ulcer patients, diabetics, those on a weight loss plan and those with weak kidneys or irritable bowel syndrome. Barley is available as round granules that can be boiled and made into a salad. Or you can powder it into an atta and use that to make poora or cheela. You can also add barley atta to your usual atta mixture for chapattis, or mix it with nimbu pani and drink barley (jau) sattu.
Moong: Rich in several minerals (calcium, phosphorus and iron), moong is easily digestible and was traditionally prescribed when digestive fires were weak. Moong is easy on the liver and has cooling properties, which makes it an excellent summer food. You can eat moong dal in several forms. Steam sprouted moong lightly, and have it as a salad with a dressing of olive oil, herbs and lemon juice, mixed with tomatoes, chopped onions and green chilli. Or combine it with rice batter and eat it as a cheela. The traditional rice and moong combination is the khichdi, which is the ayurved prescription for resting the digestive system and improving the liver.
Black channa: This is the traditional staple for people who live in areas where summer temperatures hit 40 degrees and more. Nutritionally, it is rich in iron, magnesium and calcium. You can eat it as a channa sattu, or as a channa chaat – boiled black channa mixed with chopped onions, tomatoes and green chillies.
In summer, fruits are welcome as a source of energy and taste. They tend to be sweet, and the sweet ras is pitta-pacifying. In summer when we sweat a lot and lose body minerals it is helpful to eat summer fruits that not only replenish minerals lost from the body but also provide natural sugar.
The best summer fruits are watermelon, muskmelon, mango, sweet lime, pomegranate, strawberries and cherries.
Watermelon and muskmelon: Because it is rich in vitamin A, riboflavin, niacin, phosphorus and potassium, and also contains natural sugar, watermelon helps you cool down in the summer heat. Muskmelon has similar properties.
Sweet lime ( mausambi ): Rich in vitamins C and B complex, it is easily digestible and because it is mild, it can be consumed by small children, old people and even unwell people.
Pomegranate (anar): Mineral-rich.
Lemon (nimbu): Ideal for summer because it has a cooling prakriti that helps the body maintain its alkaline balance (though lemon is a citrus fruit and hence acidic, its post-digestive effect is alkaline). Lemon is a rich source of vitamin C which builds immunity.
Very high in fruit sugar and rich in vitamins B and C.
Grapes: High in fruit sugar and alkaline for the body, grapes are cooling and good for the lungs.
Mango: One of the most desired fruits of the summer, it has vitamins B complex and C. But because it is very high in fructose, it must be eaten in moderation if you’re on a weight loss plan, or if you are diabetic. Also, since it is usually matured by a chemical process, the fruit contains a fairly high level of chemicals.
Ideally, you should eat fruit fresh and whole, but if you’re not a fruit lover, here are some alternatives:
Watermelon juice with a dash of rock salt and mint
Sweet lime and pineapple juice with kala namak
Papaya smoothie or papaya juice with a twist of lemon juice and black salt
Fruit salad cocktail with a dressing of olive oil and lemon juice
All salads and vegetables available in summer are appropriate for the season.
Cucumber: Cucumber and cucumber seeds are good for gout.
Aubergine (baigan): Very filling and good for weight loss. Try roasting them and using them in raitas.
Tori and tinda (tendli): Have high water content and are good for the liver.
Kaddu and lauki (bottle gourd): Easily digestible and can be used in raitas.
Karela: Good for diabetics and excellent for the liver and skin.
Broccoli: Good source of calcium.
Tomato: Contains lycopene, which heals the skin.
Potato: One tablespoon of raw potato juice mixed with lauki juice is a good treatment for arthritis.
Spinach (palak): Rich in iron and fibre.
Beans (flat beans, french beans, etc): Good for heart patients.
Lady finger (bhindi): Good source of fibre.
Onion: Prevents heat exhaustion.
Arbi: Rich in minerals, avoidable if you are diabetic or are on a weight loss plan.
Jimmikand (yam): Rich in minerals and vitamin A.
Sweating is connected to the nerves and hormones. Teenagers and menopausal women tend to sweat most. People also sweat when they are anxious or nervous because nerves in the body activate the hormonal system.
A big meal will over-activate the nervous system. Fatty, rich, greasy and non-veg food cause excessive sweating; fruits, salads and veggies cool the body.
Use aromatherapy oils of menthol and eucalyptus on your wrists and neck.
Drink nimbu pani and other cooling beverages.
Do sheetali pranayam daily.
Women can apply chandan paste on their bodies weekly.
Knock these back
Aam panna: Raw mango is very cooling
Khus sherbet: Khus has cooling properties
Bael sherbet: Famous for cooling the body
Thandai: The name says it all
Rose sherbet: Rose serves as a mood lifter and a laxative too
Lassi: Add roasted jeera to improve digestibility
Coconut water: Excellent to re-hydrate yourself
Lauki & sweet lime juice: Good for the liver, jaundice, typhoid and ulcers
Some ideas for salads
Moong sprouts salad with anar and peanuts
Potato and corn salad with hung curd dressing
Kala channa salad
Garden salad with cucumber, cherry tomatoes, olives, gherkins, bell peppers and balsamic dressing
Broccoli, baby corn, cherry tomato and cottage cheese with olive oil and balsamic dressing
Cold soup ideas
Chilled avocado & cilantro soup
Chilled beet soup
Sweet & spicy soup with black-eyed peas and sweet potato
Green peas, potato and mint soup
Creamed broccoli and mushroom soup
Pick your menu
Early morning: Two glasses of water or herbal tea without milk
Breakfast: Lauki & mausambi juice and fruit mixed with papaya
Lunch: Barley and wheat atta roti plus 2 summer veggies
Evening: Lassi / bael sherbet / khus sherbet
Dinner: Steamed sprouts, broccoli and bell peppers salad in olive oil and lemon dressing
Early morning: Water, light tea
Breakfast: Multi-grain toast with green chutney and papaya
Lunch: Potato, corn and barley salad with bell peppers and balsamic vinegar dressing
Evening: Nimbu pani / ice tea
Dinner: Cold soup and wholewheat pasta salad
Early morning: Water followed by herb tea of choice
Breakfast: Steamed idli with green chutney
Lunch: Boiled black channa chaat with light lassi / nimbu pani
Dinner: Green salad with a cold soup
Sheetali pranayam cools the body and relaxes nerves. Stick out your tongue, roll it into a tube-like shape and breathe in through your mouth. Then breathe out through the nostrils.
Breathing through the left and right nostrils alternately also cools the body.
Shavasan, with its muscle relaxation technique, helps the body to relax on command.