It’s been an abrupt change in the weather these past few days, and clearly fall is here for a while. In the preceding weeks (throughout October, really), I noticed that I was subconsciously preparing and eating a lot more food than I normally would eat, and somehow, there was plenty of need and space for it.
Ayurvedically speaking, I am a true Vata dosha with one of the many characteristics being cold almost all of the time. Fall and winter make this normal chilliness uncomfortably extreme for me. I feel like my bones get so cold it’s actually painful for about 3 months out of the year. It’s progressively gotten more uncomfortable throughout my twenties, and this year, I’m feeling more ready and prepared. For most other folks of a similar constitution I know, they really really love their raw veggies, smoothies, juices and macrobiotic foods throughout the year (and I do too!…most of the time). After experimentation, studying Ayurvedic nutrition and Prakriti, and seeing an Ayurvedic practitioner for several years, I know full well how balancing warming, cooked, nourishing foods can be at certain time of year to warm you up from the inside out, without losing nutrients in the process.
I think there is a slight misconception about losing nutrients/vitamins when we cook our food. In my opinion, steaming, sautéing and stewing our food does not drastically decrease the nutrient content of vegetables and, in most cases, it makes them much easier for the body to digest. Energetically, warming the foods and adding grounding, warm spices (like cinnamon, turmeric sage, ginger and nutmeg) is extremely helpful to balance the body when it is cold, dry and damp outside. Remember my favorite word? – Balance.
So, by fluctuating what we eat throughout the year, we can significantly help to balance our bodies with each season, by eating fresh, crisp raw (or almost raw) vegetables and juices in the spring and summer, and cooked, warming root vegetables in the winter. Rather than sticking with the same diet all year long, making a few changes can significantly help (especially the Vata folks) stay sane and balanced during a very challenging time of year.
Here are some of my favorite additions this season:
- Ghee – I eat this every day either mixed with certain foods or putting a little in my coffee or tea in the morning. It’s an extremely cleansing, pure essence of dairy and also is extremely moistening to stiff joints.
- Ginger – This is my life-long herbal ally. I drink ginger at least once or twice a day. This is great for warming up the core of the body and also the extremities (if you have cold hands and feet). As an added bonus, it’s normalizing for the digestive tract too, enhancing digestion and absorption of foods.
- Sesame oil – Not only do I like to cook with this, I use this as an after shower moisturizer oil that is delightfully grounding and also very warming. By using this oil in the fall and winter, it helps to keep me feeling warm longer after the comfort of a warm shower wears away.
- Soups and stews. At least every other day I’m eating something like a butternut squash and lentil soup, or making broths with veggies, mushrooms or chicken to sip on throughout the day.
- Wool and flannel (all the time). Yes, sometimes its just as simple as dressing appropriately for the weather. Throughout this whole year, I started stocking up on super thick wool sweaters and flannel lined pants. (Obviously I could never live any further north than Richmond to I would probably fall apart).
I’ll come back again later with tips for balancing the other doshas as well in the seasons when they are most challenged. At this point, though, break out the crock pots, warming spices and your favorite tea mugs and just settle in, stay warm and savor some delicious autumn foods!
Lindsay Kluge M.Sc, CNS, LDN HealthCoach@EllwoodThompsons.com