From hitting the local swimming hole to homemade popsicles, there are myriad of ways to cool down in the summer. But we might be ignoring one simple, holistic tactic: Ayurvedic recipes. The traditional system of Hindu medicine, Ayurveda is based of using diet and herbal remedies to create balance within the body. Pitta, the dosha that governs metabolism and digestion, is most associated with heat, and is more likely to feel aggravated in the summer. Giving Pitta a bit more attention is the first step to cooling down the Ayurvedic way.
With the help of Balarama Chandra, Ayurvedic Chef of Bend, Oregon, we’ve collected two soul and body-nourishing recipes to help you cool down for the summer. (But don’t worry: you can still hit up that swimming hole.)
Heat up to cool down.
Balarama reminds that our culture is extroverted, and most of us are “summer over summer” this time of year. This means we are exerting ourselves in the hottest season of the year, bringing our energy to the muscles, skin, hands and feet. Our insides become astringent and cool, which is not great for digestion.
Ever feel bloated after eating anything in summer? Ayurveda teaches us that the GI tract has a slippery, cold nature this time of year and needs a bit of a warming prep to assimilate foods. Our habit of drinking very cold, icy drinks in summer creates internal inflammation, and produces extra heat as our insides work to bring cold drinks up to body temperature. To cool down and digest well, Balarama suggests we drink room temperature or hot liquids. The less work we make for our insides, the cooler the entire body.
“Recognize that summer gives you all you need,” says Balarama. “When [the food] is ripe, you just need to pick it and eat it. It’s already cooked by nature, and it’s cooling for the body to eat fresh, local, ripe foods.”
A tomato that sits ripe on the vine is ready for your cells in a way that a chilled tomato grown thousands of miles away could never be. If you can’t garden, Balarama suggests visiting the farmers market to find fresh produce.
In the summer, it’s wise to limit the intake of spicy and oily-cooked foods and dark wines, beers, or liquors. As tasty as they are, complex, sugary-sweet drinks should be limited—especially those with corn syrup or artificial ingredients.
Instead, Balarama suggests we “Cool down by choosing foods light in color, taste and weight. Drink more water, juice, green leafy anything and get loads of fresh cool morning and evening air, as well as friendships and laughter.”
Put your name on it.
We can also balance our bodies by slowing down to savor our food with intent and internal awareness. By “putting your name on it,” we mean give your food a story—don’t simply eat for the calories, eat for the nourishment and experience. Share a meal with a loved one, or cook a meal with little to no distraction.
“Your body can take in foods differently if they are prepared by someone who loves you, from a place you know,” Balarama says. “If your food is nothing but a number, how can it assemble itself for your cells in the same way?”
Apply these tips with two of our favorite cooling Ayurvedic recipes:
Pistachio Saffron Rose Drink
Saffron and rose are sattvic, meaning they help to promote one’s attentiveness. Both ingredients nourish the body without taxing the digestive track, and help to promote clarity of the mind. Combined with pistachios, the resulting beverage is a soothing addition to your morning or afternoon routine.
1/2 cup raw, unsalted pistachios
8-10 threads of fresh saffron
1/2 tsp cardamom
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tsp rose water
2 cups water
Pinch of salt
Warm water over low heat, then add saffron and cardamom. Stir to combine. Remove from heat and allow the water and spice mixture to cool.
Add whole pistachios and soak overnight. In the morning, add the pistachio-mixture to blender along with the remaining ingredients and and blend. Serve drink at room temp or slightly chilled. Decorate with a few saffron pieces and dash of cardamom powder, if desired.
Pitta Churna (Summer spice mixture)
This spice mixture is designed to assist digestive fire and prevent excess heat from being accumulated in the body. It promotes a dynamic balance between warmth and coolness—and tastes amazing.
1 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp fennel
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp coconut sugar
1/2 tsp ginger powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp fine Himalayan salt
In a small saucepan pan, dry roast the cumin, coriander, and fennel on low heat. Cook for a few minutes, or until aromatic.
Remove spices from pan and grind in mortar and pestle or electric grinder. Remove and mix with remaining ingredients.
Sprinkle on seasonal foods especially steamed greens, or sautéed and baked vegetables.
Note: For less sweetness, omit coconut sugar and increase cinnamon.
Emily Hightower founded Ondalu to empower people to make holistic decisions for their health. Her integrative programs have helped thousands of people including Wounded Warriors, Teens, and Women in Crisis using yoga, nutrition, and nature. Emily guides in person, on retreat, or by Skype and is based in Carbondale, Colorado, with her husband, son, chickens, and huge dog.
Balarama currently focuses his professional practice on Ayurvedic Psychology and Habit Reformation through positive expression and the simple means of yoga, breath, and diet. He loves facilitating the conversation of self-transformation and dharma via international educational trainings, retreats, and personal counseling. Balarama Chandra is a true pleasure to study with as he has the dynamic ability to make the seemingly complicated practical, humorous, and exciting.