Sweet-Sour-Salty: This trio of tastes are the first way in which an Ayurvedic Practitioner will (nutritionally) address the accumulation or imbalance of Vāta.
Vāta doṣa is borne of Ether (Ākāśa) and Air (Vāyu) elements. In the body it is responsible for all movement; from the blinking of eyelids, all nerve signals, the transit of food through the digestive system and the constant rhythmic beating of the heart.
Autumn is the season which is governed by the same elements. Ayurveda works on the concept that “like will increase like” and that “opposites will cause a reduction or balance”
Vāta is by nature, the most subtle of the three doṣa’s. Because of it’s subtle and mobile nature, it is the doṣa which is easiest to disturb and the only one that can move the others from their own natural sites – so it is by far the most disruptive. There are many factors that can cause an increase in Vāta (at any time of the year) and Vāta dominates old age (60+). Hardly surprising that as we age, our resistance to cold, windy climate is reduced.
The seasonal vitiation starts with the subtle changes in temperature, drop in humidity and drying winds, which accumulate rapidly over the gradually darkening months of September, October and November.
The characteristics of Vāta are:
- Complicated, abstract
We witness these changes in our environment and nature and these are often reflected within the body and mind:
- Worry, anxiety & fear
- Tired, restlessness, agitation, fatigue, lack of stamina
- Nervous, agitated mind, indecisive
- Impatient, hyperactive
- Insomnia, disturbed sleep
- Spaced out, dizzy, fainting spells
- Shy, insecure
- Weight loss or emaciation
- Generalised aches, sharp pains
- Stiff and painful (arthritic) or cracking joints
- Very sensitive to cold and wind
- Nail biting, scratching, picking
- Rough, flaky skin, chapped lips
- Heart palpitations
- Constipation, intestinal bloating, gas, belching, hiccups
- Dry, sore throat, dry eyes
Once you learn to recognise these changes or increases (in yourself) and can attribute them to the environmental changes, you can readily fix these with a few tweaks to your daily fare.
Favour warm, cooked food. Add warming spice, salt to taste and a good glug of oil to combat that dryness!
I personally follow a vegan diet – but have included foods from meat and dairy groups – as everyone has a choice!
- Dairy products; Milk, butter (unsalted), buttermilk, soft (young) & mature cheeses, hard cheeses (parmesan) sour cream, yogurt
- Fruits; Note: some unripe or artificially ripened / unseasonal fruits will be sour, so use your taste buds to assess and sweeten if necessary. Apples, banana, blueberries, cherries, citrus fruits (lemons, limes, oranges), coconut, cranberries, (sour) cherries, currants (black & red), dates, figs, gooseberries, grapefruit, grapes, kiwi, mango, papaya, pineapple, pomegranate, prunes, raisins, rhubarb, tamarind, tomatoes, watermelon, yuzu. Spiced, stewed or roasted is a delicious way to enjoy fruit in Autumn, replaced over stodgy puds with a baked apple or stewed plums.
- Grains; Amaranth, barley, corn, millet, oats, quinoa, rice, wheat.
- Herbs & spices (seasonings); Amchoor (mango powder), basil, bay leaves, caraway, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, fennel, ginger, garlic, mint, saffron, sumac, tarragon, umeboshi plums, vanilla. Pre-made spice mixes may have salt added, in addition soy sauces etc will contain large amounts of salt. If using spices and are feeling particularly out of sorts, remember to add oil, to balance.
- Fermented foods; Keffir, kimchi, kombucha, pickles, sauerkraut, tempeh, vinegar. Pickles, chutneys (pre-made) and preserved foods will have sweet, sour and salty tastes.
- Most meats & fish; Chicken, ham, bacon, lamb, beef, eggs, duck, fresh & sea water fish.
- Nuts; Almonds, cashew, coconut, peanut, pistachio, pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, walnut.
- Seeds; Sesame seed
- Oils; Coconut, olive, sesame, sunflower oils. (Most oils are good for vata)
- Pulses; Chick peas, red lentils, mung beans, urad dal,Fermented soy products, miso etc.
- Teas; Cinnamon, ginger, hibiscus, lemon, mint
- Vegetables; Asparagus, carrot (cooked), capers, cucumber, fennel, green beans, lettuce, mushrooms, okra, (cooked) onions, peas, peppers, samphire, seaweed, spinach,sour greens (sorrel, purslane).
- Starchy / root vegetables; Beets, potatoes, parsnips, sweet potatoes, squash & pumpkin, yams.
Over the coming months will post a range of quick, seasonal suppers and lunches that will help to calm the nervous system and add a glow to your cheeks. I would love to know if they work for you and specifically if any of them make you feel happier and more energetic.