A Pitta-Balancing Diet for Summer
Summer is a time full of festive food and drink—think chips, salsa, and margaritas! However, many of these traditional summer party foods may leave you with a case of Pitta imbalance.
Ayurveda divides the year into three seasons based on the predominant elemental forces, or doshas, strongly expressed in each. The three doshas, Kapha, Pitta, and Vata, exhibit differing amounts of the five elements (space, air, fire, water, and earth). Optimal health exists when the doshas are in balance, a state referred to as sattva.
In Ayurvedic teaching, an imbalance in one area, or element, may be corrected through application of its opposite.
Pitta: The Dosha of Transformation
Pitta dominates the summer, reigning from July through October in most parts of the Northern Hemisphere. Pitta combines the elements of fire and water; it drives healthy digestion and focused productivity. An excess of this dosha can manifest in symptoms such as an irritation, excessive body heat, and digestive problems
Benefits of Pitta
- Healthy digestion (especially of complex proteins found in dairy or gluten)
- Healthy circulation
- Initiative to make healthy life changes
Signs of Excess Pitta
- Perfectionist tendencies
- Being critical of others
We all express varying degrees of the Pitta dosha. In Ayurveda, it is believed that “like increases like.” If you are an individual who naturally exhibits strong Pitta characteristics, the heavy Pitta influence of the season places you at increased risk for imbalance.
Not sure? Discover your dosha type by taking our online quiz.
Eat More Pitta-Pacifying, Cooling Foods
There’s a lot you can do to get yourself back to balance, and what you consume daily can help you offset an unbalanced Pitta. Eating more sweet, bitter, and astringent foods daily will help to balance out the fiery nature of Pitta.
Sweet: Sugar and sweeteners such as honey or agave provide the most notable “sweet” taste profile. However, they should be used sparingly.
Healthy foods and drinks that gently “sweeten” the sharp Pitta dosha include:
- Grains (including rice, barley, oats)
- Sweet, fresh fruits (melons, cherries, figs, oranges, pears, plums, berries)
- Steamed root vegetables (sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips)
- Coconut (includes coconut meat, coconut milk, and coconut water)
- Dairy (includes whole milk and ghee)
- Fennel (both the seeds and the bulb)
Bitter: Bitter foods have a light and cooling effect on the body, balancing the heating effect of Pitta. To benefit from this flavor profile, add the the following to your meals:
- Leafy greens
- Tea: black, chicory, dandelion, or mint (room temperature or cool)
- Bitter fruits (ripe grapefruit, green apple)
- Green vegetables (asparagus, green beans, summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers)
- Fresh herbs (especially cilantro)
Astringent: Astringent foods are tricky to identify; they leave the tongue feeling “dry” or “puckered.” These foods help chill and bring lightness to the mind and body. Look for:
- Fruits (apple, banana, pomegranate, skin of most fruit)
- Raw vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, celery)
Fats and Oils: Like a fire, Pitta season can have a drying effect on the body. Modify this by lubricating your foods with healthy oils. The best oils for summer include:
- Sunflower oil
- Olive oil
Eat Fewer Warming Foods
While increasing cooling items in the diet, limit your intake of foods that create warmth—namely foods and drinks that are salty, sour, or spicy.
Modify your intake of:
- Alcohol (especially red wine)
- Pickled foods
- Soy Sauce
- Hot peppers
- Hot sauce
- Nightshades (onions, tomatoes)
- Sour dairy (sour cream, buttermilk, yogurt)
Focus on Fennel
Fennel is a wonderfully unique bulb in that it stimulates healthy digestion and assimilation while cooling the digestive tract. Not only can the bulb be sliced and sautéed in olive oil, but fennel seeds also may be chewed whole following meals.
Not into spitting seeds? Try this simple tea, which is particularly good at the end of a meal:
Recipe: Fennel Tea
- Crushed fennel seeds (1–2 teaspoons)
- 1 cup boiling water
Add crushed fennel seeds to the boiling water, and allow to steep for 5–10 minutes, depending on the strength of tea you prefer. Strain the seeds, and serve the tea lukewarm or cooled.
Reclaim Your “Sattvic Cool”
Summer is a time to celebrate the sun—our ultimate source of transformation, warmth, and life. By building meals around food and beverages that balance the Pitta dosha, you can harness this time of fiery confidence and productivity while maintaining a calm, tolerant baseline—your ultimate state of “sattvic cool.”
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center’s Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.
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