Eating Ayurvedically: A Guide for Eating in the Winter

Are you one of those people who absolutely love winter and everything about it—the crisp cold air, snow, cozy sweaters, and warm comfort food? Lucky you, I’m not one of them! Haha, I’m the exact opposite. I miss the warm sun on my skin, sitting on the beach, late nights outside. And it’s no wonder because I’m a Pitta-Kapha dosha.

Each season is aligned with a dosha. In Ayurveda, there are only 3 seasons, which is how they all align. Right now we are in Kapha season; that end of winter that will eventually melt and lead to the first blooms of springtime. For Kaphas like me, it’s easy to feel imbalanced during this season since our constitution matches that of the season. It can lead to feeling lethargic and slow and it often comes with a lack of motivation.

Each season really does have a different effect on our bodies. And that’s why we need to eat different foods for different seasons. Can you imagine taking a big bite of ice cream right now, while wrapped up in a bunch of blankets with a snowstorm going on outside? No? Me neither. It makes me shiver just thinking of it. Now, what about eating a hot bowl of soup while you’re lounging by the pool in July? Yea that doesn’t sound any better either.

There’s a reason why your body reacts to imagining these scenarios–different types of food help your body get back into balance during different times of the year.

Eating Ayurvedically, in accordance with the seasons, doesn’t just make you feel good in the moment, but is a powerful preventative health measure, too. It can help to boost your immune system and keep your body from getting sick, both of which are still important right now since we’re still in the middle of a pandemic.

So what foods should we be eating during Kapha season? Glad you asked.

We balance our diet through opposite qualities of doshas. So right now we should be eating foods that are the exact opposite of Kapha. And right now our Agni, our “digestive fire,” is at its strongest.

We should be eating foods that keep us warm and nourished. That means sweet, sour, and salty foods to keep that digestive fire burning strong! You want to avoid very sweet or very oily foods wherever possible (though don’t cut them out — we need a bit of both), as these weigh you down when you’re already not at your most energetic. And you should also avoid foods that are cold, overly heavy or fatty, and dry. Ok, ok, I know that sounds like a lot of different things NOT to eat. Now let’s get what TO eat.

We tend to eat the same meats, starches, and grains year-round. So I’m going to focus on what fruits and vegetables are best for Kapha season. These are the fruits and veggies you should focus on eating the rest of winter:

  • Citrus fruits like limes and lemons

  • Lighter fruits like peaches, apples, and pears

  • Root vegetables like carrots, potatoes, yams, beets, and radishes

  • Dark and bitter greens like kale, broccoli, spinach, and cabbage

  • Steamed fresh veggies

  • Corn

  • Cauliflower

  • Dates

  • Pomegranates

TIP: As I mentioned before, during this time of year, your Agni can be amped up. This is why we have hot, heavy foods. We need the fuel to keep warm, but obviously, if we’re indoors sitting around in the heat under a blanket all day that can really throw us off. A.K.A. it can make us suuuuuuuper sluggish.  It can also lead to extra snacking and extra indulgent stuff (you know, the sweets and snacks that you hide on the top shelf so no one else finds them). So it’s important to recognize what’s true hunger and what’s not and make sure you’re fueling your body to keep your Agni satiated. Try not to snack between meals unless you have a long time before your next meal or you’ve just been exercising. And learn what your own hunger and fullness cues are so that you know when you really need nourishment, and when you are nourished.

BONUS TIP: When in doubt, cleanse and reset. If you’ve switched up your diet for a few weeks and aren’t seeing a difference, you might be blocked up or something is causing your imbalance. One way to get unblocked/rebalanced? A cleanse. A kitchari cleanse is an eating plan that’s designed to reset your eating habits and give your body a break. It consists of taking in a mono-diet of the classical Ayurvedic dish, Kitchari (comprised of rice, dal, spices), which will allow the digestive system to take a much-needed break, giving it new light and the ability to properly flush out toxins in the system.

The food you eat during a kitchari cleanse is hearty enough to give your body the energy it needs to realign your doshas. The rest of the energy is spent on eliminating toxins that build up in your body. So after 3-7 days, you should be flushed, refreshed, and ready to get back to your regular eating routine.