In the northern hemisphere it is winter time – a time for dressing warmly, eating comforting warm foods and keeping ourselves hydrated both inside, and outside. In this post we will explore what diet Ayurveda recommends for this season.
In Sanskrit, the word “Ritu” denotes a particular time for a sequence of events and is interpreted as season. The year according to Indian classical texts is divided into two periods: Uttarayana (northern solstice) and Dakshinayana (southern solstice) depending on the direction which the sun moves. Further, each solistice has three Ritus (seasons). This means a year contains six seasons in total: Sisira (winter), Vasanta (spring), and Grisma (summer) in Uttarayana and Varsa (monsoon), Sarat (autumn), and Hemanta (early winter) in Dakshinayana. Based on the manifestations of seasons in India, we can loosely interpret this in the Gregorian calendar as follows: Sisira (Feb, Mar), Vasanta (Apr, May), and Grisma (June, July), Varsa (Aug, Sep), Sarat (Oct, Nov), and Hemanta (Dec, Jan).
In Ayurveda, ritucharya, is the term used to describe what lifestyle to follow for each season. As we are in January, we shall focus in this post on wholesome (pathya) and unwholesome (apathya) food recommendations for Hemanta season. Pathya foods include: corn, rice and jowar, while in pulses urad and moong are recommended. Because kapha prakriti increases during winter and our digestive fire is more, we are able to digest larger quantities and consume difficult (heavy) to digest foods like goat meat. Recommended vegetables include bottle gourd, red pumpkin, spinach, methi, cabbage and in fruits, grapes, walnut, dates and apple. Apathya foods i.e., those to avoid include millets like ragi, bajara and barley; pulses such as masur, chana dal; vegetables like bitter gourd, drumstick, brinjal; fruits such as guava, papaya, custard apple.
Depending on where you live, the seasons will manifest to different intensities and begin at different times. It’s important to look outside and note the signs of the season to plan your diet. Equally important is to note the seasonality of grains, fruits and vegetables you consume. Advanced agricultural practices and food storage technologies allow for many items to be available in our local market which are neither local nor in season. Awareness of our local environment is a key aspect of ritucharya. Overlay the diet choices mentioned above on your individual prakriti and geography to ensure that you consume a diet that is both personalized and local.