These Super-Cooling Foods Act Like An Internal AC, According To Ayurveda
Ayurveda is an ancient Indian medical system designed to naturally balance your body and nurture your digestive system. In ayurveda, there's the idea of "fire" energy and "heat"—words you wouldn't necessarily toss around in a Western medical office but notions that can be quite useful when looking to cool your body internally.
Sahara Rose, an ayurvedic expert and author of Eat Feel Fresh, explains: "During the hot summer, or pitta (fire) season, ayurveda suggests favoring more cooling foods in the diet to balance that energy," she says. "When pitta in is in excess, we feel hot, inflamed, acidic, irritable, and aggravated."
With temperatures well over 90 degrees in much of the country, these are feelings many of us can relate to. Luckily, according to Rose, there are a few easy things you can add to your diet to quell that fire internally. "Cooling foods, such as leafy greens, juicy fruit, cilantro, parsley, and light grains or legumes will help cool the body from within," she says, explaining that, according to ayurveda, bringing the fire back into balance can help prevent hyperacidity, acne, GERD, rosacea, irritability, frustration, and other pitta imbalances.
Jasmine Hemsley, an mbg Collective member and author of East by West, also recommends gravitating toward sweet flavors. "In the summer weather, we're drawn to seasonal foods, like sun-ripened fruit, which is much easier to digest than cold, underripe fruit so often available at the supermarket," she says. "The sweet taste is cooling, as are bitter and astringent flavors." Hemsley recommends filling your summer plate with apples, fresh herbs, leafy greens, and juicy, hydrating foods like cucumber, watermelon, avocado, and salad leaves.
She cautions that cooling the body doesn't mean eating cold foods in abundance. "Care must be taken to balance the low-lying agni, or digestive fire, of summer and the heat from the rest of the body," she explains. "While we might want to dive into fridge cold salads and frozen foods, we don't want to further weaken our agni." While Hemsley eats raw foods for lunch on hot days during the summer and drinks cold water (as opposed to her winter-warm water), she still drinks her smoothies at room-temperature rather than ice cold from the fridge or freezer.
Time of day is also a factor, according to Hemsley. According to ayurveda, that digestive fire, or agni, dips again in the evening, and Hemsley recommends responding by consuming easier-to-digest fare. "At night, I prefer lighter, more cooked foods like soups," she says. Hemsley makes sure the soups aren't total sweat-fests while leaving their digestive benefits intact by garnishing them with cooling herbs and spices like fennel, dill, mint and coriander leaves, a squeeze of refreshing lime (lemon is much more heating, according to Hemsley), and cooling coconut. She also recommends raita with lunch dishes, a minty-cucumber yogurt. "It's a deliciously cooling condiment, which is why you find it alongside curries," she says.
One of the best parts of ayurveda is that it's gentle, and you can't really go wrong with the gut-nourishing practices it promotes. So top your soups with zesty fresh herbs, munch on crunchy cucumber, and lean into those juicy fruits you spot at the farmers market. At the very least, your life will be more delicious.