Winter Warming with Ayurveda

Ever wondered why you crave warm foods, proteins and good fats in when the temperature drops? According to Ayurveda (a form of traditional Indian medicine similar to Traditional Chinese Medicine), foods either contain a warming or cooling disposition. The characteristics of a particular food and how it reacts inside the body determine if it is has a warming or cooling effect. If your body naturally has a cold disposition, you may crave warm foods A LOT. If you do, it’s important to eat foods that will warm your insides, like cinnamon, tumeric, ginger and vegetables. Don’t just simply eat any old heated dish and expect it to have a warming effect. It may for an instant but it won’t last long. Basically though, if your body is truly in balance you will crave warming foods in winter and cooling foods in summer. If you’re craving warm foods all the time, it’s signal that something is out of whack.

To explain briefly, Ayurveda is based on five elements (air, ether, fire, water and earth) and three constitutions (Vata, Pitta and Kapha). Air and Ether are included within the Vata constitution. The Vata constitution spends energy and can be described as light, dry, mobile and cold. Fire is included within the Pitta constitution. The Pitta constitution is concerned with managing energy and is hot, red and burning. Earth is grounded, steady, strong, reliable and solid. Water is wet, moist, moving, cold and flowing. Earth and water are included within the Kapha constitution which is concerned with storing energy. Our constitutions contain all five elements; however, you may be more dominant in one or two. This is why you may be freezing, whilst another person is comfortable.

A Vata person generally has a thin body shape, a quick metabolism and can eat what they want and not gain weight. A Vata personality is artistic, abstract, spiritual, talkative and high speed. These people have trouble grounding and take on too many things at once. They do not know how to stop, and typically respond to stress with anxiety, fear, depression and nervousness. Common complaints include gas, bloating, constipation, dry skin, cold hands and feet and inability to concentrate. Vata’s love summer and hate the cold. To balance a Vata person, warming foods are needed. Vata people also need to maintain regular habits (especially sleep patterns) and keep hydrated. Massage is also an excellent tool to balance a Vata person.

Pitta people are strong, intelligent, ambitious and tend to overachieve. They have a medium body build and are slightly muscular. A balanced Pitta is productive and organised. When stressed they react with frustration and annoyance. Summer is not the Pitta’s favourite season and they often do not like hot and spicy foods. Complaints such as migraines, indigestion, heart burn, reflux, inflammation, rashes, hot flushes and anger are generally associated with a Pitta person. Pitta’s need to be calmed with cooling foods. They also need to avoid heat, overexertion and intensity and remember to take time out and relax.

Kapha people are stable, relaxed and great homemakers who are supportive, loyal and loving. They tend to have a heavier body type. Typical problems include lack of motivation, tiredness, difficultly learning, cravings, weight issues and congestion. A Kapha person should wake early and exercise and avoid large heavy meals at night time.

Right now is the Kapha time of year. We should avoid foods which are solid, damp and moist like cheese, milk, oats, ice cream and wheat. These foods will fuel a Kapha imbalance. I have a special treat for you over the next few weeks – I’m going to be posting a heap of winter warming recipes inspired by Vata so that we can all balance our Kapha. Let me know which ones you guys try out and how they go!

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