Eat to be Lighter: 9 Foods to Add to Your Diet to Prepare for Summer
Being in quarantine, it's tempting to think the world is standing still. But in fact the seasons and your body are constantly changing and evolving, as Ayurveda teaches us. Humans are merely an expression of nature – a microcosm of the macrocosm. Thus, we are constantly moving forward along with the seasons.
The respite Mother Nature is receiving from the hustles and bustles of daily human life – traffic, pollution, waste, etc. – is evident, at least in my part of the world. Spring has sprung in a way I haven’t seen in a long time. The birds are loud and every day is filled with the vibrancy of new life sprouting everywhere. It's like with us humans out of the way, the natural world has room to breathe and stretch and emerge stronger.
We can do the same for our bodies. Warmer weather invites us to shed some layers and become a little lighter. In this, the earth provides us with the means to do so: Abundant sunshine, warmer days, and food to help cleanse our systems and lighten our load. Notice the foods that your body is craving right now. As the thermometer rises, we may be feeling naturally called to more smoothies, salads, and light vegetables as opposed to stews, heavy soups, and rich sauces. While many of us may be curtailing the frequency with which we go to the grocery store or farmers market, when you are there, look at the produce first. What seems particularly alive right now? Seasonal Food Guide is an easy way to see what foods are currently abundant and ripe in your region.
In Ayurveda, we look more at certain ‘tastes’ of foods to support optimal health as opposed to the macronutrients of food. As the weather turns warmer and the light stays in the sky longer, we turn from foods that are oily, heavy, sour and sweet – tastes that can ground us and keep us warm - to foods that are pungent, bitter, astringent, dry and citrusy – tastes that help cleanse the system and put a little more spring to our step. You’ll find Ayurveda is actually quite intuitive, as your body will likely crave more of these foods naturally.
Here are some foods to incorporate into your diet this month:
1. Arugula: One of my favorite greens, it is easy to distinguish this green from others by its bitter, peppery, and astringent tastes. Arugula is a great base for any salad, packed with calcium and vitamin K which both aid in normal blood clotting.
2. Artichoke: Rich in fiber and folic acid and vitamin C, artichokes are easy to prepare. Simply steam for about 20-30 minutes and begin to peel away the leaves to reach the heart.
3. Asparagus: This is one vegetable you’ll see pop up all over the place right now and with good reason. Asparagus is high in fiber and vitamin K. Roasted with a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper is the easiest way to prepare asparagus.
4. Strawberries: Yes, the perfect strawberry can be deliciously sweet but it is also light and an excellent source of antioxidants. A great option for a light breakfast or a sweet treat.
5. Cruciferous vegetables: These healthy veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts are rich in folate and phytonutrients. Lightly steam them or roast them without excessive sauces or oils.
6. Radishes: Like arugula, the bitter and peppery flavor of radishes make them a springtime favorite. They can help detoxify the stomach and liver and are a natural diuretic, helping to cleanse the system.
7. Beets: All you have to do is take a look at the rich red color of beets to understand their power to support the blood and circulation. They are also a great detoxifier and taste delicious roasted in salads.
8. Spring onions: This time of year, leeks and ramps are a favorite ingredient of chefs who rely on local produce to create seasonal menus. Like their brothers and sisters, garlic and onions, they carry strong bitter and astringent properties.
9. Certain Spices: These can be used to assist the body's cleansing process. Turmeric, ginger, black pepper, asafoetida (similar to garlic), cayenne, and mustard seeds are all supportive in ridding the body of additional phlegm and toxins (known in Ayurveda as ama) that may emerge this time of year. They also help support digestion. Consider adding these to some sauteed greens, making a homemade salad dressing with some of the ingredients or experiment with a spice blend including all of these ingredients and sprinkle on some roasted vegetables.
In addition, intermittent fasting is a good way to assist the internal cleansing process of the body and prevent disease. Eating one meal a day in the afternoon is recommended with potentially a light breakfast such as fruit and an easy to digest meal at night like a green soup or simply broth. Try to recognize when the body is full and resist overeating.
All of these tips will help ensure, like Mother Nature, you are bursting with energy and vitality as you spring into spring and summer. For light, summery dishes, check out our recipes tab on The Beet.