November 2, 2020 | 58 minutes, 14 seconds
In This Article
Podcast Show Notes
Kate O’Donnell is the author of three Ayurvedic cookbooks, including The Everyday Ayurveda Guide to Self-Care, The Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook: A Seasonal Guide to Eating and Living Well, and Everyday Ayurvedic Cooking for a Calm, Clear Mind: 100 Sattvic Recipes. She is a nationally certified Ayurvedic Practitioner and the founder of the Ayurvedic Living Institute. An authorized Ashtanga yoga instructor, she teaches yoga in Boston and Portland, Maine, and still travels to India annually for study. Kate began yoga by accident in South India at age 20. More than a dozen extended trips to India and 20 years studying the wisdom traditions of the sub-continent support Kate’s understanding of Ayurveda and yoga.
After years of dedication to the Ashtanga system, Kate has experienced great benefit from this practice and was authorized by her teacher Sharath Jois to teach the Primary and Intermediate series. She teaches week-long mysore immersions annually in Portland, ME, Boston, and abroad. Kate also specializes in Ayurvedic education, cooking skills, and cleansing programs, offering online programs, residential immersions, trainings, and individual consultations. Her Ayurveda and yoga offerings aim to help others come closer to their true nature.
Choose the right diet for you!
Choosing the right foods has become extremely complex, controversial, and confusing for most people. With promises coming from every angle of the food pyramid, from paleo to vegetarian to vegan to gluten- and dairy-free, making healthy choices has become more confusing than ever!
In this article, I will describe very simple, basic rules of eating according to nature’s harvest and your body type. Then, I will show you how to identify superfoods for your body type this winter, when you might need them most.
Ayurvedic Eating Rule #1: Eat in Season
Winter is governed by air, and is cold and dry. During winter, all body types should eat more nourishing and warming foods, such as soups, grains, and steamed veggies, found on the Winter Grocery List. These foods are higher in proteins and fats, which insulate the body during cold months.
Spring is governed by earth and water, and is usually quite wet and muddy from rain or snowmelt. During spring, all body types should eat more light and dry foods, such as berries, sprouts, and greens, found on the Spring Grocery List, to combat the heaviness and congestion that spring can bring.
Summer is governed by fire, and is generally hot and fiery. During summer, all body types should eat more cooling foods, such as salads, smoothies, and fresh fruit, found on the Summer Grocery List, to stay cool, calm, and hydrated in the heat.
Fortunately, nature’s harvest of warming, higher-protein and -fat foods in winter helps balance its cold and dry extremes. After winter, nature harvests sprouts, berries, and leafy greens to antidote the congestive tendencies of spring, and then cooling fruits and veggies in summer to balance out the heat. Eating off of the seasonal grocery lists provides the perfect antidote for the extremes of each season, keeping each body type balanced.
Ayurvedic Eating Rule #2: Adjust for Your Primary Body Type
While each body type should change their diet for all three growing seasons or harvests, they must especially emphasize seasonal eating during the season of their predominant or primary body type. Vata types in winter, pitta types in summer, and kapha types in spring must pay more attention to eating seasonally. Here are the rules:
- During winter, cold, dry vata types must eat more strictly off the Winter Grocery List of warming, insulating foods to stay nourished and balanced.
- During spring, easygoing kapha types must strictly follow the decongesting Spring Grocery List to antidote the tendency to gain weight, hold onto water, and become congested.
- During summer, hot, fiery pitta types must be extra strict to eat off the Summer Grocery List to stay cool and calm.
Ayurvedic Eating Rule #3: Identify Superfood Season for Your Body Type
When you are in the season that correlates with your primary body type, such as winter if you are primarily vata, all the foods on the Winter Grocery List with an asterisk are going to be superfoods. The foods with asterisks on each grocery list are the foods primarily grown in that season. The foods with asterisks will have more therapeutic qualities for the related body type during that season.
Ayurvedic Eating Rule #4: Identify Winter Superfoods for Your Body Type
Superfoods for Vata Body Types in Winter
Vata types are more sensitive to stress, which is processed through the intestines. This makes intestinal health and elimination a weak link for vata types. Winter superfoods for vata will provide more healthy fats to combat stress and support intestinal function.
While all foods on the Winter Grocery List with an asterisk are superfoods for vata, there are a handful that really shine. Vata types should make an effort to eat more of the following winter superfoods during the cold winter months:
- Nuts and seeds are naturally high in protein and fat, and provide much-needed insulation for vata types in winter. They are high in omega-3 fatty acids and minerals, which are also important for vata types to store each winter.
- Animal proteins are very acidic in nature, and thus drive high-quality proteins and fats deep into the tissues storage sites. The acidity allows this to happen more efficiently than plant-based proteins, which are more alkaline.
- Olive oil is loaded with antioxidant polyphenols, which support healthy cardiovascular function and also act as a great winter insulator for vata body types.
- Avocados are about 85% fat and harvested during winter in warmer climates, making them the perfect winter fruit. They are high in omega-3 fatty acids as well as carotenoids, which are powerful and natural antioxidants.
- Ghee’s primary fat is butyric acid, and the microbes in our guts make butyric acid. This fat is the primary fuel for colon cells, does the major driving of immunity, and feeds other good microbes throughout the intestines.
- Licorice + Cinnamon Tea lubricates the intestinal wall, boosts circulation, and warms up the cold hands and feet of a vata body type in winter.
- Ashwagandha is harvested in fall and is heavy, sweet, and warm—the perfect antidote to winter. It also boosts endurance, stamina, immunity, and a stable mood, which are all much needed in winter.
Superfoods for Pitta Body Types in Winter
To find superfoods for pitta body types in winter, take both the Summer and Winter Grocery Lists and cross-reference them. Whichever foods are found on both lists become superfoods for pitta in winter.
Pitta types are generally prone to inflammation, and this often takes place in the digestive system, sometimes leaving pitta types with a distended belly. The best superfoods for this will provide more fiber and help move more bile from the liver into the intestines. Bile is like a Pac-Man gobbling up old toxic cholesterols and other toxins in the liver and intestines.
If there is enough fiber in your diet, it will attach to the toxic bile and escort it to the toilet. But without enough fiber, up to 95% of toxic bile is recirculated back to the liver, with all the toxins in tow. Here are some of the most important winter superfoods and bile movers for pitta body types:
- Beets are loaded with constituents (like betaine) that boost bile flow and digestive enzyme production. They are also rich in the fiber needed to escort toxic bile to the toilet.
- Artichokes are loaded with fiber, support liver function, and are one of the best foods to increase bile production and help the body become a better fat burner.
- Kale is a well-known nutrient-dense superfood high in fiber and micronutrients to support liver function and detoxification. The high fiber content of kale requires it to be cooked in winter to qualify as a winter superfood for pitta types.
- Apples are high in fiber, which, again, helps escort toxic bile to the toilet. Apples have high levels of malic acid, which opens up bile ducts and flushes sluggish and congested bile out of the liver and gallbladder. In winter, apples are also best cooked.
- Coconut oil is a cooling oil. Remember, pitta types are both hot and dry, much like a desert. Coconut oil helps antidote both the dryness of winter and the heat of their type. Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, which converts to monolaurin in the gut, where it acts like a microbial scrub for bad bacteria. It is also a great alternative fuel supply to sugar. It absorbs quickly into the blood and is readily available as a ketone to fuel the brain. This is great for post-meal sweet cravings!
- Chamomile tea is cooling and is also somewhat demulcent, helping lubricate the lining of the intestines, which has a tendency to get dry in winter.
- Brahmi (Centella asiatica) is a nerve tonic that calms the nervous system and insulates pitta types from damaging stress in winter.
Superfoods for Kapha Body Types in Winter
Kapha types are generally heavy in nature and the harvest in winter is also heavy, so kapha types have to be careful to not eat too many heavy and rich foods in winter. Kapha types also have a slow metabolism, so if they eat too much heavy food, they can gain weight and become lethargic. Some of my favorite superfoods for kapha are:
- Mung beans are loaded with fiber to help escort toxic bile into the toilet, as well as to help keep blood sugar and sugar cravings stable. They are also the only bean that has “anti-flatulence factors,” which means, unlike other beans, they are easy to digest and do not cause gas.
- Pumpkin seeds are loaded with zinc and magnesium, two very common nutritional deficiencies. Seeds are somewhat preferable in winter over nuts because they are lighter and easier to digest. They are also high in the more active gamma-tocopherol form of vitamin E, which is great for cardiovascular health and circulation.
- Brussels sprouts are a well-known nutrient-dense superfood, loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. They are high in vitamins C and K, which support vascular health and circulation. They are also loaded with the fiber needed to ensure toxic bile makes it to the toilet.
- Grapefruits are rich in vitamin C, which boosts immunity and promotes healthy circulation. Pink grapefruits are high in an antioxidant called lycopene, shown to support prostate health. The pith or white part of the grapefruit skin is high in constituents like diosmin, shown to support vascular function and microcirculation, which is in part responsible for cellulite and weak veins.
- Ginger is one of the best spices for kapha types in winter. Ginger is warming, boosts circulation, strengthens digestion, and is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory for kapha types, who love a healthy boost of circulation and stimulation during winter months.
- Turmeric is a warming spice that liquefies mucus in kapha types. Kapha types can become congested as a result of the dryness of winter.
What are some of your favorite winter superfoods for your body type? Let us know in the comments below!