Autumn. It’s here already! The days are getting shorter and it’s getting colder on this side of that big orb that we live on. In ayurveda autumn is Vata season. Vata is one of the three doshas – or constitutions – that describe the human body.
Related: What is ayurveda?
The Vata dosha is ruled by the space + air elements. Vata is mobility, wind, cold, lightness, irregularity, dryness, roughness. Think about the mistral wind in France. If you have ever experienced it (or anything like it) you will know what I mean.
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Like increases like
In Ayurveda ‘like increases like’: each dosha is increased in its corresponding season. In autumn it is easy for Vata to get aggravated or out of control. This can lead to a rise in complaints like stiffness, respiratory problems, hoarseness, hypertension, anxiety, insomnia and digestive problems in the lower GI tract (colon, bladder). You might also start to feel more restless, insecure, indecisive, getting impatient and worrying,… The Vata mind is pretty frantic!
Through our food we can counter some of the excess Vata effects that we experience in autumn. Ayurveda makes a lot of sense, following the laws of nature. Every season gives us the food that we need! It is best to eat foods that are in season, grown locally and ripened naturally.
And that’s because eating seasonal food (drumroll):
- is better for your health, providing all the nutrients that you need in the current season
- is more sustainable
- supports the local economy
- is cheaper!
Nowadays everything is available everywhere, anytime, and we are forgetting the basic knowledge about our food. Take this new season as an opportunity for a fresh start!
So now that autumn is here, how can we balance Vata with food?
Autumn vata balancing foods
Vata aggravating foods
Vata foods are bitter, astringent and pungent. These are the kind of foods that we want to avoid in autumn. An excess of bitter, astringent and pungent foods will lead to an increase in Vata. Examples of high Vata foods are: leafy greens and lettuces, cabbage, nightshades, legumes. This is because many of these produce wind in the body, and Vata is wind (air element) so we want to avoid eating too much of those…
Vata foods are bitter, astringent and pungent
When I say ‘avoid’ these foods – there is no need to completely eradicate these foods from your diet in autumn! We still need a little bit of each of the 6 tastes with every meal. We just change the proportions of every taste with every season.
Autumn Vata balancing foods
The foods that balance Vata are:
- sweet, salty and sour (the taste or rasa),
- moist, heavy, smooth (guna)
- hot (virya or energy of the food) in nature.
To balance our Vata dosha we need to decrease the foods that are Vata producing and increase the foods that are Kapha and Pitta producing.
Here is a complete list of autumn foods to balance Vata, foods that are ok to eat occasionally, and foods to avoid to keep Vata balanced in the autumn season. To get the printable worksheet, sign up for my list! :)
artichokes, beets, carrots, leeks, onion, pumpkin and squashes, zucchini, sweet potatoes, olives, watercress
apricots, avocado, bananas, berries, cherries, citrus fruits (lemons, limes, tangerines, oranges, grapefruits), fresh figs, fresh dates, grapes, papaya, mango, plums, peaches, pineapple, melons
whole grain rice, basmati rice, oats, wheat
Beans and legumes
mung dal, cooked tofu
preferably lightly roasted (DIY!), nut milk, nut butters: almond,brazil, hazelnut, flax/linseed, macadamia, pecan, pine, pistachio, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts
Dairy (always fresh and organic!)
butter, buttermilk, cottage cheese, ghee, yoghurt, kefir, raw cow’s milk
canola oil, sesame oil, sunflower oil
Herbs + spices
Basil, coriander, marjoram, rosemary, oregano, sage, thyme, bay leaves
Spices like anise, cumin, caraway, cardamom, chili pepper, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, dill, fennel, nutmeg, mustard seeds, poppy seeds, paprika powder, safron, turmeric, black pepper, vanilla
rock salt, sea salt
mustard (fresh, organic, not the supermarket kind), seaweed, carob, vinegar
Eat occasionally in autumn
These are foods that are coming in or going out of season, or vata aggravating foods when eaten in excess.
broccoli, cucumber, kale, lettuce, parsnips, radishes, spinach, sprouts, parsnips
apples (ok when cooked with cinnamon), pears (ok when cooked), cranberries, pomegranate, quince
quinoa, barley, amaranth, couscous
Beans and legumes
lentils, aduki beans
cheeses, goat’s milk, sour cream
coconut, mustard, olive, safflower, walnut oil
Herbs + spices
cayenne pepper, cilantro, garlic, fenugreek, horseradish, parsley
coconut milk and grated coconut, cashews, pumpkin seeds
Sweeteners like cane sugar, fruit sugars, honey (raw), jaggery, maple sugar, molasses
Avoid these foods in autumn
Avoid these foods because they are not in season, or they are aggravating vata.
bell peppers, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, sweet corn, nightshades (eggplant, potatoes, tomatoes,…), raw onion, raw garlic, mushrooms, okra, peas, turnips
prune (dried plum), persimmon, watermelon (eat on its own). (Fruits are generally vata pacifying)
buckwheat, corn, millet, rye
Beans and legumes
black-eyed peas, black gram, chickpeas, fava/broad beans, flat beans, lentils, kidney/navy/pinto beans, split peas, soy beans, peanuts (they are wind producing, wind = Vata)
all non- organic dairy products, ice cream
animal fats, corn oil, mixed vegetable oil
white sugar, brown sugar, coffee, carbonated drinks, highly processed foods
Try it! What is your experience eating this way? :)