Ayurveda and Keto: The Basics of Seasonal Eating

This is the third part in a series discussing Ayurveda and keto. Part one explores the basic mind/body types, and part 2 discusses the six flavors of foods.

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I’m so excited to be writing these articles about how Ayurveda can work within the parameters of ketogenic and low carbohydrate diets. It’s just so fascinating to be, and I’m happy to be able to share all of this information with you! Of course, it’s only the tip of the iceberg, but it’s a good basis, and enough information to actually do something with. So far, we’ve talked about the three main body types, and discussed the six flavors and how to combine them. Today, I’m introducing the idea of seasonal eating!

Seasonal Cycles

Everyone’s pretty familiar with the idea that there are cycles to the seasons. We’ve pretty much accepted that Spring is the time for rebirth and cleansing, Summer is full of excitement and getting things done, and Winter is a period of rest and renewal. Seasonal cycles are more obvious in some places than in others. Where I live in New England, the seasons are wildly apparent – cold, harsh winters are followed by damp, wet springs and wicked hot summers. The trees are constantly changing, the flora has a turnover all its own and winter brings hibernation for many animals, and a trip south for the birds.It’s this constantly changing environment that Ayurvedic eating hopes to balance. This article will discuss the basics of ayurvedic seasons, and the next will explore each season in depth!

A pond for all seasons
By: Keith Hall

The Basics of Seasonal Eating

The idea of seasonal eating is pretty simple – eating foods that are local to you and in season will be the most beneficial to your body at that time. Ayurveda posits that the foods available during certain times of the year contain nutrient profiles that provide the body with what it needs most at these points. There is something to be said for eating foods during certain seasons. Cheesemakers have long asserted that there is a distinct difference between Spring milk and Fall milk, and studies have shown that vegetables grown during summer months have higher concentrations of vitamin C than those same vegetables grown in winter months.

Seasonal foods are actually surprisingly difficult to come by these days. Most supermarkets have a stock of vegetables that stay the same year round, coming in from different countries, where the plant may or may not be in season. Of course there are those foods we learn to recognize as the seasons go by, but it can eventually become a blur. We tend to eat basically the same thing day in and day out, no matter what the season (with slight variations, of course).

The local aspect of ayurvedic eating is one that might be a little more difficult to master than eating foods that are in season. Unless you’re shopping at a natural grocery store or farmer’s market, it’s often difficult to actually find local produce. The idea behind eating local (aside from supporting your local economy, and reducing transportation of food) is that food grown during certain seasons has a nutrient profile compatible with balancing your body during that season.

A good example is that many spring greens and roots like dandelion and burdock are very astringent and have diuretic qualities, making them perfect for a “spring cleaning” of sorts.

The Three Seasons in Ayurveda

Yes, three. Ayurveda breaks up the seasons. Technically, there are further breakdowns to this, as well as splitting the year into two distinct sun phases, but that’s a bit more in-depth than is necessary for the point of this article. For our purposes, Ayurveda has three main seasons that correspond with the Doshas we talked about in the first Ayurveda article.

Each season’s weather patterns tend to exacerbate a certain Dosha, as follows:

  • Autumn/Winter – Vata (cold, dry season)
  • Spring – Kapha (heavy, wet season)
  • Summer – Pitta (hot season)

How do you incorporate these into your own Dosha? Basically, you still eat in accordance with balancing your Dosha, but should pay extra attention to balancing certain properties during each season. So, if you are Vata, pay extra attention to eating warm, heavy foods in the Winter, but perhaps during the Spring, it won’t be so necessary to put yourself on as intense a cleansing regimen as Kapha individuals, as astringent flavors aggravate Vata. Just think about how your Dosha works with each season, and go from there.

When do these seasons start? Well, that depends on where you live. Think about the overall weather patterns of the month you’re in now. Is it cold and dry, maybe windy? Then you’re in a Vata month. This will obviously change depending on the hemisphere you’re in, and the distance you are from the equator!

Root vegetables for winter eating
By: Alice Henneman

How Does Keto Fit In?

Well, this actually fits in well with a question I’m asked quite frequently – “how many carbs should I eat?” I like to try and eat pretty seasonally, and this means that in early summer, I eat a lot of berries and cherries. Yes, they’re high in sugar, but they’re also loaded with phytonutrients!

Following the idea of seasonal eating, it should be noted that Winter is a time for fewer carbohydrates, while Summer is the season where you can get away with more. Yes, that’s vague, but this all goes back to your sugar tolerance. If you can handle a cup of berries, summer is the time for it – not only are they in season, but berries will be a nice, cool way to pacify the excess Pitta environment.

The point is, Winter foods are more focused around protein and fat and warming spices, while Summer foods should be lighter and cooling, and can add in a bit more sugar to the mix.

Stay tuned for the next article, which will discuss the seasons in greater depth.

Further Reading on Ayurveda and Seasonal Eating:

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