The Yoga of Food: Eating for Spring

kale spring diet
Photo by PeaSoupEats

The transition from winter to spring can be quite dramatic, outside in nature, as well as inside our bodies. Our tender hearts easily fall in love with spring’s promise of birth, new beginnings, renewal, and growth—yet our bodies are tired and sluggish due to winter’s excess toxins and our minds depressed from winter’s cold days and long nights. Luckily yoga’s sister science, Ayurveda, offers plenty of helpful guidance for us to gracefully move into and harmonize with spring, including tips for how to eat and nourish our bodies for the season.

One of the core principles of Ayurveda is that the energy of the body mirrors the energy of the earth. Springtime creates an abundance of water—the earth is heavy with the moisture of melting snow and spring showers. Kapha, “that which flourishes in water,” is the Ayurvedic dosha (bio-elemental energy) that is dominant in the spring. When kapha becomes excessive in nature your body may feel heavy, swollen, cold, or overweight and your mind may feel sleepy, slow, dull or depressed. We can keep spring’s strong kapha influence in check by following some simple and intuitive Ayurvedic dietary advice.

Lighten up

Slowly transition between winter’s thick, heavy and dense foods towards lighter fare. Avoid rich sauces, cream-based dishes, and oily or fried foods. Shift away from heavy vegetables like avocado, olives, sweet potato, and winter squash to lighter options like berries, green veggies, cooked grains, and steamed or stir-fried vegetables. Minimize the use of high fat ingredients like nuts, dairy, and animal protein. Instead add more beans and legumes to your meals. Be mindful of overeating in springtime and especially avoid consuming excessive amounts of bread or pasta. Minimize snacking and try to eat only three meals per day.

Purify and renew

You don’t have to undergo an onerous “spring juice cleanse” to purify your body from the excesses of your winter diet. Instead slowly add more cleansing vegetables to your diet focusing on dark leafy greens (kale, collards, chard, arugula, spinach, etc.) and cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, etc.). While eating these veggies raw will be more purifying, this is not advised in springtime as too much raw food in your diet can weaken digestion. Instead, lightly cook these veggies, use simple food combinations, and cook with the foods that are the easiest for you to digest. Adding a little lemon juice to your drinking water and steamed veggies will also support detoxification.

Minimize dampness

Be mindful of your water content in this kapha dominant season—not only of what you drink but also the moisture content of your meals. Minimize consuming high water content veggies like cucumber, zucchini, celery, and tomato and watery fruits like grapefruit, peaches, oranges, and melons. Consuming too much sugar and sweets will also create excessive dampness. Include some diuretic foods like oats, parsley, carrots, asparagus, and seaweed to further reduce excess dampness.

Avoid cold and hot, seek warmth

Since spring is a transition between the cold of winter and the heat of summer, transition away from hot and excessively warming foods towards a more warm-neutral temperature diet. Consume more warm-neutral veggies such as carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, turnips, beets, and asparagus. Slowly taper off cooking with warm spices such as onions, garlic, leeks, ginger, black pepper, turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, clove, cardamom, and nutmeg. Cold, refrigerated or frozen foods or drinks should be avoided.

All of the above is general advice and should only be considered as a starting point for changing your diet for the spring season. Experiment and make adjustments based on your individual constitution, local seasonal foods, and the specific weather conditions where you live. Most importantly, pay attention to how the weather and the food you eat affects your prana, digestion, and overall sense of health and well-being.

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