Updated: Dec 15, 2017
Winter can also be called Vata, as it is described in Ayurveda. Winter/Vata encompasses the qualities of cold, dry, and light /windy. If these qualities get too far out of balance they can manifest in your health in several ways.
Here are some of the most common, to name a few: physically you may experience dry skin, colds/illness, digestive issues like constipation or gas and bloating. Mentally you may have increased issue with concentration or memory. Emotionally you may be plagued by worry and anxiety. Spiritually you may be confronted with the concept of death or dying, attachment, and loneliness.
Here are 10 tips that can help you balance Vata and help you to find peace during the winter season:
1. Eat Warm Food. Vata is cool, dry, rough and light, so eating foods that neutralize these qualities – foods that are warm, moist, oily, smooth, and nourishing – can help to balance excess Vata. The warm quality can be emphasized by eating foods that are warm in temperature, foods that have a warming energetic, and by using warming spices generously. On the other hand, it is best to avoid foods with a cooling energetic, cold and frozen foods or drinks, carbonated drinks, large quantities of raw fruits and vegetables, and even leftovers that have been kept in the refrigerator or freezer. The cold quality is inherently increased in these foods, even if they are served hot.
2. Stay Hydrated. Many times in the winter people will avoid drinking water, because they are cold. Drink plenty of fluids, ideally warm or hot – but no cooler than room-temperature. In addition, moist foods like berries, melons, summer squash, zucchini, and yogurt help offset Vata’s dry quality, as can hydrating preparations such as soups or stews. Avoid exceptionally drying foods like popcorn, crackers, white potatoes, beans, and dried fruits.
3. Use More Oils and Good Fats. Oily foods like avocado, coconut, olives, ghee, eggs, nuts and seeds are generally supportive as well. However, stay away from fried or greasy foods as those can be too heavy and can drain your vitality. Try a power-packed meal of eggs served with sautéed veggies or avocado to start your winter day.
4. Avoid Caffeine. Stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, and hard alcohol should be avoided, as it can increase the lightness of Vata. This can exacerbate mental symptoms like inability to concentrate, short term memory loss, forgetfulness; circular thinking, racing thoughts, and obsessive mental patterns can all be increased by Vata.
5. Nourish your Body. “Dead food” such as highly processed, canned foods, ready-made meals, and pastries are often quite heavy, lack nutrients and increase Vata. You can counter this quality by eating nutrient dense foods such bone broth, vegetable soup or stew, and kitchari can nourish the body and are easy to digest. Get grounded by choosing in season root vegetables such as: beets, Brussels sprouts, carrots, leeks, radishes, turnips, and sweet potatoes.
6. Don’t Skip Meals. Windy Vata is arrhythmic or chaotic. Bring balance and peace not only to your mind, but also your digestion, and sleep patterns by keeping a routine. Vata can be easily imbalanced when we go too long between meals. Try eating regularly throughout the day and save your intermittent fasting for springtime.
7. Spice it up! You can counter the cold with spices in addition to eating warm foods. Try spices and herbs such as: black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, fennel, ginger, nutmeg, oregano, turmeric, chamomile, and cloves. Also try spicy foods such as chilies, radishes, turnips, and onions to warm things up.
8. Stay Sweet. Favor naturally sweet foods like fruits, honey, carob, and grains such as quinoa, oats, and rice. Sweet foods tend to be grounding, nourishing, strength building, and satisfying. Emphasizing the sweet taste does NOT require us to eat large amounts of refined sugar or sugary sweet foods. In fact, doing so tends to exacerbate Vata’s tendency to over-exert and then crash. Hot Cereals – things like oatmeal, rice pudding, or garnished with coconut oil or ghee, sliced almonds, and flax seeds, sweetened with honey or maple syrup, and topped with spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and cardamom can be an excellent way to quickly balance Vata.
9. Puker Up. Sour foods such as a squeeze of lemon or lime juice, a splash of vinegar, a side of kimchi or sauerkraut, a bowl of miso, or a dollop of sour cream can awaken the mind and senses, improves digestion, promote energy, moisten other foods, and eliminates excess wind. The sour foods should not be confused with bitter taste such as bitter greens (like kale, dandelion greens, collard greens, etc.), and bitter melon, Jerusalem artichokes, burdock root, eggplant, and dark chocolate. The bitter taste tends to aggravate Vata.
10. Don’t Skimp on the Salt. Salt stimulates the appetite and digestion, helps retain moisture, supports proper elimination, and improves the flavor of many foods. Sea Salt, Celtic Salt, and Himalayan are preferable of your typical iodized table salt, because they tend to provide an array of trace minerals that can enhance the osmotic transference of water into the cells as opposed to the water being trapped between the cells.