When the summer season arrives and temperatures creep up, it can be hard to get excited about spending time in the kitchen cooking a nutritious meal. Besides the lure of spending time outdoors, Ayurveda explains this food apathy in a few ways. First, the increase in pitta dosha leaves us feeling dehydrated, as the heat of the fire element dries us up, and water escapes our bodies in an attempt to cool us down. Second, because so much energy is being expended on maintaining a semi-comfortable body temperature, our digestive fire, or agni, starts to wane as well. Agni is at its lowest levels during the summer, in fact, which is why we often crave lighter, hydrating, cooler, and overall less quantity of food during pitta season.
It’s important to respect the limitations of our agni as the seasons of the year and of our lives shift. However, we still need to eat in the summer, especially as we lose vital electrolytes and other minerals through sweat. Ayurveda therefore turns to the wide world of spices, herbs, and other foods that are naturally cooling when they hit the digestive system, but also have the ability to stoke agni. That’s right—not all spices are hot once they get to your gut! And once you learn to identify that heating versus cooling effect of foods, called virya, your kitchen might become more appealing than you thought, even during the summer. (Or, as a friend of mine likes to say, a form of “natural air conditioning.”)
Coconut is one of those foods with a cooling virya—hence its abundance in tropical locales and at beachside drink stands. But coconut can also be heavy and taxing on the digestive system, which makes the form of coconut important to consider when you turn to it during pitta season. This twist on a classic Thai dish, coconut rice, delivers the cooling power of this superfood but in a lighter form, by using coconut water instead of milk and basmati rice instead of jasmine, alongside a number of pitta-friendly and sattvic additions to make the meal complete.
Get the full recipe on Banyan Botanicals (published June 16, 2021).