This is the final instalment of our guide to Autumnal eating and we’re hearing from Jenna Logan from local business Meals 4 Mummas – an Ayurvedic postpartum meal delivery service for newborn mothers, servicing Sydney to Newcastle.
Ayurveda is an ancient Indian health science with over 5000 years of practice. It is a system of health and wellness that matches diet, lifestyle and herbs to the individual using our very own unique biocharacteristics – which refer to your body shape, size, appetite, cravings and bone structure.
The Ayurvedic system describes all people, the climate and foods through the lens of the ‘doshas’: vata (wind), pitta (fire), and kapha (water). Whilst this concept, which is foundational to the system of Ayurveda, seems poetic, it provides remarkable insight into how best to eat for our individual type.
They view the ratio of vata, pitta, and kapha characteristics similarly to how we view a person’s constitution and believe it determines our physical, mental, and emotional character traits – as well as our unique strengths and weaknesses.
This ratio is unique to us and therefore we need to make changes or adjustments to our lifestyle based on them, rather than it being one-diet-fits-all scenario.
This allows you to tune in to what your body needs and you can begin eliminating foods that quite simply do not agree with you and be more curious to try new foods and see how you respond.
The first principle of Ayurveda is ‘you are what you digest’, not merely what you eat. Simply put, you can eat the most nutritious diet but if your body is unable to break those foods down and digest them it’s all for naught.
This concept is a great way to introduce seasonal eating from an Ayuvedic perspective. Rather than Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn, Ayurveda divides the year into three seasons: vata season, which goes from late Autumn into early Winter; kapha season, from the coldest, darkest part of Winter into Spring; and pitta season, the hottest time of year from late Spring to early Autumn.
On the Central Coast, we have wonderful access to fresh, locally grown produce. Eating foods that are grown in season means you are consuming food that has not been sitting in storage just so that you can have year-round access to certain fruits and vegetables. Eating what is in season supports your system in what it needs to meet the demands of the season. Eating light salads in winter just isn’t going to cut it.
Autumn is the time to put the building blocks in place ahead of Winter, to support your body, come the colder months. It’s the time to focus on more nourishing foods, referred to as ‘Ojas’ in the Ayurvedic system, which for Autumn are root vegetables and warming, slow-cooked meals.
Cooling temperatures pull blood inward to the core as the body scrambles to protect itself from heat loss. The extremities lose access to blood and warmth, drying out the skin on the arms, legs and eventually the colon. The core of the body rich with blood, conversely, improves appetite just in time to nourish and insulate the skin with a fresh layer of fat.
It’s especially important for ‘vata’ constitutional types, to ensure they are well nourished coming into this vata season of the year as they are the most vulnerable to the detrimental effects of overlooking warming foods.
Food to Eat
1. Healthy fats. Ghee is every Vata’s best friend, especially during windy and cool Vata season. Consume as many healthy fats as possible. This can include: raw milk, olive oil, nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts), seeds (sunflower, pumpkin), avocado, and of course the golden elixir of life, ghee.
2. Warm, cooked and heavy foods. Stick to warm and easily digestible meals such as stews, soups, basmati or brown or wild rice, dahl, and cooked root vegetables.
3. Hot, nourishing beverages. Spiced teas such as ginger, licorice, and cinnamon are balancing for light and airy Vata. To make a wonderful turmeric milk: melt 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder with 1/2 teaspoon of cardamon powder in one cup of warm milk, on the stove. When the spices have assimilated into the milk, add 1 tsp of raw honey. This delicious beverage helps with immunity and calms the nerves. It will also help with sound sleep.
4. Spices. These exotic Ayurvedic spices not only taste amazing, they are also energetically warming and grounding and Vata-pacifying. Additionally, they help with digestion, which Vata may struggle with. Try: turmeric, cumin, coriander, ginger, black pepper, or saffron.
5. Broths. Sip on homemade vegetable broth, chicken broth, bone broth, as the weather cools. It is also a good idea to drink warm water throughout the day.
Foods to Avoid
1. Raw foods and salads. These are difficult to digest in Vata season and will unbalance you during this time. Summer (Pitta season) is the best time to eat raw vegetables.
2. Bitter, astringent and pungent foods. Indulge instead in sweet, salty and sour tastes, which will balance Vata.
3. Leftovers, raw foods, canned foods, processed foods – these will aggravate Vata. Eating fresh, homemade, sattvic meals is best for Vata types.
4. Coffee and caffeinated tea. Especially for Vata-dominant types, these are too stimulating. Consume in moderation.
5. Dry snack foods. This includes chips, popcorn, crackers, and dry, cold cereal.
Jenna is a locally based birth and postpartum doula, placenta specialist, nutritionist for fertility, pregnancy and breastfeeding and birth educator. Meals 4 Mummas is a partnership with her good friend Jemma and was born out of their desire to see women receive much needed support throughout the postpartum period. Their own experience during this time involved making meals for each other whilst juggling caring for their own families, which planted the seed for Meals 4 Mummas.