When working to balance the heat of summer, it is best to choose foods and drinks that have sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes. These are the tastes that balance pitta and cool the fire element. In contrast, it is best to avoid or limit foods that have the sour, salty, and pungent (spicy) tastes during summer, as these will increase the fire element in the body.
One common misconception is that we should drink iced beverages during summer. In Ayurveda, beverages are taken warm or at room temperature and iced beverages are generally avoided. For very strong pitta-types, beverages may be somewhat chilled during the hottest days of summer.
However, food and drinks that are too cold will inhibit proper digestion, which is the heart of health from the Ayurvedic perspective. Instead, opt for drinks that are made from ingredients that have a cooling effect without adding ice, such as those listed below. All of these recipes can easily be doubled (or tripled!), and shared with friends.
A traditional summer beverage, lemonade invokes images of lying in a hammock on a sunny day under the shade of a tree. This recipe captures the most beneficial aspects of lemonade by squeezing the juice fresh.
Lemons are a unique food because, although they have a sour taste (which normally increases pitta and heat in the body), they have a sweet vipaka, or post-digestive effect, thus keeping pitta in balance. Lemons also support balanced digestion, so this tonic is ideal when taken just before or with meals.
- Juice of 1 large lemon (about ¼ cup)
- 1 cup filtered water
- 2 tablespoons coconut nectar, or to taste
Combine ingredients in a large glass and stir to dissolve coconut nectar. Taste and adjust as needed. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled, garnished with a lemon slice or a sprig of fresh mint.
Replace filtered water with cooled lavender or rose tea.
Apple Cleansing Cocktail
Adapted from The Mindbody Cleanse by Ronly Blau and Adrian Nowland
This fresh juice combines the sweetness and astringency of apples with the bitterness of spinach and parsley, resulting in the perfect pitta-balancing drink for summer. The cucumbers add a welcomed cooling effect, too.
- ½ cucumber, peeled
- 1 medium sweet apple
- 1 large handful of spinach
- 1 large handful of parsley
Cut all ingredients to fit into your juicer. Juice, stir, and drink!
You can also use a blender which will make a thicker, more smoothie-like drink. Add more liquid if needed.
Lavender Peppermint Tea
Floral teas are balancing to pitta and promote surrender and relaxation. Peppermint and fennel both have a cooling effect and support healthy digestion. This tea is lovely taken warm in the evening after the hot days of summer have cooled, or sipped at room temperature at any time of day.
Brown rice syrup is an ideal sweetener for pitta, but others can be used instead. (If using honey, be sure to allow tea to cool before adding, as heated honey causes ama. If the tea is cool enough to dip your pinky in, you’re good to go!)
- ½ teaspoon dried peppermint leaves
- ½ teaspoon dried lavender
- ¼ teaspoon whole fennel seeds
- 12–20 ounces boiling water
- Brown rice syrup, to taste (optional)
Place peppermint, lavender, and fennel seeds in a tea strainer or tea bag and set in a mug or jar. Pour boiling water over top and let steep 5 minutes. Remove tea bag or strainer and stir in sweetener, if using. Drink warm or at room temperature.
I hope these tasty tonics cool you down as you navigate the hottest days of summer. For added pitta-balancing effects, enjoy these in view of a beautiful lake or river, or while sitting under the moonlight. With each sip, allow yourself to slip into summer surrender.
Adrian Nowland is an author, writer, educator and Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor. She is the co-author of The Mindbody Cleanse: A 14-Day Detox and Rejuvenation Program from Ancient Ayurveda. She is board certified by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners and is a member of the National Ayurvedic Medical Association. She studied at Kerala Ayurveda Academy and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, as well as attending various Ayurvedic workshops and classes. She leads group programs, retreats and workshops that share the wisdom of Ayurveda so that others may benefit from the rich teachings. For more information on her offerings, go to her website. Adrian lives in the Coachella Valley, CA with her husband and their spirited daughter. See more of Adrian on her Twitter & Facebook.