Craving more sweets is usually a first sign of vata imbalance. Depleted, overworked, overwhelmed, and scattered minds seek calm, brainless, sweet and nurturing in anything (e.g. cookies, couches, TV, cuddles). So how do you balance the sweet craving? Well, by decreasing vata in your life. But, since that may take a while and we are already in vata season, here are 6 tips on how to eat to optimize digestion this time of year (which will also optimize your immune system!).
This is not the time of year for cold, dry, or raw** foods, which aggravate vata, and lead to bloating, not really feeling hungry, gas and dry, hard stool.
1. WARM Traditional foods for this season are all warm (soup, stews, casseroles), which supports the functions of digestion. Cold foods actually stall digestive processes and can cause spasm in the esophagus. Making sure you don’t eat anything directly out of the fridge (e.g. yogurt, cheese, leftovers), helps to ensure that you digest if more fully and more quickly.
2. MOIST The more moisture is in your food, the more moisture there is to caress the food down your digestive tract as it is processed. This means less hard, dry, or incomplete feeling bowel movements. So go ahead, add some sauce! And go for a more liquidy texture to anything you cook with water (e.g. lentils, mashed potatoes)
3. COOKED** We cook our food to pre-digest it. Yes, cooking does decrease the life force in food; however, if you start with food that is rich in prana (e.g. fresh from your backyard or Farmer’s market, not frozen or processed) you will still be getting great nutrients in cooked foods. Naturally, during vata season our digestive capacity lowers a bit, and cooked foods are easier to digest.
4. SPICED I’m not talking about Tapatio or jalapenos here; I’m referring to culinary spices. After herbs are first harvested, there is a short time where they are “medicinal-grade.” This is why it’s so lovely to cook with herbs that are grown at home–they have potent medicinal properties. After some time, these herbs are considered more kitchen spices, but they still do retain some medicinal benefits. The more spices you use, the more you balance vata and support every facet of the digestive process.
Every culinary spice from every culture is a medicinal herb that supports the digestive system.
5. SWEET This is an important time of year to bring in sweet taste, because it does help balance vata. Wait a minute, isn’t this post about decreasing sweet cravings? Yes, it is. I’m actually saying that if you bring in a healthy amount of healthy sweets, your cravings will diminish. I’d rather have an organic date-nut-cacoa ball than desperately reach for a bag of the kids’ Halloween stash of colored high fructose GMO cornsyrup. By denying ourselves of sweets, we are operating in an extreme (vata), and it rarely is sustainable. Use moderation, and bring in naturally sweet treats like soaked dates and figs or sweet potato, or a warm cup of chai.
6. NURTURING Sweet taste is naturally nuturing and rejuvenative, but there are other foods that also have that quality. Ghee, and nuts are two of my favorite. Ghee, or clarified lifeforce of cow breastmilk, has so many virtues that you can Google. Nuts, many of us eat, but we eat them dried and we have too many of them. It’s important to soak your nuts to make them more digestible, and to increase the bioavailability of the nurturing health fats and vitamins within them. Just soak a handful of your favorite nuts in warm water covered overnight. In the morning, drain and rinse and eat. Notice, I said, “a handful,” not a whole bag. It’s good to get more nuturing foods in, but in moderation, and that includes ghee. Also, home-made is going to be more nurturing than frozen or processed. Root vegetables which are in season, are also quite nurturing. If there is love put into the creation, bonus points.
**Raw food is great in that it is rich in life-force and not processed with chemicals. Raw foodists that are living that lifestyle successfully, all take great care to do other things to pre-digest or support digestion of traditionally hard-to-digest raw foods (e.g. soaking, spicing, blending).