by Lauren Gernady
Birds! I once again wake to the sounds of honking geese, celebrating their return to the north, a visual and auditory confirmation that winter is over! It’s no longer dark at 4pm, the air is damp, and trees are just starting to bud. Folks, it’s kapha season!
As much as I enjoyed getting cozy and drawing inward this winter, the dawning spring invites us to emerge from our cocoons and lighten up. It’s time to shift our diet to balance the heavy, sticky, and dense qualities of spring with opposites. Stews, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, I’ll see you next winter. Let’s slough off the accumulated kapha with a fare that is light, dry, bitter, astringent and spicy. Light foods are easier on digestion and adding some spice helps crank up the body’s digestive fire to encourage detoxification.
PSA - For those sad to leave the comfort foods behind, remember, coffee is best handled in the spring, AND red wine is known for its heating and drying properties. According to Ayurveda, every substance we take in can be neutral, medicine, or poison in the right quantity, moderation is key.
In Ayurveda we strive to create balance each season by understanding the prevailing qualities and balancing with the opposites. Kapha season is characterized by the following qualities:
Kapha is a marriage of the elements water and earth. Lovingly referred to as a “mud season” in Vermont, spring is a slow and steady thawing of the world. As we barrel ahead into the spring you may notice that your body feels heavy, the mind fuzzy, and you too are moving slowly.
Fear not, this is totally natural, but what are signs that there may be too much kapha in your system?
● Cold, cough, congestion
● Seasonal allergies
● Heavy feeling in the stomach, sluggish digestion
● Weight gain
● Water retention, swelling, puffiness
● Depression, lethargy, lack of motivation
● Attachment, greed, hoarding
If you checked a couple of these symptoms off, you may need to course correct with a kapha pacifying diet. Fact of the matter is, we could all benefit from switching up our diet to live in harmony with nature. Let’s dive right in and learn the principles of spring eating.
Principles of Spring Dining
Balance the heavy qualities of spring with lighter, drier fare:
Winter is known as the wheat, meat, dairy, and sweet season. All these foods are heavy, grounding, and supportive for building tissue, which we want during the depths of winter. Wheat, meat, dairy, and sweets are best avoided during the springtime because of their heft and mucus producing qualities. Rather during the spring it can be beneficial to favor lighter, drier grains such as rye, barley, corn, buckwheat, and millet.
Perhaps explore a vegan diet, swapping cow’s milk for less unctuous hemp, rice, or soy milk. Devoted to your dairy? Goat cheese can be a great alternative to some of the denser cow’s cheese. Why goat vs cow cheese in the spring? Take a moment to consider the differences between a cow and a goat. First picture the cow, slow, peaceful, and languidly chewing grass in a field, sounds rather kapha. Now imagine a feisty goat, hopping from various heights, always on the move, head butting its pals. The difference in personality and activity levels shows up in the milk. Cow’s milk reflects that cool, calm demeanor, whereas goat’s milk is more heating, perfect for spring.
Spring is a wonderful time to welcome beans back into your diet. Loaded with protein, light and astringent, these can be a great alternative to meat. The bigger beans are often discouraged in the winter because of their light and drying qualities. Feel free to start incorporating black beans, red and green lentils, white beans, and even chickpeas back into your diet. I’m going to be honest, I totally missed eating chickpeas this winter. I dabbled a few times with the occasional roasted chickpeas and was met with instant dryness, not great in the winter, but when our bodies become damp and waterlogged come mid-march, the drying quality of chickpeas can be a real boon.
Lighter fare can include water sautéed leafy greens like spinach, arugula, watercress. Asparagus, fiddleheads, broccoli, cabbage, are all on the VIP list this spring. These veggies work like little tooth brushes to scrub the GI tract and purge the accumulation of winter. Love berries? Have at it! Berries help decongest lymph, purify the blood, and bring the body from acidic to alkaline.
Balance cool with heat:
Spring is cool and damp, turn up your inner thermostat with heating spices and warm foods. During kapha season basically anything goes spice wise. Pungent spices like cayenne, black pepper, turmeric, mustard seeds, ginger, cinnamon all get that blood moving and kindles the digestive fire. Love sriracha and other hot sauces? Go for it, these spices help clear mucus and aid in seasonal allergies. Fun fact, both turmeric and cinnamon are touted for their blood sugar balancing properties.
Just like during the winter, steer clear of cold foods and beverages. When digestion is already sluggish, adding cold to the body will dampen the fire and cause things to go awry. Save the ice cream, and ice cubes for the summer. Rather favor hot beverages like ginger tea, chai (remember caffeine in moderation works well in the spring), or even fenugreek tea to speed up detoxification and support the liver- recipe below.
While you may start to crave a bit more roughage in the form of salads this spring, save those for the later days of spring. In the first half stick with warm cooked foods, remembering that raw foods can be a challenge for digestion. Steamed or cooked vegetables are already basically pre-digested vs raw veggies, thus much less work for our bodies to digest.
To sum it up, this spring favor the following foods:
● Cooked (not raw)
● Are from the spring harvest
● Dominate in the pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes
● Vegetarian proteins
● Steamed and grilled veggies
● Dry grains - millet, buckwheat, barley, millet, corn
● Well spiced
Here is a tea recipe for you!
● 1 quart of water
● 1 tbsp fenugreek seeds
Bring the quart of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add fenugreek seeds and boil for 5 minutes.
Remove from heat, cover and steep for 15 minutes.
Strain into a mug, or insulated thermos
● Reduces water retention and bloating
● Stimulates digestion, and supports detoxification
● Used to address constipation, high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity
● Supports healthy liver function
Want to learn more about cooking for this season? Join Lauren Gernady for her upcoming series:
Spring Ayurvedic Cooking Series Online with Lauren Gernady
April 3, 10, 17, 24
Mondays, 5pm - 6:15pm EST
Let’s hear it for Spring! Daylight is back, the northern hemisphere is re-emerging from hibernation. Bulbs are popping up, leaves unfurling, yes folks, it’s kapha season. Wave goodbye to the grounding, warming, and building foods that nourished us through the darkest months, it’s time to transition to spring fare. Slough off stagnation and accumulated kapha with lighter, drier foods that favor bitter, pungent, and astringent tastes.
Join Lauren Gernady for a 4-week Spring Ayurvedic Cooking Series where we will learn the theory behind seasonal eating, how to balance with opposites, and prepare seasonally appropriate meals.
Week 1: Doshic Theory - Prepping the Pantry
Week 2: Breakfast and Teas
Week 3: Lunch & Dinner
Week 4: Treats