Beat the Heat: Ayurvedic Guide to Summer Eating

Summer is Pitta season according to Ayurveda, one of the world’s oldest holistic healing systems. Pitta, one of the three doshas or constitutions, is characterized by fire and water.

Often translated as “that which digest things,” individuals with Pitta constitutions are generally blessed with good digestion. However, as summer dryness and heat increase, even Pitta’s digestive system can become slower and weaker.

In order to balance summer’s heat, Ayurveda recommends favoring foods that are lighter and easy to digest, Read on for my short guide to the best (and worst!) foods for keeping Pitta in check during the dog-days of summer.


Foods to Avoid

Excess Pitta often manifests as feeling overheated, indigestion, anger, irritability and excessive sweating. To keep Pitta from boiling over (especially during the hot summer months), it’s best to limit your intake of foods that create warmth or are salty, sour or spicy. In particular, limit or stay away from altogether the following foods and beverages:

    • Alcohol (especially red wine)
    • Salty foods like pickles and soy sauce
    • Hot peppers, cayenne, hot sauce and garlic
    • Nightshades like onion, tomatoes and eggplant
    • Sour dairy products such as sour cream, buttermilk, yogurt

Instead, focus on eating foods that are moist, sweet, bitter or astringent in flavor– all of which are abundantly available in summer.


Sweet Tastes

When we think of sweet, we naturally think of sugary desserts and fruit. But in Ayurveda, foods like basmati rice, bread, milk, butter and ghee (aka clarified butter) are also considered sweet. Of course, take advantage of the abundance of sweet, juicy fruits and vegetables available during the summer months in your local grocery store or farmer’s market. Here are some to look for:


    • grapes, cherries, avocados, plums
    • watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew melons
    • pineapple, mangoes, coconut, lime
    • beets and cooked carrots

Bitter Foods

While you might favor summer salads made with fresh sweet tomatoes, bitter foods help to detoxify the body. Bitter foods help with a cleansing mechanism of the body called lekhana, which is the scraping of fat and toxins from your body. This scraping, cleansing affect helps decrease water retention which is common during hot, humid weather. To keep Pitta in check, include one or more of the following bitter vegetables into your diet each day:


    • broccoli
    • asparagus
    • green beans
    • zucchini, summer squash
    • cucumber
    • leafy greens (collards, kale, dandelion)

Astringent Tastes

Astringent foods leave the tongue feeling “dry” or “puckered.” Their dryness is generally produced by tannins in their bark, leaves and outer rinds. Astringent foods not only help to balance Pitta, but also compliment foods with sweet or sour tastes and bring lightness to the mind and body. Here are some to enjoy during the summer season:

    • apples, pomegranate, banana
    • kidney beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils
    • artichoke, cauliflower, celery and most raw vegetables
    • green beans, lettuce


Herbs and Spices 

Besides adding flavor, Ayurveda recommends adding fresh herbs and spices to foods to aide digestion and help remove accumulated ama, or toxins. Make abundant use of these easy to grow herbs in your summer meals:

    • Sweet –  fennel, mint, basil, mint, cardamom
    • Bitter –  cumin, dill, turmeric, cilantro
    • Astringentparsley, coriander, oregano


In addition to these foods and spices, remember to stay hydrated by choosing wet foods over dry ones. In general, opt for chilled, sweet fruit soups and moist grain and veggie salads.

And don’t forget to drink lots of water and other fluids. Try quenching your thirst with water infused with cucumber and mint, coconut water and fresh fruit juices. The reward will be good digestion and a sunny disposition all summer long. 

Be well! 



original 8/9/21; updated 7/10/23

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