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Rutucharya – Seasonal food choices

It is an obvious observation even for a lay person that the changing seasons have an impact on the life on Earth. The falling leaves of autumn and the new foliage of spring are a case in point. Trees are smart and shed their leaves before winter to minimize water loss in the dry weather, and grow them again before the summer to absorb more sunlight. If trees can be smart to adapt to the changing seasons, should humans lag behind? Our ancestors have developed a detailed science of adjusting the diet in line with the seasons. It is described as Rutucharya in Ayurved. Let’s learn the basics of it.

Ayurved describes six seasons or Rutus in a year, viz. Shishir (winter), Vasant (spring), Greeshma (summer), Varsha (monsoon), Sharad (post-monsoon) and Hemant (pre-winter). Naturally, each season has a different effect on the human body. The changing seasons impact the Tridosh (three bodily tendencies) dynamics significantly resulting in different impacts on different people depending upon their dominant tendencies. Thus, it is necessary to make the required changes in our diet to avoid the possible adverse impacts.

Shishir

December, January, February

This is the cold winter season. Food that is hot in quality such as Gulpoli (sweet made from jaggery and chickpea) is useful. Eating it, along with Moong Khichadi (preparation of rice and green gram) and Vangyache Bharit (brinjal preparation), while sitting outdoors in the winter Sun is beneficial. Bajri, which is has a hot quality, can be used to make Rotis, which can be eaten with butter or sesame preparations to avoid dryness in the system. Makar Sankranti, which is celebrated in this season, gives an opportunity to eat recipes made from jaggery and sesame.

Vasant

February, March, April

The rising heat in this season results in the melting of the Kaph (one of the three bodily tendencies) that has accumulated during winter, which can result in ailments of the respiratory system such as asthma, cough, common cold and various fevers. Diet in this season should be easy to digest such as old grains, and foods that are bitter, pungent and astringent. Rice, which is Kaph promoting, should be consumed in moderation. Pulses such as chickpea, pigeon pea (Toor), green gram and red lentil (Masoor) are useful in lowering Kaph. Vegetable preparations of snake gourd, brinjal and radish are good in this season. Intake of spices such as asafetida, mustard, ginger, cinnamon and garlic are recommended. It is better to avoid curd. Avoid being directly under a fan for long or sleeping during the day time. Reduce the exercise intensity to half of that in Shishir.

Greeshma

April, May, June

This is the time of Vaat (one of the three bodily tendencies) accumulation in the body. The heat results in reduced appetite. Hence, it is better to eat less, and include foods that are sweet in quality (carbohydrates), bitter and astringent. Rice, milk, buttermilk, oils, ghee and curd can be included in the diet. Soft drinks made from Indian gooseberry (Amla) and Kokum are beneficial. Leafy vegetables and fluids should be liberally consumed. Limit the intake of pulses to avoid the dryness arising from them. Bajri and garlic are the foods to be avoided. Take a cold water bath. If possible, sleep under the stars at night in an open space. Drink buffalo milk before going to bed.

Varsha

June, July, August

The long heat of the summer followed by the cold arising from constant rain leads to a rise in the Vaat and reduced appetite. This season also witnesses the accumulation of the Pitta (one of the three bodily tendencies) in the body. Eat foods that are easy to digest such as milk and rice, green gram curry and Hulga Pithle (horse gram preparation). Avoid curd; but it is fine to drink buttermilk. Garlic, asafetida, dried ginger, pepper, cumin, lemon, Pudina (mint) and coriander can be included in the diet. Ghee and oils can be liberally consumed. Water should be boiled and cooled before drinking. Vegetables such as bottle gourd, snake gourd and ladies’ finger should be eaten. Avoid excess exercise.

Sharad

August, September, October

Pitta escalates in this season, along with a lowering of the Vaat. Simultaneously, the Agni (fire element in the body) and strength also start increasing again. Diet should include the tastes of sweet, bitter and astringent. Foods such as rice, sorghum (Jowar), wheat, green gram, chickpea, peas, milk, ghee, coconut, bitter gourd and fenugreek can be eaten. Avoid foods that increase the bodily heat including those which are salty and sour, and garlic and spices. Milk reduces Pitta and is hence advisable. Drinking milk kept under the full moon on the night of Kojagiri Pournima is beneficial. Use cold water for drinking and bathing. Apply paste made from sandalwood, natural camphor and vetiver (Vala) to the body, which bring a cooling effect in the hot weather. Swimming is a good exercise option.

Hemant

October, November, December

The bodily strength is in excellent condition in this season resulting in increased appetite and better immunity. It is fine to eat heavy food and in more quantity in this season. Eat foods that are sweet, sour and salty. Wheat, black gram (Urad), sugar, milk, oils and ghee can be consumed in large quantities, along with various pulses. The long nights can lead to hunger early in the morning. So, a good breakfast is advisable. Use warm water for drinking and bathing. Apply oil and Utne (natural cleansing paste) before the bath. Exercise as much as you can. Avoid sleeping in the day time.