Ayurveda, India’s health system which evolved alongside yoga, is a proponent of eating a seasonal diet. We can balance qualities in our environment through our food choices and cooking practices. And when we do, we experience states of mental ease, good energy, and sound digestion. When we don’t change with the season, according to Ayurveda, we run the risk of falling into a state of imbalance. Any disease originally began as a simple state of imbalance, an increase of one or more elements. In wintertime, we are likely to see an increase in air and space elements, which bring along dry, cold, hard, and rough energies (think standing on top of Mt Washington). This could manifest as dry skin, gas and bloating, dry colon (constipation-eek!), cracking joints, dry eye, cold hands and feet, to name a handful.
To put it simply: this time of year, increase your moist, warm, soft foods! Replace your salads with steamed vegetables and soups, your iced water with warm water and herbal tea. Favor warm grains, nuts and seeds, lentil stews. Doesn’t that sound intuitive? All you have to do is pay attention to what your body is telling you, and learn a bit about Ayurvedic cooking so you have your tool belt ready to balance the qualities you might be feeling.
The winter diet happens to be a favorite of mine. I just love this recipe I am sharing for sesame cookies, from The Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook. Eat them when the weather is cold and the digestive fires are burning bright. I like my treats to be real food- sweet tasting but also nutritive and filling. I also don’t like to eat refined flours, so these cookies use almond flour. The sesame seed gives us sesame oil, often used in Ayurveda for internal as well as external applications, and sesame butter, or tahini. Sesame is a rainy-season crop, revered in Ayurveda for its ability to protect and replenish our vital nutritive juices. In India, sesame is often used for making sweets in the winter season and for devotional festivals. Sesame is special because it contains an unusual trio of tastes: bitter, pungent, and sweet. Its naturally balanced composition of heating, cooling, and building qualities makes it a tonic for increasing strength and immunity. Note: This cookie should retain a chewy inside.
(from The Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook)
makes 2 dozen
- 1 cup sesame tahini
- 1/4 cup almond flour
- 1/3 cup maple syrup
- 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp ginger powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 egg, whisked
- 2 tsp sesame seeds, plus extra for decoration
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 2 baking sheets by lightly
greasing with ghee or coconut oil or else lining with parchment paper.
In a medium mixing bowl, mix the ingredients together in the order listed. If the batter is too runny to shape, put it in the fridge for 5–10 minutes (but batter that’s a little runny bakes nicely). Shape batter into tablespoon-size balls or drop with a spoon onto the prepared cookie sheets. Leave a few inches between the balls, as they will puff up when they bake. Lightly press down on the balls with a fork. Sprinkle tops with extra sesame seeds.
Bake for 10–12 minutes, until they are firm enough to touch without your finger sticking. Let them cool completely before removing from baking sheets and serving. Puffs will be soft when you eat them.
Kate O’Donnell is a nationally certified Ayurvedic Practitioner and an authorized Ashtanga yoga teacher based in Boston. She began yoga in South India at age 20, and still travels there annually for study. She is the author of The Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook: A Seasonal Guide to Eating and Living Well, and we were super excited to have her contribute these winter Ayurvedic tips to the DharmaCrafts blog.