What is the Monsoon Diet Plan
The Monsoon diet also known as Varsha Ritucharya or Varsa Ritu for short is a diet that originates from the Indian subcontinent. The Monsoon diet is part of the Indian alternative medicine system that is commonly referred to as Ayurveda.
The Monsoon Diet Plan is named after the season that it is usually used, which takes place from the middle of July to the middle of September. To help get a better idea of what the Monsoon diet is and the system it is a part of, we will first give a quick overview of Ayurveda.
Ayurveda: A Quick Overview
A key characteristic of Ayurveda is its emphasis on one’s relationship with the wisdom of nature. It teaches us that our bodies are a part of the world and not an exemption of it. It is not only dependent on it but is integrated with it.
This reasoning finds itself more and more relevant in this modern age. Where and when we find ourselves drifting away from nature in favor of globalization, industrialization, and technology. One of its dietary guidelines, which is to focus on consuming food that is in season, forces us to keep in mind time and its passing.
Ayurveda is an alternative medicine system that is very popular and heavily practiced in the Indian subcontinent, mainly Nepal and India, where it also has historical roots. It has been reported that around 80% of the population takes part in the system.
Given its long historical roots, Ayurveda therapies have changed and evolved throughout its existence. Common components of the Ayurveda therapies include the use of herbal medicines, special diets, yoga, massage, enemas, laxatives, and medical oils.
Ayurveda has a rich and colorful history with the oldest texts pointing towards the beginning in the first millennium BCE onwards, one theory even claims that the knowledge came directly from Dhanvantari, the Hindu god of medicine, who gave it to a group of physicians. Another theory is that it was the work of King Divodasa. However it may have originated, the modernization and globalization of the practice are attributed to the hard work and efforts of Baba Hari Dass in the 1970s and Maharishi Ayurveda in the 1980s.
Given that the system was originally developed in ancient times, it has garnered criticisms that it is obsolete and that its more modern practitioners have not accurately taken into account the recent developments that have been made in medicine. There have been plenty of prominent political debates in the government and in the public arena with regard to whether or not it should be modernized with passionate supporters on both sides of the debate.
As the premises for Ayurvedic medicine are not based on science it is commonly considered as pseudoscientific in nature by the medical community. Although there are currently some studies on the efficacy of the system and its claims, there currently is still plenty of room for confirmation. One of its more popular claims is that the system can effectively treat or cure cancer, unfortunately, there have not been any conclusive studies that could collaborate the claim. At most, some of the treatments can assist in relieving cancer symptoms. To gain confidence in any studies related to the health benefits or effects of undergoing treatment in Ayurvedic medicine there will have to be more scientific and peer-reviewed studies to be done.
One of the more controversial beliefs under Ayurveda is Rasa shastra, or the practice of adding metals, gems, or minerals to herbal concoctions. These can include toxic heavy metals such as lead, mercury, and arsenic. These heavy metals are known to have detrimental effects when consumed. There have been limited studies with regard to the public health implications of such practice.
In response to this, the Indian government has ruled that Ayurvedic products must be correctly labeled with their metallic content. Given its globalization, the United States of America’s FDA has placed an import alert on some Ayurvedic products to prevent them from being imported into the United States.
The Ayurvedic Diet
Part of the holistic system of Ayurvedic is its diet, an eating pattern that has been around for as long as the system was. It’s based on balancing the different types of energy within the body, hence boosting immune system and improving health. It’s popularity has been attributed due to the diet’s claim to not only promote better health for the body but for the mind as well.
According to the diet, there are five elements that the universe is composed of – Vayu or air, Jala or Water, Akash or Space, Teja or Fire, and Prithvi or Earth . These elements form three different types of energy or doshas, responsible for specific physiological functions.(1)
- The Pitta dosha promotes hunger, thirst, and body temperature
- The Vata dosha controls electrolyte balance and movement.
- The Kapha Dosha maintains joint function.
Practiced for more than a thousand years, the Ayurvedic diet is based on being able to determine your dominant dosha and eating specific food to maintain balance between the doshas.
How it Works
The Ayurvedic diet is not only limited to an eating plan of what to eat and what not to eat but also when and how to eat based on your body type.
Each dosha has a corresponding body type, such as the ones below:
Pitta Dosha (Fire + Water)
- Build: Generally identified with a medium physical build
- Difficulties: Commonly has difficulty with conditions like indigestion, heart disease or high blood pressure
- Traits: Intelligent, Hard-working, and decisive
- Foods to prioritize: Cooling and energizing foods
- Foods to avoid: Limit spices, nuts, and seeds
Vata Dosha (Air + Space)
- Build:Generally identified as thin with a light frame
- Difficulties: Commonly cannot foster good gut health, fatigue, or anxiety when out of balance
- Traits: Creative, energetic, and lively
- Foods to prioritize: Warm, moist, and grounding foods
- Foods to avoid: Limit dried fruits, bitter herbs, and raw veggies and other foods as water may be contaminated causing diarrhea and food poisoning
Kapha Dosha (Earth + Water)
- Build: Generally identified with a sturdier frame
- Difficulties: Commonly struggles with weight gain, asthma, depression, or diabetes
- Traits: Naturally calm, grounded, and loyal
- Foods to prioritize: Favor fruits, green vegetables, and legumes
- Foods to avoid: Limit heavy foods like nuts, seeds, and oils
To put it simply, the Ayurvedic diet is a specific diet that is guided by one’s specific body type. This regular diet plan aids to promote balance by providing a consistent eating pattern that is easy to follow and at the same time focuses on a diet of foods that are in season.
The Rainy Season Monsoon Diet or Varsha Ritucharya
The Varsha Ritucharya, also known as Varsha Ritu, takes place from mid-July to mid-September. These months are typically the wet and rainy season in the Indian subcontinent.
It is understandable that given that the US only has four seasons compared to India’s six, there might be some confusion but the principle remains the same. There might be some adjustments needed to be made for example for weather differences such as longer winters, in this case, it is best to take our cues from nature.(2)
What to Eat
One would be careful at eating heavy foods at the start of the season, rather, it is recommended that one slowly picks up and transitions towards heavier foods throughout the refreshing rainy season. Ideal Varsha diet would be to avoid uncooked food and favor warm, freshly cooked meals and eating lots of thin soups. Ginger and lemon are great ingredients to assist with digestion and keeping healthy gut flora.
Here’s a quick list of the recommended diet:
- Prioritize consuming light and fresh foods prepared from barley, rice and wheat
- Include lean meat, lentils, rice, and wheat in the daily diet
- Eat a small piece of ginger with rock salt before every meal
- Take sour and salty soups of vegetables, but not junk food
- Prioritize using onion, lean meat and vegetables as ingredients for soups
- Drink boiled and cooled water mixed with little honey
- Add ginger and green gram in your daily diet
- Eat warm food and avoid eating uncooked foods and salads
- Avoid drinking too much fluids as it further slows down metabolism
- Avoid consuming stale food
- Avoid green leafy vegetables during monsoon
It is always best to supplement a healthy diet with a healthy lifestyle. As the Aryurvedic diet is not only concerned with diet but a holistic and integral approach to health and wellness. here are a few recommendations for good practices to do in preparation for the monsoon season.
- Avoid sleeping in daytime as it hampers digestion and slows down the metabolism
- Avoid overexertion and over exposure to sun
- Avoid moving out in the afternoon sun
- Always keep the surrounding dry and clean. Do not allow water to get accumulated around
- Keep the body warm as viruses attack immediately when body temperature goes down
- Do not enter an air-conditioned room with wet hair and damp clothes
- Avoid walking in dirty water during the rainy season. keep your feet dry
- Avoid getting wet in the rain. If you happen to get wet, change into dry clothes as soon as possible to avoid getting bad bacteria and viral infections as immunity is low during this season
- Use of perfumes is advocated in this season
Ayurveda states that when seasons are changing and an individual changes their lifestyle and diet to suit that particular season, the change must be gradual over a period of 15 days. It is important to slowly transition from the initial lifestyle to the new seasonal diet and lifestyle. If the changes are brought about drastically the body may not be able to cope with them and this could lead to problems. (3)
1. Protein Balls
Preparing Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
- Roasted Chana – 1 cup
- Dates – 1/4 cup
- Desiccated coconut – 1 tbsp
- Rub the chana on a plate to get rid of the brown skin.
- De-seed the dates.
- Grind chana and dates in a grinder.
- Take the mixture out on a plate.
- Make small balls out of it by rolling them in between your palms.
- Coat the balls with the desiccated coconut.
- The dish is ready to be served
2. Jowar Chatpat
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 7 minutes
- Jowar puffs (dhani) – 5 cups
- Oil – 2 tsp
- Mustard seeds (rai/sarson) – 1 tsp
- Curry leaves (kadi patta) – 6
- Asafoetida (hing) – 1/4 tsp
- Roasted chana dal (daria) – 2 tbsp
- Turmeric Powder (haldi) – 1/2 tsp
- Chili Powder -1 tsp
- Salt to taste
- Roasted chana – 1/4 cup
- Heat a deep non-stick pan, add the jowar puffs and saute them on medium flame for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Remove the puffs and keep them aside.
- Heat the oil in the same pan, add mustard seeds, curry leaves and asafoetida and saute on a medium flame for 30 seconds.
- Add the roasted chana dal, mix well and cook on a medium flame for 1 minute.
- Add the turmeric powder, chili powder and salt, mix well and cook on a medium flame for 10 seconds.
- Add the roasted jowar puffs and roasted chana, mix well and cook on a medium flame for 1 to 2 minutes, while stirring occasionally.
- Cool completely and store in an air-tight container. Use as required.
1. Encourage whole foods
Although as indicated in the previous segment, the Ayurvedic has very specific guidelines for each dosha or body type, it still generally encourages eating whole foods like seasonal fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. Whole foods are a great general source of many essential nutrients.
Minimizing the consumption of processed foods, which more often than not do not have the necessary nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.
2. Could promote weight loss
Due to the emphasis of the Ayurvedic diet on nutrient-rich whole foods, it can be considered to aid in boosting weight loss.
A study that followed the Ayurveda-based lifestyle modification program, which included attending yoga classes and dietary changes, provided an average weight loss of around 6 kilograms over 9 months.
3. Promotes mindfulness
Mindfulness is a simple mental practice that puts into focus being present in one’s current situation. This largely practically applies to the Ayurvedic diet through mindful eating. Chewing food carefully and without haste. Enjoying and savoring the food instead of just consuming food.
A small study of 10 people found that practicing mindful eating assisted in reducing body weight, depression, stress, and binge eating (4).
The practice is also intended to enhance self-control and promote a healthy relationship with food (5).
1. Confusing and/or complex
Understandably, people can easily be discouraged in trying to follow the Ayurvedic diet given how confusing and difficult it can be to follow.
Other than the specific food lists for each dosha or body type, there are actually additional rules to follow such as depending on the season and time of the year.
2. Not based on scientific studies
Given its historical roots, there have not been many scientific studies that could support the claims the Ayurvedic diet has. Factor in the complicated recommendations tailor fit for each dosha and the simple concept of a dosha. There are plenty of core concepts that do not have any basis in scientific studies.
It is therefore difficult to pinpoint the beneficial claims of the Ayurvedic diet.
At the end of the day, although the Ayurveda diet is very popular and prominent in the Indian subcontinent and is one of those diets that are just as much a lifestyle change it is also important to proceed with caution. As with any attempt to create drastic changes in your diet or food habits, it is important to contact a medical professional to make sure that we are able to still meet one’s daily requirements. This advice should especially be heeded for vulnerable groups such as those undergoing pregnancies or are currently nursing and or have specific health vulnerabilities. It is not advisable to think that switching to the Ayurveda diet can essentially cure you of any malady, it should not replace conventional medical care.
There are only a few state-approved Ayurvedic schools in the United States. There are no national standard training or certification programs for practicing this alternative therapy. The FDA doesn’t review or approve Ayurvedic products and has actually banned a few products from being imported into the country since 2007 due to the aforementioned issue with some of the Ayurvedic medicines, containing toxic metals like lead, mercury, and arsenic. which can cause life-threatening illnesses and complications.
Nonetheless, if one avoids the more questionable practices, Ayurveda provides a sense of structure and pattern that one can rely on for a healthy lifestyle. It can help boost immunity or your immune response and promote a healthier lifestyle.