Yes, August is here and that means it's Ice Cream Season! In Vermont, the cremee stands are jam-packed with people patiently waiting for maple soft-serve. It's cool, creamy, and delicious -- who can pass that up? However, for many, eating ice cream can create sad and uncomfortable consequences, including gas, bloating, and digestive distress. In short, there may be loads of side effects for one afternoon's indulgence.
Before I provide you with an antidote to the heavy and cold qualities of ice cream, let's dive into some Ayurvedic theory.
According to Ayurveda, the "energetics" of ice cream are as follows:
- Taste, or rasa = Sweet
- Potency, or Virya (how it will affect the temperature of the body) = Cold
- Post Digestive Effect, or Vipaka = Sweet
As a general rule, foods that have a sweet taste are thought to be primarily composed of the elements Earth and Water. These elements are what gives us substance and heft. It is recommended you consume all 6 tastes (Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter, Pungent and Astringent) at each meal. These 6 tastes each contain two of the five elements (Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether). By consuming all 6 tastes, you are also making sure you are getting a bite of each element in every spoonful.
Eating too much of any one taste can create an imbalance. For example, eating too much of the sweet flavor will increase Kapha dosha. Kapha, like the sweet taste, is also composed of the elements Earth and Water. Adding too much Earth and Water to the diet may lead to allergies, excess mucous, weight gain, lethargy, depression, lack of motivation, and inertia. Balance is key.
Due to its cold nature, ice cream will increase both Vata and Kapha. This is because both doshas lack the fire element. While this chilly dessert will pacify fiery Pitta, it will also increase ama, or toxins.
The reason why ice cream, or really any cold food for that matter, creates toxins is that it hampers the strength of the digestive fire. As a result, with a softer fire, food is not processed as efficiently, or sometimes at all. This will cause a thick sludge to build up and it will begin to clog the channels. Once the channels are blocked up, our health will be compromised and we will feel subpar.
Traditionally, in India, cold dairy plus sugar is perceived as a bad food combination. However, if you are going to eat ice cream there are four strategies to make this treat less inimical to your channels.
First, eat your cone during the Pitta time of day -- roughly 12-2 p.m. This is the time when the sun is at its strongest, as is our digestive capacity. If you opt for ice cream during these hours, this allows for plenty of time to fully digest before hitting the hay.
Second, have a ginger appetizer before you indulge. Take a small knob of ginger root and slice it into thin rounds. Add a squirt of lime juice and a pinch of salt. Consume 2-3 slices about 15 minutes prior to indulging to get your digestive fire blazing.
Third, opt for ice cream flavors that have a bit of spice incorporated, such as ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, or even cayenne. We have an ice cream shop in town that sells Mexican Chocolate, which is loaded with cinnamon and cayenne. It's spicy and cooling at the same time.
Fourth, use cardamom -- it's the VIP antidote to ice cream. Due to its mildly pungent and hot nature, it works to help balance both cold and sweet foods. When added to dairy products, cardamom helps to reduce the production of mucus. If you are one of those folks that feels slightly nauseous after consuming ice cream, consider cardamom your new best friend. If possible, carry a tiny bag with you and sprinkle it on top of your next dish of ice cream. (Bonus Tip: Cardamom can also be added to coffee to help neutralize the acidity.)
Try one or try all 4 of these tricks and see how it goes next time you hit the freezer section. Your belly will surely thank you.
Writer Lauren Sauer is a graduate from the Kripalu School of Ayurveda and a certified 500 hour Kripalu Ayurvedic Yoga Teacher. As an Ayurvedic Health Counselor, she is passionate about educating others to become their own health advocate, to live with the rhythms of nature and to simply slow down and breathe. She currently resides in the beautiful Berkshires as the intern with the Kripalu School of Ayurveda.
For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or to sell any product.