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15 Delicious Vata-Balancing Winter Desserts
by Nadya Andreeva
Editor's Note from Julie Cerrato: Sweet tooth? Sugar cravings? If you're trying to be healthy and curbing your desserts, Ayurveda has some nourishing, delicious alternatives for you! Vata dosha is prominent in the winter season and is balanced by warm, cooked and the nourishing "Sweet" or "Madura" taste (Rasa). Now, that's Natural sweet taste, not the sugary candy kind. This doesn't mean you have to miss out on your favorite course but instead can include desserts that reflect Nature's star sweeties. Check out Nadya Andreeva's "15 Delicious Vata-Balancing Winter Desserts" to get a taste of the Ayurvedic sweet life. Oh, and Ayurveda recommends to begin your meal with Madura Rasa since it helps to enhance appetite and stimulate digestion, so dessert first folks...Enjoy!
In general winter has a bad reputation – flu season, cold weather, weakened immune system, dry skin, and on top of that the inevitable cold season weight gain. Sounds pretty horrible! But according to Ayurveda, winter is one of the best times to strengthen immune system and lose or maintain weight. (Isn’t it a pleasant surprise?)
Besides it is the time of the year, when according to ayurveda, you can have a delicious desert without any guilt.
Winter Medicine – Warm Dessert
This ancient discipline divides seasons according to their qualities and prescribes a certain lifestyle and diet to maintain a perfect balance of health. Jan and Feb is still cold, mostly dry and windy which according to Ayurveda are characteristics of Vata. In excess, the these qualities may manifest themselves as dry or brittle skin, lips, hair, nails or bones, digestion problems, or emotional “dryness”. The “light” quality may manifest itself as being underweight, having insomnia or feeling “spacey” or insecure. Since Vata is inherently cool – cool weather, cool foods, the cool seasons can increase Vata.
Ayurveda defines ”medicine” as a substance that can decrease the excess dosha by providing the opposite qualities to it. For example, if Vata has increased due to excess activity, a quiet, calm environment can be a medicine. If it has increased due to excess dryness, wetness can be the medicine. One of the wonderfully practical aspects of Ayurveda is that anything can be used as a medicine because everything that exists has a quality. This includes but is not limited to: herbs, foods, colors, drinks, environments, smells and lifestyles.
Qualities opposite to Vata are moist, grounding, warming, smooth, oily and stabilizing. It is therefore best to seek out environments, routines, and foods that possess these opposite qualities at this time of year. You might be already guessing what it has to do with the guiltless desserts that I mentioned in the title… Winter is the best time to enjoy warm rich desserts!!!
Winter Immune System
Bala, which literally means “strength,” is the Ayurvedic word for immune system. In Ayurveda, immunity is connected with the digestion – when it is strong and appetite is good, then immunity is strengthened. On the other hand, what weakens digestion weakens immunity. It’s that simple.
One reason that winter is a good season for building immunity is that the digestion is stronger in cold weather. Just as your home’s heating system works harder in cold weather, so your inner digestive fire stokes up when the air turns chilly. People feel hungrier, and can actually digest food better in winter, thus nourishing their bodies more. We tend to think that winter season is bad for immunity because as appetite increases, people start eating more junk food and heavy, hard to digest foods, and thus weaken their immunity. Other seasons are better for purifying, but winter is the time to build up and nourish all systems–the hair, the nails, and the skin.
Immune-Boosting Winter Desserts
Here are some basics for choosing foods, especially desserts that will help you strengthen your immunity system, improve your skin if it is dry, stabilize digestion, and maybe even shed those holiday pounds.
Foods that nourish and balance the body in the cold, dry, winter season are the sweet, sour and salty tastes. Warm foods are ideal, as long as they are not deep-fried and are cooked with easy-to-digest oils such as ghee or olive oil. Avoid cold or ice-cold foods, as cold foods and drinks douse the digestive fire and decreases immunity.
Since Sweet is one of the most pacifying tastes for Vata a home-made dessert is a well justified part of a Vata balancing diet.
It Is Best To:
* Stick to warm desserts
* Be generous with warming spices such as cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, cumin, cloves, turmeric, peppercorns
* Use sweet and ripe fruits, especially dates, figs, bananas, apricots, pears
* Experiment with desserts made out of orange squashes, pumpkins, sweet potato, and beets
* Add a dab of warm milk (almond or dairy), coconut oil, or ghee to counterbalance Vata’s dryness
* Make dessert using oats, and other hearty grains
* Add nuts and nut butters
* For sweeteners use honey as it has warming and immune strengthening qualities. If cooking in high heat, try coconut crystals or stevia
Ayurvedic Winter Dessert Recipes:
1. Sweet Rice from Mapi Ayurveda
2. Berry Fruit Cobbler Warm and nourishing dessert from Ashley
3. Flourless Ginger Muffins Detoxinista Megan is a superstar when it comes to creative healthy recipes and amazing accompanying pictures
4. Spiced Apricot Compote I love spices and apricots…
5. Curried Stewed Fruit Want to try something unique?
6. Spiced Poached Pears Delicious treat for a grounded and happy Vata
7. Pumpkin Vegan Bourbon Bread Pudding Vegan and yummy
8. Carrot Halwa Can’t say enough about carrot halwa! I love it!! Substitute for almond milk, add stevia instead of sugar, and coconut butter if excluding all dairy. Easy to adapt and still tastes amazing!
9. Cherry Banana Coconut Butter Bread Oh She Glows is a queen of baking healthy treats!
10. Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal A special warm treat from Chocolate Covered Katie. Will you have it for breakfast or dessert?
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About the Author
Nadya Andreeva is a wellness coach, yoga instructor and ayurveda enthusiast who grew up in Russia in a family of doctors. Nadya grew up practicing yoga and learning about different healing approaches in Russia, India and later all over the US. Trained in psychology, yoga therapy and ayurveda, Nadya works to create a wholesome path to wellness through yoga classes, personal wellness coaching and nutrition workshops. Her articles on yoga and nutrition are featured on MindBodyGreen, Modern Hippie Mag, Crazy Sexy Life and YogaCity NYC. She holds an MA in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from New York University and is finishing up her certification from Wellcoaches. Follow Nadya’s blog www.spinachandyoga.com and twitter @realyoganyc to receive fun wellness tips.