By Ruchira Roy
As temperatures soar, parents are left wondering about how to meet the hydration requirements in kids from the food and drinks they consume, and not everything that children like to have in summer is necessarily hydrating, nourishing and immunity-building. To cruise through the summer heat and loss of fluids and essential nutrients, Ayurveda provides specific guidelines to follow for diet for each season as part of Ritucharya (routine for seasons) that helps the body adjust seamlessly without causing any imbalance.
Seasonal fruits top the charts when it comes to Ayurvedic recommendations for summer. While summers are a time for vacations, long trips, lazing around and flip-flops, it also brings along with it concerns of seasonal illnesses like diarrhea, sunburn, sunstroke and heat strokes. Due to the dehydrating summer heat, the body loses nutrients easily. This loss of nutrients is more pronounced among children and it is essential to replenish this loss through diet and regular intake of fluids. Eating summer fruits and maintaining diet is a healthy way to keep their body cool and additionally get all the goodness of nature. Water, tender coconut water and fruit juices are highly recommended in Ayurveda.
According to Ayurveda, imbalance in the three bio-energies or doshas Vata, Pitta and Kapha -who get their identities from the five elements – over time lead to illnesses. The three doshas combine in differing proportions to make up an individual’s constitution or prakriti. This includes all factors – physical, mental and emotional – that express an individual’s uniqueness.
Among the summer fruits, some of the healthiest coolants and thirst quenchers that children can be encouraged to have for their multiple benefits like presence of vitamins, minerals, fiber, water content, electrolytes and antioxidants include:
Watermelons are made up of 92 per cent water and electrolytes that keep the body hydrated, give energy and help to clean out toxins from the body. The fibre content is good for the digestive system and prevents constipation. Watermelons are also rich in Vitamin A that strengthens the eye muscles and protects them from further damage. Watermelon balances Pitta and is an excellent way to cool off.
Muskmelons similarly have high water content that also keeps the body hydrated. Apart from these, it is rich in potassium, which helps keep the blood pressure well regulated. The high fibre content and negligible fat in muskmelon helps in controlling blood sugar. Muskmelon is a diuretic and a natural remedy for relieving constipation.
Apples are extremely rich in dietary fibre, antioxidants and flavanoids, making them an ideal source of Vitamin B-complex vitamins. They also have small quantities of potassium, calcium, and phosphorus.
Ayurvedic perspective: Apples are good for balancing Kapha (earth element). Raw, sour apples increase Vata (air) and Pitta (fire). Cooked apples help increase ojas or vitality and help ease constipation.
Papaya, an all-round summer fruit, is beneficial both as an application externally and can be consumed as a medicinal fruit too. Papaya is known to soothe sunburn and reduce the tan. Papaya contains an enzyme called papain which aids in digestion. It is rich in potassium, Vitamin C (for building collagen to provide texture to skin and hair), Vitamin K (for bone health)), and Vitamin A (for healthy hair and supple skin). It helps to maintain body’s immune system.
Bael or golden apple
Bael (Bilwa or golden apple) has various health benefits because of the presence of tannin in the fruit that helps in curing diseases like cholera and diarrhea. It is rich in Vitamin A, B1, B2, and C making it a good source of potassium and calcium.
Ayurvedic perspective: Bael increases digestive fire, cures dysentery, digestive impairment, disorders of small intestine.
Bananas are rich in carbohydrates that can help power muscles. Surely kids don’t need bananas to increase their muscle tone, however, they do need the carbohydrates as a source of energy.
This fruit is rich in vitamin B6 which is needed for a healthy nervous system and to produce the needed energy in the body. In addition to this, banana is also a rich source of dietary fibre, vitamin C and potassium. Electrolytes like potassium are lost in large quantities in diarrhea and can make the person feel weak. Bananas can replace the lost nutrients.
Citrus fruits like mosambi, oranges and lemons are one of the richest source of Vitamin C, that helps prevent the occurrence of scurvy in children. Vitamin C also boosts the immune system in kids. The acids in fruits help flush out toxins from the bowel tract. It also contains a high amount of dietary fibre, which can relieve constipation that children are prone to in summer.
The fruit is rich in antioxidants and the flavonoids that have detoxifying and antibiotic properties, effective in healing peptic ulcers.
The fruit juices keep the body cool in summer. Citrus juice is a healthy alternative to carbonated drinks. It will keep children hydrated and provide essential minerals and vitamins at the same time. Homemade lemonade is helpful in treating a person suffering from sunstroke.
Ayurvedic Perspective: It helps relieve thirst and reduce nausea and vomiting.
Cucumber is one of the best things that kids can munch on in summers. Since it has 95 per cent water, they are extremely hydrating, ideal for kids in summers. They also provide fibre and are helpful in relieving constipation.
The low-calorie cucumber is loaded with nutrients. Cucumbers are also low in sodium, carbohydrates, fat and cholesterol. The anti-inflammatory compounds present in cucumber help flush out the toxins from our body.
Ayurvedic perspective: Cucumber cures fatigue, burning sensation, cures dryness balances pitta and cures bleeding diseases.
Mango is known to be the king of summer fruits. As much as we love it during summers, it doesn’t keep us cool. In fact, an overdose of mangoes can cause aggravation of pitta leading to digestive problems and skin issues. It is a seasonal fruit and so it should not be completely avoided as it provides dedicated nutrients. But it should be preferably consumed in lesser quantity.
Since they can be heavy to digest and increase Kapha imbalance, the list of foods to be avoided during summer include:
· Ice creams
· Oil foods and
· Processed and preserved foods
(With inputs from Dr. Ravi K Reddy, Ayurveda specialist with Art of Living’s Sri Sri Tattva.)