A little about Vata Dosha & a Recipe: Apricot Cardamom Oatmeal

This is the first of two breakfast recipes I’ll post for today. They’re similar in ways: both with a healthy dose of cardamom and both warm and mushy. You might be thinking “yeah, like everything you post Kate.” and you know, you’re right! There’s a good reason that many of the recipes I post are for mushy, lightly spiced food, and it’s because it’s pacifying to Vata (primarily) and doesn’t aggravate Pitta. How many of you can identify with feeling anxious, overwhelmed, tense, stiff, bloated, constipated, fatigued, run-down, waking up in the middle of the night or experiencing dry skin? You all, my friends, know my good friend imbalanced-Vata well. When Vata is in excess in our bodies and minds, we find ourselves with some (or all) of the above symptoms. Vata is best calmed (and kept in balance) by what we can think of as healthy comfort food, eaten in a mindful way. So the food I post is designed primarily to balance Vata. A large number of participants in my Ayurvedic programs and clients experience Vata imbalance, and then sometimes one other dosha out of balance as well. Vata, being the “king of the doshas” is the dosha to balance first (generally). Vata, the air dosha, which governs movement in the body is the real havoc-reeker. A fire (Pitta) is fairly manageable so long as there aren’t high winds. Earth (Kapha) is quite nice so long as it’s not being moved to create an earthquake. And likewise, excess Kapha and Pitta are both far more manageable without troublemaker Vata coming along to make the whole situation more challenging. There’s nothing inherently wrong with dry or cool foods; it’s just that they aren’t as easy to digest. Coddling our digestion is a great way to stay healthy when life is stressful. I try to eat (delicious) easy to digest food for the majority of my diet and then eat the more challenging to digest foods as treats (like going out to dinner to Locanda in the Mission district like I did last night- yum!). And now, on to more easy to digest recipes! 

RECIPE: APRICOT CARDAMOM OATMEAL
Serves 2

6 dried apricots, chopped into small pieces
2/3 c rolled oats
1 1/2 c water
1/4 t ground cardamom 
ghee, sweetener, rice milk to top

In a pot, put apricots & just enough water to cover on medium heat. Bring to a boil then down to a simmer for four minutes. The apricots should soften then add oats, water and cardamom. Bring to boil then down to simmer. Stir frequently so the oats don’t stick to the pot too much. When oats are cooked to desired consistency (for me, it’s about 8 minutes after bringing to a boil) remove from heat and serve with a little ghee & rice milk. Some might like a little liquid sweetener on top (maple, brown rice syrup, honey, molasses).

  • Vata: Great! Use any sweetener but honey. 
  • Pitta: Great! Use maple syrup. 
  • Kapha: Better with Rye flakes, Barley or Quinoa. Omit ghee. Can use dry ginger for half of cardamom. Use honey. 
  • http://www.cardamomkitchen.net/ Shruthi Bajaj, Ayurvedic Cook

    This is a great post, Kate! I have recently come to love oatmeal since it doesn’t hurt my stomach AT ALL. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15662144144662951686 Jaime Merit

    What a great way to start your day, I myself am a cardamom grower/importer from columbia, always looking for new ways of using cardamom. thanks a lot for the recipe

  • Ole

    You say this is a great recipe for Pitta?
    I thought apricots aggravated pitta?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04130232657124197980 Kate Lumsden

    Ole, great question. The dominant taste of this dish is sweet and heavy lending itself towards balancing pitta. Apricots when sour do aggravate pitta, but in small amounts like this, shouldn’t. If this were a recipe where I had added cinnamon, then it might be too much with the apricots. Dr Lad says favor sweet apricots for pitta, and theses were sweet. If you wanted to make it absolutely pitta friendly, substitute cooked apples or pears and use shredded coconut and halve the cardamom.

  • Ole

    Okay.

    I also wonder if pears are okay for Vata in the autumn? I myself am half pitta, half vata. So I guess I should try to balance vata in the autumn then?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04130232657124197980 Kate Lumsden

    You definitely want to start integrating more vata balancing practices. Pears make still be ok if they’re spiced and cooked. Test it and see if you get bloated or have gas. That’ll tell you if they’re still good for you. Now is the perfect time to be doing abhyanga if you aren’t already to prepare for the winter. best of luck!

  • Ole

    So pears aren’t that good for vatas in general?
    But if we spice them and cook them for a while they’re okay even in the winter?

    I’ve also heard that people who have equal amounts of vata and pitta most often are physically dry and thus should eat more like Vata than Pitta. Is this correct?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04130232657124197980 Kate Lumsden

    Generally, spiced and cooked, pears will be ok in the winter in small amounts. Pears aren’t great for vatas in general.

    I would disagree that most VP people should eat for V. It depends on time of year, lifestyle and health history.
    For VPs (like me), I find that this works:
    -Pitta balancing foods
    -Vata balancing spices (in small amounts)
    -Good intake of healthy oils
    -Vata balancing lifestyle (routine, routine, routine & lots of abhyanga)
    -Mild (not extreme) exercise

    Hope this helps. :)

  • Ole

    So since I am a mixture of vata and pitta cooked pears are probably healthy for me? If I sprinkle some cinnamon over it?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04130232657124197980 Kate Lumsden

    probably fine, but eat them and see how you feel.

  • Ole

    Okay.
    I think I feel fine when eating this. Actually I think my skin-problems have gotten better by eating cooked pears in the morning. Do you think that could be the reason?

    I also wonder if Ayurveda recommends vegetarianism in general? Or is this just what modern-day Ayurveda recommends? I’ve heard that ancient ayurvedic texts recommends meat in general.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04130232657124197980 Kate Lumsden

    I would be mindful of not overusing cinnamon if you’ve had skin problems as it can aggravate them. Ayurveda doesn’t recommend a vegetarian diet altogether. Meat is good to use for vata primarily. Kapha does well with an almost vegan diet and Pitta does well to avoid red meat. As is the answer with all questions in Ayurveda, “It depends.” :)

  • Ole

    Okay.
    I think that my skin-problems developed mostly because of dryness. It seems pears and oily fish make them disappear somehow. Cinnamon doesn’t seem to aggravate them actually.

    When you say that Ayurveda doesn’t recommend meat altogether, do you mean it is okay to eat meat every day if you are a pitta/vata?
    200 grams of lamb chicken or beef a day if it’s complimented with vegetables and grains?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04130232657124197980 Kate Lumsden

    I wouldn’t recommend for anyone to eat meat everyday just like I wouldn’t recommend any especially hard to digest food to anyone everyday. For occasional use it’s ok. It all depends on the person, you really can’t make a rule for it though that might seem easier.

  • Ole

    Okay.

    Maybe meat is better in northern climates where it is cooler than India?
    Meat is a warm food and thus may be more appropriate in those places?

    Ayurveda says our digestion gets stronger with cooler weather, so if it gets much cooler than the winters of India maybe even more meat could be okay?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04130232657124197980 Kate Lumsden

    yes. It all depends on the individual consuming the meat.

  • Freddie

    You mentioned cinnamon could aggravate skin problems. Is it better to make the dish more warming by adding cloves instead?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04130232657124197980 Kate Lumsden

    Hi Freddie,
    Why are you wanting to warm someone with skin problems? Cloves will have a similar pitta stimulating effect, so I wouldn’t use them if someone has any kind of inflammatory skin problem.

  • Freddie

    I’m thinking that the fruit would increase vata in the winter(Pears were mentioned).
    So if cloves or cinnamon are added, the meal might get more balance?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04130232657124197980 Kate Lumsden

    Sure, I can see your logic in that respect. I’d probably go with adding fresh ginger before cloves.

  • Freddie

    Ginger with fruit don’t seem like the most tasty breakfeast. Are there any other herbs that are good as well?