Spring is emerging which means more light and color in Nature – yay! – but it can be a tricky transitional time for our bodies which you may notice as mucus, sluggishness, and/or interrupted sleep. But no worries, Ayurveda has some sweet advice about what to eat to help you remain well and energetic as we move from Winter into spring.

In the Ayurvedic system of health every season has a dosha, or set of qualities, associated with it. Winter, governed by Vata dosha, has been cold, dry and dark. When the sun lingers longer and the ground thaws we are entering the Kapha season which starts out wet and cold in February and March and ends up wet and warm, in May and June.

In early Kapha season the world is slowly coming out of hibernation. The first spring flowers poke their heads above the mud and the birds’ ecstatic singing signals that mating season has begun. Trees flower and release pollen before their leaves unfurl. As all this vegetation wakes up, people who are susceptible to allergies can feel the effects of Kapha in their respiratory system.

The English word “cough” comes from the Sanskrit word Kapha. One of the main locations of Kapha in the body is in the chest. When the Kapha dosha becomes aggravated, mucus increases, leading to colds and problems with sinus congestion, allergies and asthma.

Around the Spring Equinox is an excellent to do a cleanse to eliminate any ama (toxins) and sluggishness that may have accumulated over the winter. Nature is primed now for shedding anything that has accumulated that is no longer needed, and then growing and rejuvenating. Plugging into this natural rhythm makes cleansing in the Spring especially effective.

Just as the year is divided into seasons by the doshas, the daily cycle also has its divisions into Vata, Pitta and Kapha. The Kapha time of day is 6 to 10 in both the morning and the evening. Digestion is weaker during Kapha time, especially in Kapha season. Kapha covers up agni (your digestive fire), so it is good to eat your biggest meal of the day at lunch, when your digestive fires are naturally at their peak, rather than heavy breakfasts and suppers.

Here are some good tips for Kapha season to help you stay well and vibrant:

– Reduce your intake of foods that are sweet, sour and salty.

– Avoid especially heavy foods like ice cream, yogurt, peanut butter, bananas, cheese, ice-cold foods, and deep-fried foods.

– Food can be a little spicier this time of year (unless your Pitta is aggravated).

– Add bitter and astringent tastes. Cooked green leafy vegetables are bitter and legumes are astringent. Check out your local farmers markets for super fresh, nutrient packed local greens and other seasonal vegetables.

– Favor seeds over nuts. I especially like pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds. Try roasting organic, raw seeds in a pan. When they begin turning brown sprinkle in some powered cumin and then add a teaspoon of ghee and stir. These seeds are delicious sprinkled over greens or other cooked veggies.

– Avoid lots of raw food in favor of cooked as raw foods are much harder to digest.

– Transition from using maple syrup as a sweetener to small amounts of honey. Raw honey helps liquefy Kapha and move it out of the system, but cooked honey is considered poisonous in the Ayurvedic system, so it shouldn’t be taken in hot tea or used in cooking.

– Sip ginger tea throughout the day. It’s easy to make your own. Peel and thinly slice a 2-inch piece of ginger root. Slice one lemon (lemon is optional). Pour about 4 cups of boiling water over the ginger and lemon and cover letting it steep about 20 min. Enjoy hot or warm but not cold. If you need sweetener add a bit of maple syrup. See note above about heating honey.

– Spring is a good time to ramp up your exercise routine. Once Kapha is energized it brings great strength and endurance. Allow a little initial resistance to turn into exhilaration as you play with the emerging spring energies.