How to Survive Eating Ice Cream

Your love
Is better than ice cream
Better than anything else that I’ve tried
– Sarah McLachlan

Alas, it’s that time of year again, Ice Cream Season! Hip hip! With summer comes the inevitable hankering for a massive waffle cone of Cherry Garcia . In Vermont the cremee stands are jam packed with people patiently (or not) waiting for maple soft-serve. Cool, decadent and delicious, who can pass that up? However, for many, eating ice cream can create sad and uncomfortable consequences. Gas, bloating, and all around digestive distress. Loads of side effects for one afternoon of hedonistic fun.

Before I provide you with an antidote to the heavy and cold qualities of ice cream, let’s geek out with some Ayurvedic theory.

The energetics of ice cream are the following:

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 building, they are what gives us substance and heft. It is recommended to 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 we are also making sure we are getting a bite of each elements 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. Like the sweet taste, Kapha is also composed of the elements Earth and Water.
Consuming too much of the Earth and Water elements may lead to:

  • Allergies
  • Excess mucous (phlegm after eating anyone? )
  • Weight gain,
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Lack of motivation
  • 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, the production of ama, or toxins, is inevitable.

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 begin to clog the channels. Once the channels are blocked up, our health will be compromised and all hell breaks loose. 

Traditionally, in Indian, cold dairy plus sugar is perceived as a bad food combination.
However, if you are going to eat ice cream there are a few remedies to make this substance less inimical to your bod.

  1. Consume your cone during the Pitta time of day– roughly 12-2 PM (technically Pitta hours are from 10 AM-2PM, but if you are eating ice cream at 10 AM…well, this worries me) . Why these hours? 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.
  2. 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 get your digestive fire blazing.
  3. Opt for ice cream flavors that have a bit of spice incorporated- such as ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, or even cayenne. There’s an ice cream shop in Great Barrington that sells a flavor called Mexican Chocolate. Delicious and loaded with cinnamon and cayenne, spicy and cooling at the same time.
  4. Cardamom: Cardamom is thought to be 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. Perhaps 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, try all 4 of these tricks and see how it goes next time you hit the freezer section. Your belly will surely thank you. 

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