[article by Chery Silberman, Kanyakumari Center for Ayurveda and Yoga]
According to ayurvedic principles, a majority of warm, cooked foods are most suitable for human physiologies, with raw food indeed consigned for the warmer seasons and/or those with strong digestive fires. Raw vegetables are cold, rough and require very strong digestive fire, Agni, to digest. They can be a source of toxic impurities, or ama, when eaten in large amounts or at the wrong time of day. This does not mean they should necessarily be entirely eliminated, just that raw vegetable salads play a more minor role in ayurvedic meals than other dishes – certainly more so than in the West, where a raw salad can comprise the full meal. Salads containing raw vegetables appear in smaller amounts in ayurvedic meals, served more as a condiment or small side dish. Another ayurvedic option is to prepare salads based on cooked ingredients, such as grilled vegetables, cooked and cooled beans, pasta, and grain.
When to serve . . .
In general, serve salads during hot weather, when their cooler temperatures can help balance Pitta. Chilled ingredients extinguish the digestive fire, Agni; room temperature is a wiser choice.
Serve salads at the noontime meal, when the digestive fire is most powerful, with spices and seasonings that help digestion. Black pepper, ginger, and cumin are Agni-kindling spices, and lemon/lime juice both kindles Agni and help cut ama.
People with primarily vata constitutions would be wise to eat raw vegetable salads in smaller amounts and are the least frequent of all the mind-body types to eat a salad as a main meal. Use vata-balancing vegetables, such as cucumber, cooked beets and asparagus. (If you can stand to lightly cook the cucumber, it will help) Serve with plenty of unctuous oil based or creamy salad dressings. Fat free, salt free dressings are not generally vata types best friends. The sweet, sour, and salty tastes and unctuous ingredients such as oil, avocados, and sour cream can help add balance for vata. Pasta and some grain salads are more workable for managing vata.
Salads’ cooler temperatures are helpful in balancing pitta. Keep the salt and sour (vinegars) elements reduced in the dressing, and use a bit less oil than vata types need. Croutons can add more sweet taste (sweet in the ayurvedic sense) for vata and pitta, and pasta and Pitta-balancing grains and beans added are good choices.
A wide range of vegetables and beans help balance kapha, although salads’ cooler temperatures are not as balancing. Reduce the sweet, sour, and salt tastes in the dressing, and favor small amounts of kapha-friendly oils, such as sunflower and corn. Kapha-balancing grains and soba (buckwheat) noodles are good salad ingredients as well as beans – aduki, black or white.