According the Ayurveda, the tridoshas — vata, pitta and kapha — are the fundamental basis of understanding the human body. The balance of the doshas is affected by seasonal changes, lifestyle choices and diet.
Not only is eating for your dosha a great way to keep your body in shape, but an important part of ensuring your Ayurvedic treatments and lifestyles are having the optimal impact.
Before we get into the guidelines of eating for your dosha, here are a few things to keep in mind about healthy eating habits:
- Ayurveda strongly recommends you eat only when — and always when — your body feels hungry. Don't pay attention to the clock or fitting a certain number of meals into your day. Listening to your body's needs is an important part of the Ayurvedic diet. The same goes for thirst: drink water when you're thirsty, not just because you feel you need to meet a quota.
- That said, do sip water (preferably warm, not iced) during meals. "Sip" is the operative word here as the ideal state of your stomach post-consumption of a meal should be a third each of water, air and food. A general guideline for quantity of food to be consumed at each meal is what would fit comfortably in two cupped hands, and no more.
- Remain seated while eating and avoid television or reading during mealtime. Fresh fruits and vegetables are highly preferred, as is seasonal produce. Ayurveda also recommends each morsel of food be chewed at least thirty times before swallowing.
With that in mind, and as temperatures cool and the body undergoes its seasonal changes, stay in fighting shape with this Ayurvedic diet tailored to your dosha.
(Not sure how to determine your dosha? This is a good place to start.)
If you’re Vata:
Cool, dry, rough and light are the properties of vata. Eating food that's warm, moist, oily, smooth and nourishing neutralizes excess dryness, thus balancing excess vata. The vata is calmed by lubricating and nourishing the tissues, while supporting digestion and the natural elimination of waste.
- Anything cold or frozen (including chilled beverages), large quantities of raw produce, carbonated drinks.
- Dry foods (popcorn, beans, crackers, etc.). They're examples of drying foods that may exacerbate excess vata.
- Limit your intake of stimulants like caffeine and nicotine.
- Avoid grains like barley, buckwheat, couscous and millet.
- Fasting should also be if you have a predominant vata dosha.
- Pacify unbalanced vata by increasing warm or hot fluids like soups or stews.
- Avocado, coconut, olives, buttermilk, cheese, eggs, whole milk, wheat, nuts, seeds, berries, melons, summer squash, zucchini, yogurt
- Fruits like green grapes, oranges and pineapple are good for vata if consumed in small quantities. Make sure a majority of the vegetables you consume are well-cooked, garnished with ghee (clarified butter), coconut oil or olive oil whenever possible, and preferably eaten warm.
If experiencing a significant vata imbalance, try the following diet for two weeks:
- 20% vegetables (option to add some additional fresh fruit)
- 30% protein from eggs, dairy, fish/seafood, poultry/beef, tofu
- 50% grains like quinoa, cooked oats, amaranth, wheat
If you’re Pitta:
Hot, light, intense, penetrating, pungent, sharp and acidic are the properties of pitta, and an excess of pitta often manifests in the form of a fiery temperament and a hot body. To help both remain calm, cool and composed, include food that's cooling, stabilizing and sweet, and exclude food that's sour, salty and pungent.
- Pungent or sour vegetables like tomatoes, hot peppers, carrots, beets, eggplant, onions, radishes and spinach, and fruits like grapefruits, apricots and berries.
- “Warming” spices like ginger, cumin, black pepper, fenugreek and cloves should be used sparingly. Chili peppers and cayenne (they're intrinsically hot) should be avoided completely.
- Beef, eggs and seafood aggravate pitta and are best avoided.
- Buckwheat, corn, millet and brown rice, and the oils of corn, mustard and sesame aggravate pitta.
- Bland vegetables like asparagus, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, leafy greens, pumpkins, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, okra, lettuce, green beans and zucchini should be on the menu, as should predominantly sweet fruits like grapes, melon, cherries, coconut, avocado, mango, pomegranate, pineapple, oranges and plums.
- Use soothing spices like coriander, cardamom, saffron and fennel as often as you can, and the recommended choice of oils for cooking (and dressings) are virgin coconut oil, olive oil and sunflower oil, as well as ghee.
- Grains like wheat, white rice, barley and oats help balance pitta.
- Meats like turkey, chicken and pheasant can be also consumed in moderation.
- Whenever feasible, add a pinch of fennel or licorice to water, boil it and allow it to cool. This water pacifies the aggravated pitta and calms the body.
If experiencing a significant pitta imbalance, switch to the following diet for two weeks:
- 25% fresh vegetables (from recommended list)
- 25% protein from tofu, tempeh, cottage cheese, egg white, white meat (turkey, chicken), shrimp
- 50% grains: oats, sprouted wheat bread, barley, granola, amaranth, cooked oats, white rice, tapioca
If you’re Kapha:
Cold, heavy, oily and intense are properties that define kapha-dominant people. Cold and damp conditions aggravate kapha, while warmth helps balance. Foods that are warm, light and dry are best suited for kapha constitutions.
- Fruits like oranges, bananas, avocados, pineapples, peaches, melons, dates and figs aggravate Kapha. Among vegetables, avoid juicy, sweet vegetables like zucchini, tomatoes (though they can be eaten cooked), sweet potatoes, tapioca and other tubers.
- Grains of oats, rice and wheat also aggravate kapha.
- Of all doshas, Kapha constitutions are most susceptible to a dosha-imbalance from the consumption of traditional fats such as dairy, nuts and most oils. Consumption of these must be highly regulated to keep your kapha in check.
- Consume food that's light, pungent, astringent and bitter. Apples, pears, pomegranates, cranberries and apricots are great for kapha constitutions.
- Spices like ginger, pepper, cayenne and black mustard help in balancing kapha, as do foods such as chicken, turkey, seafood and eggs.
- Favor buckwheat, rye, millet and corn.
- If you’re finding it difficult to eliminate dairy from your diet, low-fat yogurt and low-fat milk are preferred options.
- If you miss cooking with oils — try using clarified butter (sparingly) instead.
- Sunflower and pumpkin seeds are acceptable options for nuts.
- Drinking a few cups of organic green, black or ginger tea every day is helpful in maintaining the ideal kapha balance.
If experiencing a significant kapha imbalance, switch to the following diet for two weeks:
- 50% vegetables
- 20% protein from beans (black and chickpeas, split & black-eyed peas, red lentils), boiled and poached eggs, chicken, turkey
- 30% grains (dry oats, millet, couscous, polenta, wild rice, rye, buckwheat)
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