Here's What You Should Drink & What To Avoid, According To Ayurveda
If you've discovered ayurveda, there's a good chance you've taken the quizzes and done your homework to determine your dosha. Now, knowing whether you lean toward vata, pitta, or kapha, you're loading up your grocery cart with the food that is most balancing for your constitution. But what are you going to wash it all down with? Let's chat beverages and what you should be drinking based on your dosha.
For a quick recap, the ancient medicine of ayurveda uses three doshas, or constitutions, to explain how nature exists within us. Understanding your dosha will help shed light on your strengths and weaknesses, offer guidance when making choices that can affect your well-being, and lend insight into what health imbalances you are most likely to experience. Each dosha is made of two elements: vata (ether and air), pitta (fire and water), and kapha (water and earth). All of the doshas are present in everyone, but every individual has their own unique expression, meaning each person also has their own unique needs—even when it comes to what they're drinking.
Ayurvedic approach to consuming beverages.
Before talking about the what, let's talk about the parameters surrounding the when and how. To understand these guidelines, you must consider digestion. Ayurveda views digestion, or agni, as a fire. Though the strength of the fire naturally fluctuates in a day, it's essential to keep the fire burning so that we can process what we consume. Here are a few tips on how liquid consumption can assist with this:
Sip versus guzzle.
Small sips of liquid are said to stoke our fire while gulping down copious amounts at once is more likely to smother it. Thus, if you notoriously get to the end of the day and realize you've hardly touched the water bottle you filled in the morning, take your time finishing it.
Avoid drinking big amounts with your meals.
The time we need our digestive fire to be burning the hottest is around mealtime, thus it's best we only drink small amounts close to or during mealtime. An old weight-loss tip suggested you consume a lot of water before your meal, making it so you wouldn't eat as much. This is a poor approach because drinking a lot, especially iced drinks, immediately before a meal can significantly diminish your digestive strength. Instead, consider drinking 8 ounces of warm water or ginger tea 20 minutes before your meal to enhance digestion.
Opt for hot, warm, or room temperature.
Drinking cold or iced drinks can easily put out your digestive fire. You're better off having beverages somewhere between room temperature and hot. Cool drinks can also be warranted, such as in the summer or when you're feeling too warm. However, consume consciously by making sure it isn't with food or is at least an hour or two between meals. This way, you can cool off without it being too detrimental to your digestion.
What's best for each dosha.
It's important that water be prioritized for everyone, but if you're choosing a different drink, consider what is preferred for each dosha. This depends on the quality (whether it is hot, cold, dry, oily, clear, cloudy, light, heavy, etc.) and tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, or astringent) that will pacify the constitution rather than aggravate it.
Vata is the driest of all three constitutions, being that it is comprised of the ether and air elements. Vata-predominant people, or those with vata imbalances, need the most hydration of all the doshas. This can come from their food (such as fresh fruit and veggies) and, of course, by consuming more liquids. Sweet, sour, and salty are the tastes that pacify vata best, making most juices appropriate. Milky or creamy drinks are also good, as they help bring a sense of stability and calm. The vata dosha should reduce diuretics, such as coffee and tea, because they can make this constitution's inherent dryness worse. Additionally, it's best to decrease carbonated drinks since this constitution is already made of air.
Favor: Warm water, fruit or vegetable juice, herbal teas (chamomile, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon), dairy milk, nut or seed milk
Reduce: Black or green tea, coffee, carbonated drinks, caffeinated drinks
The pitta constitution is the middle path when it comes to the amount of liquids to consume. They run hot, which can lead to dryness, but they still don't need quite as much as vata since the dosha is, in part, made of water. Pitta is pacified by sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes, which can come from both sweet fruit juice or green drinks (leafy greens, celery, spirulina, chlorella). Coconut water is also great, as it has a natural cooling effect. Pitta dosha should avoid too many fermented drinks, such as kombucha, beer, wine, and other alcohol, as the fermentation increases heat—something that pitta already has a lot of. For the same reason, this constitution should also decrease any beverages that are acidic.
Favor: Room-temp water, coconut water, green juices, sweet fruit juices (berry, mango, guava), herbal teas (dandelion, nettle, mint, chamomile, hibiscus, lavender, rose, jasmine), cow’s milk, seed milk
Reduce: Coffee, orange juice, grapefruit juice, tomato juice, alcohol, kombucha, caffeinated drinks
Because the kapha dosha is made of water and earth elements, this constitution typically needs the least amount of liquids. The bitter, pungent or spicy, and astringent tastes are best for kapha, and so are food and beverages that are light and clear. Water or herbal teas will be best, but juices made with leafy greens and veggies can also feel rejuvenating. This is also the one dosha that can get by with a little caffeine, as the heaviness of this constitution could use a little boost. Kaphas should decrease creamy or milky drinks and reduce cool to cold drinks, as these things can cause them to feel especially stagnant.
Favor: Warm or hot water, black or green tea, vegetable juice, herbal tea (dandelion, nettle, fenugreek, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom); coffee is ok in moderation
Reduce: Diary, nut or seed milk, sweet drinks
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Kansas City-based Sarah Kucera, D.C is a doctor of chiropractics, yoga instructor, and author of the new book The Ayurvedic Self-Care Handbook. She is also a certified Ayurvedic practitioner, yoga therapist, and entrepreneur. She is the founder of Sage, a healing arts center and herbal apothecary in Kansas City, Missouri, where she combines these methods to help others find well-being.
Kucera received her degree in exercise science from the University of Kansas, her doctor of chiropractic degree from Cleveland Chiropractic College in Kansas City and attended Mount Madonna Institute for her master's degree in Ayurvedic.