How To Eat For Your Body Type (According To Ancient Practices)
The human body is like Mother Earth. A perfect synergy of elements is constantly in play to keep a biochemical and homeostatic balance. Through the astute balance of these internal elementals, we achieve longevity and harmony. We must keep in mind how all the archetypes of the universe reside within our body and mind.
I've broken down the elemental body constitutions into three main body types. Each body type is an integration of several traditions including Ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), and Mayan tradition. We all contain each body type to a certain degree; it's more of a matter of understanding where we are at a given time and how we can achieve a greater balance through diet, tonic herbs, daily practice, and emotional awakening. Remember to always talk to your doctor before making any major diet changes or introducing new supplements to your routine.
Common Cravings: Sweet, salty, starchy, oily foods
Balanced Cravings: Bitter, astringent, pungent
Response to a poor diet: Lethargic, lack of energy, ongoing cravings
This body type is blessed with endurance, strength, and stamina. The Earth body types are grounded and stable, constantly seeking that which is at ease, comfortable, and harmonic. When Earth types are in balance, they are the sweetest of people, with gentle auras and a stabilizing presence. Naturally, Earth types have a slower metabolism and have a thicker build, but only when out of balance do they start collecting belly fat. This body type tends to carry all of the weight around the belly, keeping slender arms and legs.
If they are out of balance, even if it's for a short phase, they must keep in mind that this type of energy is what brings diseases to fruition quite quickly. The Earth body psychology tends to be very patient, calm, tolerant, and forgiving. However, it does tend to get sluggish, lazy, and lethargic if it is not in alignment. Out of balance, feelings of possession, attachment, greed, and envy may surge.
The Earth body naturally stores energy, so it must be a number one priority to keep diseases at bay. The Water principle within Earth allows for certain climate conditions to manifest, for example, water retention, sinus congestion, inflamed mucous membranes, toxic accumulation within fat tissue, diabetes, and so on.
Plenty of leafy greens (kale, collards, chard, spinach, romaine), light proteins (legumes, seaweed, fish) supplemented with healthy fats (avocado, nuts, seeds, nut butter, coconut oil, olive oil, full-fat cheeses, eggs). Very low doses of raw oils (raw coconut oil, flax seed, borage oil). Low doses of honey and yacon as sweeteners.
Bitters! Dandelion leaf and root, quassia bark, orange peel, Oregon grape root, mustard leaf and seed, mugwort, rue, milk thistle, burdock root, yarrow, cardamom, yellow dock.
Alfalfa, blackberry leaf, camomile, cinnamon, cleavers, ginger, hawthorn, hyssop, lemon, nettle, parsley seed and leaf, skullcap, spearmint, thyme, wild carrot.
Foods to limit
Starchy carbs and low–glycemic index fruits (berries) to one meal a day.
Foods to eliminate
Sugary refined carbohydrates (like sports drinks), dense foods like store-bought energy bars or “health” drinks, products that have a yogurt-like consistency. Stay away from dairy! Dairy ferments quite quickly in the gut, and within a low metabolism it generates quite a lot of inflammation.
Lucky you: Dominant Earth types tend to get away with the occasional use of coffee and other stimulants as well as with the occasional glass of wine.
Common cravings: Spicy, hot, sour, salty
Balanced cravings: Sweet, bitter, astringent
Response to a poor diet: Anxiety, anger, hypoglycemia, acid reflux
Fire types are penetrating, hot, and sharp people. They tend to have a nice build, medium height, and coppery skin, with a constant warm body (perhaps even sweating constantly). Their hair tends to be silky and at times tends to gray faster than others' due to all the energy they burn. Fire body types are lucky to have a strong metabolism with overall good digestion and a big appetite. They tend to be constantly alert, with a sharp mind and usually with good powers of comprehension.
Naturally, fire types are good leaders and planners, constantly desiring to work with the community and alleviate problems around them. Fire body types need to be careful with inflammation, whether it be fevers, skin disorders, or inflammatory diseases in any organ. They must also take care not to bottle up emotions or generate deep discomfort toward situations in life. This tends to generate emotional imbalance or a type of inflammation related to it, like ulcers and other digestive issues.
All grains (particularly amaranth, barley, rice, oats), vegetables, and raw foods really calm the fire down. A wholesale macro-type diet keeps the fire at bay. Nuts and raw oils are good in moderation (particularly coconut oil, almond oil, sesame oil, and flax oil). Seeds are more beneficial due to low oil content. Beans (particularly chickpeas, mung beans, adzuki beans, and black lentils) are a good source of light protein and are easily digestible without generating too much heat. Dark leafy greens are always a substantial and cooling option (kale, collards, chards, spinach, etc.).
Cooling herbs are particularly beneficial. All warming herbs or heat-retaining herbs should be avoided.
Blackberry leaf, camomile, cat's claw, coriander, chicory, chrysanthemum, comfrey, coriander, calendula, cumin, dandelion root and leaf, fennel, gotu kola, hibiscus, jasmine, lemon, lemon balm, lemon grass, linden, marshmallow, motherwort, nettle, peppermint, raspberry, rose flowers, clover, red root, saffron, skullcap, yellow dock.
Foods to limit
Chocolate, salt, meats, nuts, stimulants.
Foods to eliminate
Hot spices, coffee, alcohol, tobacco.
Lucky you: Fire bodies can eat delicious sweets! Fire-based constitutions can eat more sweetness than the norm and not be as affected as other types.
Common cravings: Raw foods, crunchy, cooling meals
Balanced cravings: Warm cooked foods, grounding, sweet and salty flavors
Response to a poor diet: Ungroundedness, fragility, fatigue
Air/Water body types are ruled by motion. On an annual basis, the most important time for an Air/Water body is in the fall and during the change of seasons. Air/Water is what impels us to change and shift, breaking out of routines into new ones. Those who have a predominance of air and water in their body tend to be very mental, flexible, and creative. These types tend to be very quick and mentally agile, with lots of energy. Air/Water types need to apply routine into their digestive schedule due to their appetite constantly fluctuating.
Their innate craving is for raw and cooling foods, yet because they lack the warming element, this can be detrimental to their joints and muscles and can also lower their immune systems. Out of balance, they tend to look depleted, pale, muscle-on-bone thin, fragile, and lanky. Energetically they easily lose willpower, confidence, and boldness. At an older age they naturally enter into a predominantly Air constitution. They start experiencing a drier internal and external landscape, wrinkling, and lack of moisture in the limbs, which decreases their mobility and agility.
The most vital component is establishing a routine with food. Vegetables, particularly root vegetables (beets, carrots, yucca, burdock, sweet potatoes, celeriac, etc.), grains, oats, beans and other legumes, nuts, and seeds are all beneficial. Good fats and oils are a vital component in the Air/Water diet; the most healing oils are good-quality ghee, raw coconut oil, extra-virgin olive oil, avocado oil, and flax oil. Steamed dark greens are particularly beneficial. Sweet, ripe, and juicy (nonastringent) fruits are particularly good. Any type of sweetener is OK (except for refined sugar).
Many herbal teas are good for Air/Water types, yet bitter, astringent, and cooling teas may not be as beneficial. A combination of pungent, grounding, and sweet herbs is best.
Angelica root, bay leaves, cardamom, celery seed and root, cinnamon, cloves, comfrey, elecampane root, fennel root, leaf and seed, gotu kola, foti, ginger, all ginsengs, sarsaparilla, Solomon's seal, wild ginger, yerba santa.
Foods to limit
Astringent, stimulating, and cooling foods.
Foods to eliminate
Caffeinated drinks, tobacco, alcohol, excessive raw foods, frozen and canned foods.
Lucky you: You get to get away with eating delicious fats and lots of food with such a fast metabolism! Eat lots of good fats and grounding snacks throughout the day to keep your balance.
Adriana Ayales is the founder and CEO of Anima Mundi Herbals based in Brooklyn, NY. She studied Central and South American tribal herbalism with plant medicine teachers in Costa Rica, the Amazon and California before studying classic Western and European herbalism. Ayales authored the "Healing Tonics" cookbook and has been featured in The New York Times, Glamour, Vogue, Travel Leisure, and more. She is committed to supporting the preservation of indigenous lands and their local economies through her fair trade business.