The Ayurvedic Diet: Eating for your Dosha

 

the ayurvedic diet:

eating for your dosha

 
 
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The Ayurvedic diet isn’t just another short lived, fad diet. It is based on the system of Ayurveda, known as “the science of life”, which is the longest standing wellness system in the world, rooting in India over 5,000 years ago. The main goal of Ayurveda is to restore balance to the mind and body, to prevent illness and disease. One way to achieve that balance is through the food we eat!


An Ayurvedic diet looks at the subtle energies of food (non-physical components) and how they affect both the mind and body. Western diets on the other hand, account for the calories, macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals in foods.


In my opinion, both the Ayurvedic system and Western nutritional approach have importance. An Ayurvedic diet helps with proper food selection for your unique mind-body type, while Western science guides us with portion sizes, calories, and macronutrients best suited for our physical body composition or fitness goals.


Eating According to Your Dosha

Following Ayurvedic diet is about eating foods according to your dosha. We know the entire world and our own bodies are made up of the 5 elements: Ether (space), Air, Water, Fire, and Earth. Ayurveda combines the elements into 3 subtle bodies (non-physical energies) that are the doshas. Each of us have all three doshas, but one or two dominant our being. The Ayurvedic diet is about eating foods that help maintain balance of our dosha (or dosha combination), so that we remain the healthiest versions of ourselves at both the physical and mental levels.

The three doshas:

Vatta = space + air

Pitta = fire + water

Kapha = Water + Earth

[Find out what your dosha is here!]

Digestion and the Ayurvedic Diet

You know the saying “You are what you eat”? Well in Ayurveda, the saying is more like “You are what you digest”. How we breakdown and process our food is extremely important for soaking up and processing all of the vitamins, nutrients, and energies of the foods we consume. The Ayurvedic term for metabolism is agni, which literally means “fire”. Having a strong agni allows us to digest and metabolize food, which allows for a well-functioning body and a clearer mind.

Agni can vary depending on your dosha. Vatas and Kaphas tend to have weaker digestive systems, while Pittas have the strongest digestive systems (they have an easier time digesting large meals and raw foods). Poor digestion is referred to as ama, which is known in Ayurveda as toxicity that leads to illness.

A Kapha imbalance can manifest as feeling heavy, sluggish, and lethargic after a meal.

A Vata imbalance can result in experiencing gas or cramps after a meal, or irregular bowel movements.

While Pittas have the strongest digestive fire, imbalances can lead to heartburn, acid reflux, or other burning sensations.

There are many Ayurvedic treatments for stimulating agni and reducing ama in the body, including:

  1. Adding herbs and spices to your diet that help stabilize agni, such as ginger, black pepper, cloves, cardamom, mustard, horseradish, cayenne pepper, cinnamon

  2. Allowing your meal to fully digest before eating again

  3. Drinking beverages and eating foods that are close to room temperature (especially important for Vatas)

  4. Eating meals aligned with the Ayurvedic clock (light breakfast and dinner, larger lunch / more food midday)

  5. Eating more mindfully (i.e. not eating while watching Youtube, not scrolling through social media while scarfing down your breakfast)

  6. Exercising, meditating, practicing pranayama (breathing), and spending time in nature (grounding yourself with the Earth) to help ease your mind and allow yourself to be more attuned with your inner self

Good digestion = good health!

The Six Rasas (Tastes)

In Ayurveda, food is classified into the six “rasas”, or tastes. Depending on your dosha, certain tastes may be best for you to consume to help balance your body and mind.

Note: If you are following a traditional Western diet, some of these foods may not seem classified as the taste you think. For instance, we typically don’t think of bread as a sweet food. But with so many added sweeteners, salt, and artificial flavorings, the food in the West has really changed the way our body and mind processes taste and flavor. Our taste buds have kinda been hijacked!

  1. Sweet: Carbs, proteins, grains, pasta, bread, sweet potatoes, yams, starchy vegetables, squash, meats, milk, butter, fruits

  2. Salty: Salt, soy sauce, salted fish/meat

  3. Sour: Citrus fruits, tomatoes, yogurt, fermented foods, alcohol, pickled foods, vinegar, cheeses

  4. Pungent/spicy: Chillies, wasabi, ginger, black pepper, garlic, cinnamon

  5. Bitter: Grapefruit, leafy veggies, coffee, brussel sprouts

  6. Astringent: Cauliflower, broccoli, mushrooms, olives, cabbage, olive oil, legumes, asparagus, apples, eggplants, pears, celery

(nuts/seeds depend on taste)

Subtle Energies of Foods and Our Minds

In addition to the three doshas, Ayurveda also looks at the three most subtlest forms of energies, or Gunas, that comprise our minds and the foods we eat. (Remember, everything is energy!) An Ayurvedic diet strives to maintain balance of the three Gunas, to keep the mind and body healthy.

Three Gunas of the Mind:

Sattva: Calm, quiet, peaceful, pure, centered, vital, conscious, true, honest, clean

Rajas: Energy, passion, restless, stimulated, active, moving, emotional, striving

Tamas: Sleepy, lethargic, lazy, weak, slow, stale, ignorant

We all have a unique combination of the gunas, and we need all three to live. We need Sattva to feel happiness and bliss. We need Rajas to give us the motivation to get shit done. We need Tamas to give our minds and bodies a chance to relax and destress.  

Through following an Ayurvedic diet, we can achieve balance of the gunas, and become the healthiest version of ourselves.

The foods we eat also are comprised of the three gunas. Therefore, if we change the food we eat, we are also changing our minds.

Three Gunas of Food:

Sattvic foods are high quality, unprocessed, nourishing foods that just make you feel like health. These are the beautiful smoothie bowls your snapping pics of for your Instagram to show everyone how ~*healthy*~ you are. Sattvic foods not only make you look good, but make you actually feel good. They promote purity of the mind, bring inner peace, and help us make intelligent decisions. Sattvic foods are easier to digest (if cooked; raw food may be hard to digest for Vatas and Kaphas), and set you up for a typically setting you up for a day of healthier decisions and elevate your vibration.

Rajasic foods are heavier and denser foods, that make us feel more energized and mentally stimulated. They give us the energy needed to crush a long, intense workout session at the gym, or power through a long work day. But Rajasic foods can also keep us attached to our desires and feed the ego. (Think about how reliant you might be on your morning cup of coffee!) They can also take a longer time to digest, and may contain more oil and fat compared to Sattvic foods.

Tamasic foods are those comfort foods that make you just want to stop everything you are doing, and just take a long nap. They stimulate and strengthen the lower two chakras (root chakra and sacral chakra), but do not help open the higher chakras. Think about how you feel while you are eating your favorite ice cream, but then having a sugar crash an hour later.

While Tamasic foods are okay to eat in moderation (think the 80/20 rule), they should not be consumed regularly.

  • Sattvic food: Fresh fruit, vegetables, lentils, nuts, whole grains, non-meat based proteins

  • Rajasic food: Spicy foods, hot spices,  sugar, meat, cheese, fish, fried foods, eggs, potatoes, root vegetables (more processed foods), coffee, tea

  • Tamasic food: “Junk food”, highly processed foods, fried food, fatty meat and poultry, foods heavy in salt and oil

Eat to Balance Your Dosha

Following an Ayurvedic diet is about eating foods that help balance your dosha. But don’t beat yourself up if you eat foods that may not be completely aligned with your dosha, or foods that may not be Sattvic (80/20 rule!). Simply be aware of you feel physically, mentally, and even spiritually, when you consume certain foods. As you become more attuned with how you feel from the inside out, you will start gravitating towards foods that help balance your dosha and nourish your body and mind.
*Note: Although I am vegan, I still included meat and dairy products in the dosha food lists. I am not advocating the consumption of animal products. However, I respect your decision to either consume or not consume animal products, and I do not hold judgement. Please do consider limiting or removing your consumption. I promise that you will feel an enormous difference at the physical, mental, and spiritual levels.

Vata

  • Recommended to eat 5-6 small meals per day

  • Tastes: Sweet, salty, sour

  • Herbs & Spices: Allspice, anise, basil, bay leaf, black pepper, caraway, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel, garlic, ginger, hing, mace, majoram, mint, mustard seed, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, parsley, pippali, rosemary, saffrom, tarragon, thyme, tumeric, vanilla

  • Grains & seeds: Oats, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, rice, sesame seeds, wheat bread, sunflower seeds

  • Beans & legumes: Lentils, mung dhal, tofu

  • Nuts: Almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, coconut, hazelnut, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, walnuts

  • Meats and Fish: Beef, chicken, duck, shellfish, turkey

  • Vegetables: Asparagus, avocado, beets, carrots, cucumber, green beans, leeks, mustard greens, okra, olives, onion, parsnip, peas, pumpkin, spinach, squash, sweet potatoes, watercress, zucchini

  • Fruits: Apricots, bananas, berries, cantaloupe, cherries, coconut, dates, figs, grapes, kiwi, lemon, lime, mango, melon, oranges, papaya, peaches, pineapple, plums, tamarind

  • Dairy: Cheese, eggs, milk

  • Oils: Sesame, almond, avocado, sunflower oil

Pitta

  • Recommended to eat 3 meals per day

  • Taste: Sweet, bitter, astringent

  • Recommended to eat cool, refreshing foods. Limit hot/spicy foods, salt, and oil (can cause more heat)

  • Herbs & Spices: Basil, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, dill, dulse, fennel, giner, mint leaves, spearmint, peppermint, turmeric, vanilla

  • Grains & seeds: Barley, basmati rice, flax seeds, rice cakes, sunflower seeds, wheat, white rice, granola

  • Beans & legumes: Adzuki beans, black beans, black-eyed beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, lentils, lima beans, mung beans, mung dal, pinto beans, split peas, soy beans, soy cheese, soy milk, tofu, tempeh

  • Nuts: Almonds, coconut, flax seed, pumpkin seed, sunflower seed

  • Meats and Fish: Chicken, fresh water fish, turkey

  • Vegetables: Artichoke, asparagus, asparagus, beets, bell peppers, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, collard greens, cucumber, green beans, leafy greens, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, okra, olives, onions, parsnips, peas, pumpkin, radish, squash, sweet potatoes, watercress, wheat grass, zucchini

  • Fruits: Apples, apricots, avocado, berries, cherries, figs, grapefruits, mangoes, melons, oranges, pears, pineapples, plums, pomegranates, prunes, raisin, red grapes, watermelon

  • Dairy: Cheese, milk, yogurt, ghee, butter

  • Oils: Olive, sunflower, soy, walnut oil

Kapha

  • Recommended to eat 2-3 meals per day

  • Taste: Spicy, bitter, astringent

  • Avoid heavy, fatty foods. Include more low fat, light, dry, and hot foods.

  • Herbs & Spices: Black pepper, chile pepper, coriander, ginger, garlic, horseradish, mint, mustard, onion, parsley, radishes, hot spices

  • Grains & seeds: Barley, buckwheat, popcorn, rye, sprouted wheat (keep light consumption, avoid heavy grains)

  • Beans & legumes: Adzuki beans, black beans, black-eyed peas, garbanzo beans, lentils, lima beans, mung beans, mung dal, pinto beans, split peas, soy milk, soy meats, tofu, tempeh, white beans

  • Meats and Fish: Eggs, freshwater fish, turkey, shrimp

  • Vegetables: Artichokes, asparagus, beets, bell peppers, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, corn, eggplant, fennel, green beans, kale, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, okra, onions, peas, radish, spinach, turnips, watercress, zucchini

  • Fruits: Apples, apricots, berries, cherries, peaches, pears, pomegranates

  • Dairy: Low-fat milk, soy milk, almond milk, oat milk

  • Oils: Mustard, safflower, sunflower oil


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