Ayurveda is one of the world's oldest medical practices. Developed in India thousands of years ago, it remains one of the world's most recognized holistic healing systems.
What is the Ayurvedic diet? Well, Ayurveda believes that you can heal yourself from most illnesses simply by using whole foods to influence your health.
The Ayurvedic diet is not intended for weight loss, although weight loss is almost certain when your biological energy is balanced.
The primary focus of the Ayurvedic diet and nutrition is better health and wellness of the body, mind, and emotions.
Ayurveda teaches that we can be our own doctor and healer and that we can start treating ourselves using what we have in the kitchen.
Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine even took a page from the Ayurvedic texts when he wrote “Let food by thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.
Here you can discover your body/mind type and learn which Ayurvedic diet is best suited to you, based on your dominant dosha needs.
What is the Ayurvedic Diet?
Eating determines the health of the body and mind. It builds and nourishes all the tissues of the body, which in turn nourishes the mind and emotions.
“An ayurvedic practitioner must be a good cook as well as a doctor.”
Every food and herbal remedy affects us according to our constitution. The Ayurvedic diet includes an understanding of these principles which begins with an understanding of the “Six Tastes” in nature.
The key to an ayurvedic diet is knowing how a food will affect you lies in an understanding of these six tastes.
The Six Tastes
One of the unique aspects of Ayurveda is the role that taste plays in determining what foods to eat. The Ayurvedic diet categorizes foods as having six distinct tastes.
There are six possible tastes: sweet – sour – salty – pungent – bitter – astringent
The six tastes offer us a map of how to balance the three doshas.
Ayurveda teaches that we can maintain our health by using whole foods from each of these categories to balance our doshas, as each of them has a different effect on the dosha and the digestive fire.
To do this, we need to understand how each food affects each dosha.
The Effect of Taste on the Body and Mind
Sweet, sour and salty taste increase tissue (add weight to the body).
Pungent, bitter and astringent decrease tissue (decrease weight).
Sweet, bitter, and astringent have a cooling effect on the body and mind.
Pungent, salty and sour have a heating effect on the body and mind.
- SWEET taste is building and strengthening all body tissue. It harmonizes the mind and promotes a sense of contentment. It is demulcent (soothing to the mucous membranes).
Sweet Increases Kapha – Decreases Vata & Pitta
- SALTY taste is softening, laxative, and sedative. In small amounts, it stimulates digestion.
Salty Increases Pitta and Kapha – Decreases Vata
- SOUR taste is stimulating, dispels gas, nourishing and thirst relieving. It promotes circulation and strengthens the heart.
Sour Increases Pitta and Kapha – Decreases Vata
- PUNGENT taste is diaphoretic (promotes sweating.) It improves metabolism and promotes heat and balances cold sensations. It improves circulation.
Pungent Increases Pitta and Vata – Decreases Kapha
- BITTER taste cleanses the blood. It is cleansing and detoxifying. It reduces all body tissue and increases lightness in the mind.
Bitter Increases Vata – Decreases Pitta and Kapha
- ASTRINGENT taste stops bleeding and other excess discharges and promotes healing of the skin and mucous membranes. It tightens tissues.
Astringent Increases Vata – Decreases Pitta and Kapha
Examples of Foods and Their Tastes
Main Ayurvedic Diet Principle
The key Ayurvedic principle to remember is:
like increases like – while opposites create balance and health.
This means that when a dosha is out of balance you'll want to choose tastes with qualities that are opposite to the elemental qualities of your constitution and the elements of the season.
For example, Ayurveda teaches if your dominant dosha is Pitta, you might experience heartburn if you eat too many hot, spicy meals.
Or if it is summertime (the season of Pitta or heat) it is balancing to choose more cooling, or alkalizing foods to counter the heat of the symptom (heartburn) or season (summer).
At the same time, you are supporting your underlying constitution. This approach helps your body and digestion to work at their best.
The Ayurvedic diet is tied to the three doshas and takes into account the unique dietary considerations for each person as well as the season or time of year.
The first step is to discover your constitution
Best Tastes for Vata Dosha
Sweet, Sour & Salty Taste Balance Vata
Sweet, sour and salty foods are generally balancing for Vata types since these tastes reduce wind and dryness.
An Easy Guide to Using Ayurveda in Western Daily Life.
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Bitter, Pungent and Astringent Imbalance Vata
Bitter, pungent, and astringent foods are less beneficial to Vata types because they dry the body our and intensify dryness.
If you are a Vata type you will feel the best and be your healthiest if you eat foods that are warm, moist, grounding and lubricating. These are foods that will improve your digestion and not dry out your body.
Vata's natural home is the body is in the colon and pelvic cavity. So an imbalance will cause an accumulation of Vata there which may result in constipation, flatulence and bloating.
Vata Diet Guidelines
The qualities of Vata are cold, dry, light, and mobile.
To balance, you would need to ground Vata dosha energy and balance it with these qualities: warm, moist, and heavy. The best tastes for Vata are sweet, salty, and sour.
In general Vata types do well eating a Vata diet that emphasizes warm, soupy, and easy-to-digest meals. Their gut and health prefer cooked vegetables to raw.
Most sweet and juicy fruits are beneficial for Vata's health. But, avoid unripe fruit or large amounts of astringent fruits like pomegranate and cranberry.
Of all the tridoshas, Vata's can best use healthy fats and animal foods in their diet.
If you are vegetarian, eat legumes. They are essential because it is the vegetable kingdoms equal to meat. Combine legumes with sweet grains such as basmati rice.
- Favor foods with sweet, sour and salty taste
- Favor heavy, moist, and warming foods
- Eat less bitter, pungent, and astringent foods
- Eat 3 – 4 smaller meals per day at the same time each day
- Do not eat if you are nervous, upset, or anxious
- Eat a warm breakfast each morning (oatmeal is perfect)
- Always sit to eat – Never eat on the run
- Eliminate white sugar and reduce caffeine
- Use warming spices to improve digestion
- Avoid iced beverages
- Raw onions
- Dry foods
- Hot foods
- Bitter foods
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Pitta Diet Guidelines
Pungent, Sour, and Salty tasting foods are less beneficial to Pitta types because they overheat the body.
Favor foods with sweet, bitter, and astringent taste
Favor cool, dry, and slightly heavy foods
Eat fewer salty, pungent, and sour foods
Eat at regular times each day
Eat breakfast and an early lunch
Limit alcohol and caffeine
Avoid multitasking while eating
Kapha Diet Guidelines
Kapha's elements are water and earth. Kapha is heavy, damp, and cold. The best tastes to balance these qualities are heating and slightly drying. These balance the heavy and moist Kapha qualities.
Bitter, Pungent and Astringent tastes balance Kapha Dosha
Sweet, Sour and Salty tastes imbalance Kapha Dosha
Pungent, spicy foods such as peppers, ginger, garlic, and turmeric are recommended for this type. Keep salt consumption low.
Most seeds and nuts should be eliminated from their diet. But popcorn with no butter or salt is an excellent snack.
It is best for a Kapha-type person to limit or avoid sweet-tasting foods. These foods can cause heaviness in the body leading to obesity and lethargy.
Kapha dominant folks should also limit sour foods due to their ability to increase thirst and water retention. Sour foods include oranges, pineapple, sour cream, and cheese.
To balance Kapha dosha, reduce fatty foods, iced foods, and excessive amounts of bread and pastries.
- Favor foods with Bitter, Astringent and Pungent tastes
- Favor light, dry, and warming foods
- Eat less frequently and in smaller quantity
- Eat at regular times each day
- Eat a light breakfast or skip it entirely
- Eat a light evening meal
- Eat fewer Sweet, Sour, and Salty foods
- Avoid frequent snacking
- Cut white sugar from your diet
- Use warming spices to improve digestion
- Favor warm drinks
By paying careful attention to your diet, adjusting it according to your constitutional type and the season of the year you can balance the doshas and experience health.
This balance is the first step to a healthy weight, a healthy body, and mind and disease-free life.
It's important to remember that you are unique and your dietary needs shift with time, seasons, and changes in your life.
The science of Ayurveda teaches that every meal you eat is a chance to improve your health.
I know these concepts may seem somewhat confusing in the beginning, if these concepts are new to you. With a little thoughtful reflection, you will find the logic is straightforward.
With attention and awareness, you can start to notice the effect of an Ayurvedic diet on your weight and health.