Ayurveda, meaning “the science of life” is an ancient system of medicine from India which dates back nearly 5,000 years. The Ayurvedic healing method includes proper diet, exercise and relaxation techniques. It considers the whole person, not just a set of symptoms.
Most diet plans have a one-size-fits all approach. However, the Ayurvedic diet is a holistic plan that takes into account the individual’s body type or dominant dosha.
There is no “one” single diet in the Ayurvedic system, but several different eating methods based on one of three main doshas, vata (air), pitta (fire) or kapha (water).
It is important to first identify your dominant dosha and then eat the foods that are more compatible with your type.
Additionally, according to the principles of Ayurveda there are certain healthy eating practices that should be followed by all body types. All types should:
- allow about 5 hours between meals for complete digestion;
- eat only until satisfied, and do not over-eat;
- avoid eating between meals or eating when not hungry;
- do not eat after 7 pm, or prior to going to sleep;
- drink water between meals, but limit liquids while eating to allow for proper digestion;
- do not eat starches with eggs, cheese and most fruits; and
- eat fruits alone, and do not combine them with yogurt or dairy.
Vata represents the element of air in the body. People who are vata dominant tend to be thin, have thin hair, dry skin, and get cold easily. Vatas also may be easily startled, become anxious and can become easily overwhelmed or stressed.
They are bright and think clearly, but are sometimes forgetful. Those with a vata personality are day dreamers. They love being around people and fear being alone. They can become overstimulated with sugar, alcohol or caffeine.
Vatas can become unbalanced due to extreme changes, and should avoid drinking extremely cold or extremely hot liquids. Foods which are beneficial for vata types include:
- Fruits such as apricots, peaches, bananas, berries, avocado, mango and papaya,
- Cooked vegetables like asparagus, beets, carrots, green beans and sweet potatos,
- Cooked grains, oats, rice and wheat,
- Beef, chicken, seafood and eggs,
- No legumes except lentils and tofu,
- All nuts and seeds, and
- All dairy products in moderation.
Vata types should avoid dried fruits, raw vegetables, corn, barley, buckwheat, lamb and pork. In general, vatas should avoid foods that are dried or lack moisture.
Pitta represents the element of fire in the body. Those with a dominant pitta dosha have a good metabolism and a good appetite. They have a moderate build and tend to be muscular. They may have sharp features and piercing eyes.
They get hot easily and may become agitated when it is too hot. Pitta types tend to be energetic, and even hot-tempered. They should avoid spicy foods or foods that are deep-fat fried. Most pittas tend to develop heart burn over time, and may have frequent headaches.
Foods which are beneficial for pitta types include:
- Sweet fruits, apples, figs, grapes, melons, oranges, pineapples, etc.,
- Bitter vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbages, peppers and dark-green leafy plants,
- Barley, both white and brown rice, wheat and cooked oats,
- White meat such as chicken and turkey, as well as eggs,
- All legumes except lentils,
- Coconuts, pumpkins seeds and sunflower seeds, and
- Butter, cottage cheese and milk.
Pittas should avoid sour fruits such as cranberries and grapefruit. They should also avoid pungent or spicy vegetables, including hot peppers, onions and garlic. Pittas may also have a difficult time digesting beef, seafood, egg yolks and cultured dairy products.
Kapha represents the element of water in the body. Those with a dominant kapha dosha have soft, round features. They have large body frames and tend to gain weight easily. Their demeanor is slow and calm, and they may even talk slowly and be slow to respond.
They are gentle and thoughtful, and generally kind, loving people. Kapha types do not enjoy physical exercise and have a difficult time losing weight. Eating kapha foods is critical for maintaining a healthy weight. Foods which are beneficial to kaphas include:
- A few fruits, such as apples, pears, persimmon, pomegranate, cherries and prunes,
- Most vegetables, including beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, dark green leafy vegetables, zucchini, mushrooms and okra,
- Small amounts of grains such as corn, white rice, millet and dried oats,
- White meat, chicken and turkey, eggs and shellfish,
- All legumes except kidney beans and mung beans,
- No nuts or seeds except sunflower and pumpkin, and
- Limited or light vegetable oils.
Kapha types should avoid most sweets and artificial sweeteners. They also should avoid most dairy products and fatty foods, which can lead to weight gain. Light oils such as almond and sunflower are okay in small amounts.