Ayurveda is a 5,000-year-old wellness practice that originated in India. The term “Ayurveda” is derived from two Sanskrit words that mean “life” (Ayur) and “science” (Veda). Ayurveda is literally translated as “the science of life.” An Ayurvedic diet includes guidelines for mindful eating and eating foods that are appropriate for your dosha, or constitutional type.
Ayurveda is a 5,000-year-old wellness practice that originated in India. The term “Ayurveda” is derived from two Sanskrit words that mean “life” (Ayur) and “science” (Veda). Ayurveda is literally translated as “the science of life.”
An Ayurvedic diet includes guidelines for mindful eating and eating foods that are appropriate for your dosha, or constitutional type. The energy of each dosha influences what to eat in order to improve health, prevent or manage the disease, and maintain overall health and wellness.
Ayurvedic medicine aims to build a healthy, strong body through a combination of diet, exercise, and lifestyle practices such as sleep, intuitive eating, and mindful living. An Ayurvedic diet consists of eating mostly whole or minimally processed foods and practicing mindful eating rituals, which may improve health and promote weight loss.
Indeed, new research indicates that Ayurvedic lifestyle practices, including diet, have the potential to lead to weight loss. However, evidence for certain aspects of the diet, such as food restrictions and meal timing, remains lacking.
What’s your dosha?
“Ayurvedic philosophies believe we all have varying proportions of each dosha, with one or two dominating,” Apte explains. “Our naturally dominant dosha, which we are born with, does not indicate imbalance; rather, it demonstrates how — or who — we are in our most healthy, balanced state.” Identifying your dosha can be a difficult process, but in the most basic terms:
VATA (air and ether): People with a dominant Vata dosha are considered creative, active, and bright; they walk, talk, and think fast, but get tired easily. Vatas are usually thin with a light frame, and suffer from gastrointestinal problems like constipation and bloating.
PITTA (fire and water): Pittas are intelligent but can be short-tempered. They usually have a medium build and have a healthy appetite, a strong metabolism, and good digestion.
KAPHA (earth and water): Kaphas are known for strength, stamina, and sharp intelligence. They are also usually very sweet and grounded. Kaphas are often larger-framed and muscular, and they have a slow metabolism.
(Air & Space)
Vatas tend to be more spacey, anxious, and with active minds. They speak quickly and are likely to have joints that crack. Vata influences the movement of thoughts, feelings, prana flows, nerve impulses, and fluids in the body.
Cold, light, dry, irregular, rough, moving, quick, and always changing. Vata governs movement in the body, the activities of the nervous system, and the process of elimination. Vata influences the other doshas. Vatas tend to always be on the go, with energetic and creative minds. When Vatas are in balance, they are lively and enthusiastic.
Thin, light frame, and excellent adaptability. Their energy comes in bursts, and they are likely to experience sudden bouts of fatigue. Vatas typically have drink skin and cold hands and feet. They sleep lightly and their digestion can be sensitive. When imbalanced, Vatas tend to experience weight loss, constipation, arthritis, weakness, restlessness, aches, and pains.
Vatas love the excitement and new experiences. They are quick to anger but also to forgive. They are energetic, creative, and flexible. They also take initiative and are lively conversationalists. When imbalanced, Vatas are prone to worry, anxiousness, and nervousness, and often suffer from insomnia.
When they feel overwhelmed or stressed, their response is: “What did I do wrong?”
- Follow the dietary guidelines in the diet below.
- Maintain a consistent daily routine and keep exercises both gentle and regulated.
- Find time for rest and nurture themselves. Be in a calm, safe, and comforting environment.
- Have regular Ayurvedic massages as this is soothing and grounding for Vatas.
- Avoid very cold and windy conditions, as well as dry climates.
- Minimize travel and too much movement; avoid loud and noisy places as well as crowds and too much talking.
- Keep warm and get enough sleep.
Vata is a cold and dry dosha; warm, nourishing foods with moderately heavy texture, plus added butter and fat are good for stabilizing Vata. Choose salty, sour, and sweet tastes as well as soothing and satisfying foods. Warm milk, cream, butter, warm soups, stews, hot cereals, fresh-baked bread, raw nuts, and nut butter are good for Vatas. Take a hot or herbal tea with snacks in the late afternoon. All sweet fruits (so long as they are extra-ripe) are OK for Vata. Warm drinks or hot water is best for Vatas.
Spices: Cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, ginger, cloves, and garlic are all OK for Vatas.
Cold foods such as salads, iced drinks, raw vegetables, and greens are not good for those with Vata imbalance (i.e. where Vata is dominant). Avoid drinks with too much caffeine and candies as they disturb Vata. Avoid unripe fruits, as they are too astringent.
Vata Food Plan:
These guidelines can be used for Vata mind-body constitutions, to maintain dosha balance, and to restore balance if necessary, regardless of the basic constitution.
Asparagus, beets, carrots, cucumber, garlic, green beans, onions, sweet potatoes, radishes, and turnips.
Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, eggplant, leafy green vegetables, mushrooms, peas, peppers, potatoes, sprouts, tomatoes, zucchini
Avoid raw vegetables, in general.
Bananas, apricots, avocados, berries, cherries, coconut, fresh figs, grapefruit, lemons, grapes, mangoes, sweet melons, sour oranges, papaya, pineapple, peaches, plums, stewed fruits.
Cranberries, pears, pomegranates. Avoid dried fruits, in general, and all unripe fruit.
Oats (as cooked oatmeal cereal, not dry), cooked rice.
Wheat, barley, buckwheat, corn, dry oat, millet.
All Dairy is acceptable.
Chicken, seafood, turkey, in small quantities.
MEAT IN MODERATION:
Chickpeas, mung beans, Pink lentils, Tofu (small amounts)
Kidney beans, black beans, etc.
Sesame oil, Ghee, and olive oil are especially good.
All sweeteners are acceptable.
All are acceptable in small amounts. Almonds are best.
Avoid using spices in large quantities. Minimize or avoid all bitter and astringent herbs and spices such as coriander seed, fenugreek, parsley, and thyme. Saffron and turmeric should be used in moderation.
(Fire & Little Water)
Pittas literally have more fire in them than other types. They have better appetites and better digestion. They can withstand the cold better, as they are hotter-headed. They are naturally aggressive and impatient, intelligent, and sharp. Since Pittas have strong and efficient digestion, they can generally eat just about everything. Most Pittas get into trouble by continued use of too much salt, overuse of sour and spicy food, and overeating.
Hot, light, intense, penetrating, pungent, sharp, and acidic. The Pitta dosha controls digestion, metabolism, and energy production. The primary function of Pitta is transformation.
Pittas have excellent digestion and warm body temperature; they sleep soundly for short periods of time, have abundant energy, and have a strong appetite. When imbalanced, Pittas may suffer from skin rashes, burning sensations, peptic ulcers, excessive body heat, heartburn, and indigestion.
Pittas have a powerful intellect and a strong ability to concentrate. They are good decision-makers, teachers, and speakers. They are precise, sharp-witted, direct, and often outspoken. They are ambitious and practical and love both adventure and challenges. When imbalanced, Pittas can be short-tempered, argumentative, and suffer outbursts of emotion.
When they feel overwhelmed or stressed, their response is: “What did you do wrong?”
- Follow the dietary guidelines in the diet below.
- Get plenty of fresh air and choose cooler times of day to get physical exercise.
- Keep cool physically and mentally, and apply an attitude of moderation in all things.
- Avoid situations of excessive heat, steam, or humidity, and take plenty of fluids.
- Be considerate and patient with others.
- Engage in quiet and contemplative activities.
- Avoid situations of potential conflict.
The best foods for Pittas are cool or warm, with moderately heavy textures—i.e., not steaming hot foods. Bitter, sweet, and astringent tastes are ideal. Take cool, refreshing food in summer or hot weather, like salads, milk, and ice cream. Herbal tea, specifically mint or licorice root tea is pacifying to Pittas. Cold cereal, cinnamon toast, and apple tea are good breakfasts for a Pitta. Vegetarian foods, in general, are the best for Pittas, as consuming red meat tends to heat the body from the fat. They should consume abundant amounts of milk, grains, and vegetables.
Pittas should use less butter and add fat, and they should avoid pickles, sour cream, and cheese. They should also avoid vinegar in salad dressing and use lemon juice instead. Alcoholic and fermented foods should be avoided. Reduce coffee. Avoid oily, hot, salty, and heavy foods such as anything fried. Pittas should also skip egg yolks, nuts, hot spices, honey, and hot drinks.
Pitta Food Plan:
These guidelines can be used for pitta mind-body constitutions, to maintain dosha balance, and to restore balance, if necessary, regardless of the basic constitution. Pitta influences digestion and metabolism, body temperature, and biological transformations.
Sweet and bitter vegetables, like asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, radishes, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, green beans, green (sweet) peppers, leafy green vegetables, lettuce, mushrooms, okra, parsley, peas, potatoes, sprouts, squash, sweet potatoes, zucchini, carrot, and spinach.
Eggplant, onion, tomatoes, hot peppers, chilies, and beets.
Bananas, avocados, cherries, coconuts, figs, mangoes, melons, oranges, pears, pineapples, plums, prunes, and raisins.
Apricots, apples, berries, sour cherries, grapefruit, raw papaya, dark grapes, peaches, persimmon, and pineapples.
Note: Fruits should be sweet and ripe; avoid fruits that come to market sour or unripe. Also avoid green grapes, oranges, pineapple, and plums unless they are sweet and ripe.
Barley, oats, wheat, and white rice (preferably basmati).
Brown rice, corn, millet, and rye.
Butter, egg whites, ghee (clarified butter), milk, and fruit sorbets (not sour).
Cheese, sour yogurt, sour buttermilk, egg yolk, sour cream, and ice cream.
Chicken, shrimp, turkey, and river fish (all in small amounts).
Red meat and seafood in general.
Chickpeas, mung beans, red lentils, tofu, and other soybean products (not fermented).
Black gram, black lentils, and Ar har Dal.
Olive, soy, sunflower, and grapeseed oil.
Almond, corn, safflower, sesame, and coconut oil.
Coconut, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds.
All are acceptable except honey and molasses.
Spices should generally be avoided as they are too heating. The following are OK for Pittas in small amounts: Cardamom, cilantro (green coriander), cinnamon, coriander seed, dill, fennel, mint, saffron, turmeric, cumin, and black pepper.
(Earth & Water)
Kaphas tend to have heavier, earthier bodies than other types and tend to store watery substances like fluids and fat more readily. They are naturally calm and attached; A Kapha speaks slowly and melodically. They sometimes have watery dreams and tend to have an elimination that is thick and heavy.
Heavy, slow, steady, solid, cold, soft, and oily. Kapha governs the structure of the body. It is the principle that holds the cells together and forms the muscle, fat, and bone, and provides immunity. The primary function of Kapha is protection.
Kaphas have a strong build and excellent stamina as well as smooth, radiant skin. They sleep soundly and have regular digestion. But when Kapha builds to excess they can gain weight, retain fluid, and allergies manifest in the body. When imbalances, Kaphas may become overweight, sleep excessively, become lethargic, and suffer from asthma, diabetes, and depression.
Kaphas are naturally calm, thoughtful, and loving. They have an inherent ability to enjoy life and are comfortable with the routine. Kaphas are strong, loyal, patient, steady, and supportive. They love music, reading, and relaxing. When imbalanced, they tend to hold on to things, jobs, and relationships long after they are no longer present. They display an excessive attachment. When imbalanced, Kaphas become stubborn and resist change.
When they feel overwhelmed or stressed, their response is: “I don’t want to be involved.”
- Follow the dietary guidelines in the diet below.
- Wake early (before dawn), be sleepless, and avoid sleeping during the day.
- Indulge in plenty of physical exercises every day.
- Perform activities that stimulate and energize the body and mind, and build the metabolic rate.
- Allow for excitement, challenge, and variety in life.
- Breakaway from stagnation and clinging to old ways of thinking and behaving.
- Keep warm and dry.
Warm, light and dry food is favorable, or cooked light meals. Kaphas do best with lightly cooked foods or raw fruits and vegetables. Any food that is spicy is good for Kaphas such as very hot Mexican or Indian food, especially in winter. Dry cooking methods (baking, broiling, grilling, sautéing) are preferable for Kaphas over moist cooking such as steaming, boiling, or poaching. Foods such as romaine lettuce, endive, or tonic water are good for stimulating the Kapha appetite, while preferred spices are cumin, fenugreek, sesame seed, and turmeric.
Kaphas need to watch the consumption of too many sweets and fatty foods and need to watch their salt consumption as well, as it can lead to fluid retention. They should avoid deep-fried foods. A typical Kapha tendency is to overeat: The main meal should be at the middle of the day, and only a light, a dry meal in the evening. In general, Kaphas should avoid sugar, fats, and dairy products, skip chilled foods and drinks, and use ghee and oils in small amounts only.
Kapha Food Plan:
These guidelines can be used for Kapha mind-body constitutions, to maintain dosha balance, and to restore balance, if necessary, regardless of the basic constitution. Kapha influences the heavy, moist aspects of the body.
Asparagus, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, eggplant, garlic, leafy green vegetables, lettuce, mushrooms, okra, onions, peas peppers, potatoes, radishes, spinach, and sprouts.
Cucumbers, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and zucchini.
Apples, apricots, berries, cherries, cranberries, papaya, pears, prunes, pomegranates, and grapefruit. Dried fruits in general are good for Kaphas, specifically apricots, figs, prunes, and raisins.
Dates, fresh figs, bananas, coconuts, and mangoes.
Barley, buckwheat, corn, millet, oats, rye, and basmati rice.
Rice and wheat.
Avoid hot cereals and steamed grains, in general, as they are too moist and heavy for Kaphas.
Warm skim milk, small amounts of whole milk, eggs (not fried or cooked with butter), goat’s milk, soy milk, and camel milk.
Chicken, turkey (all in small amounts), and lean fish.
Shrimp and red meat.
All legumes are acceptable.
Kidney beans and tofu.
Almond, sunflower, olive oil, and grapeseed oil (all in small quantities).
All in very small quantities.
Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and flax seeds.
All are good, especially cumin, fenugreek, sesame, and ginger, which are especially good for improving digestion.