You’ve likely come across conversations around Ayurveda, but like many, were left with more questions than answers after learning a bit about it. To demystify the holistic science, we did some research into the Indian wellness school of thought. Simply put, Ayurveda is all about maintaining a balance between our emotional and physical states. Its origins go back nearly 6,000 years with Indian monks pursuing alternative paths to wellness. With a life spent meditating and growing spiritually, the monks sought a solution to support them in their pursuit of enlightenment.
After amassing a sizeable body of knowledge, they found that every individual’s emotional and physical needs are unique, so there is no diet or lifestyle routine that suits everyone. In fact, there are three distinct energy profiles that Ayurveda says we all possess: Pitta, Vata and Kapha. These energy profiles, referred to as Doshas, can fluctuate depending on our surroundings, emotional and/or physical states. And, our Doshas can inform our physiological and personality traits, as well as general likes and dislikes. With that said, it’s common to have two dominant Doshas that direct how we approach our day-to-day lives. When our Ayurvedic Doshas are balanced, we feel our best selves. However, when they are out of whack, we may experience anxiety, irritability, funky digestion, acne and/or other ailments.
So, to balance the Ayurvedic Doshas out, one must evaluate their lifestyle and diet to equilibrate. It may be confusing to determine your Dosha type on your own, so to help, we recommend taking this quiz on Deepak Chopra’s website. In just ten questions, the quiz will tell you where you fall on the Dosha spectrum. Once you understand what your dominant Ayurvedic Doshas are, you can incorporate Ayurvedic principles into your life. Eating for your Ayurvedic Dosha has the potential to help you achieve a balance between your emotional, physical and mental health. Below, we’re sharing some foods that suit the three Ayurvedic Dosha mind-body constitutions. Take note, head to the grocery store (or farmer’s market if you’re an overachiever) and start eating your way to your state of ideal health.
Responsible for regulating our digestion, metabolism and nutrient absorption, the Pitta Dosha is known for being quite literally fiery and contributes to warmer body temperatures. Those that identify with Pitta, tend to have a larger appetite and can take on cooler temperatures with greater ease, due to the fact that they tend to run hotter than others. So, to cool down, Pittas should reduce their intake of spicy foods. Think cool, refreshing foods like salads, mint tea and cold cereals to balance out the heat of the Pitta Dosha. Vegetarian diets are also preferred for Pittas as red meat warms up the body from the high fat content.
Red lentils, chickpeas and other non-fermented soybean products are great for Pittas. In terms of veggies, leafy green vegetables, cucumbers and sprouts are excellent for restoring balance. The most common ways Pittas experience an imbalance is through ulcers, heartburn and/or an acidic stomach. So, to avoid that produce consumed by Pitta dominant types should always be ripe and lean on the sweet side. Also, alcohol and fermented foods should be greatly reduced to minimize any acid reflux.
The Kapha Dosha is in charge of distributing water across our bodies. This in turn, keeps our skin moisturized and immune system strong. Consequently, Kaphas have a tendency toward fluid retention when imbalanced. To minimize that likelihood, dry cooking methods such as grilling, baking and broiling are preferable to cooking methods that rely on water, such as boiling, steaming and poaching. In tandem, avoiding salt-laden foods is also recommended for Kapha Doshas as salt encourages fluid retention. For a food schedule, Kaphas should reserve lunch to be the biggest, heartiest meal of their day. And, dinner will be a light, dry meal to cap off the day.
Kaphas are also known for having large appetites, so to fill up in a way that complements the mind-body constitution of the Ayurvedic Dosha, one should consume grains like barley, buckwheat and millet. However, any moist grain dishes like hot cereal promote water retention, so those should be consumed in moderation. In the same vein, while deep fried and fatty foods don’t benefit anyone’s health, they can especially affect Kapha types adversely. Due to their typically high salt content, indulgent foods that fit the fried bill can throw a Kapha off-course. So, to stay on the right path, snacks such as dried fruits and a mix of sunflower, pumpkin and flax seeds can satisfy a healthy appetite and keep fluid retention at bay.
A catalyst for movement, the Vata Dosha spurs on all things related to keeping your body in working order, such as regulating blood circulation and breathing. When out of balance, feelings of anxiety and nervousness can arise. To regulate this mind-body constitution, warm foods with a heavy texture help ease a Vata’s frenetic mind. Vata mind-body types thrive with ‘comfort’ foods, so a touch of butter and fat in a meal goes a long way. Especially since Vatas tend to have a thinner frame and cold hands and feet, foods that heat and nourish the body up from the inside like warm soups, fresh baked bread and stews can help equilibrate a Vata.
When a Vata experiences an imbalance, cold foods are not the best thing to consume. So, a cool salad, an icy fruit smoothie or raw veggies are not the wisest route to a more peaceful Vata. Nor are caffeinated beverages or candies as both have stimulants that do little to calm this Ayurvedic Dosha. Well-ripened fruits, such as bananas, fresh figs and mangoes, are also an advised go-to snack for Vatas. Avoiding unripe fruits is a good call as they tend to be too astringent for Vatas to muster.
Ayurveda is an alternate route to wellness that looks at more than your vital stats to determine a prescribed health-course for action. Ayurvedic practitioners are educated to assess your appearance and lifestyle to give you a holistic approach to wellness. In practice, Ayurvedic healers don’t prescribe medicine, but instead they offer advice for lifestyle and diet changes to improve the quality of one’s life. Looking for more ways to find balance? Download part one of our OSR Wellness Guide for more tips.