You’ve probably come across the word Ayurveda, an ancient Indian philosophy based on the belief that health depends on a balance of mind, body and spirit. According to Ayurvedic philosophy our bodies are made up of three doshas: vata, pitta and kapha. Discover your dosha by completing this simple quiz here.
Did you know, that identifying and eating in accordance with your doshas can help keep your body and mind in check? The benefits include, more energy, better sleep, balanced weight, reduced stress and improved digestion. Once you know what foods work for you, everything you do, and every part of your life will benefit.
In Ayurveda, good health is understood as a play between three forces, called gunas in sanskrit: Inertia (tamas), movement (rajas) and pure balance (sattva).
Think of the three gunas like a tree as it changes through the seasons. In winter the tree is bare (tamas). In spring, leaves and buds begin to sprout (rajas) and in summer the tree bears fruit (sattva). In Ayurveda the goal is to strive towards sattva, balance. The types of foods you eat, your approach to eating, even the relationship you have to food, all plays a part in which guna is dominant.
As an example; if you are a busy person, with lots of creative ideas on the boil, with not much time to sit down and eat, rajas guna is dominant.
Rajasic foods are spicy, bitter, dry and salty. Think of the food as irritating and agitating. Canned fruits and vegetables, juices and fermented foods. We think of juices and fermented foods as healthy, but that’s not the case for everyone. Someone who is already hyped up and overworked needs to bring in the opposite quality. i.e. sattva.
Sattvic foods are whole, fresh, natural, well-cooked, lightly seasoned and full of nourishing carbohydrates.
If you are someone who finds it hard to get motivated, have a sluggish digestion, or tend to get bogged down in emotions, tamas guna is dominant. Tamasic foods are overcooked, stale and harder to digest. They have a heavier quality to them. Fried foods, preserved meats, leftovers, foods preserved in vinegar, even alcohol is Tamasic.
A Sattvic diet is ideal for all doshas.
When we eat a whole food, predominantly plant-based diet in a loving calm and stable environment we have both a balanced body and mind. However, we don’t exist in a vacuum. The natural forces of rajas and tamas in foods in limited amounts can also help us return to balance. If your feeling unmotivated rajasic foods can stimulate you to action and inspire your creativity. When you are feeling hyped up tamasic foods can promote stability.
A tool used to determine the right food for your dosha and dominant guna is to look at the six different tastes, Sweet, salty, sour, bitter, pungent and astringent. The taste of the food can bring us back to balance.
Vata being light airy and in constant movement has a predominance of rajas guna. Sweet, sour and salty foods bring harmony to the digestion and nervous system. Vata is also nourished by warm, cooked foods and grounding root vegetables. Naturally Vata’s are attracted to light dry cold foods which tend to stimulate and aggravate rather than sooth and nourish.
In Ayurveda the opposite quality is introduced to help return the system to a sattvic state. Rather than eating a salad with rice cakes. A warm root vegetable soup with nourishing spices like ginger, turmeric and pepper with a side of quinoa or brown rice. Will nourish the tissues and bring calm to the mind.
In general, vata’s thrive with:
Cooked sweet fruits, leafy greens, squashes and root vegetables, warming spices, cooked grains like oats, rice and quinoa, lentils and moong dahls, chicken, fish, dairy and dairy alternatives like almond and oat milk. Eating at regular times, in a warm loving environment. Vata’s need to eat more often and include nourishing snacks.
Vata’s should avoid:
Cold, dry, hard, light, raw foods. Eating on the run, when stressed or emotional. Eating at odd times and out of a regular rhythm.
Pitta being hot, intense, and focussed like a laser also has a predominance of rajas guna, however unlike vata its movement is steady and direct. An excess of rajas in the pitta temperament can lead to burnout. Think working all-nighters, skipping vacations, dealing with stress after stress and still not caving in to the pressure. This type of excess rajas needs calming and cooling. Ironically Pittas are attracted to hot spicy intense foods like curries and enchiladas. But rather than tucking into a spicy lunch, pitta’s benefit from sweet potato soup with kale and ginger or a warm rice pilaf with dates and cardamom. Think cooling foods that are sweet, bitter and astringent.
In general, pitta's do best with:
Raw fruits that are sweet, astringent and juicy. Above ground winter vegetables like broccoli and cabbage. Root vegetables, pumpkins and squash. Cucumbers, celery, leafy greens and sprouts which have that bitter and astringent quality. Any type of legume, quinoa and basmati rice. Ghee, coconut or olive oil. Cooling spices like coriander, dill, cumin, basil and mint. Soaked and peeled almonds, chia flax and pumpkin seeds. Chicken, freshwater fish, egg whites and soft cheeses like ricotta.
Pitta’s need to eat regular hearty meals and to eat when they are hungry. It’s best to eat in a relaxed and calming environment sticking to light, fun topics over the meal. Stress can aggravate digestion. Eating cooling nourishing foods, even cooking and creating the food in a stress-free environment is crucial to feeling balanced and clear.
Pitta’s should avoid:
Sour fruits, spicy foods, garlic, onions, chillies, hot leafy greens or radishes, nightshades like tomatoes and capsicums, oily nuts like brazil, walnut and macadamia, corn, millet, rye, fermented legumes like miso and tempeh. Canned foods and fermented foods should also be avoided.
Kapha being heavy, slow and stable may struggle with an abundance of tamas guna. Kapha’s need to bring in elements of rajas guna and sattva guna to come back to balance. Think of rajasic foods as the spark to motivate the digestion to action. Kapha’s are so stable that they don’t often lose equilibrium, however diet can play a major role in slowing kapha’s down. I.e. eating rich, overcooked, fatty foods or snacking on sweets and overly processed carbs. Kapha’s love sweet, sour and salty foods like salt and vinegar crisps, pickles, pies and sausage rolls. What balances them and uplifts their energy are the pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes. Like pomegranate, dandelion greens, chillies and onions. These all carry rajas guna and are stimulating and uplifting.
In general, kapha’s energise with:
Fruits that are mildly sweet and astringent like apples, berries, pomegranates and persimmons. All kinds of vegetables. Salads and raw foods. Light and dry grains like amaranth, corn, and buckwheat. All legumes. Seeds like chia, pumpkin and flax in small amounts. Freshwater fish, chicken, and eggs. Spices like turmeric, pepper, cayenne. Garlic, onion and chillies. Dairy should be minimized, and goat milk products are preferred. Light oils like almond, sunflower oil and flax seed can be added to salads or fruit.
Kaphas should eat light small meals. A small fruit breakfast, with the biggest meal at midday when the digestion is at its peak, and a soup or salad for dinner. Kapha’s benefit from an occasional fast to kickstart their digestion. They should avoid eating too much at any meal or lying down afterwards, instead plan to exercise after a meal to get the digestive juices and mental faculties flowing.
Kapha’s should avoid:
Foods that are exceptionally sweet, sour, heavy, dense, watery or oily. Like dried fruits, bananas, grapes, avocados, olives and cucumbers. Oily and dense nuts and added sugars in all processed foods. Preserved meats, dairy especially rich cheeses, excess carbohydrates like breads, cookies and cakes.
What time of the day is best for each dosha to eat?
No matter how perfect the meal is for your type eating it at midnight isn’t going to work.
In general; breakfast is best eaten before 8 am. Lunch around midday and dinner before 6 pm. These times in the day are called sandhi’s which is when creation takes a breather. These are all optimal times for digestion and assimilation.
How you eat also matters
Cooking your food with attention and love, sitting down without excess distractions, taking your time to eat the meal, making sure your portions aren’t too big. It is suggested that you fill 1/3 of your stomach with food (an amount that can fit in the palms of both hands) 1/3 with water and leave 1/3 empty. Water is best taken at room temperature.
The final recommendation is to be aware of the combination of foods. Mixing certain foods together disturbs the digestive fire. I.e. Raw fruit with cooked food or milk with vegetables. Combining eggs and meat, or lemon with tomato.
With so many suggestions and recommendations of how to nourish yourself it might feel daunting to make the shift. Instead of rushing in and trying to do it all at once start out slowly. One meal at a time.
Going at a pace that suits you and your lifestyle will allow you to keep checking in to see if the changes you are making are sustainable. Once you start eating according to your dosha you will reap the benefits.
Looking for more nutrition tips? Many of our coaches at Virgin Active are nutrition certified. Talk to a Personal Trainer today!