General Dietary Guidelines
Although looking at each individual’s dietary choices is important and best practices will vary from person to person, there are some general guidelines that are helpful in determining what is proper to eat based on the doshas. Most importantly it should be noted that no food is inherently “good” or “bad”, but should be looked at in terms of for whom, when, and how much. How you eat is just as important as what you eat. Eating is one of the most important rituals we perform each day and thus you will find it helpful to your health to treat it as such.
- Firstly, try not to eat when overly angry, sad, bored, or otherwise emotionally disturbed. This influences the digestive and nutritive effects of the food when it enters your body.
- Take a moment to give thanks to your food. For having it available to you, and for the process it took to get it to your plate. This can look like many different things and be very simple, most important is what is meaningful to you. One traditional Vedic prayer goes like this:
Brahmagnau brahmana hutam
Brahmaiva tena gantavyam
Om shanti, shanti, shanti
This translates as: Brahman, the Supreme Divinity, is the ritual. Brahman is the offering,
Brahman is he who offers to the fire that is also Brahman. By seeing Brahman in all
actions, one realizes Brahman. May the soul of the universe be pleased.
Om, peace, peace, peace.
- Chew your food completely and only eat until you are 75% full. Overeating and under chewing is a common cause of inadequate digestion which leads to further issues.
- Eat while sitting and in a quiet and calm environment. This is simple and leads to proper absorption and assimilation of your meal.
- Sip room temperature water slowly throughout your meal. Avoid ice, cold beverages, or taking too much water in at once. This dampens your digestive fire and impairs nutrition.
Dosha Specific Dietary Guidelines
Vata dietary guidelines
Because of its ‘’light’’ nature, Vata types do best with diets that emphasize warm and grounding meals. Soups, stews, and cooked vegetables all help to keep this dosha from floating away and keep the nervous system calm and relaxed. Favoring easily digestible foods also helps the variable digestive strength that accompanies most Vata types. Many Vatas will find it difficult to skip breakfast as their energy will tend to crash quickly by mid afternoon, but their interest in food itself can be variable from day to day. Regular eating of meals and of meal times can help to balance out the tendency to eat erratically and will help to regulate digestion and balance Vata dosha. Favoring sweet, sour, and salty flavors in food tend to bring the most balance to this dosha. It is best to avoid bitter, pungent, and astringent flavors as these tend to imbalance the dosha creating emotional insecurity, ungroundedness, and irregularity in the digestive system. Reliance on caffeine and other artificial stimulants is particularly best avoided by those with Vata constitutions or imbalances as it exhausts the energy reserves quickly. Most importantly Vata needs routine.
|Foods to Favor||Foods to Avoid|
|Fruits – Cooked apple, avocados, bananas, cherries, coconut, mango, melon, peaches, pears, plums||Most dried fruit, cranberry, pomegranate, raisins|
|Veggies – Asparagus, carrots, beets, fennel, green leafy, green beans, leeks||Most raw, eggplant, spinach, mushroom, onion, peppers, sprouts|
|Grains – Amaranth, oats, quinoa, rice, sprouted breads||Corn, couscous, crackers, corn, polenta|
|Legumes – Mung beans, red beans, black beans, pinto beans, tofu (cooked)||Chickpeas, soybeans|
|Meat – Beef, chicken, eggs, fish,turkey||Lamb, pork, shellfish|
|Dairy – Most dairy is good, butter, cheese, cottage cheese, ghee, goat milk||Powdered milk, frozen yogurt|
|Nuts/seeds – Cashews, chia, hazelnuts, pistachio, pumpkin, walnuts||None except in excess|
|Sweeteners – Maple syrup, raw honey, raw sugar, rice syrup||Cooked honey, white sugar|
Pitta Dietary guidelines
Because of its ‘’hot’’ nature, Pittas need foods that cool the system and keep the digestive fire from getting out of control. Pitta digestion tends to be fiery and strong and therefore these types will often have a strong appetite and tend to not do well skipping any meals. This type does better with raw foods and salads than the other types do. When in balance, Pitta types can also consume large portions of food easily and frequently without much repercussion. Favoring the Bitter, astringent, and sweet tastes balances the Pitta dosha best. Avoiding salty, sour, and pungent flavors will serve best to keep the flames of Pitta from flaring too high. Avoiding hot, spicy, and greasy meals particularly is recommended here as it primarily aggravates Pitta dosha. Most importantly, Pitta needs cooling to function well.
|Foods to Favor||Foods to Avoid|
|Fruits – Apple, avocados, coconut, grapes, lime, pear, melon, pomegranate||Sour fruits, bananas, cherries, grapefruit, lemon. tamarind|
|Veggies – Asparagus, broccoli, cilantro, fennel, green leafy, cucumber, squash,||tomatoes, radish, carrot, onions, spinach, corn|
|Grains – Barley, oats, quinoa, rice, wheat breads||Corn, millet, polenta, rye, yeasted breads|
|Legumes – Mung beans, black/yellow beans, chickpeas, tofu (cooked)||miso, soy sauce, excess|
|Meat – Chicken, fish, eggs, turkey||Beef, Lamb, pork, shellfish|
|Dairy – Ghee, cottage cheese, goat, fresh yogurt||Fermented products, salted, heavy cheeses, sour cream|
|Nuts/seeds – Almond, sunflower, coconut, pine nuts, cashews, pumpkin, walnuts||Salted and roasted nuts|
|Sweeteners – Maple syrup, raw honey, raw sugar||Honey, white sugar|
Kapha dietary guidelines
Because of its heavy and watery nature, lighter and moderately spiced foods are best to keep this dosha in balance. Kapha digestion tends to be slower and often needs help to get things moving. Although they tend to have only a moderate desire to eat in general, they are also prone to emotional eating and must be particularly cautious of this. A light breakfast or even skipping breakfast entirely is not uncommon and often beneficial for Kapha types. Bitter, astringent, and pungent flavored foods have the best effect on balancing this dosha. It is also important to avoid sweet, sour, and salty foods as to not exacerbate Kapha which can set them into more sedentary patterns to which they are prone. Fatty or greasy foods as well as dairy are particularly good to limit or avoid for these individuals. They do well with most spices to aid in the digestive process and may also find the regular use of ginger extremely helpful to regulate the G.I. tract. Most importantly Kapha needs lightness to function well.
|Foods to Favor||Foods to Avoid|
|Fruits – Dried is best, apples, cranberries, pears, pomegranate, lemons||Avocado, banana, dates, melon, figs, watermelon|
|Veggies – Most are good, artichoke, asparagus, broccoli ,green leafy, daikon, green beans||Cucumber, potato, pumpkin, squash,|
|Grains – Amaranth barley, corn, quinoa, millet, rice, rye, sprouted wheat||White bread, oats, yeasted bread|
|Legumes – Well spiced tofu, mung beans, black/yellow beans, pinto beans||Kidney, soy beans, soy sauce, miso|
|Meat – Chicken, fish, eggs||Beef, Lamb, pork, shellfish, turkey|
|Dairy – Limit most dairy, ghee, goat cheese, skim milk cottage cheese||Fermented products, salted, heavy cheeses, sour cream, butter|
|Nuts/seeds – Limited sunflower, pumpkin||Salted particularly, and most nuts|
|Sweeteners – Limited raw honey||Everything else 😉|
* For further information and a more extensive list of specific foods to favor and avoid you can download this PDF from the Ayurvedic Institute.