One thing you learn early on as you’re nailing down your personal health and fitness routine is that whatever diet worked for your best friend or mom might not be the best choice for you. Luckily, there are many diets out there to choose from, whether it’s vegan, Paleo, or Weight Watchers.
The Ayurvedic diet is a good option as well, but it’s not as well known as its peers, so we’re here to give you a little information on this holistic way of eating. The first thing you have to know is that Ayurveda is a traditional medical system that hails from India (it traces back 5,000 years!), and the core principle is that you choose what to eat depending on your body’s dosha, which is a certain energy believed to move through your body, affect your digestion, and govern physiological activity. Ayurveda is sometimes referred to as a science of life, so it’s about much more than what you eat. It’s also about balancing your mood, sleep, and general attitude.
There are three different doshas — Kapha, Pitta, and Vata — and although all three are present in all humans, there is one that is your dominant. Once you figure out which one that is, you subsequently follow the diet suggestions that come along with it. An Ayurvedic diet can certainly help you lose weight, but it’s not about counting calories or macronutrients. It’s about eating whole foods and coming back to an equilibrium, which will help you reach your body’s optimal weight.
Here’s a breakdown of what each dosha looks like, and what kind of food is associated with it.
People with a Kapha dosha tend to be steady, grounded, and thoughtful. According to Ayurvedic principles, those who are dominated by Kapha tend to be a little heavier. They have regular digestion, sleep soundly, and don’t deal with change very well. Some additional physical characteristics might include thick hair, large eyes, and smooth, oily skin.
They’re easily cold, so it’s recommended that Kapha individuals stay warm and dry. Additionally, this dosha is known to be a bit sluggish, so many of the suggestions, when it comes to both lifestyle and diet, tend to focus on stimulation in order to balance this out. Kapha’s elements are earth and water, and its primary function is protection.
Here are some diet guidelines they’re advised to follow:
- Eat little to no dairy
- Cook with strong spices, like ginger, cayenne, and pepper
- Consume small amounts of fats and oils, because these can be too grounding
- All vegetables are recommended
- Stick with lighter fruits, like berries, apples, and pomegranates, rather than bananas or pineapples
- Limit your intake of red meat
The elements associated with Pitta are fire and water, so Pitta individuals are known to be intense and bold, and they have an abundant amount of energy. They have great digestion but very easily overeat, which can cause an upset stomach, heartburn, and even peptic ulcers. Pittas can concentrate very easily; they’re outspoken, but they’re also short-tempered. They sleep well, but usually for short amounts of time.
Because Pittas are sharp and pungent, it’s important that their diet balances out this fiery way of life. Here are some diet tips:
- Don’t skip meals or wait until you’re extremely hungry to eat
- Eat milk, butter, or ghee to help balance out the heat of your dosha
- Cook with olive, sunflower, or coconut oil
- Buy sweet fruits, like melons, cherries, mangoes, and ripe pineapples
- The best vegetables are asparagus, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, leafy greens, and broccoli
- Avoid tomatoes, hot peppers, spicy foods, eggplant, onion, and garlic
Vatas generally have a thin frame, dry skin and hair, and cold hands. They have sensitive digestion and are quick to anger. They love adventure and experiencing new things, yet at the same time they can struggle with anxiety and worrying. An Ayurvedic belief is that, when a Vata is imbalanced, they will lose weight, be constipated, and struggle with restlessness and even arthritis.
Because their elements are air and ether, it’s important for Vatas to keep themselves grounded and consistent. Light activity is best for them, such as yoga or short hikes, and heavy, warm aromas make them feel calm (think basil, cinnamon, and lavender).
This is the outline of what a Vata should be eating:
- Rice and wheat are recommended on a daily basis
- Choose to eat cooked, rather than raw, vegetables
- Avoid beans (except for tofu), which can aggravate the digestive system
- Consume fats and oils, such as ghee and olive oil
- Eat heavy fruits, like avocados, bananas, and figs, and avoid lighter fruits, such as apples and pears
- Dairy products are encouraged, particularly low-fat ones