Ayurvedic medicine works to address the root causes of an illness, which Ayurvedic science often believes is connected to or caused by an individual’s diet. An Ayurvedic diet is based on fresh and easily digestible foods, with lots of vegetables and natural spices.
Everyone should work to eat mindfully and to pay attention to the food that we are putting into our bodies. This article will look at how Ayurveda defines a balanced diet, how our diets and our Doshas are connected, and what foods we should eat based on our Doshas.
Ayurveda’s approach to diet breaks all foods down into six different tastes, with each having its own therapeutic effects and distinct impact on our bodies. In Ayurveda, it is believed that a food’s effect on us starts from the first taste and continues all the way to its absorption in our bodies.
The six tastes, also called Rasas, are sweet, salty, sour, pungent, astringent, and bitter. These tastes come from the five elements and help transmit their properties.
For a balanced Ayurvedic diet, all of these flavors need to be present in every meal, but the proportions of each flavor depend on your Doshas and current constitutional needs. Not only does following this diet help you to feel satisfied, but it also ensures that you eat all the major food groups and get a variety of nutrients.
Any one of the six tastes in excess can cause an imbalance in your body resulting in negative effects that could lead to illness. The table below shows both the positive and negative effects of each of these tastes. Ayurveda further believes that pure forms of a taste can aggravate a Dosha, but when eaten in combination with other flavors they are easier for our bodies to digest.
If you include all six tastes in your daily diet, you will feel more satisfied and your urge to snack and overeat will diminish. Ayurvedic medicine also recommends keeping your plates full of a variety of colors to promote a long and healthy life.
||Positive Effects on the Body
||Negative Effects on the Body
||Positive Effects on the Mind
||Negative Effects on the Mind
|Sweet (earth + water)
||Nourishing, helps build and strengthen
||Increased fat, can cause obesity or diabetes
||Calming, satisfying, soothing
||Lethargic behavior and anxiety
||Carbohydrates, protein, fat (grains, starchy vegetables, dairy, meat, sugar, honey)
|Salty (fire + water)
||Lubricates our tissues, holds water, and maintains mineral balance
||Causes wrinkles, thirst, loss of strength, and baldness
||Enhances appetite and taste, causes enthusiasm, and can calm nerves and stop anxiety
||Causes cravings, anger, impatience, and lethargy
||Mineral salts (table salt, soy sauce, salted meats and fish)
|Sour (earth + fire)
||Stimulates the appetite and digestion, strengthens the heart, relieves thirst
||Loss of strength, can cause fever and thirst
||Enhances intellectual activity
||Resentment and jealousy, anger, impatience, hot temper
||Organic acids (citrus fruits, berries, tomatoes, pickles foods, salad dressing, yogurt, alcohol)
|Pungent (fire + air)
||Warms the body and promotes sweating, improves metabolism and relieves nerve pain
||thirst, depleting of reproductive fluid and strength, fainting, waist and back pain
||Opens the mind and senses
||irritability, anger, impatience
||Essential oils and hot spices (peppers, chilies, garlic, cayenne, black pepper, cloves, ginger, mustard, radish, wasabi)
|Astringent (earth + air)
||Cleanses the blood and helps maintain a healthy blood sugar level, dries moisture and fat
||Can cause gas, constipation, heart pain and thirst
||Cools fiery minds, clears your senses and emotions, and removes lethargy
||Can cause anxiety, worry, fear, and insomnia
||Tannis (lentils, dried beans, broccoli, green apples, pears, grape skins, cauliflower, cabbage, pomegranates, tea)
|Bitter (space + air)
||Cleanses and detoxifies, reduces excess fat and water, relieves thirst and fever, acts as an antibiotic
||Can cause gas or upset stomach, tissue depletion
||Helps in managing food cravings, clears senses and emotions
||Too much causes anxiety, fear, and insomnia
||Alkaloids or Glycosides (green leafy vegetables, green and yellow vegetables, kale, celery, broccoli, sprouts, beets)
Diet and Doshas
The food that we eat has a strong effect on each of our Doshas and how they are balanced within us. The recommendations below are generalizations that are designed to keep a single Dosha balanced. Some may need to modify these recommendations to fit their individual needs as most people contain a mixture of Doshas with one dominant one.
People with Kapha are attracted to sweet, salty, and oily food but bitter, astringent, and pungent tastes are often better for them and are needed to stay balanced. They should try to eat foods that energize their minds and limit their overall consumption.
Kapha dominant people do not need many grains in their diet, but when eating grains they should try to consume millet, barley, rice, or corn. Kaphas should incorporate lots of leafy green vegetables, but do not need sweet or juicy vegetables in their diet. Dried fruits are preferred to sweet or sour fresh fruits.
Kapha does not need large amounts of animal protein in their diet, but when consumed they should try to eat chicken, eggs, seafood, and venison. Legumes are a good alternative because they have less fat, but should not be eaten in excess. Black beans, mung beans, pinto beans, and red lentils are also great for Kaphas.
Dairy products, sweets, and nuts should be consumed in small amounts as they can aggravate the Kapha dosha. They should feel free to use all spices, but just a small amount of salt. Ginger and garlic are great for keeping Kapha balanced.
People with Pitta are good eaters and drinkers who often like hot spices and cold drinks, however, they are balanced by sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes. Some basic recommendations for the Pitta dosha include avoiding sour, salty, and pungent foods.
A vegetarian diet helps Pitta find balance. Avoiding animal products is best for them, but if necessary chicken and turkey are their best options. All legumes (besides red and yellow lentils) are good in small amounts.
Grains including barley, rice, oats, and wheat are great for Pitta but tomatoes, radishes, chilies, garlic, and raw onions should all be avoided. Most nuts and seeds have too much oil and can cause Pitta to start heating up. Occasionally sunflower and pumpkin seeds are good. In small amounts coconut, olive, and sunflower oils are also good.
Pitta processes dairy products well but yogurt is best for them when mixed with some sweetening spices (Pitta can handle sugar better than the other two Doshas). Hot spices should be avoided including: cardamon, cinnamon, coriander, fennel, and turmeric. They should only eat small amounts of cumin and black pepper. Pitta should completely avoid coffee, alcohol, and tobacco with only an occasional tea or beer for relaxing.
To calm their aggressive and compulsive tendencies it is good to add sweet, cooling, and bitter foods and tastes into their diets. Lots of raw vegetables and sweet fruit can help keep Pitta in balance.
When people with Vata are out of balance they will have scattered eating and digestive routines. When they can keep a routine, it benefits their Doshas. Their routine should try to include small meals throughout the day with some snacks. Vata people are prone to addiction so they should avoid sugar, caffeine, and tobacco.
Vata should not eat too much raw food or this can lead to a digestive imbalance. To keep Vata balanced, warm food that is cooked and not too greasy along with sweet, sour, and salty tastes are best.
Vata dominant people can use a bit more oil in their cooking than the other two Doshas. Nuts and seeds, as well as dairy products, are good but not in large amounts. All spices can be used but should not be overdone.
Oats and rice are good choices of grains for Vata. For additional protein, they can eat meat, but legumes may be hard on their digestion and should be limited. Sweet, ripe, and juicy fruits are all good for Vata. Astringent and dried fruits, as well as nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, and peppers ), should be eaten sparingly.
Effects of the Six Tastes on each Dosha
Eating to Your Full Potential
Ayurveda teaches that to take full advantage of the nutritional, emotional, and sensory information in our lives, we need to make sure that our bodies are working properly. On top of eating a colorful and flavorful diet, below are some suggestions for maintaining good digestion.
- Always eat when you are calm and in a settled atmosphere.
- Eat only when you are definitely hungry.
- Always sit down to eat and don’t eat in front of a computer or TV
- Try not to eat too fast or too slow.
- You can eat raw food, but not too much because it can become hard for your body to digest.
- Eat all six tastes at each meal.
- Drink lots of water (not cold water) and ginger throughout the day.
- Exercise and meditate regularly.
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