We all eat food, and we’re all aware of the importance of having a healthy diet. However, in Western society, we aren’t really given a serious education as to the medicinal and energetic values of the foods that we eat. Enter Ayurvedic medicine. Ayurvedic medicine has been around for thousands of years. It’s a complex system that provides an in-depth evaluation of every type of food you could imagine, detailing the medicinal benefits, drawbacks, and practical uses for everything from the tomato to red meat. If you begin to understand the Ayurvedic food and diet principles, you'll be able to craft a personalized diet plan that keeps you in optimal health all throughout the year.
Ayurvedic Food Principles
Here are 3 of the most important Ayurvedic food principles:
Eat according to your DoshaOne of the most important things that you’ll notice about proper Ayurvedic dieting is very different from diet practice in the west: you have to eat according to your dosha. In Western society, it's believed that everyone needs the same amount of nutrients and would benefit from eating the same foods. This can be observed simply from recognizing the fact that we have a ‘recommended daily intake’ of certain nutrients that are said to apply to everyone. In Ayurveda, this is simply not the case. Everyone has a dominant energy, which is referred to as your constitution or dosha. Understanding your dominant dosha is important because Ayurveda says that you should eat to balance your dosha. This means that you want to find foods that possess properties which will counteract the undesirable qualities of your dosha. This will vary immensely between different doshas. For instance:
- Vata, which is considered cold, dry, and light, would want to eat foods that bring balance by countering these traits. This means that you should eat warm, moist, and heavy foods: don’t eat cold meals, use plenty of oil, and add heavy foods like grains. Vatas also benefit from sweet, sour, and salty flavors while minimizing bitter, astringent and pungent foods. See our Vata dosha foods list for more examples of what to eat.
- Pitta needs to bring balance to their hot, sharp, light, and liquid attributes. This means that they would want to eat cooling, mild, heavy, and dry foods. Pitta types also do well with sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes, and should decrease intake of sour, salty, and pungent foods. Learn more about a Pitta dosha foods list.
- Kapha, which is cold, moist, soft, and heavy, often benefit from eating warm, dry, rough, and light foods. Kapha types are also encouraged to eat bitter, astringent, and pungent foods while minimizing sweet, sour, and salty flavors. Read our Kapha dosha foods list to learn about which foods benefit Kaphas.
Eat Sattvic foodIn Ayurveda, there are three qualities or gunas that are contained in everything. These three qualities are sattva, tamas, and rajas. In food, the three gunas lead to different physical and mental responses.
- Tamasic food is heavy and slow, embodying the elements of earth. Tamasic food can make people slow, sluggish, lethargic, and ignorant. Examples of tamasic foods are meats, alcoholic drinks, and deep fried foods.
- Rajasic food is fiery and stimulates the mind and body. Rajasic food tends to make the mind race, can aggravate digestive issues, and can lead to hyper-stimulation. Rajasic foods include pungent spices, coffee, and tomatoes.
- Sattvic foods are nourishing, gentle, and sweet. They help to promote a peaceful mind and promote good health and spiritual well-being. Sattvic foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and ghee. Note: Ghee is about as sattvic as it gets. This golden, creamy clarified butter looks and tastes like ojas itself, and is said to nourish all the tissues and organs in the body. Adding ghee to any meal can turn it into a nutritional and spiritual powerhouse.
Eat fresh, wholesome, and seasonal foods
According to Ayurveda, our food carries life force. When we eat, we extract, process and absorb life giving energy. The vital energy in our food comes from the quality of ingredients, but also how the food came to be. Therefore, fresh, organic, wholesome foods that are cultivated with integrity possess greater life force and are considered ideal components of Ayurvedic food. Alternatively, processed foods or leftovers are considered “dead” food that contain little to no life force. Avoiding junk foods that have additives, preservatives and chemicals is also important as these foods contain ama or toxins, which block energy channels. In addition, it's important to note the importance of eating seasonally. Even though we should eat according to our dominant dosha, we can also experience imbalances of the other doshas, especially when we change seasons. Eating seasonally helps us guard against this because nature provides the tastes and food qualities we need to stay balanced.
Developing an Ayurvedic food plan can be an interesting process, and a highly rewarding one. If you’re interested in tailoring your diet to suit your health, consider getting into contact with a local Ayurvedic practitioner.