What Is The Ayurvedic Diet?
Diet fads may come and go, but Ayurveda isn’t going anywhere — this wellness practice originated in India about 5,000 years ago! The word “Ayurveda” is a combination of two Sanskrit words (Ayur and Veda) to mean “the science of life”. The diet that accompanies this form of traditional medicine involves eating according to your body type to create a healthy body through whole foods, exercise, sleep, and mindful living. Keep reading for more information about the Ayurvedic diet, how to determine your dosha, and the pros and cons of this ancient meal plan.
What is the Ayurvedic diet?
The Ayurvedic diet is hardly a fad. This meal plan is based on the principles of Ayurvedic medicine, which dates back thousands of years! The diet involves seeking out (and restricting) certain foods based on your dosha (body and mind type). Eating certain foods prescribed to your dosha is claimed to boost weight loss, but it also supports mindfulness and a stronger mind-body connection, as it can improve your relationship with food.
What are doshas?
In Ayurveda, doshas refer to your physical and mental constitution, which influences your personal well-being. According to Ayurveda, five elements make up the universe — vayu (air), jala (water), akash (space), prithvi (earth), and teja (fire). These elements are present in everyone, but you will also have your dominant dosha, or perhaps a combination of two or three of these elemental forces. The three ayurvedic body types, or doshas, are Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
In order to follow the Ayurvedic diet, you must know your dominant dosha. Each dosha has a unique set of characteristics and the body type of a person will depend on both emotional and physical attributes.
The elements of Vata are air and space. Vata governs the activities of the nervous system and movement in the body. Those with this dosha are described as creative, lively, and energetic. They’re generally thin with a lighter frame, always on-the-go, and may suffer from anxiety and fatigue when they’re out of balance.
The Pitta elements are fire and water. Pitta manages hunger, thirst, and body temperature. If you are a Pitta dominant dosha, you’re probably known for your intelligence, work ethic, and decisive nature. Pittas usually have a medium physical build, warm temperature, and a short temper. Out-of-balance Pitta may endure indigestion, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
Kapha rules the earth and water elements. This dosha primarily supports joint function, and those with this dosha are usually calm, grounded, and regular. Kaphas often have a heavier frame and are prone to asthma, diabetes, and weight gain.
After reading about each dosha, does one sound like you? There are also multiple quizzes that you can take online so that you can start the Ayurvedic diet that’s tailored to your dosha.
How To Care For Your Dominant Dosha
- Follow a daily routine (this includes your exercise regimen).
- Make sure to get enough rest and schedule regular massages.
- Avoid extreme cold and dry climates and loud places.
- Stay warm and be sure to get enough sleep.
- Get plenty of fresh (preferably cool) air.
- Avoid extreme heat and humidity, and pick cooler times of the day to exercise.
- Exercise patience with others and avoid situations of conflict whenever possible.
- Engage in quiet activities.
- Wake up as early as you can! And try to avoid sleeping throughout the day.
- Indulge in plenty of movement, preferably activities that energize both the body and the mind.
- Don’t slip into a routine—bring some challenge and variety to your life!
- Keep warm and dry.
How To Eat For Your Dominant Dosha
The other dominant doshas may be a bit jealous of Vata. They need warm foods with heavy texture. Butters and fats are also good to stabilize this dosha, as well as salty, sweet, and sour tastes. Try warm soups, raw nuts, and freshly baked bread to soothe and warm. You can also enjoy hot beverages like herbal teas and snacks in the late afternoon.
Because this dosha runs cold, they’ll want to avoid cold foods like iced drinks and raw vegetables. Stay away from caffeine and unripe fruits — they’re too astringent for this dosha.
Pittas can enjoy cool or warm foods, but nothing steaming hot. Because they’re ruled by fire, cool and refreshing food is best. Vegetarian foods are also best because consuming red meat tends to heat the body. Pittas generally do best with lots of milk, grains, and vegetables.
Pittas should avoid oily, hot, salty, and fried foods. They may also want to use less butter, added fat, and coffee.
Kaphas need lightly cooked foods or raw vegetables and fruits. If you can handle a little spice, go for it… especially if it’s cold outside! You’ll also want to opt for a dry cooking method (grilling, sautéing, baking, broiling) over wet cooking.
This particular dosha needs to avoid overindulging in sweet and fatty foods, as Kaphas are more prone to fluid retention and weight gain. Adjust your eating schedule to enjoy your main meal during the middle of the day, and only enjoy a light meal in the evening.
Basic Ayurvedic Eating Practices
Taste and timing is everything. On an Ayurvedic diet, you’ll incorporate the six rasas (tastes) in every meal. Begin your meal with something sweet, like fruit. From there, you’ll move to salty and sour, and then finish with pungent, astringent, and bitter.
Mindlessly enjoying a bag of potato chips in front of the television is what an Ayurvedic diet will change. Instead, you’ll want to eat mindfully and with concentration. In other words, zero distractions. Eat slowly enough to savor the meal, but not too slow that your warm food will turn cold.
This diet will also help you learn about proper food quantities. Listen to your body and be aware of hunger signals, and eat only after your previous meal has been digested. So, do not eat within three hours of your previous meal, but no longer than six.
The Pros and Cons of an Ayurvedic Diet
The Pros of an Ayurvedic Diet
There are many benefits attached to following an Ayurvedic diet:
- Mindful Eating: You will be eating more intuitively. This means paying attention to what your body is telling you it needs. You’ll enjoy your food, eat because you’re hungry (not bored), and you’ll stop eating when your body tells you it’s full.
- A Focus On Whole Foods: Because you’re embracing a new approach to mindful eating, you’ll want to stay away from processed foods and reach for whole options.
- Weight Loss: It’s not immediately clear whether a dosha-specific diet or mindful eating approach will translate to fewer pounds. But either way, the diet can be effective when followed correctly.
The Cons of an Ayurvedic Diet
There’s no single diet that works for everyone. So if you’re considering switching to this diet, you may want to educate yourself on the possible cons.
- Difficult To Follow: When a diet fits nicely into your routine, budget, etc., it can be easy to stick with it. However, some people find the Ayurvedic diet complicated. However, if eating for your dosha makes you feel like you’re missing out on too many flavors, just follow the basic eating practices outlined above.
- Dosha Determination: There’s no blood test to confirm your dosha, only matching your traits to the descriptions. So, there’s always a possibility that your dosha could be incorrect or a combination. This can lead to setbacks with planning and executing your diet.
- Possible Side Effects: Be wary of buying any commercialized Ayurvedic foods and teas —some herbs can cause side effects, especially if you take prescriptions. Ask your doctor about possible side effects.
As always, you should consult with your physician before starting a new diet or incorporating herbs into your daily routine.
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