Best foods to eat, according to your doshas in Ayurveda
And what to avoid
According to doshas in Ayurveda, all human beings are made up of the same elements that the universe is made up of: air, space, fire, water and earth. When these elements combine, they create three governing principles — vata, pitta and kapha — which must be balanced in order for us to remain healthy.
However, each one of us is born with a unique, individual balance of these doshas which only a prakruthi self-analysis questionnaire can reveal (though we recommend you visit a qualified Ayurvedic doctor, you can also take various online quizzes which are fairly accurate). Once you know your dominant doshas, it’s beneficial that you eat specific foods and avoid some that will help you attain a desirable state of health and keep diseases at bay. We got Dr. Arun Pillai, Director of Spa and Wellness at Hilton Shillim Estate Retreat and Spa, to help breakdown the doshas in Ayurveda and their corresponding diets. These guidelines can be used to maintain dosha balance and to restore balance if necessary regardless of the basic constitution.
Best foods to eat according to your doshas in Ayurveda
Vata dosha (space and air)
“The Vata dosha governs movement, circulation, the nervous system and elimination within our bodies. Since vata is a cold and dry dosha, eating warm and nourishing foods with a moderately heavy texture that include butter and fat are good for stabilising the dosha. Choose salty, sour and sweet tastes as well as soothing and satisfying foods. Warm milk, cream, butter, warm soups, stews, hot cereals, fresh baked bread, raw nuts and nut butters are good for vatas. Take a hot or herbal tea with snacks in the late afternoon. All sweet fruits (so long as they are extra-ripe) can be consumed. Warm drinks or hot water is the best for vatas,” says Dr. Arun.
Dr. Arun’s diet checklist for vatas:
Herbs and spices: Cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, ginger, cloves, and garlic are all okay for vatas. Avoid using spices in large quantities. Minimise or avoid all bitter and astringent herbs and spices such as coriander seed, fenugreek, parsley and thyme. Saffron and turmeric should be used in moderation.
Vegetables (cooked): Asparagus, beets, carrots, cucumber, garlic, green beans, onions, sweet potatoes, radishes and turnips.
Vegetables in moderation (cooked): Broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, eggplant, leafy green vegetables, mushrooms, peas, peppers, potatoes, sprouts, tomatoes, zucchini.
Fruits (well-ripened): Bananas, apricots, avocados, berries, cherries, coconut, fresh figs, grapefruit, lemons, grapes, mangoes, sweet melons, sour oranges, papaya, pineapple, peaches, plums, stewed fruits.
Fruits in moderation: Cranberries, pears, pomegranates.
Grains: Oats (as cooked oatmeal cereal, not dry), cooked rice.
Grains in moderation: Wheat, barley, buckwheat, corn, dry oat, millet.
Dairy: All dairy is acceptable.
Meat: Chicken, seafood, turkey (in small quantity).
Meat in moderation: Red meat.
Beans: Chickpeas, mung beans, pink lentils, tofu (small amounts).
Beans in moderation: Kidney beans, black beans etc.
Best oils: Sesame oil, ghee and olive oil are especially good.
Sweetners: All sweeteners are acceptable.
Nuts and seeds: All are acceptable in small amounts, with almonds being the best.
Pitta dosha (fire and water)
“Pittas literally have more fire in them than other types. They have better appetites, better digestion (which means they can generally eat just about everything) and can withstand the cold better, as they are hot-headed. Unfortunately, most pittas get into trouble because of too much salt in their food, overuse of sour and spicy food and overeating.
“The best foods for pittas are cool or warm, with moderately heavy textures — i.e., not hot, steaming foods. Bitter, sweet and astringent tastes are ideal. Take cool, refreshing food in summer or hot weather, like salads, milk and ice cream. Herbal tea, specifically mint or licorice root tea are pacifying to pittas. Cold cereal, cinnamon toast and apple tea is a good breakfast for a pitta. Vegetarian foods, in general, are the best, as consuming red meat tends to heat the body from the fat. They should consume abundant amounts of milk, grains and vegetables.
“Pittas should use less butter and fat, and avoid pickles, sour cream and cheese. They should also avoid vinegar in salad dressing and use lemon juice instead. Alcoholic and fermented foods are a no-no. The intake of coffee should be reduced. Avoid oily, hot, salty and fried foods. Pittas should also skip egg yolks, nuts, hot spices, honey and hot drinks,” he says.
Dr. Arun’s diet checklist for pittas:
Herbs and spices: Spices should generally be avoided as they are too hot. The following are okay for pittas in small amounts: Cardamom, cilantro (green coriander), cinnamon, coriander seed, dill, fennel, mint, saffron, turmeric, cumin and black pepper.
Vegetables: Sweet and bitter vegetables, like asparagus, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, radishes, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, green beans, green (sweet) peppers, leafy green vegetables, lettuce, mushrooms, okra, parsley, peas, potatoes, sprouts, squash, sweet potatoes, zucchini, carrot and spinach.
Vegetables in moderation: Eggplant, onion, tomatoes, hot peppers, chilies and beets.
Fruits: Bananas, avocados, cherries, coconuts, figs, mangoes, melons, oranges, pears, pineapples, plums, prunes and raisins.
Fruits in moderation: Apricot, apples, berries, sour cherries, grapefruit, raw papaya, dark grapes, peaches, persimmon and pineapples. Fruits should be sweet and ripe; avoid fruits that come to market sour or unripe. Also avoid green grapes, oranges, pineapples and plums unless they are sweet and ripe.
Grains: Barley, oats, wheat and white rice (preferably basmati).
Grains in moderation: Brown rice, corn, millet and rye.
Dairy: Butter, egg whites, ghee (clarified butter), milk and fruit sorbets (not sour).
Dairy in moderation: Cheese, sour yogurt, sour buttermilk, egg yolk, sour cream and ice cream.
Meats: Chicken, shrimp, turkey, and river fish (all in small amounts).
Meats in moderation: Red meat and seafood in general.
Beans: Chickpeas, mung beans, red lentils, tofu and other soybean products (not fermented).
Beans in moderation: Black gram, black lentils and arhar dal.
Best oils: Olive, soy, sunflower and grapeseed oil.
Oils in moderation: Almond, corn, safflower, sesame and coconut oil.
Sweeteners: All are acceptable except honey and molasses.
Nuts and seeds: Coconut, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and flaxseeds.
Kapha dosha (water and earth)
“Kapha governs the structure of the body. It is the principle that holds the cells together and forms the muscle, fat, bone and provides immunity. The primary function of kapha is protection. Warm, light and dry food is favourable. Kaphas do best with lightly-cooked foods or raw fruits and vegetables. Any food that is spicy is good for kaphas such as very hot Mexican or Indian food, especially in winter. Dry cooking methods (baking, broiling, grilling, sautéing) are preferable for kaphas over moist cooking such as steaming, boiling or poaching. Foods such as romaine lettuce or tonic water are good for stimulating the kapha appetite, while preferred spices are cumin, fenugreek, sesame seeds and turmeric.
“Kaphas need to avoid consumption of too many sweet and fatty foods, and need to keep an eye on their salt consumption as it can lead to fluid retention. They should avoid deep-fried foods. A typical kapha tendency is to overeat — the main meal should be at the middle of the day, and only a light, dry meal in the evening. In general, Kaphas should avoid sugar, fats and dairy products, skip chilled foods and drinks, and use ghee and oils in small amounts only,” advises Dr. Arun.
Dr. Arun’s diet checklist for kaphas:
Herbs and spices: All are good, especially cumin, fenugreek, sesame, and ginger, which is especially good for improving digestion.
Vegetables: Asparagus, beets, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, eggplant, garlic, leafy green vegetables, lettuce, mushrooms, okra, onions, peas peppers, potatoes, radishes, spinach and sprouts.
Vegetables in moderation: Cucumbers, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and zucchini.
Fruits: Apples, apricots, berries, cherries, cranberries, papaya, pears, prunes, pomegranates and grapefruit. Dried fruits in general are good for kaphas, specifically apricots, figs, prunes and raisins.
Fruits in moderation: Dates, fresh figs, bananas, coconuts and mangoes.
Grains: Barley, buckwheat, corn, millet, oats, rye and basmati rice.
Grains in moderation: Rice and wheat. Avoid hot cereals and steamed grains, in general, as they are too moist and heavy for kaphas.
Dairy: Warm skim milk, small amounts of whole milk and eggs (not fried or cooked with butter), goat’s milk, soy milk and camel milk.
Dairy in moderation: Egg yolks.
Meats: Chicken, turkey (all in small amounts) and lean fish.
Meats in moderation: Shrimp and red meat.
Beans: All legumes are acceptable.
Beans in moderation: Kidney beans and tofu.
Best oils: Almond, sunflower, olive oil and grapeseed oil (all in small quantities).
Sweetners: All in very small quantities.
Nuts and seeds: Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and flax seeds.