We are well aquatinted with nutritional terms such as calories, proteins, carbs, fats, vitamins, and minerals – yes? Who has not tried a low-carb diet, fat-free diet, high-protein diet, or the like? How’d that pan out for you? Did you stay with it? Did adopting one of these diets become a sustainable way of eating for you? Did it seamlessly mesh into your existing lifestyle?
If your answers are “Great, I experienced all the lasting benefits I was looking for!” and “Yes, I have stuck with my low-carb/high-protein diet for decades now.” — you’re the exception.
Western nutrition is most familiar to us. We’re trained to look at labels to check for caloric and fat content. If we’re extra savvy we might even scan the label for sugar and fiber content. But allow me to introduce you to a whole new way of thinking about nutrition.
How Ayurveda Examines Nutrition
Ayurveda examines nutrition from the standpoint of qualities, tastes, and potency effects. Allow me to explain:
Every food item you eat is composed of various qualities, tastes, and potencies (or temperature effects). For example, dates are heavy, sticky, soft, sweet, and slightly warming; kale is light, rough, bitter, and cooling; cheese is heavy, dull, cloudy, slow, sweet, and heating; beans are light, dry, astringent, and neither too heating nor cooling – call them neutral; watermelons are light, moist, sweet, and cooling. Are you getting the gist?
Mind-Body System Of The Doshas
According to Ayurveda, we want to eat foods that have the qualities, tastes, and temperatures that balance our mind-body constitution. For the sake of simplicity, there are three basic constitutions – we call them Doshas.
Vata types tend to be light, dry, cold, rough, and quick. Physically, these people tend to be on the thinner/small-boned side. They may have dry and rough skin, hair, and nails. They love activities. They have active bodies, minds, and imaginations. Vata types tend to be creative, intuitive, and easily excitable. Vatas tend to have irregular appetites and digestion. They may be very hungry some days and completely forget to eat other days. Vatas are prone to experience gas, bloating, constipation, crucial-joint pain, forgetfulness, anxiety, and insomnia.
If this is you – forget counting carbs, proteins, fats, and the like. Ayurveda would encourage you to eat foods that help you achieve balance. You should favor foods that are warm, moist, heavy, and oily. This may include stews, oatmeal, dates, sweet potatoes, and hot chocolate to get the ball rolling. As a Vata, you are already supercharged with light, dry, cold, and rough qualities. It is advisable for you to avoid foods that share these qualities. What this means… Reduce cold foods, raw foods, smoothies, “snacky” foods like popcorn and chips. These foods will exacerbate the imbalances you have a tendency to frequent.
Pitta types tend to be light, hot, oily, and sharp. Physically, these people are medium built with musculature. Pittas tend to have oily skin and hair and are prone to acne and rashes. Pittas are ambitious. If you’re a pitta, you have a sharp mind and bright personality. Pittas tend to have a strong appetite and fast metabolism. Pitta types have a proclivity toward hyperacidity, heartburn, acid reflux, inflammation, anger, impatience, and competitiveness.
If this is you – skip counting the content of sugar and fiber in your food. Instead favor foods that are sweet, bitter, astringent, and cooling. What this looks like? Eat foods such as summer salads with plenty of cucumbers, sautéed greens cooked with coconut oil, watermelons, coconuts, aloe vera juice, chickpea curry cooked with coconut milk, and yams. Try to reduce spicy and acidic foods such as garlic, onion, tomato, orange juice, alcohol, coffee, seafood, and red meat. These foods fuel the fiery imbalances you have a predisposition toward.
Kapha types are composed of heavy, slow, dull, sticky, and cool qualities. Physically, Kapha types are bigger boned. They tend to have fuller hair, breasts, and buttocks. They even tend to have bigger eyes and lips. Kaphas have milkier digestive systems, so they can gain weight easily. It is not uncommon for Kaphas to have mucus and congestion imbalances. The personality of a Kapha is generally loyal, relaxed and go with the flow; but, out of balance Kaphas can be depressed and lazy.
If you can relate – try eating warm, light, spicier, bitter, and astringent foods. I would recommend you eat a lot of soups, roasted veggies, beans, and sautéed greens. Use warming spices like ginger, black pepper, and cayenne. Astringent fruits such as berries and apples are good for you. It would be advantageous for you to skip heavy foods like large portions of meat, cheese, pastas, and deserts. These foods will lead to weight gain, mucus build-up, and fatigue in a Kapha type constitution.
Ayurveda invites us to use our kitchen as our pharmacy cabinet. By adopting some of these basic principles you will notice a positive effect on your physical and mental health – for one cannot be separate from the other. Our mind-body system is an interconnected system. To illustrate: When Vatas feel too light physically, their nervous system is quick and fidgety; as such, their mind is quick and fidgety. When pittas feel too hot physically, their skin is warm and they sweat; likewise, their emotions are hot and they experience impatience and irritability. When Kaphas feel heavy physically, their bodies feel dense and slow to move – as do the minds; they feel unmotivated with a desire to sink into the couch-potato mode.
Ayurveda grants us remedies in a cup.
- Vatas – Drink golden milk or chamomile tea.
- Pittas – Drink coconut water or aloe vera juice.
- Kaphas – Drink ginger tea with a pinch of cinnamon and clove.
I hope you enjoy dabbling with these concepts. Enjoy what’s on the end of your fork and the bottom of your mug – for it is your finest medicine.