Despite what seems like a never-ending stream of nutrition information available online, many of us are still left with questions about what to eat on a day-to-day basis that will leave us feeling satisfied and energized to tackle the day. Enter Ayurveda, an ancient Indian system of holistic healing which prioritizes nutrition, movement, and stress reduction to heal the body. Read on to see how you can apply Ayurvedic principles in your kitchen.
How do I decide on a good eating pattern for me?
One way to determine your personal, optimal eating pattern is to apply the principles of Ayurveda. This healing system recognizes that the five elements of nature – air, water, fire, ether, and earth – exist within each of us, and that balancing these elements is essential to achieving good health. Born out of these five elements are the three ayurvedic constitutions, or doshas. The doshas provide a map of many of our physical, mental, and emotional characteristics. Understanding your dosha can help guide you towards a meal pattern that promotes good digestion, or agni, and balanced energy levels throughout the day.
What is my dosha?
We all have certain qualities of each dosha, but each of us has one or two that are dominant. Ayurveda aims to balance the natural ratios of the doshas in your body through nutrition. The three doshas are vata, pitta, and kapha. Vata is composed of ether and air. Vata is light, dry, hard, subtle, clear, and mobile. Pitta is composed of fire and water, and embodies qualities of oil, sharp, penetrating, hot, and light. Kapha is composed of earth and water. Kapha is cold, wet, heavy, sticky, soft, and steady.
Read the following statements- which rings true for you?
- “I have always or mostly been thin throughout my life and lose weight easily. I prefer warm climates and dislike feeling cold. My hair and skin tend toward dryness. My digestion and appetite vary greatly, some days it is very strong while other days it is weak, and I sometimes skip meals. When under stress, I may become anxious. I would describe myself as a lively conversationalist.” – If this describes you, your dosha is likely vata
- “I have a medium build and bone structure. I prefer a cool climate and easily feel fatigued by heat and humidity. My digestion and appetite are strong, and it is easy to feel very hungry during the day. In stressful situations, I may become frustrated, impatient, or angry. I have a sharp, aggressive mind and express my emotions in a strong and compelling way.” – If this describes you, your dosha is likely pitta
- “I have a sturdy constitution and a larger bone structure and may gain weight easily. I typically have a consistent level of energy and stamina throughout the day. My digestion is constant but may be weak in the mornings. When stressed, I may become withdrawn, unmotivated, and resistant to change. I am thoughtful and am rare to overreact.” – If this describes you, your dosha is likely kapha
If you saw yourself in two of these descriptions, you may be bi-doshic, with two of the constitutions more equally dominant. If you are still unsure of your dosha, you can take an online quiz here.
How do I eat for my dosha?
Vatas benefit from warm, nourishing foods with a heavier texture. Soft, spiced dishes with good sources of protein and fat provide moisture and warmth which helps to ground vata energy. Nourishing foods include oil and butter, soups and stews, freshly baked bread, and nut butters. Hot herbal teas can similarly help sooth Vatas. Foods to consume in moderation include iced drinks, caffeine, and raw veggies as these can disturb vata energy. Vatas can improve their digestion and elimination by developing a consistent mealtime routine, focusing on eating each meal at the same time each day.
Pittas benefit from a combination of raw and cooked foods that are relatively high in carbohydrates and have a dryer quality. Foods that are dry, mild, and cooking can balance pitta’s fiery nature. Both cool and warm foods are good for pittas, but they should avoid foods that are overly hot, both in temperature and in spiciness. Good options for pittas include bitter, sweet, and astringent tastes like salads, dairy, and grains. Foods to consume in moderation include those that are fermented, spicy, or fried. Vatas can improve their digestion and elimination by developing a consistent mealtime routine, including three big nourishing meals eaten at the same time each day.
Kaphas benefit from freshly cooked, whole foods that are light, dry, and warming. A mixture of cooked and raw fruits and veggies are well tolerated by Kaphas, with nourishing choices including leafy greens, citrus fruits, and warming spiced foods. Foods to consume in moderation include salt, sweets, dairy, and higher fat options like fried foods. Vatas can improve their digestion and elimination by focusing on a big, nourishing lunchtime meal, with dinners and breakfasts being light and dry.
A sustaining, balancing kitchari recipe
Kitchari is an Ayurvedic staple which can be integrated into the meal plan for any constitution. This recipe keeps well in the refrigerator for a few days, so make a big batch and enjoy for a few meals. This recipe was adapted from Banyan Botanicals.
- 1 cup basmati rice
- ½ cup yellow lentils
- 2 tablespoons ghee
- 1 tablespoon spice mix (1 part each of black mustard seed, cumin, turmeric, coriander, ginger)
- 6 cups water
- 1 lime
- 1-2 cups chopped veggies (optional, feel free to choose any veggies you enjoy or that you have in your fridge. Some options include broccoli, leafy greens, carrots, and onions)
Total time: 55 minutes
Make 2 servings
Rinse rice and lentils, picking out any debris. In a medium saucepan warm the ghee. Add the spices and sauté for one to two minutes. Add rice and lentils and sauté for another couple of minutes. Then add 6 cups of water and bring to a boil.
Once the kitchari has come to a boil reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and cook until it is tender (approx. 30–45 minutes). If you are adding vegetables to your kitchari, add the longer cooking vegetables, such as carrots and beets, halfway through the cooking. Add the vegetables that cook faster, such as leafy greens, near the end.
Check the consistency and add more water if needed. You are looking for the consistency of a thick stew or porridge. Garnish with a squeeze of lime and add salt to taste (optional).
Where can I find more resources?
- A beginners guide to ayurvedic cooking: https://www.wellandgood.com/good-food/guide-to-ayurvedic-cooking/slide/5/
- A deeper dive into balancing your dosha with nutrition: https://www.banyanbotanicals.com/info/ayurvedic-living/living-ayurveda/diet/
- Best foods for your dosha: https://www.ayurveda.com/resources/food-and-nutrition/food-guidelines
References used in this blog post: