Let food be your medicine

Food and good health go hand-in-hand, especiallywhen food is taken in the rightmeasure. In this detailed note,Dr. Arya Krishna, gives us her view on how food should be hadbased on the different Ayurveda principles, the different dietary choices for the different doshas,importance of home cooked food, the diet of a yogi and much more…

Health is essential for a good and quality life and one of the most important and easiest thing we can do for good health is to eat wisely and exercise smartly. The ancient classic ‘Charaka Samhita’ says, “The life of all living things is food; the entire world seeks food to attain good complexion, clarity, good voice, long life, understanding, happiness, satisfaction, growth, intelligence.”

In Ayurveda,the three pillars of life areAahara (Food), Nidra (Sleep), Bramhacharya (Celibacy) in which Aahara or Food is the most important since, without food,there would be no life. The Aahara is again differentiated into two types hita (Wholesome) and ahita (Unwholesome). Hita Aahara is responsible for normal growth and development of the body while Ahita Aahara interferes with normal body functions and causes many diseases.

Why should we eat according to our body constitution?

According to Ayurveda, universal life force manifests as three different energies, or doshas, known as Vata, Pitta, and Kapha and we are all made up of a unique combination of these three forces. Though everyone has some of each, most people tend to have an abundance of one or two of the doshas.

This unique combination is determined at the time of conception itself and continues to be the same throughout one’s lifespan. A healthy body and mind occurs when there is an equilibrium of the three doshas. An imbalance of the doshas can easily result in diseases.

As we move through life, the proportion of each of the three doshas constantly fluctuates according to the environment, our diet, the seasons, the climate, our age, and many other factors. For example, childhood will be predominated by Vata, Middle age by Pitta and old age by Kapha.

Therefore, if we eat food that are unique to our physiology and follow a sattvic (life supporting) routine that enhances digestion, then we will experience a life that is healthy and happy.

Now let’s understand the different types of diet for the different doshas or what diet to follow based on each one’s unique body constitution.

Vata pacifying diet

  • How to eat is as important as what to eat for a Vata A Vata person should eat slowly and at regular intervals. Here, emphasis should be on food that are warm, soupy and easy to digest.
  • Consider eatingfood that are sweet, sour and salty, since these are nourishing.
  • Remember to always eat a little less than full.
  • Beginning the day with a warm spiced tea will be good.

 Recipe for warm spiced tea

Ingredients:-

  1. ¼ tsp fresh and grated ginger
  2. ¼ tsp ground cardamom
  3. ¼ tsp cinnamon
  4. ¼ tsp carrom seeds
  5. 1 cup boiling water

Method of preparation

Add the above mentioned spices to boiling water. Steep the tea, covered for 5 minutes. Strain and discard the herbs and spices and serve and have it while it is warm.

Types of food Preferred Minimize/Avoid
Vegetables Asparagus, Beets, Cucumbers and Carrots are the best. Green leafy vegetables, Celery, Seaweed, Squash  

Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cauliflower, Cabbages, Raw Onions, Potatoes

Fruits Favor sweet, sour fruits like Banana, Avocados, Berries, Grapes, Cherries, Plums, Pineapple, Mangoes and Papayas. Dried fruits like Fig, Dates, uncooked Apples, Pears, Pomegranates, Persimmon
Legumes Yellow Mung Beans, Tofu(marinated), Green Mung Beans All other bean varieties like Soy, Chickpeas, Garbanzo, Kidney Beans have a tendency to aggravate Vata
Spices Most of the spices are favorable to Vata like Asafetida/Hing, Cumin, Turmeric, Cloves, Mustard Seeds, Cardamom, Black Pepper, Ajwain seeds, Cinnamon, Dill, Fennel, Ginger etc. Excessive spicy peppers like Cayenne, and Chili Peppers
Cereals Wheat, Rice, Oatmeal cooked, Quinoa Barley, Buckwheat, Corn, Millet and Rye
Milk Products Almost all milk products including cheese are favorable, remember to boil milk before consuming Ice cream, powdered milk and soy milk
Meat Chicken, Turkey, Eggs, Seafood Beef

Pitta pacifying diet

  • Begin the day with 1 tablespoon of melted cow’s ghee, as it pacifies pitta.
  • Eat three regular meals everyday as it helps to pacify the fiery Pitta.
  • As a rule, intake of sweet, bitter and astringent tastes decreases Pitta.
  • Consume a cup of cool cow’s milk, before going to bed. (Those with lactose intolerance can substitute cow’s milk with soy/almond milk). This can help in getting good sleep at night and reduce hyperacidity.
  • Herbal teas prepared with Hibiscus, Mint, Chicory and Dandelion calms down the aggravated pitta.
Types of Food Preferred Avoid or Minimize
Vegetables All green leafy vegetables, Zucchini, Yellow squash, Sweet potatoes, Potato, Cucumber, Pumpkin, Carrots, Beets, Green Beans, Mushroom, Fresh Corn, Brussel Sprouts, Cilantro, Artichokes, Pointed Gourd Radish, Ginger, Eggplant, Peppers, Tomatoes, Raw Onions, Raw Mangoes
Fruits Sweet taste pacifies Pitta – Sweet Apples, Sweet Berries, Ripened Mango, Guava, Watermelon, Papaya, Pears, Sweet Plums, Sweet Orange, Indian Gooseberry, Dates Sour taste – Grapes, Oranges, Lemon, Limes, Pineapple, Berries
Legumes Black Beans, Kidney Beans, Long Beans, Pinto Beans, Mung Beans, Soy Beans Tempeh, Fermented Soy Bean
Spices Coriander, Mint, Fennel, Cumin, Turmeric Garlic, Ginger, Pepper, Onions, Caraway, Fenugreek, Asafetida, Cinnamon, Mustard
Cereals Rice (white, basmati, wild), Barley, Oats, Quinoa, Amaranth, Whole Wheat Buck Wheat, Millet, Brown Rice, Corn
Milk products Whole Milk (cool over warm), Homemade Cheese, Soy Milk, Buttermilk with a pinch of sugar Yogurt, Sour Cream, Salted Sour Cheese
Meat Chicken, Turkey, Egg Whites, White fish like Tilapia, Goat Meat Beef, Lamb, Egg yolks, other seafoods

Kapha pacifyingdiet

  • Kapha persons should reduce foods that are sweet, salty and sour. These 3 tastes are considered heavy for digestion according to Ayurveda.
  • To pacify the Kapha, always eat food that is warm. Cold food and drinks aggravate Kapha.
  • Include ginger tea with all meals.
  • Reduce the intake of dairy as this aggravates the Kapha.
  • Reduce intake of all nuts and seeds.
  • Eat your largest meal at lunch time and smallest meal for dinner.
  • Allow at least 3 hours for digestion before bedtime.
  • Liquid fast once a week is good for Kapha predominant persons. Include pureed fruits and clear vegetable soup on that day.
Types of food Preferred Avoid/Minimize
Vegetables Green Leafy Vegetables, Artichokes, Beets, Carrots, White Potatoes, Green Beans, Peas, Bell Pepper, Broccoli, Celery, Cabbage, Sprouts Sweet Potatoes, Tapioca and Cucumber
Fruits Apple, Pear, Berries, Persimmon, Guava, Pomegranate, Dry Fruits Mangoes, Bananas, Avocado
Legumes Mung Beans Tofu, Soy, Chickpeas
Spices Ginger, Pepper, Asafetida, Saffron, Cumin, Cardamom, Anise, Cloves – in general heating spices are always good for Kapha Salt
Cereals Barley, Millet, Corn, Buck Wheat, Rye, Whole Wheat, Quinoa, Bran Rice, Sour Dough, Pasta
Milk products Skimmed Milk, Small amounts of Ghee Cheese, Ice Cream, Sour Cream, Yogurt
Meat Egg Whites, Chicken, Turkey Red Meat, Egg Yolk, Sea Food

Vata – Pitta pacifying Diet

When 2 dashes are combined, the diet and the regiment will depend on the seasonal factors too. In autumn and winter, a Vata pacifying diet must be followed. In spring and summer, Pitta pacifying diet must be followed.

Food Include Avoid/Minimize
Cereals Cooked whole grains Yeast
Fruits Well ripened, sweet fruits pacify both Vata and Pitta Dry fruits, olives, oranges, apricots
Vegetables Cooked Vegetables. Raw salads and greens are permitted in Summer. Green Bell Pepper, Cabbages, Artichokes, Radishes, Raw Onions
Legumes Generally, Beans aggravate Vata, but cooked Beans with spices like Garlic, Pepper, Cumin, Ginger pacifies Vata and Pitta. Chick Peas, Dried Peas, Soy Beans, Kidney Beans
Meat Limit meat consumption, except meat soup Dark Chicken, Shell Fish
Spices Caraway, Cardamom, Cilantro, Coriander, Cumin, Ginger, Start Anise, Salt, Pepper, Turmeric Asafetida, Cayenne Pepper, Asafetida, Raw Garlic, Ginger
Milk products Boiled milk and Buttermilk Avoid raw Milk, Cheese and Yoghurt

 Pitta-Kapha pacifying Diet

When talking about dual dosha constitution, always remember to give importance to the seasons while considering diet and regimen. Pitta pacifying diet and regimen should be followed during spring and summer season, and Kapha pacifying diet and regimen should be followed during fall and winter season.

Food Include Avoid/Minimize
Cereals Always go for cooked, unyeasted grains like Barley, Quinoa, Cooked Oats with Bran, Wild ice/High Protein Rice Minimize Buck Wheat, All-Purpose Flour, Red Rice, White Sticky Rice
Legumes Black Gram, Mung Beans, Split Beans, Kidney Beans, Lentils, Soy Beans Chick Peas, Tempeh, Peanuts
Spices Mild to moderate of Cardamom, Coriander, Cumin, Curry Leaves, Cloves, Fennel, Peppermint, Saffron, Ginger, Parsley Asafetida, Raw Garlic, Cinnamon, Cayenne Pepper, Black Pepper, Nutmeg, Dry Ginger
Dairy Skim milk, fresh Buttermilk, Ghee, Butter, Yoghurt (avoid in summer), Whole Milk Cheese, Cream, Cottage Cheese, Sour Cream
Meat Goat Meat Red Meat, White Meat, Shell Fish
Fruits Apples, Blueberries, Jamun, Pear, Amla Mango, Papaya, Pineapple, Strawberries, Cranberries, Lemon, Orange, Kiwi, Lime
Vegetables Cooked vegetables – Artichokes, Bean Sprouts, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Bitter melon, Bottle gourd, Cabbage, Celery, Zucchini, Cilantro, Mushrooms Chili, Radish, Squash, Greenpeppers

Vata- Kapha pacifying diet

A Vata pacifying diet and regimenin Summer and fall season, and a Kapha pacifying diet and regimen in Winter and Spring can be adopted for a Vata-Kapha person.

Food Include Avoid/Minimise
Cereals Oats, Wheat, Brown Rice, Basmati Rice, Amaranth, Buckwheat, Quinoa and Barley Refined Flour
Vegetables Almost all vegetables are good like Beets, Carrots, Greens, Beans, Cabbage, Capsicum, Bell Peppers Avoid eating them raw, also avoid too fibrous vegetables like Jackfruit, Artichoke, Cauliflower
Fruits Apples, Pear, Guava, Prunes, Avocados Mangoes, Papaya – in general excessive sweet and sour should be avoided
Milk products Skimmed Milk, Milk substitutes like Coconut Milk, Diluted Almond Milk, Ghee, Butter Soy Milk, RawMilk, Yoghurt, Cheese
Meat White Meat like Chicken and Turkey, Egg Whites Pork, Beef, Egg Yolk, Seafood
Spices Turmeric, Pepper, Cumin, Asafetida, Fenugreek

Now that we have discussed about Dosha pacifying diets, let us look the Ayurveda perspectives on Eating Right

The Importance of Home-Cooked Food

Studies have found that eating out led to at least a 50 percent increase in calories consumed, sodium and total fat intake. This can lead to overweight and other health problems. Research has shown that children who eat home-cooked meals more frequently were less likely to be overweight. Studies found family meals tend to contain more fruits and vegetables and less fried food, soda and trans-fat.

People who eat home-cooked meals on a regular basis tend to be happier and healthier and consume less sugar and processed foods, which can result in higher energy levels and better mental health.Cooking is one of the most important aspects of eating healthy.

Diet of a Yogi

Yoga diet is nothing but extending your yoga practices to the table by applying the Ayurveda principles. The classical text books like Bhagavad Gita or Patanjali Yoga sutra don’t list a specific group of food saying it as Yogic diet. But yogic diet can be defined as one which can keep the body light and the senses intact. The foods that are sattvic can be considered as Yogic diet. This include – Ghee, fruits, legumes, and whole grains.

What you need as an individual maybe very different from what someone else needs.And what you need at this moment in your life may be very different from what you needed five years ago or will need five years from now.  So, whichever diet you are following, remember that it should be according to your current physical and mental health requirements.

Dr. Arya Krishna (BAMS)

Ayurveda Consulting Physician & Educational Co-ordinator

BE MIND BODY SKIN

Subject Matter Expert

At Home With Ayurveda (UK)

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