In this article, we talk about the Ayurvedic diet, how the diet works, its benefits, foods to eat, the foods to avoid, and the downsides of this kind of diet.
What is the ayurvedic diet?
First, to understand what the Ayurvedic diet is, and how it works, it is better to know what Ayurveda is in the first place.
Ayurveda is the traditional Hindu system of holistic medicine that focuses on bringing about a balance between the body systems and the mind.
Ayurveda uses diet, herbs, and yoga to treat the whole person, taking into account mental and social factors, rather than just the symptoms of a disease.
Ayurvedic diet, therefore, is an eating plan that provides guidelines for when you eat, what you eat, and how you eat based on the principles of Ayurvedic medicine.
How does the Ayurvedic diet work?
According to the Ayurvedic diet, when, how, and what one eats depends on their body type or dosha. Dosha may be looked at as the most prominent energy of an individual. In other words, this diet is personalized. The food to eat and avoid depends on your body type.
Instead of guessing the foods, supplements, and lifestyle good for you, the focus is put on your dominant dosha or body type.
Ayurvedic diet recognizes three different Ayurvedic doshas that come from five elements namely; space, air, fire, water, and earth. Each element provides different qualities or attributes.
Below are the three main Doshas and their characteristics. Looking at each dosha will help you determine your best match.
Pitta (fire + water)
Someone with this kind of dosha is normally intelligent, hard-working, and decisive. People with this dosha have a medium physical build, short temper, and are usually affected by conditions like indigestion, heart disease, or high blood pressure.
Therefore pitta dosha aims at cooling, energizing foods and limits spices, nuts, and seeds
Vata (air + space)
People under this category are creative, energetic, and lively. They are usually thin with a light frame and struggle with digestive issues, fatigue, or anxiety in case of an imbalance.
Vata dosha allows warm, moist, and ground foods but restricts dried fruits, bitter herbs, and raw veggies.
Kapha (earth + water)
This is categorized by naturally calm, grounded, and loyal individuals. People with Kapha dosha are often of sturdier frames and have issues to do with stress and weight gain, asthma, depression, or diabetes.
Kapha dosha however restricts heavy foods such as nuts, seeds, and oils in favor of fruits, veggies, and legumes.
Red meat, artificial sweeteners, and processed foods are restricted by all doshas. They rather embrace the consumption of healthy whole foods.
What should I eat on the Ayurvedic diet?
With the Ayurvedic diet, foods categorized based on how they affect the body and their physical qualities. In that way, it is easier to determine different ingredients for different doshas.
Below are some of the foods to eat based on different doshas as stated by the Ayurvedic diet.
- Protein: limited poultry, egg whites, tofu
- Dairy: milk, ghee, butter
- Fruits: sweet, ripe fruits such as oranges, pears, pineapples, bananas, melons, and mangoes
- Vegetables: sweet and bitter vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, zucchini, leafy greens, sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, and Brussels sprouts
- Legumes: chickpeas, lentils, mung beans, lima beans, black beans, kidney beans
- Grains: barley, oats, basmati rice, wheat
- Nuts and seeds: small amounts of pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, coconut
- Herbs and spices: like Black pepper, cumin, cinnamon, cilantro, dill, turmeric
- Protein: poultry(small amounts), seafood, tofu
- Dairy: milk, butter, yogurt, cheese, ghee
- Fruits(ripe, sweet, and heavy): bananas, blueberries, strawberries, grapefruit, mangoes, peaches, and plums
- Vegetables: cooked vegetables such as beets, sweet potatoes, onions, radishes, turnips, carrots, and green beans
- Legumes: chickpeas, lentils, mung beans
- Grains: cooked oats, cooked rice
- Nuts and seeds: such as almonds, walnuts, pistachios, chia seeds, flax seeds, and sunflower seeds
- Herbs and spices: such as cardamom, ginger, cumin, basil, cloves, oregano, thyme, black pepper
- Protein: poultry(small amounts), seafood, egg whites
- Dairy: skim milk, goat milk, soy milk
- Fruits: apples, blueberries, pears, pomegranates, cherries, and dried fruit like raisins, figs, and prunes
- Vegetables: including asparagus, leafy greens, onions, potatoes, mushrooms, radishes, okra
- Legumes: black beans, chickpeas, lentils, and navy beans
- Grains: oats, rye, buckwheat, barley, corn, millet
- Nuts and seeds: pumpkin seeds(in small amounts), sunflower seeds, flax seeds
- Herbs and spices: such as cumin, black pepper, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, basil, oregano, and thyme
Foods to avoid under different doshas
- Proteins: red meat, seafood, egg yolks
- Dairy: sour cream, cheese, buttermilk
- Fruits(sour or unripe fruits): grapes, apricots, papaya, grapefruit, and sour cherries
- Vegetables: such as chili peppers, beets, tomatoes, onions, eggplant
- Grains: brown rice, millet, corn, rye
- Nuts and seeds: almonds, cashews, peanuts, pine nuts, pistachios, walnuts, sesame seeds
- Herbs and spices: any not included in the list.
- Proteins: red meat
- Fruits(dried, unripe, or light fruits) like raisins, cranberries, pomegranates, and pears
- Vegetables: any raw vegetables plus cooked broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, mushrooms, potatoes, and tomatoes
- Legumes: beans, like black beans, kidney beans, and navy beans
- Grains: Avoid buckwheat, barley, rye, wheat, corn, quinoa, millet
- Herbs and spices: Avoid bitter or astringent herbs such as parsley, thyme, and coriander seed
- Proteins: red meat, shrimp, egg yolks
- Fruits: bananas, coconuts, mangoes, fresh figs
- Vegetables: sweet potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers
- Legumes: soybeans, kidney beans, miso
- Grains: rice, wheat, cooked cereal
- Nuts and seeds: including cashews, pecans, pine nuts, Brazil nuts, sesame seeds, walnuts
Food timing (when to eat)
- On every meal, incorporate sweet, salty, sour, bitter, pungent, and astringent foods.
- Always begin with the food that has a sweet taste, followed by that with a salty taste, then sour, pungent, astringent, and finish with bitter foods.
- Eat slowly enough in order to enjoy the taste of the food.
- Eat quickly to avoid eating cold food.
- Eat mindfully in order to listen to hunger signals and signs of fullness to avoid overeating. Avoid talking, laughter and other distractions to fully appreciate your meal and the wholesome benefits it provides.
- Don’t eat within 3 hours after your previous meal or snack but don’t go longer than six hours
- Aim at a modest breakfast, satisfying lunch, and dinner may or may not be served depending on hunger levels.
How then do I know my dosha?
The basis of the Ayurvedic diet is knowing or learning to determine your dominant dosha. The most accurate method is to visit an Ayurvedic doctor.
When you visit the Ayurvedic doctor, he or she will interview you, make assessments, and draw conclusions as to your appropriate dosha based on the information provided.
An Ayurvedic doctor will then advise you on the right combination of foods to balance the dosha; including the food to eat and that to avoid so that the diet is more effective.
In case you have no access to an Ayurvedic doctor, you may try an online questionnaire to help you find your dominant dosha.
Once you have knowledge of what your dosha might be, you can go ahead to create healthy meals, and follow a lifestyle as per your dosha.
What are the health benefits of the ayurvedic diet?
The health benefits of the Ayurvedic diet include;
Promotes whole foods
Although the Ayurvedic diet is dependent on someone’s dosha, it encourages whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. These foods are rich in many essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber. This lowers the risk of heart disease, cancer, and even death that come with processed foods.
May promote weight loss
Despite having limited research on the Ayurvedic diet and weight loss, the diet emphasizes the consumption of nutrient-rich whole foods, mindful eating, body activity, all of which promote weight loss.
Several studies have also come out in support of the Ayurvedic diet for weight loss. For instance, in a study where 200 people with pitta or Kapha doshas were involved, it was established that following the ayurvedic diet contributed to significant weight loss.
Incorporates mindful eating
Mindful eating involves concentration during meals to focus on the taste, texture, and smell of your food. In one study where 10 people exercising mindful eating were involved, it was established that the participants experienced reduced body weight, depression, stress, and binge eating
What are the downsides of the ayurvedic diet?
The drawbacks to this diet and lifestyle include;
Difficulty in determining one’s dosha
Determining your dosha is one of the most challenging aspects of this diet. Even when you visited a doctor, they based on data like a blood or urine test, which may or may not be accurate. Some one’s dosha may also be a combination of more than one type, making the entire process complex.
Some countries like the USA may not have licensed Ayurvedic practitioners. This complicates the entire process.
Even if evidence shows that the Ayurvedic diet may support weight loss or wellness, the diet will only work if you stick to its guidelines for the long term. People are likely to have a hard time maintaining the program.
Side effects from herbs
Ayurvedic herbs or herbal combinations may cause side effects. In case you take prescription medications, talk to your doctor, or pharmacist before taking herbal preparations.
The Ayurvedic diet is an eating plan based on the principles of Ayurvedic medicine. It involves eating and avoiding certain foods according to your dosha, or body type.
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