Eating for Balance: What is the Ayurvedic Dosha Diet?

ayurvedic dosha diet

What if there was a diet developed for your unique body type and backed by over 5,000 years of medicine — would you try it?

I began my studies in Ayurveda in 2009 with Holistic Skin Care through the Aveda Institute. In 2015 I made the trek to India, all the way to a remote coastal location near Kerala where I sat with an Ayurvedic Doctor and discovered further depths of this ancient medicine. It was there I further witnessed how the effects of diet recommendations, based purely on my body type, could influence my overall health.

so many diet trends – how do you choose?

There are numerous diet options in Western culture that we can select from – Raw, Keto, Low Carb, No Carb, Paleo, Atkins, Whole30 and this list goes on. Many of us have tried one or a handful of these diets with varying results. So you may be thinking, “Really, another diet to try?”

While researching, I discovered numerous current diet trends began within only the last 20 years. Yep, only 20 years. This fact really makes me question if some of them have enough data to back them up as safe.

An ancient Medical System

Contrastingly, Ayurveda is an ancient medical system that originated in India more than 5,000 years ago. The Sanskrit word Ayurveda translates as “the knowledge of life” (ayur means life, while veda means science or knowledge). Ayurvedic medicine is still practiced widely today in modern India and is now also extending its influence worldwide, including the practice of following an Ayurvedic diet.

What makes it special is that instead of having to guess which foods, supplements, and behaviors are appropriate for you as an individual, there is a simple, direct prescriptive path that is developed for your unique body type or dosha. The goal of Ayurvedic practices, including following an Ayurvedic diet, is to prevent imbalances in the doshas.

what's a dosha?

The three Ayurvedic body types, or doshas, are Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Each dosha has a unique set of characteristics. There are several ways to determine your body type.

The most accurate way to determine yours is through a detailed history and physical by an Ayurvedic physician, as I experienced in India. However, there are a handful of online tests to discover which Dosha is your dominant mind/body state: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.

While all three are present in everyone, Ayurveda proposes that we each have a dominant dosha that’s unwavering from birth, and ideally an equal balance between the other two. Out of curiosity, I did an online test then compared it to the doctor analysis I received. Not surprisingly, there were some distinct differences but I feel the online test is still a decent place to start exploring Ayurveda from.

the ayurvedic dosha diet

Once you know your dosha, reference the section below and explore eating only the favorable and best foods listed.

With the removal/reduction of some and the addition of favorable foods specific to your dosha, it is suggested that you may notice distinct shifts in your body ultimately bringing you back to a healthy balanced state.

The below suggestions are from Dr. Chandanis, an Ayurvedic Medicine & Surgery graduate.

ayurvedic dosha diet

KAPHA DOSHA (Water/Earth)

FAVORABLE FOODS:

*  Cooked light meals.

•     Warm, light, and dry food.
•     Lightly cooked foods or raw fruits and vegetables.
•     Any food that is spicy.
•     Select dry cooking methods (baking, broiling, grilling, sautéing) over moist cooking such as steaming, boiling, or poaching.
•     Preferred spices are cumin, fenugreek, sesame seed, and turmeric.

FOODS TO REDUCE:

•     Sweet and fatty foods.
•     Salt consumption.
•     Avoid deep-fried foods.
•     Avoid sugar, fats, and dairy products.
•     Skip chilled foods and drinks
•     Use ghee and oils in small amounts only.

BEST VEGETABLES:

•     Asparagus, Celery, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Leafy green vegetables
•     Beets, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Potatoes, Radishes
•     Mushrooms, Okra, Peas, Peppers, Eggplant
•     Garlic, onions

VEGETABLES IN MODERATION:

•     Cucumbers, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and zucchini.

BEST FRUITS:

•     Apples, apricots, berries, papaya, pears, prunes, pomegranates, and grapefruit
•     Dried fruit, specifically apricots, figs, prunes, and raisins.

FRUITS IN MODERATION:

•     Dates, fresh figs, bananas, coconuts, and mangoes.

Other food for kaphas

  • Best Grains: Barley, buckwheat, corn, millet, oats, rye, and basmati rice.
  • Grains in Moderation: Rice and wheat. Avoid hot cereals and steamed grains.
  • Best Dairy: Warm skim milk, eggs, goat’s milk, soy milk, and camel milk.
  • Dairy in Moderation: Egg yolks
  • Best Meats: Chicken, turkey and lean fish.
  • Meats in Moderation: Shrimp and red meat.
  • Best Beans: All legumes are acceptable.
  • Beans in Moderation: Kidney beans and tofu.
  • Best Oils: Almond, sunflower, olive oil, and grape-seed oil.
  • Sweeteners: All in very small quantities.
  • Best Nuts & Seeds: Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and flax seeds.
  • Herbs & Spices: All are good, especially cumin, fenugreek, sesame, and ginger.

ayurvedic dosha diet

PITTA DOSHA (Fire)

FAVORABLE FOODS:

•     Cool or warm — not steaming hot foods.
•     Bitter, sweet, and astringent tastes.
•     Cool, refreshing food like salads, milk, and ice cream.
•     Herbal tea, specifically mint or licorice root tea.
•     Cold cereal, cinnamon toast, and apple tea is a good breakfast.
•     Vegetarian foods, in general, are the best.
•     Consume abundant amounts of milk, grains, and vegetables.

FOODS TO REDUCE:

•     Use less butter and added fat
•     Avoid pickles, sour cream, and cheese.
•     Avoid vinegar in salad dressing (use lemon juice instead).
•     Avoid Alcoholic and fermented foods.
•     Reduce coffee.
•     Avoid oily, hot, salty, and heavy foods (anything fried).
•     Skip egg yolks, nuts, hot spices, honey, and hot drinks.

BEST VEGETABLES:

•     Asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, radishes, cauliflower, celery
•     Cucumber, green beans, green (sweet) peppers, leafy green vegetables, lettuce
•     Mushrooms, okra, parsley, peas, potatoes, squash, sweet potatoes, zucchini, carrot.

VEGETABLES IN MODERATION:

•     Eggplant, onion, tomatoes, hot peppers, chilies, and beets.

BEST FRUITS:

•     Bananas, avocados, cherries, coconuts, figs
•     Mangoes, melons, oranges, pears, plums, pineapples, prunes, and raisins.

FRUITS IN MODERATION:

•     Apricot, apples, berries, sour cherries, grapefruit, raw papaya, dark grapes, peaches, and persimmon.
•     Avoid green grapes, oranges, pineapple, and plum unless they are sweet and ripe.

Other Food for Pittas

  • Favorable Grains: Barley, oats, wheat, and white rice (preferably basmati).
  • Grains in Moderation: Brown rice, corn, millet, and rye.
  • Best Dairy: Butter, egg whites, ghee (clarified butter), milk, and fruit sorbets.
  • Dairy in Moderation: Cheese, sour yogurt, egg yolk, sour cream, and ice cream.
  • Best Meats: Chicken, shrimp, turkey, and river fish (all in small amounts).
  • Meats in Moderation: Red meat and seafood in general.
  • Best Beans: Chickpeas, mung beans, red lentils, soybean products (not fermented).
  • Beans in Moderation: Black gram, black lentils, and Dal.
  • Best Oils: Olive, soy, sunflower, and grapeseed oil.
  • Oils in Moderation: Almond, corn, safflower, sesame, and coconut oil.
  • Best Nuts and Seeds: Coconut, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds.
  • Best Sweetners: All are acceptable except honey and molasses.
  • Herbs and Spices: Spices should generally be avoided as they are too heating.

ayurvedic dosha diet

VATA DOSHA (Air)

FAVORABLE FOODS:

•     Warm, nourishing foods with moderately heavy texture.
•     Butter and fat.
•     Salty, sour, and sweet tastes.
•     Warm milk, cream, butter, warm soups, stews, hot cereals, freshly baked bread.
•     Raw nuts, and nut butters.
•     Hot or herbal tea.
•     All sweet fruits are OK.
•     Warm drinks or hot water.
•     Spices: Cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, ginger, cloves, and garlic.

FOODS TO REDUCE:

•     Cold foods such as salads, iced drinks, raw vegetables and greens.
•     Avoid caffeine and candies.
•     Avoid unripe fruits.

BEST VEGETABLES (cooked):

•     Asparagus, beets, carrots, cucumber, green beans
•     Garlic, onions, sweet potatoes, radishes, and turnips

VEGETABLES IN MODERATION (cooked):

•     Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, eggplant, zucchini
•     Leafy green vegetables, mushrooms, peas, peppers, potatoes, sprouts, tomatoes
•     Avoid raw vegetables, in general.

BEST FRUITS (well-ripened):

•     Bananas, apricots, avocados, berries, cherries, coconut, fresh figs, grapefruit
•     Lemons, grapes, mangoes, sweet melons, papaya, pineapple, peaches, plums

FRUITS IN MODERATION:

•     Cranberries, pears, pomegranates.
•     Avoid dried fruits, in general, and all unripe fruit.

Other food for vatas:

  • Best 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.
  • Best Meat: Chicken, seafood, turkey, in small quantity.
  • Meat in Moderation: Red meat.
  • Best 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.
  • Sweeteners: All sweeteners are acceptable.
  • Nuts and Seeds: All are acceptable in small amounts. Almonds are best.
  • Herbs & Spices: Avoid using spices in large quantities. Minimize 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.

Have you tried the Ayurvedic Dosha Diet? What was your experience? Share in the comments below.

By Bokhara Lashi
Wellness Specialist, Embody Zen
Artist, Moss Art Studio

References:
Eating to Balance Your Mind-Body Type

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  1. Laura says

    Pitta diet has direct opposite recommendations….best fruits: pineapples and oranges. Fruits to avoid: pineapples and oranges. Now I can’t trust the list at all 🙁

    • ASC Admin says

      Hi Laura! Please note that the article says “Avoid green grapes, oranges, pineapple, and plum unless they are sweet and ripe” — so pineapples and oranges are still the best options, but only if they are sweet and ripe 🙂

  2. Sonia says

    Excellent article. It would also help if there was a dosha quiz link noted also as there are numerous ones out there. Thank you!

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