Ayurvedic nutrition is a buzzword in the wellness industry these days. Everyone is looking for a way to maintain health and wellbeing, and Ayurveda provides a holistic approach to wellness. Ayurvedic nutrition is about balance which is why it is appealing to some people.. Ayurveda is the sister science to Yoga; both are ancient wisdom teachings that have supported humans for centuries. Ayurveda looks at the human body through the lens of the Tattvas, or the parts of the things in our universe. The most basic forms of the Tattvas are the elements. In Yoga and Ayurveda, the elements include earth, water, fire, air, and ether. In the system of Ayurveda, humans are made of these elements, and these elements come together to create constitutions. According to Ayurveda, there are three constitutions which include Pitta, Vata, and Kapha.
Although Ayurveda might seem complicated, it’s actually fairly simple once you understand the foundation of how elements work together. Pitta dosha is a combination of fire and water, Vata dosha is a combination of air and ether, and Kapha dosha is a combination of earth and water. The doshas exhibit the qualities of their elements. A person’s dosha is determined by their karma and by their birth experience. Their initial manifestation is called a person’s prakriti. As we grow, our prakriti changes due to environmental stress and other karmic factors. When our constitution is out of balance it is called vikriti.
The doshas tend to experience shared physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual experiences that can be exacerbated by foods and environmental conditions that have the same qualities. For example, individuals with Vata dosha typically experience intestinal discomfort including constipation, upset stomach, anxiety, overwhelm, and spiritual attachments. Pitta doshas experience skin rashes and inflammation, a quick temper, frustration, and determination. Kaphas experience respiratory sensitivity, objectivity, and loyalty. Each dosha is aggravated by its own qualities and pacified by the opposite qualities.
Ayurvedic nutrition looks at food through the lens of the doshas, too. Each food has qualities of the doshas and will increase those qualities when ingested. If a Pitta individual were to eat spicy food their Pitta would increase, and if they were already experiencing elevated Pitta then they might experience an excess of Pitta. If you were wanting to decrease someone’s Pitta during the winter (which is Vata season), Kapha foods would be introduced as pacifying foods. If you were wanting to decrease someone’s Pitta during Kapha season you would use Vata foods.
Ayurveda looks at all of nature through the lens of the doshas. Ayurvedic Nutrition takes the individual’s constitution into account along with the constitution of the season and food they will be consuming. Ayurvedic nutrition is an excellent way for yoga teachers to support their clients when they have nutritional questions. The nutritional aspects of Ayurveda are relatively simple compared to the overall science of Ayurveda. Once a practitioner understands the fundamental principles of the doshas they can work with their clients to help them navigate seasonal changes through their relationship with food and their lifestyle. Below is a chart that visually depicts the relationship between the doshas, the seasons, foods, and human traits. Studying this chart will provide a frame of reference for our next topic, food combining.
|Vata (Air+Ether)||intestinal discomfort including constipation, upset stomach, anxiety, overwhelm, and spiritual attachments||Fall to Winter Solstice||Artichokes, bitter melon, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots (raw), bell peppers, cauliflower, celery, chilies, eggplant, corn, dandelion (green), kale, lettuce, mushroom, olive (green), potato (white), radish, spinach (raw), sprout, tomato and turnip|
|Pitta (Fire+Water)||skin rashes and inflammation, a quick temper, frustration, and determination||April To August||Apricots, avocado, pungent or sour vegetables like onion, tomatoes, hot peppers, carrots, beets, eggplant or raw leeks, soy sauce, salted butter, eggs, seafood, sour cream, beef, dark chicken, chili pepper, red or sweet wine, and chocolate.|
|Kapha (Earth+Water)||sensitivity, objectivity, and loyalty||Winter Solstice to April||Fruits like apples, pears, watermelon, pomegranates, apricots, cranberries, etc., form the main part of a kapha diet. These are better than consuming heavier ones like bananas, oranges, pineapples, avocado, coconut, and dates.|
The foods that are associated with each dosha in the chart above should be avoided if there is an excess of that particular dosha. The question is, how do you know when your dosha is in excess?
Evaluating your dosha can be a little bit tricky, but it’s not impossible. You begin by evaluating your dosha as it was before you went through puberty. You have to think back to the time before braces and pimples and try to remember what the qualities of your features, digestion, and overall personality were during that time. Then, you re-administer the same questions answering from the present moment. So, if you are currently experiencing splitting nails and dry hair you check those boxes on the evaluation. After tallying up all of the columns you evaluate the number of Vata qualities, Pitta qualities, and Kapha qualities you got both before puberty and after puberty.
Most individuals will not be just one dosha. Most people will be a mix of doshas where one dosha is their primary dosha and the other two are in lesser amounts. A person can be tridoshic, too. Once the individual’s dosha is identified their overall diet can be evaluated. Evaluating a person’s diet is an objective task where the nutritionist is assessing the client’s nutritional intake not passing judgment on their eating habits.
Getting well-rounded nutrition is important, especially when you are wanting to live a yogic lifestyle. Part of the practice of yoga is cultivating, conserving, and purifying prana in the body. By and large, prana comes from the nourishment we ingest. Maintaining good nutrition supports our mind, body, and soul. Ayurvedic nutrition is no different than Western nutrition except for the fact that it takes into account the individual’s dosha and it implements certain food combining rules.
Food combining is a practice of combining certain foods and avoiding putting other foods together. For example, bananas and melons are sweet fruit in Ayurveda, and should not be combined with any other food. If you plan on eating banana or melon, you might want to eat them with two hours in between other meals or snacks. The reason that sweet fruits should be eaten in isolation, according to Ayurvedic Nutrition, is due to the fact that they ferment in the gut and can cause bloating and gas.
Food combining can be broken down into the chart below and is universally applied to all three doshas. The only caveat to that would be to avoid foods that increase a client’s dosha if they are experiencing an imbalance. In the chart below all of the foods listed can be combined with Ghee as it is considered the perfect food.
|Beans & Legumes||Grains||Vegetables||Nuts & Seeds||Fruit|
|Fruit||N/A||N/A||N/A||Like Fruit Together (Citric with Citric, Apples & Pears Together, Berries Together, Melon Together)|
|Meat||Grains||Vegetables||Nuts & Seeds||Fruit (Cooked)|
There are many benefits to adopting an Ayurvedic lifestyle and Ayurvedic nutrition can help you to achieve some of those benefits. Many people notice an increase in energy and focus after incorporating the principles of Ayurvedic nutrition into their diets. Some people notice an improvement in digestion, decreased bloating, more regular bowel movements, and better sleep. Ayurveda helps us to identify the places where we are feeding into imbalance, and it helps us to counter that imbalance with pacifying foods and practices that support a healthy lifestyle.
A famous Ayurvedic preparation is Golden Milk. Hop on over to this blog article to find out how to prepare this ancient beverage.
If you’re interested in working with an Ayurvedic Nutritionist, try out My Vinyasa Practice’s app where you can work with a certified Ayurvedic Nutritionist in a one-on-one setting as part of your monthly subscription.