Ayurveda is an ancient teaching originating in Vedic India. Translated from Sanskrit it means: It means “the doctrine of health”. It is used in the West as an alternative or complementary healing method. It is the oldest holistic medicine in the world, which means it heals the whole body, including the mind.
Ayurveda believes that diseases are caused primarily psychosomatically, so it treats the human mind first and adjusts a person’s way of life towards a healthier and more conscious one. It uses practices such as herbalism, massage and yoga to do this, but these are seen as separate disciplines in the West.
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Dosha – Metabolic types according to Ayurveda
The main theory on which Ayurveda is based is the balance between three basic characteristics – doshas. The purpose of Ayurveda is to dynamically balance the life energy – prana, and thus the doshas
. The individual doshas are created by combining two of the five elements: aakash (space/ether), jala (water), prithvi (earth), teja (fire), and vayu (air). They are believed to be responsible for a person’s physical, mental, and emotional health.
As far as diet is concerned, Ayurveda distinguishes between three metabolic types corresponding to these doshas, which may partially overlap. In each individual, the doshas are represented in a unique proportion, usually with one dominating. Which dosha you belong to is determined by your physical, emotional, health, and behavioral characteristics. The different metabolic types are:
Vata is represented primarily by two elements: air and space (also referred to as ether), and is usually described as: cold, light, dry, rough, flowing, and spacious. Of the seasons, it is represented by autumn. People who are dominated by tako dosha are described as: lean, energetic and creative. They try to think outside the box, but are also very forgetful and distracted.
Their mood is very dependent on the weather, the people around them and the food they eat.
Strengths: quick learners, very creative, multitasking, warm, adaptable, always doing something, never stopping, naturally thin
Weaknesses: forgetful, nervous, moody, easily overloaded, very sensitive to cold, difficult to sleep, often not hungry and eat irregularly, prone to digestive problems and flatulence, poor circulation (cold hands and feet)
According to the Ayurveda, people with Vata dominance should try to manage stress through meditation and other calming activities. For these people, regularity is key – going to bed at the same hour, getting up at the same hour, and eating at the same hour.
Spiced milk is good for warming up. Their problem is not to lose weight, but to gain and maintain muscle mass.
Kapha is based on the elements of earth and water. It is described as: stable, steady, heavy, slow, cool and soft. Its season is spring, when everything slowly awakens from its winter hibernation. Kaphadosh-dominant people are: strong, caring, hippo-skinned
. They are the ones who always keep their cool, the ones you call in moments of crisis. It is almost impossible to upset them, they think first and then act, they go for their goal slowly but determinedly.
Strengths: empathetic, caring, patient, trusting, calm, wise, good memory, happy, romantic, loyal, strong bones and joints, good immune system
Weaknesses: prone to weight gain, slow metabolism, sluggish, long and happy to sleep, breathing difficulties (asthma, allergies), higher risk of heart disease, congested, prone to depression, need regular motivation and support
To stay healthy, Kapha-dominant people should focus on regular exercise, healthy eating, and occasionally going to the sauna or getting a dry massage with a loofah (called a garchan) to warm up.
The Pitta dosha combines fire and water and is often associated with a tenacious personality. It is described as: hot, light, sharp, oily, fluid and mobile. Its season is summer. Pitta-dominated people are leaders. Physically, they are muscular and athletic. They are highly motivated, driven and competitive. Their aggressive and tenacious nature can be off-putting to some and sometimes lead to conflict.
Strengths: intelligent, quick to learn, determined, quick to master any skill, strong desire to succeed, strong, natural leader, fast metabolism, good circulation, healthy skin and hair
Weaknesses: impatient, conflicted, always hungry, moody, prone to acne and inflammation, sensitive to heat
Pittadosha-dominant people should focus on work-life balance. Rose jam and a 5-minute scalp and foot massage before an evening shower can also soothe them.
The Ayurveda diet
The evidence that following an Ayurvedic diet based on your dominant dosha actually helps is very limited. However, a centuries-long tradition believes that eating according to doshas helps to balance the life energy – prana – and thus achieve optimal health
. People who have tried eating according to Ayurveda have reported feeling better overall. This diet contains many healthy foods such as vegetables, fruits, seeds and whole grains. You should always consult a doctor if you are considering a major change in your eating habits.
If the doshas are out of balance, we should avoid foods that match our dominant dosha. The way we eat should also change depending on the season – for example, eating warm foods during the winter months.
People with a Vata-dominant dosha should primarily consume warm, comforting foods that taste salty, sour or sweet and contain plenty of fat. Since they are sensitive to cold, they will be comforted with various soups, broths or warmed nut and seed milks.
The fruit should be sweet and very ripe. Avoid bitter tastes and dry foods.
Liquids should also be preferred warm. Herbal teas are especially good in the evening to calm a distracted Vata before bedtime.
For the same reason, it is a good idea to avoid excessive caffeine consumption.
What to limit:
- Cereals: rye, barley, buckwheat, corn, millet
- Legumes: everything except yellow mung beans and red lentils
- Vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, celery, leafy greens, onions, peas, sprouts, raw vegetables
- Dairy products: ice cream, ripe hard cheese, dried dairy products
- Sweeteners: substitutes
- Spices: cayenne pepper, chilli, raw garlic and other hot spices
- Fruits: unripe, guava, khaki, cranberries
What to indulge in
- Cereals: porridge, basmati rice
- Legumes: red lentils, yellow half mung beans, whole mung beans
- Vegetables: artichokes, beetroot, bok choy, carrots, celery, cucumber, aubergine, pumpkin, radish, spinach, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, courgettes
- Dairy products: butter, cream, ghee, milk (warmed), yoghurt, fresh cheese (young cheese, ricotta, cottage), panir, sour cream
- Sweeteners: sugar, date sugar, fructose, honey
- Oils: all (preferably ghee)
- Nuts and seeds: all nuts except peanuts, seeds only in small quantities
- Spices: anise, black pepper (limited), cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, fennel, garlic (cooked only), ginger, mustard seeds, rock or sea salt, tamarind, all other spices only in small quantities
- Fruits: sweet and ripe, apricots, avocados, berries, cherries, grapefruit, guava, kiwi, lemons, melon, mango, oranges, papaya, peaches, pineapple, plums, pomegranate, tangerines, dried fruit (dates, figs, raisins, plums) – soaked in water until soft, apples and pears (only if sweet and juicy or stewed with cinnamon)
- Meat: all white meat (limited)
Representatives of this dosha are usually more robust and gain weight easily, for this reason their diet is light. Like Vata, they are also sensitive to cold, so it is a good idea to avoid cold drinks and frozen desserts (such as ice cream). Unlike Vata, however, they should avoid sweet and fatty foods; Kapha prefers spicy, bitter to astringent tastes.
A great wake-up drink is ginger tea. For Kapha, it is recommended to skip breakfast and instead have, for example, warm water with honey or ginger tea with honey. You can also try bitter cocoa with nut milk and a little honey. It is advisable to sweeten with honey and not sugar, but no more than one teaspoon per day.
What to limit:
- Grains: wheat
- Legumes: tofu (soy)
- Vegetables: various tubers (potatoes, sweet potatoes, tapioca)
- Dairy: yogurt, cream, butter, whole milk and ghee in large quantities
- Sweeteners: sugar and sugar cane products
- Nuts: best not to eat any
- Fruits: avocado, banana, pineapple, orange, melon, plums, mango, coconut, apricot
- Spices: salt
- Meat: limit consumption of all meat, especially red meat and egg yolks
What to indulge in:
- Cereals: old varieties: barley, rye, buckwheat, oats, rice, millet
- Legumes: all except tofu
- Vegetables: leafy greens, asparagus, artichoke, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, beets, cauliflower, broccoli, celery, peas, peppers, sprouts, white squash, zucchini, green papaya, tomatoes, eggplant, radishes
- Dairy products: lassi and butter milk, low-fat milk, small amounts of ghee and whole milk
- Sweeteners: honey
- Fats: small amounts only: mustard, corn oil, sesame oil, sunflower oil, pumpkin seed oil
- Nuts and seeds: sunflower and pumpkin seeds
- Spices: all but salt, especially hot spices (pepper, ginger, chilli, etc.), guggul, a little lemon juice are preferred
This dosha prefers succulent, cooling dishes full of water. Pitta-dominant people should avoid overly fatty, salty and spicy foods. Sour taste also does not do them good, so they should avoid pickled foods and use lemon juice instead of vinegar. They prefer bitter and sweet flavours.
Peppermint tea or liquorice is excellent for soothing their bitterness.Like Vata, Pitta also has a hard time with coffee. These people enjoy cold drinks and fruit juices, but beware of added carbohydrates. Pitta has a hard time with refined sugar.
What to limit:
- Cereals: corn, millet, rye, buckwheat, brown rice
- Vegetables: tomatoes and tomato sauce, radishes, onions, carrots, beets, spinach, seaweed
- Fruits: grapefruit, olives, sour oranges, peaches, sour grapes, sour pineapple, forest fruits, shrubs, lemon, lime, cherries
- Sweeteners: molasses, brown sugar, honey
- Nuts: all
- Fats: almond, corn, safflower, sesame and rapeseed oil
- Spices: chilli, cayenne pepper, onion, garlic, mustard seeds, cloves, mace, mustard, devil’s food separator
What to indulge in:
- Cereals: wheat, white rice (basmati, jasmine, etc.), barley, oats, quinoa, kamut, amaranth
- Legumes: mung beans, kidney beans, tofu
- Vegetables: asparagus, artichoke, yellow squash, zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, green beans, celery, potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, peppers, eggplant, cilantro sprouts, cucumber, lettuce, kale, Brussels sprouts, parsley, bok choy, corn, all leafy greens except spinach
- Dairy products: warmed milk, butter, ghee, sweet lassi, cream, spreadable butter, panir
- Sweeteners: natural cane sugar, date sugar
- Fats: ghee is the best choice, followed by olive, sunflower and coconut oil (limited)
- Nuts and seeds: sunflower and pumpkin seeds, shelled almonds (limited)
- Spices: coriander, cumin, turmeric, saffron, fennel, cardamom; ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, thyme, basil, oregano and marjoram may also be used in smaller quantities
- Fruits: sweet grapes, avocado, sweet mango, coconut, melon, kiwi, sweet oranges, sweet pineapple, papaya, pomegranate, khaki, bananas, raisins