According to ayurveda, we all tend toward one of three doshas, or "constitutions": kapha, vata or pitta. Once you determine which dosha you favor, you can learn to eat the rights foods, drink the right drinks and cook with the spices that nourish you best. (For more information, see The Three Doshas of Ayurveda.)
For all the doshas, it’s important to eat organic foods – mainly whole grains, fruits and veggies, certain herbs and spices, beans and legumes, and fun yogurt drinks called lassi. We also learn to eat seasonally in ayurveda, with nature’s intelligence leading the way.
A Kapha's Diet
If you lean toward kapha dosha, you’ll want to eat whole grains that are more on the astringent side. Amaranth, millet and quinoa are some of the best whole grains to eat for kapha. Sprouted beans are also ideal for kapha – mung beans, split peas and lentils are great sources of fiber and protein. As far as nuts go, kaphas should eat small amounts of pumpkin and sunflower seeds.
Kapha people also need to eat lots of leafy greens, most of which become quite popular as the years progress and nutritional information becomes more available to the average shopper. Kale, dandelion, lettuces, Swiss chard, endive, collard greens, mustard greens and spinach are all great for kaphas. Bean sprouts, alfalfa sprouts, bell peppers, corn, peas, potatoes and radishes are also good additions to a kapha diet.
Kaphas don't just like greens and veggies; they also have a bit of a sweet tooth, so it's important to choose healthy ones. You can never go wrong with some tart fruits like apples, pears, berries, pomegranates and dried apricots.
When avoiding granulated sugars like beet sugar, cane sugar and brown sugars, kaphas can add a bit of sweetness to their foods by using alternative sources like molasses, honey and maple syrup (in moderation). When adhering to a proper kapha diet inclusive of meal items that are beneficial to this dosha type, the results can be quite healing in many ways.
Remedies for Kaphas
Kapha types tend to be prone to colds, depression, weight gain and allergies. For this, all kaphas should do a good detox in the springtime to cleans their bodies of unwanted contaminants and start fresh again.
Because kaphas tend to hold on to mucous, they can eat ghee (clarified butter) and yogurt only in small amounts. But, mucous does not have to be a dominant part of a kaphas life; natural remedies like turmeric and chili peppers can help expel excess mucous from the body. (Read on in Why Yogis Love Turmeric.)
Aside from being prone to common illnesses like colds and allergies, kaphas also tend to be sluggish; so, caffeinated beverages like coffee and natural black teas are fine additions to a kapha's diet.
What Kaphas Should Avoid
Kaphas should avoid too many sugary foods, especially dairy desserts. Because kaphas tend to be oily in nature, oily foods like avocados and nuts should be kept to a minimum. Cheese and red meat should only be indulged in once in a blue moon, and cold beverages and alcohol should be limited as well. If kapha is out of balance, herbal remedies like ginger, triphala and turmeric should be taken.
Vatas are cold, dry and windy in nature; thus, it is beneficial for those who live by a vata constitution to eat foods that are warm, grounding and nourishing. Warm beverages are also a must and should consist of warm herbal teas and warm water with lemon, which should be drunk throughout the day. Cooked rice, oats and wheat are good grains for vatas. (Tip: Add a little ghee to the grains to transform them into a more delicious option.)
A Vata's Diet
Like any diet, the vata diet should include fruits, but the trick is knowing which fruits are best for vata types. The best fruits for vata are bananas, mangoes, coconut, melons, peaches and dates. When it comes to vegetables, beets, carrots, turnips, radishes, green beans, okra, garlic, onions, sweet potatoes, turnips and asparagus all benefit a vata diet.
Unlike kaphas, vatas can eat avocados and lots of olive oil, as well as dairy. Meat, fish and eggs are fine, too. Vatas benefit greatly from wet dishes like hearty stews and soups.
What Vatas Should Avoid
As mentioned, vatas do best when they ingest warm beverages, like herbal teas, as opposed to cold ones. So, vata types need to limit cold smoothies, juices and other cold drinks, as well as raw foods.
In direct contrast to kapha types, coffee and other stimulants, like black tea, need be limited as well. When vata dosha is out of balance, vatas can regain stability with calming and grounding herbs like ashwaganda and ginger.
A Pitta's Diet
Pittas like cooler environments and need to stay away from excess heat – both in their environment and also their food choices – so, it can be said that pitta types and vata types have the most contrast when it comes to their diets. Unlike vatas, pittas are fiery types, which means they can eat colder foods, which vatas don't do well with.
Avoiding excess heat is essential for pittas, sipping on cool water with cucumber is helpful, as is coconut water, especially during warmer months and when in warmer climates. The contrast between the vata diet and the pitta diet also touches on the subject of raw foods. All raw veggies are great for pittas, as are herbs like cumin, coriander, fresh cilantro, saffron and fennel.
Beneficial grains for pitta include barley, rice and oats, and pittas should include coconut, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds into their diets as well. The best beans for pitta types are chickpeas, black beans, split peas and mung beans.
Most fruits are perfectly fine for pittas to eat, especially apples, watermelon, grapes, cantaloupe, mangoes, cherries, pineapples, oranges and plums. Also, pittas are not particularly sensitive to dairy. They can drink milk, and include ghee and butter into their diets.
Remedies for Pittas
If experiencing stomach problems after a large meal, pittas can chew on fennel seeds to help aid digestive issues.
When pittas are out of balance, they need cooling herbs to help reduce heat. These include herbs that are anti-inflammatory in nature, as well as detoxifying. Shatavari, bacopa, triphala, neem and amalaki are all ayurvedic herbs that are ideal for pittas. (For more topics on detoxing, continue reading Lemon Ginger Morning Detox.)
What Pittas Should Avoid
While spicy foods help kaphas with overabundance of mucous, pittas don’t need spicy foods, they tend to aggravate this particular dosha. That said, pittas should refrain from eating spicy curries, cayenne peppers, and other hot and spicy condiments – no need to indulge in too many chips and salsa at Mexican restaurants!
Fried foods also throw pitta diets off balance as do stimulants, like coffee, and depressants, like alcohol; these should be kept to a minimum. If pittas are overly stimulated and out of balance, even fermented foods should be eliminated, as should beef, seafood and even eggs. Pitta diets do not favor sour foods – it's best to stay away from sour fruits like apricots, berries and grapefruit, but pittas can eat sweets in moderation; however, honey and molasses should be limited.
Finally, while meat should be limited, turkey and chicken are the best options.
Here's to Your Dosha Diet!
All three dosha types have distinctly diverging diets, but work wonders for the yogi who understands which one they embody. Learning about which type you mostly represent is the first step in starting a new year and healthier lifestyle! (For more information about ayurvedic diets, continue reading in You Are What You Eat.)