Ayurvedic eating has been around for centuries (the name comes from Sanskrit for life and knowledge), but there’s nothing like a name-drop by Gwyneth Paltrow to blast the idea into the mainstream. However, when Paltrow mentioned recently that the ancient eating regimen has helped her feel good during quarantine, the only detail she shared was that she eats for her “dosha.” Well, who wouldn't want to feel as serene as GP during quarantine or any time? That's why we're breaking down the Ayurvedic eating, and how can you, too, eat for your dosha.
First, let’s back up a bit. Ayurveda is not a diet — it’s a natural healing science that originated in India more than 5,000 years. "Ayurveda is an evidence-based healing system focused on prevention of disease and promotion of positive health through the balance of mind, body, and environment," explains Prajakta Apte, RDN, a Phoenix-based holistic nutritionist who specializes in Ayurveda.
Those who practice Ayurveda believe there are three different types of energy patterns — those are the doshas GP was talking about — and there is an optimum way to eat to balance all those energy waves depending on what your primary dosha is. Nutritionist Vanessa Rissetto, RD, CDN, can see the appeal. “Everyone is trying to be more mindful with regards to their weight, disordered eating habits, and the like — this seems like a non-stressful way to have success.”
But Ayurvedic eating is not a fad diet that you can just easily dip into. It takes careful study, and there is a long list of foods to eat and avoid based on balancing your doshas. But the general guidelines can be embraced by anyone, says Rissetto. “Giving up coffee and alcohol and eating more fresh fruits and vegetables are a no-brainer — they will help with your sleep and gut health,” she says. Rissetto adds that the focus on unprocessed, whole foods could also promote weight loss and mindful eating.
Note: We're only scratching the surface when it comes to all there is to know about Ayurvedic eating. If you're interested in trying a Ayurvedic eating, consider consulting your doctor and/or an Ayurvedaspecialist who can help guide you.
What's your dosha?
"Ayurvedic philosophies believe we each contain varying proportions of each dosha, generally with one or two in dominance," says Apte. "Our naturally dominant dosha, which we are born with, does not signify imbalance, but rather shows how — or who — we are in our most healthy, balanced state." Figuring out your dosha can be a complicated process, but in the most basic terms:
VATA (air and ether): People with a dominant vata dosha are considered creative, active, and bright; they walk, talk, and think fast, but get tired easily. Vatas are usually thin with a light frame, and suffer from gastro-intestinal problems like constipation and bloating.
PITTA (fire and water): Pittas are intelligent but can be short-tempered. They usually have a medium build and have a healthy appetite, a strong metabolism, and good digestion.
KAPHA (earth and water): Kaphas are known for strength, stamina, and sharp intelligence. They are also usually very sweet and grounded. Kaphas are often larger-framed and muscular, and they have a slow metabolism.
Eating for your dosha:
Once you figure out what your dosha is, you should choose the foods you eat based on balancing out your energy. "When these three doshas are in balance, they create health, but when they are out of balance, they are the cause of disease," says Apte. To truly immerse yourself in Ayurvedic eating, you should consult a nutritionist who is familiar with the very long list of food to eat and avoid, but here are a few general guidelines:
Best Foods for Vatas
"People with a predominant Vata dosha should eat warm foods and drinks, and cooked cereals and grains rather than dry or crunchy foods," says Apte. "Choose boiled and steamed vegetables and ripe fruits." Skip anything cold, frozen, or raw, and eat three or four meals a day at regular intervals, as well as lots of healthy snacks.
• EAT: Soups, stews, and casseroles; well-cooked oats, and rice cooked with lots of water and butter; sweet and juicy fruits such as bananas, berries, and melon; fresh-baked bread.
• AVOID: Nightshades, including tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, and spinach; carbonated beverages; heavy foods like hard cheese; aged or fermented foods; astringent fruits such as cranberries and raw apples; candy; caffeine.
Best Foods for Pittas
"The Pitta dosha is associated with heat, so people with predominant Pitta should eat a variety of green vegetables and ripe fruits and use ghee or olive oil in cooking," says Apte. Eat your food warm, rather than hot, she says, and stick with cool or lukewarm drinks. Pittas do best with a vegetarian diet made up of non-spicy foods. Limit salt, and skip eggs, alcohol, and coffee.
• EAT: Milk, cheese, sweetened yogurt; olive oil; sweet and bitter veggies such as mushrooms, peas, peppers, broccoli, and zucchini; grains including couscous, quinoa, and barley.
• AVOID: Spices such as black pepper, chillies, garlic, and onions; sour and acidic foods such as grapefruit, tomatoes, radishes; plain yogurt; foods containing vinegar, including salad dressings; nuts and seeds; and meat.
Best Foods for Kaphas
The Kapha dosha is associated with water, so those with this dominant dosha should balance it out with pungent, bitter, and astringent foods. Kaphas should avoid dairy and fatty, greasy foods of any kind. If you do eat meat, skip anything that's fried and stick with baked, roasted, or broiled dishes. Avoid any sweetened except honey, and go heavy on the spices.
• EAT: Ginger and garlic; apples, mangoes, peaches, pears; leafy greens and veggies that are grown above ground, like corn, asparagus, eggplant; cottage cheese; lean proteins including chicken, fish, and tempeh.
• AVOID: Root vegetables, rich gravies, frozen foods, oils and fats.
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