When it comes to nutrition, Ayurvedic diets are based on ancient medicinal practices that promote holistic balance in the body. Some of the main benefits associated with Ayurvedic diets include: improved digestion, improved immunity, weight management, enhanced detoxification, less anxiety, improved fertility and decreased inflammation, just to name a few!
The goal of following an Ayurvedic diet is to prevent imbalances in the doshas. There are three doshas in Ayurveda: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. While all three are present in everyone, Ayurveda proposes that we each have a dominant dosha and ideally an equal balance between the other two. When the doshas are balanced, we are healthy; when they are unbalanced, we develop dis-ease in the body which is usually evident in skin issues, poor digestion, insomnia, irritability, anxiety and illness.
Each dosha has different requirements when it comes to diet and staying in balance. Below is an introduction to each dosha and some dietary information and suggestions that are preferable for each dosha. Many people around the world for centuries have turned to an Ayurveda diet for healing, nourishment and longevity.
Dietary Suggestions for Vata:
Vata types tend to be quite thin, have smaller bones, dry skin, cold hands and feet, can find it hard to gain weight and also struggle with digestive issues. Vatas are known to be creative, open-minded, curious and energetic but also fearful, stressed and scattered at times. Vatas are associated with the wind and with movement and tend to always be on the go. When Vatas are in balance, they are lively, energetic and enthusiastic, when they are out of balance, they are erratic and prone to nervousness.
Vatas thrive by maintaining a consistent daily routine when it comes to work, meals, exercise and any other regulated daily tasks. It is important for Vatas to find time for rest and to nurture themselves in a calm and comforting environment.
Vata is balanced by a diet of freshly cooked, whole foods that are soft or mushy in texture, rich in protein and fat, seasoned with a variety of spices, and served either warm or hot. These foods calm Vata by lubricating the tissues, preserving moisture, and maintaining warmth—all which support optimal digestion and elimination. As Vata is a cold and dry dosha, warm, nourishing foods with moderately heavy texture are good for stabilizing Vata. Salty, sour and sweet tastes are prioritised over bitter, pungent and astringent tastes, along with soothing and satisfying foods. Warm milk, cream, butter, warm soups, stews, hot cereals, fresh-baked bread, sweet ripe fruits, raw nuts, and nut butters are good for Vatas. Cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, ginger, cloves, and garlic are also wonderful additions.
Vata types are best to eat at predictable, regular times to help with digestion. It is also best to skip staying up late at night and eating just prior to bed. Vata types are best not to fast or skip meals, and make time to cook, prepare and eat meals in a comfortable, warm and safe place. Vatas are best to eat steady, regular meals throughout the day and avoid snacking to allow enough time to fully digest between meals.
Key Points for Vata:
Choose warm and warming foods
This means prioritising foods that are warm in temperature such as soups, curries, dahls and any other freshly cooked meals, and also foods warming in their nature such as cinnamon, ginger, peppers, etc. It is best to minimize cold and frozen foods or drinks, carbonated drinks and large quantities of raw/uncooked fruits and vegetables or fruit juices. Especially with cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and dark leafy greens – these foods need to be cooked well and served with generous amounts of butter, oil or ghee and spices.
Use healthy oils
Vata’s dryness is best balanced by cooking and garnishing foods with generous amounts of high-quality oils or ghee. Oily foods like avocado, coconut, olives, buttermilk, cheese, eggs, whole milk, nuts and seeds are supportive as well. Of course, fried foods and poor oils are always best to be avoided, so opt for quality. It is best to minimize exceptionally drying foods like popcorn, crackers, highly salted foods and dried fruits. Staying hydrated is also very important and opting for warm drinks and hot teas are preferable over cold drinks or cold water.
Opt for grounding meals
It is ideal to ground Vata’s light quality with foods that offer solid, stabilizing sources of energy and deep nourishment to the physical body. Examples include cooked grains, spiced milk, root vegetables, stewed fruits, nuts and seeds. Overly heavy or dense foods can be taxing on Vata digestion, as well as foods that lack prana (life force energy) such as processed foods, canned foods or ready-made meals. Similarly, stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, and hard alcohol should be minimized or avoided because they tend to undermine Vata’s need for grounded stability.
Dietary Suggestions for Pita:
Pita types tend to have a medium, athletic build and be versatile in terms of putting on weight or muscle. Pita types are often smart, hard-working, ambitious/driven, competitive but angry and aggressive at times. Pita energy plays a strong role in metabolic functions, digestion, absorption of nutrients, body temperature and energy expenditure. Pitas are considered vulnerable to problems like overexertion, hypertension, heart disease, infectious diseases and digestive conditions.
Pitas are generally characterised by their fire. Pitas have excellent digestion and warm body temperature; they sleep soundly for short periods of time, have abundant energy, and a strong appetite. When imbalanced, Pitas may suffer from skin rashes, ulcers, excessive body heat, heartburn and indigestion. Pitas have a powerful intellect and a strong ability to concentrate. They are ambitious and practical, and love both adventure and challenges. When imbalanced, Pitas can be short-tempered, overly assertive, argumentative, quick to anger, impatient or easily frustrated.
With hearty appetites and good digestion, Pitas can generally eat just about everything. Yet they do need to be aware of over-using salt, eating too much warming or spicy food, and overeating in general. In day to day life, Pitas benefit from getting plenty of fresh air and staying cool both physically and mentally. They are best to avoid situations of excessive heat, steam, or humidity, exercise at cooler periods of the day and stay well hydrated. Pitas can benefit from eating in calm environments away from stress and agitation.
The best foods for Pitas are cool foods, or foods that are warm but not overly hot in temperature or taste. Pitas do well with salads and also vegetarian diets as meat can be very heating in the body. Milk, grains, and vegetables are all suited to Pita and bitter, sweet, and astringent tastes are ideal. The best foods for Pita include seasonal cooling fruits and veggies, beans, rice, barley, quinoa, oats, kamut, pumpkin seeds, sesame, almonds, organic cane sugar, cilantro, coriander, mint, chicken, turkey, goat, ghee, olive oil, and coconut oil.
When planning meals, Pitas can tend towards heartburn, so it is best to space out meals by at least two or three hours and to eat smaller meals throughout the day instead of only two to three big meals.
Key Points for Pita:
Opt for cool foods and avoid heating foods
The cool quality can be emphasized by eating foods that are cool in temperature or that have a cooling energetic. Raw foods tend to be naturally cooling, and pitta tends to be able to handle these, so mixing in an assortment of raw fruits and vegetables will generally be supportive, especially in the warmer months. It is best to minimize exposure to fiery hot dishes, foods with a sharply warming energetic, alcohol and caffeine, sour foods, tomatoes, yogurt, vinegar and artificial sweeteners. Most spices are also heating in nature and better avoided.
Opt for solid nourishing foods
It is best to ground and balance Pitta’s heat with sustenance, so foods that offer solid, stabilizing sources of energy and adequate nourishment. Generally, these foods will naturally taste sweet. Most grains, milk, root vegetables, seeds, and cooling oils are good examples. Pitta can also have an insatiable appetite, so it’s important for meals to be substantial, but also important not to overeat. equally important not to overeat. Excessively heavy foods such as fried foods, processed foods, pastries etc should be minimized as much as possible.
Avoid oily or liquidy foods
Pitta’s liquid nature and tendency toward excess oil make drying or astringent foods like beans, potatoes, oats, pasta, popcorn, and most vegetables very supportive. When cooking, use a moderate amount of a high-quality oil or ghee. Minimize especially heating oily foods like eggs, hard cheeses, olives, nuts, sour cream, etc. If given a choice between a soupy, liquidy meal and one that is denser and drier, opt for the latter. So opt for vegetables and rice over a soupy stew or curry.
Dietary Suggestions for Kapha:
Kaphas tend to have heavier, earthier bodies than other types, and tend to store watery substances like fluids and fat more readily. With a strong build, they have excellent stamina as well as smooth, radiant skin. They sleep soundly and have regular digestion. But when unbalanced, Kapha can lean towards gain weight, retain fluid, allergies or Kaphas may sleep excessively, become lethargic, and suffer from asthma, diabetes and depression.
Kaphas are naturally calm, grounded, supportive, loving, forgiving and thoughtful. They have an inherent ability to enjoy life and are comfortable with routine. Kaphas are strong, loyal, patient, steady, and supportive. They love music, reading, and relaxing. When imbalanced, they display excessive attachment, can become stubborn and resist change, or be lazy, insecure, envious and sad at times.
Kaphas are best when they wake early (before dawn), sleep less, and avoid sleeping during the day. To stay balanced it is also best to include physical exercise every day and perform activities that stimulate and energize the body and mind, and build the metabolic rate. It is important for Kaphas to allow for excitement, challenge, and variety in life and break away from stagnation and clinging to old ways of thinking and behaving.
Kapha is best with a diet of freshly cooked, whole foods that are light, dry and primarily warming. Kapha thrives on a fairly minimalistic diet with smaller meals and little to no snacking, fewer sweets, an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, a variety of legumes, minimal alcohol, and lighter fare all around. The best foods for Kapha types include lower-fat dairy products, lighter fruits, all beans but tofu, all grains (especially barley and millet), seasonal veggies, and spices. Any food that is spicy is good for Kaphas, especially in winter. Dry cooking methods (baking, broiling, grilling, sautéing) are preferable for Kaphas over moist cooking such as steaming, boiling, or poaching. Foods such as romaine lettuce, endive, or tonic water are good for stimulating the Kapha appetite, while preferred spices are cumin, fenugreek, sesame seed, and turmeric.
Kaphas need to watch the consumption of too many sweet and fatty foods and need to watch their salt consumption as well, as it can lead to fluid retention. They should also avoid deep-fried foods, dairy products, chilled foods and drinks, and use ghee and oils in small amounts only. A typical Kapha tendency is to overeat so being mindful of portions and eating slowly and mindfully is important.
Key Points for Kapha:
Favor light foods over-dense and heavy foods
Foods that embody the light quality assist with Kapha’s innate heaviness. Lightness can be determined both by the weight of a food and also by its density. Fruits and vegetables are wonderfully light and great for Kapha. In general, foods that are overly heavy for Kapha include hard cheeses, puddings, nuts, cakes, pies, wheat, most flours, breads, pastas, red meat, highly processed foods and deep-fried foods. Eating too much in one sitting also leads to excess heaviness, so it’s important to try not to overeat.
Favor warm over cool foods
This means eating foods that are warm in temperature or use heating spices generously- Kaphas do well with most spices. Cooked foods tend to offer a warmer energetic and are typically easier to digest; so cooked food is preferable, even more so in the colder months. It is best to reduce or minimize frozen foods or cold drinks, carbonated drinks or foods eaten straight from the fridge. Overly cooked, heated, oily or fried foods are still best avoided. Kapha types can do well with some raw fruits and vegetables, especially in the warmer months. Lightly cooking and warming meals works best with Kapha.
Favor dry over oily
Kapha’s oiliness is offset by drying foods like beans, white potatoes, dried fruits, rice cakes, popcorn. When cooking, it is important to use as little oil as possible, or even substituting water for oil to prevent sticking. It is also best to minimize oily foods like avocado, coconut, olives, buttermilk, cheese, fried eggs, cow’s milk, wheat, nuts, and seeds. It is also important not to over-hydrate because Kapha can and does retain water easily. In addition, it is helpful to reduce consumption of especially moist foods like melons, summer squash, zucchini, and yogurt, as these can also be too watery for Kapha.
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