Nature (Prakruti) The five building blocks of nature are Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space. All these elements are present in your body and are governed by three operating principles, which Ayurveda calls Doshas. The three doshas are called Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
Vata dosha is a combination of (Air + Space) and controls movement. Vatta represents lightness & thought.
Pitta dosha is a combination of (Water + Fire) and controls metabolism. Pitta represents action.
Kapha dosha is a combination of (Earth + Water) and controls structure. Kapha represents heaviness.
Vatta responds to the senses of hearing & touch
Pitta responds to the sense of sight
Kapha responds to the senses of taste & smell
Every cell in your body has to contain all three of these principles, which is nothing but the relative balance of the 5 elements within. At birth, nature has instilled in us a particular combination of Vata, Pitta & Kapha, which we call our Prakruti. As we grow up there are many unhealthy influences that take us away from our Prakruti. The further we go from Prakruti, the closer we come to illness. Only when we regain our Prakruti, does our Immune system become strong again and illness inevitable leaves us.
Using food and diet to balance the Doshas
The six tastes in food are sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent.
Astringent is the taste that puckers your mouth. The tannin in tea is astringent, as is the dry, mealy taste of beans.
If your body is in balance, you will want hot food when you feel cold, light food when you feel heavy. The same is true of taste. If you are a Kapha type, having a taste for green salads would tell you that you are in balance, because greens are generally bitter and astringent. Living in tune with nature means, you’ll like to eat what your body needs for balance.
On the other hand, if you are the same Kapha person and exclusively crave potato chips (salty), ice cream (sweet), and cheese (sour), your instincts are not in balance, and neither will be your Kapha dosha. The simple remedy is to start eating all six tastes again, moving away from your cravings. This will start to bring you back into balance, and as that happens, you will naturally regain your lost instincts. You won’t abandon ice cream and potato chips, but a green salad will satisfy you just as much, because it satisfies your dominant dosha.
The operative principle when doshas are unbalanced is “like speaks to like.” If you want to balance Pitta, avoid food that shares its qualities. A chili pepper, being pungent, hot, and oily, will naturally cause Pitta to become aggravated. If you are a two-dosha person, say Vatta-Pitta, then primarily have a Vatta balancing diet, but also look out for Pitta aggravation symptoms and selectively introduce some Pitta balancing foods (that don’t aggravate Vata) in your diet.
Find out your current Dosha balance by seeing your relative proportions of Vata, Pitta and Kapha, by filling out the following table. Keep in mind that you are to relate to how you are now and not how you used to be 6 months or a year back.
As indicated at the header of the table, if a sentence describes your condition perfectly, then you should give that point a score of 6 on the right hand side. If your condition is far from what the sentence describes, then put a 0 score. If you experience the condition half of the time then you can either put a 3 or 4 score. Then go to the next point. After you have finished one table, total all the scores given for each point to arrive at the total at the bottom of the table. That is your score for each Dosha.
|Score (1-6) 1-not at all, 6-all the time|
|1||I perform activity very quickly|
|2||I am not good at memorizing things and then remembering them later|
|3||I am enthusiastic and vivacious by nature|
|4||I have a thin physique. I don’t gain weight very easily|
|5||I have always learned new things very quickly|
|6||My characteristic gait while walking is light and quick|
|7||I tend to have difficulty making decisions|
|8||I tend to develop gas or become constipated easily|
|9||I tend to have cold hands and feet|
|10||I become anxious or worried frequently|
|11||I don’t tolerate cold weather as well as most people|
|12||I speak quickly and my friends think I am talkative|
|13||My moods change easily and I am somewhat emotional by nature|
|14||I often have difficulty in falling asleep or having a sound nights sleep|
|15||My skin tends to be dry especially in winter|
|16||My mind is very active, sometimes restless, but also very imaginitive|
|17||My movements are quick and active; my energy tends to come in bursts|
|18||I am easily excitable|
|19||Left on my own, my eating and sleeping habits tends to be irregular|
|20||I learn quickly, but I also forget quickly|
|1||I consider myslef to be very efficient|
|2||In my activities I tend to be extremelt precise and orderly|
|3||I am strong minded and have a somewhat forceful manner|
|4||I feel uncomfortable or become easily fatigued in hot weather – moreso than most other people|
|5||I tend to perspire easily|
|6||Even though I might not always show it, I become irritable or angry quite easily|
|7||If I skip a meal or a meal is delayed, I become uncomfortable|
|8||One or more of the following characteristics describes my hair;early greying or baldning; thin,|
|fine straight hair; bolnde, red, or sandy coloured hair|
|9||I have a strong appetite; if I want to, I can eat quite a large quantity|
|10||Many people consider me stubborn|
|11||I have regular bowel movements – It would be more common for me to haveloose stools than be constipated|
|12||I become impatient very easliy|
|13||I tend to be a perfectionist about details|
|14||I get angry quite easily, but then quickly forget about it|
|15||I am very fond of cold foods like ice cream and also crave ice cold drinks|
|16||I am more likely to feel that a room is too hot than too cold|
|17||I don’t tolerate foods that are very hot and spicy|
|18||I am not as tolerant of disagreement as I should be|
|19||I enjoy challenges and when I want something I am very determined in myefforts to get it|
|20||I tend to be quite critical of others and also of myself|
|1||My natural tendency is to do things in a slow and relaxed fashion|
|2||I gain weight more easily than most people and lose it more slowly|
|3||I have a placid and calm disposition. I’m not easily ruffled|
|4||I can skip meals easily without any significant discomfort|
|5||I have a tendency toward excess mucus, phlegm, chronic congestion,asthma, or sinus problems|
|6||I must get at least eight hours of sleep in order to be comfortable the next day|
|7||I sleep very deeply|
|8||I am calm by nature and not easily angered|
|9||I don’t learn as quickly as some people,but I have excellent retention and a long memory|
|10||I have a tendency toward becoming plump. I store extra fat easily|
|11||Weather that is cool and damp bothers me|
|12||My hair is thick, dark, and wavy|
|13||I have smooth, soft skin with a somewhat pale complexion|
|14||I have a large solid body build|
|15||The following words describe me well: serene, sweet-natured,affectionate and forgiving|
|16||I have slow digestion, which makes me feel heavy after eating|
|17||I have very good stamina and physical endurance as well asa steady level of energy|
|18||I generally walk with a slow, measured gait|
|19||I have tendency toward over sleeping, grogginess on awakening,and am slow to get going in the morning|
|20||I am a slow eater and am slow and methodical in my actions|
If say your Vata score total comes to 90, Pitta score total comes to 70 and Kapha score comes to 45, it shows that your body has excessive Vata and that dosha needs to be soothed.
A Vata score of 60, Pitta score of 55 and a Kapha score of 70 shows a more balanced constitution with a little orientation towards heaviness, which is the type of the person and that is fine. If people did not have some tendency, then we would not find them different or exciting from the rest.
Very few people have equal balanced doshas like 50, 45, 55, not that it is an ideal that we should strive for.
The tastes that aggravate Vata are Pungent, Bitter & Astringent
The gunas that aggravate Vata are Light, Dry & Cold
The tastes that balance Vata are Salty, Sweet & Sour, with Salty being the most effective
The gunas that balance Vata are Heavy, Oily & Hot
Warm food, moderately heavy textures
Added butter and fat
Salt, sour, and sweet tastes
Soothing and satisfying foods
Vata is a cold, dry dosha, and the warm, nourishing foods we associate with winter-hearty stews and soups, slow cooked casseroles, fresh-baked bread and fruit pies-give a good diet that soothes this dosha. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the foods we gravitate to in summer-cold salads, iced drinks, raw vegetables and greens are not very congenial to it.
All soothing foods are generally good for settling disturbed Vata: warm soups and long-cooked stews, hot cereals, and fresh baked bread. All contain sweet, the most soothing taste to the body; most are also warm and heavy
A nourishing breakfast, the more substantial the better, will improve Vata throughout the day. Cream of rice or wheat is the best hot cereal for Vata, but anything warm and sweet is beneficial
Many Vata types experience a drastic energy slump in the late afternoon. Having hot tea with cookies or some other sweet is a good idea. Herb tea is more soothing than regular tea, whose high caffeine content can disturb Vata types. You can try brewing gotu kola tea. This Indian herb, which is said to be excellent for calming the nerves.
Pungent is not among the favored Vata tastes, but spicy food generally turns out to be satisfying to Vata types, because most spicy Mexican or Indian food is warm and has abundant oil in it. Ginger is the best pungent spice for Vata and is often used to improve Vata digestion. Also, the use of sweet spices, such as cinnamon, fennel, and cardamom, helps restore a dull appetite, from which Vatas tend to suffer. Warm, moist food is very settling for Vata. Cooked grains and cereals are the best choices here. When you feel nervous, worried, or otherwise under pressure, a bowl of hot oatmeal or a cup of creamed vegetable soup will make you feel much better than a candy bar or a drink.
Although sweet is good for Vata, sugar eaten by itself gives a quick energy boost that can make Vatas feel too restless.
Dry, salty snacks are not as good for Vata as salted nuts, which are heavier and oily, two qualities that pacify Vata. Almonds are the best choice. Ayurveda always recommends that almonds be skinned before they are eaten; standard advice is to soak a dozen whole almonds in water overnight, then peel and eat them in the morning to balance Vata. Since nuts and seeds are difficult to digest, Vatas need to eat them in small quantities, prefer ably ground into butters. Tahini (sesame paste) is an excellent source of sesame oil, one of the best foods for warming up and balancing Vata.
All sweet fruits are good for Vata, and green grapes and mangoes are the best. Astringent fruits such as apples and pears need to be cooked before eating. Unripe fruit, being very astringent, is to be avoided, especially unripe bananas.
Any cold, light, low-calorie food increases Vata and makes you feel dissatisfied. If you are partial to salads, let them come to room temperature and add oily dressing to make them more balancing. The same holds for raw vegetables. Eat them sparingly and not ice cold. In general, you should cook all your vegetables with a little oil rather than steaming them. This will make many “wrong” vegetables more acceptable to Vata dosha.
When you go out for dinner, ask for warm water to sip in place of ice water, take the hot soup instead of salad, and feel free to eat bread and butter, as well as dessert (preferably a warm dessert like apple pie, rather than ice cream, whose coldness hampers Vata digestion).
A hot breakfast cereal for dinner, although not the usual thing, tastes extremely good to anyone suffering from a Vata attack. Rice served with buttered lentils is also very good, as is a hearty minestrone-style soup. Pasta in all forms is very soothing.
Favor: asparagus, beets, carrots, cucumber, green beans, okra, onions and garlic (not raw), radishes, sweet potatoes, turnips
Reduce: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, leafy green vegetables, mushrooms, peas, peppers, potatoes, sprouts, zucchini, (these are acceptable if cooked with oil)
Favor: apricots, avocados, bananas, berries, cherries, coconut, dates, figs, grapes, mangoes, melons, nectarines, oranges, papayas, peaches, pineapple, plums, stewed fruits, sweet, well-ripened fruit in general
Reduce: apples, cranberries, pears, pomegranates, (These are more acceptable if cooked) Dried fruits in general; unripe fruit (especially bananas)
Favor: oats (cooked, not dry), rice & wheat
Reduce: barley, buckwheat, corn, dry oats, millet & rye
All dairy is acceptable, unless you have a known lactase deficiency
Favor: chicken, seafood in general & turkey
Reduce: red meat
Favor: Chickpeas, mung beans, pink lentils & tofu
Reduce: All, except as noted
All oils are acceptable; sesame oil is especially recommended
All sweeteners are acceptable
Nuts and Seeds:
All are acceptable in small amounts; almonds are best
Herbs and Spices:
Favor: Almost all, in moderation, with emphasis on sweet and / or heating herbs and spices, such as: allspice, asafetida, basil, bayleaf, black pepper, caraway, cardamom, cilantro, cinnamon, clove, cumin, fennel, ginger, juniper, berries, licorice, root marjoram, nutmeg, oregano, sage, tarragon & thyme
Reduce: No spice should be used in large quantities; minimize all bitter and astringent herbs and spices, such as: coriander, fenugreek, parsley, saffron & turmeric
The tastes that aggravate Pitta are Pungent, Sour & Salty
The gunas that aggravate Pitta are Hot, Light & Oily
The tastes that balance Pitta are Bitter, Sweet & Astringent, with Bitter being the most effective
The gunas that balance Pitta are Cold, Heavy & Dry
Cool or warm but not steaming-hot foods
Moderately heavy textures
Bitter, sweet, and astringent tastes
Less butter and added fat
Being the only hot dosha, Pittas should have cool foods, particularly in summer. It is a good idea to be especially scrupulous about having bitter and astringent tastes in your meals (supplied mainly through salads and legumes). These two rasas curb the appetite, dry up excessive moisture, and keep the palate sharp. They also counteract the dulling effect of too much salt and sugar on the taste buds, making it easier for Pittas to be moderate in their appetites, as nature intended them to be.
Cool, refreshing food is best for Pitta types in summer, with a decrease in salt, oil, and spices, all of which are heating to the body. Salads contain two tastes, bitter and astringent, that balance Pitta and are also cold and light.
Excessive Pitta makes the body too sour. To counteract this, you should generally avoid pickles, yogurt, sour cream, and cheese. Fresh lemon juice is an exception and can be used, sparingly, instead of vinegar in your salad dressings. Fermented foods and alcoholic beverages are aggravating to Pitta because of their sourness, as are the acids in coffee. Learning to drink herb tea, either mint or licorice root will often make a big difference in smoothing your moods
A breakfast of cold cereal, cinnamon toast, and apple juice is a good replacement for coffee, doughnut, and orange juice, all of which disturb Pitta
The fat in red meat, which also heats the body, is not needed by Pitta people. Although they like to eat meat, particularly if they are high-powered movers and shakers, Pittas do better on a vegetarian diet than any other body type. If you are not vegetarian, make sure that your diet includes abundant amounts of grains, and vegetables. All of these make Pittas feel extremely good. Once they become accustomed to health-food restaurants, Pittas like them better than their old steak houses because they feel calmer and more satisfied afterward.
Fried foods are oily, hot, salty, and heavy, all qualities that Pittas need to avoid. On the other hand, starchy foods-vegetables, grains, and beans-are satisfying and cut ravenous Pitta hunger. The steady energy of a high-carbohydrate diet will counteract the tendency to overeat under stress.
Processed and fast foods lean heavily on salt and sour tastes; it is a good idea for Pitta types to avoid them as much as possible. Since Pittas are fond of luxury, a subdued, elegant restaurant brings out the best in them. Japanese and Chinese food, being relatively low in fat and meat, are good choices for Pittas. When you eat out, order cool, not iced, water, take salad instead of hot soup, have the bread with a small amount of butter, and feel free to order dessert. Spicy food is too intoxicating to Pitta; if you like Mexican food, minimize the cheese and sour cream, and have a cool guacamole salad to counteract the heavy aggravation of Pitta caused by chilies.
Pittas respond well to low-salt diets, but if forced to eat tasteless food, they will quickly rebel. Keeping salt off the table and adding it only in the kitchen while you cook is a good compromise. Cocktail hour with salty snacks is worse for Pitta types than anyone else. The dry, salty food and the alcohol combine to inflame their appetites and stomach linings.
Favor: asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts cabbage, cauliflower, celery, leafy green vegetables, lettuce, mushrooms, okra, peas, potatoes, sprouts, sweet peppers, sweet potatoes & zucchini
Reduce: garlic, hot peppers, onions, radishes & tomatoes
Favor: apples, avocados, cherries, coconut, figs, grapes, mangoes, melons, oranges, pears, plums, prunes & raisins (All should be sweet and ripe)
Reduce: apricots, berries, cherries (sour), cranberries, grapefruit, lemons, and persimmons. Also avoid fruits that are sour or unripe. Grapes, oranges, pineapples, and plums should be sweet
Favor: barley, oats, wheat & white rice
Reduce: brown rice, corn, millet & rye
Favor: Egg whites
Reduce: All milk products
Favor: chicken, shrimp & turkey
Reduce: Red meat and seafood in general
Favor: Chickpeas, mung beans, tofu & other soybean products
Favor: coconut, olive, soy & sunflower
Reduce: almond, corn, safflower & sesame
All sweeteners are acceptable except honey and molasses
Nuts and Seeds:
Favor: coconut, pumpkin seeds & sunflower seeds
Reduce: All, except as noted
Herbs and Spices:
Favor: Spices are generally reduced as heating, but some sweet, bitter and astringent ones are good in small amounts, including: cardamom, cilantro, cinnamon, coriander, dill, fennel, mint, saffron, turmeric and small amounts of cumin and black pepper
Reduce: All pungent herbs and spices except as noted. Also take only small amounts of barbecue sauce, catsup, sour salad dressing & mustard
The tastes that aggravate Kapha are Sweet, Sour & Salty
The gunas that aggravate Kapha are Heavy, Oily & Cold
The tastes that balance Kapha are Pungent, Bitter & Astringent with Pungent being the most effective
The gunas that balance Kapha are Light, Dry & Hot
Warm, light food
Dry food, cooked without much water
Minimum of butter, oil, and sugar
Pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes
Kapha types become imbalanced as a result of eating too many sweet, rich foods. Kaphas have guard against influences of western society, where sugar and fat account for more than half of the calories consumed by the average person. Salt also needs to be watched, since it too is greatly overused and promotes fluid retention in many Kaphas.
Anything that increases lightness should be favored-a small, light meal at breakfast and dinner, lightly cooked foods (no deep-frying), raw fruits and vegetables. Eating spicy food will promote better digestion and warm your body; bitter and astringent foods will help to curb your appetite. In general, anything that makes eating stimulating will help balance Kapha and avert the danger, ever-present with most Kapha types, of overindulging at the table.
Given a choice, pick hot food over cold at every meal-a hot luncheon entree instead of a sandwich, hot apple pie instead of ice cream, grilled fish instead of tuna salad. Warming up cold Kapha digestion is always good for balance. Dry cooking methods (baking, broiling, grilling, sauteing) are better for Kaphas than moist ones (steaming, boiling, poaching).
Before you eat, stimulate your appetite with bitter or pungent tastes instead of salty or sour. The bitterness of romaine lettuce, endive, or tonic water will wake up your taste buds without encouraging you to overeat. Ginger tea or even a pinch of fresh gingerroot is also highly recommended. In general, you want to be sure that bitter and astringent tastes are present in every meal. To get them, it is not necessary to seek out bitter food in quantity. A little bitterness in a salad or the astringency of herbs supplies enough. Among the household spices, cumin, fenugreek, sesame seed, and turmeric are both bitter and astringent.
Adding pungent tastes to your diet with spices is one of the best ways to balance Kapha. Anything spicy is good, including very hot Mexican or Indian food that makes your eyes water. This action flushes out all the mucous membranes. Contrary to what we tend to think, hot, spicy food is best not in the summer but in the winter; it offsets the cold, damp quality that Kapha resents.
Kaphas need to eat breakfast mainly to get them started in the morning, not for solid nourishment. Rather than relying on a jolt of caffeine from coffee, wake your body up with light, Kapha-reducing foods, such as hot spiced cider, buckwheat pancakes with apple butter, corn muffins, and bitter cocoa made with nut milk and a touch of honey. In general, anything hot and light is good, while anything cold, heavy, or sweet is not so good. Cold cereals, cold juice or nut milk, and sugary pastries tend to create congestion, particularly in damp winter weather. Bacon and sausage are Kapha-aggravating because of their salt and oil. If you don’t feel hungry in the morning, it is all right to skip breakfast, which Ayurveda considers optional, especially for Kapha types.
If you wake up feeling congested in the morning, a sign of excess Kapha, the best things to take are honey, hot water, lemon juice, and ginger. Hot ginger tea is excellent for Kapha types in general, since it stimulates the system and flushes out excess Kapha. If you occasionally skip a meal-a good idea for many Kaphas-a spoonful of honey in hot water will tide you over.
A trial week on a low-sugar diet generally does result in Kaphas feeling lighter and more energetic. Honey is extensively recommended for Kapha types, but you should not take more than a tablespoon or so per day. Honey is not suitable to cook with, either, since heating honey makes it unwholesome, according to Ayurveda.
Out-of-balance Kapha types overindulge in dairy products, but butter, ice cream, and cheese are among the worst for you, since they make your system colder and more congested. Sesame seeds on rolls and bread help to counteract the sweet, heavy quality of the wheat, which is not the best for Kapha, either because they combine too much heavy sweetness.
Raw fruits, vegetables, and salads are extremely good, since their fiber tones the intestinal tract, in addition to the benefits of their astringent tastes. Generally speaking, Ayurveda prefers all food cooked, but we find that this is an exception that helps most Kapha types.
Deep-fried foods of any kind will aggravate Kapha; they are among the few things you should try to eliminate from your diet. There is no need to banish all fats, but make an effort to use less butter and oil in your cooking. Corn oil is heating to the body; it is a good choice for you in small quantities, along with almond and sunflower oils. Crisp-steamed vegetables with a little ghee (clarified butter) drizzled over them is good for a light supper; anything crisp, fresh, and stimulating balances Kapha.
Restaurant food has to be carefully chosen by Kapha people. Fast food is far too oily, salty, and sweet-head for the salad bar and use a minimum of salad dressing. If you are eating out in better restaurants, Oriental cooking is the lightest, particularly if you concentrate on more vegetables than meat. Wherever you go, order a glass of hot water instead of iced, take salad instead of hot soup (except in cold weather), avoid the rolls and butter, and make dessert small and not too rich-hot fruit pies are probably the best choice.
Favor: Generally all, including: asparagus, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, eggplant, garlic, leafy green vegetables, lettuce, mushrooms, okra, onions, peas, potatoes, sprouts, radish & spinach
Reduce: Sweet and juicy vegetables such as: sweet potatoes, tomatoes and zucchini
Favor: apples, apricots, cranberries, pears & pomegranates, Dried fruits in general (apricots, figs, prunes, raisins).
Reduce: avocados, bananas, coconuts, dates, fresh figs, mangoes, melons, oranges, papayas, peaches, pineapples, sweet, sour, or very juicy fruits in general
Favor: barley, buckwheat, corn, millet & rye
Reduce: oats, rice & wheat
Favor: chicken, shrimp & turkey
Reduce: Red meat and seafood in general
Favor: All legumes are acceptable
Reduce: kidney beans & tofu
Favor: almond, corn, safflower & sunflower
Reduce: All, except as noted
Favor: Raw, unheated honey
Reduce: All, except as noted
Nuts and Seeds:
Favor: pumpkin seeds & sunflower seeds
Reduce: All, except as noted
Herbs and Spices:
Favor: All-ginger is best for improving digestion