A colloquial saying- ‘jaisa ann waisa mann’ meaning what you eat determines how you think, might actually have more truth to it than we know. This also explains the dullness after a heavy meal or the freshness of mind after having a bowl of fruits. But then, not all fruits are necessarily good for your body and not all kinds of fat are bad for you. Sometimes it can be confusing to determine what indeed makes up ‘eating right’. Solving the ‘eating right’ puzzle can mean a healthier body and a sharper and clearer mind.
Understanding prakruti – the key to the eating right puzzle
According to Ayurveda, what you should and shouldn’t eat depends on your body constitution or prakruti. An individual’s prakruti is the ratio of three functional energies in the body. Also known as doshas, these energies are: vata, pitta, kapha . Each of these doshas has specific traits. The vata dosha is the air element and is responsible for all movement in the body. The pitta dosha is the fire element and is responsible for digestion. The kapha dosha is the earth element and provides moisture to the skin and lubrication to joints. Mostly, two of three doshas dominate in an individual. Pulse diagnosis or nadi pariksha can help diagnose the doshas dominating in your body.
When an individual’s doshas are in balance, the person is healthy, physically, mentally and emotionally. While an imbalance in the doshas over a prolonged period of time can lead to weakness and disease. Let us know what happens when a dosha is in balance:
- A balanced vata: energy, enthusiasm, creativity, and flexibility.
- A balanced pitta: intelligence, strong digestion
- A balanced kapha: calmness, thoughtfulness, and lovingness.
On the other hand here is what an imbalance in the doshas cause:
- An unbalanced vata: anxiety, irregular appetite, mild weight loss, constipation, interrupted sleep, bloating.
- An unbalanced pitta: anger, jealousy, indigestion, migraines, bladder and kidney infections.
- An unbalanced kapha: depression, laziness, heaviness, weak digestion, excess sleep, diabetes.
Keeping your doshas in balance with the right diet
Certainly, it is favourable for you to keep your doshas in balance. To do so, all you need to do is tend to your diet. According to Ayurveda, there are certain dietary instructions which are helpful for certain body constitutions. Following are those instructions to your aid:
Vata pacifying diet
(Good for vata prakriti and vata imbalance)
- Fruits: All sweet fruits, fresh dates, figs, raisins
- Vegetables: Cooked vegetables, asparagus, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, less amount of leafy vegetables, beans and sprouts
- Grains: Rice and wheat
- Legumes: Lentils, moong beans and soya
- Dairy: Milk, fresh cheese, butter and ghee
- Oils: Sesame, olive, sunflower and peanut
- Spices: Black pepper, ginger, coriander, turmeric, asafoetida, garlic, clove, sesame seeds
- Nuts: Nuts soaked in water (to be taken in moderate amount) and pumpkin seeds
- Avoid dry food, junk food, cold food, frozen food and large beans like kidney beans and peas
Pitta pacifying diet
(Good for pitta prakriti and pitta imbalance)
- Fruits: All sweet fruits, pomegranate, figs, dates. Avoid sour fruits
- Vegetables: Sweet and bitter vegetables, asparagus, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, radish, sprouts, zucchini
- Grains: Wheat, rice, oats and all beans in the moderate amount
- Dairy: Buttermilk, curd, milk, ghee
- Oils: Sunflower, olive, coconut
- Spices: Cinnamon, fennel, ginger, mint, coriander, turmeric, cumin in moderate amounts
- Nuts: nuts soaked in water, coconut
- Avoid: Hot, spicy, chilli, junk food, fried food, sour food, baked and fermented food
Kapha pacifying diet
(Good for kapha prakriti and kapha imbalance)
- Fruits: All fruits can be taken in less amount
- Vegetables: All leafy vegetables, cabbage, cauliflower, peas, radish, wheatgrass and sprouts
- Grains: Barley, Ragi, Corn, Oatmeals, Millets, and Beans
- Dairy: Buttermilk, goat milk, soya milk
- Oils: sesame oil in less amount & olive oil
- Spices: Ajwain, asafoetida, basil, clove, cumin, curry leaves, fenugreek, garlic, ginger, pepper, pippali, turmeric
- Nuts: nuts very less, sunflower seeds, flax seeds
- Avoid sweets, chocolates, pastries, cold drinks, milk products except buttermilk and milk cake
General Ayurvedic eating guidelines
Apart from adhering to a suitable diet, it is important to keep the following guidelines in mind:
- Eat larger meals between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
- Post meal walks with a 10- to 15-minute rest aids in digestion.
- Since the cycle of seasons affects our predominant doshas state, one must eat according to seasons. For instance, one must have warmer foods during cold weather as cold foods in the winter will inhibit our digestive fire.
- Ayurveda identifies six major tastes we need in our diet every day—sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent. When we consistently eat the food of particular tastes, it causes health problems and also triggers cravings for unhealthy foods. For instance, fast food contains mostly sweet, sour, and salty tastes and consuming them on a regular basis leads to a craving for sweets.
(The writer is a wellness expert and Director of Sri Sri Ayurveda)