Ayurveda is a holistic healing system that originated in India several thousand years ago. The word Ayurveda means “life knowledge,” and the practice covers all aspects of healthy living — diet, exercise, mindfulness, and connection. Ayurveda teaches that the body and mind are intimately connected, and the ultimate goal is perfect health through a balance of mind, body, and spirit.
In Ayurveda, food is considered medicine. The system not only gives recommendations on what to eat, but HOW to eat, and even how to shop for and prepare food. Ayurvedic principles advise a positive, thoughtful, and calm mindset about all aspects of choosing, preparing, and sharing food. In other words, a meal on the go from the drive-thru at a fast-food restaurant (while you are texting on your phone) would fly in the face of all Ayurvedic teachings, and the thought would be that this type of meal would be very poor nourishment for your body and spirit.
Ayurveda recognizes five basic elements — space, air, fire, water, and earth — and three different body types or constitutions, known as doshas, which are combinations of these elements. Every person has a predominant dosha, which helps determine their health, character, and predisposition to certain illnesses.
The three different doshas are:
- Vata — Made of space and air; it embodies the energy of movement. Qualities associated with this dosha include cold, quick, rough, and dry. People with Vata energy are often described as creative, intense, or expressive when they are in balance. When out of balance, they can become anxious.
- Pitta — Made of fire and water; it embodies the energy of digestion and metabolism. Traits that describe pitta energy include hot, sharp, acidic, and pungent. Pitta personalities are often described as intelligent, driven, and understanding. When out of balance, they can be angry or jealous.
- Kapha — Made of earth and water; it embodies the energy of structure and lubrication. Kapha qualities are heavy, soft, oily, and slow. Kaphas are often calm and loving, but when out of balance, they can be greedy and clingy.
Ayurveda recommends different lifestyle routines and foods for each constitutional type to help maintain optimal balance and health. For example, the optimal diet for the Vata constitution is calming and soothing, with warm, texturally dense foods. The Pitta diet should include cool foods with more astringent flavors. And Kapha personalities should consume light foods that are warm and dry.
Ayurveda also recommends adapting your diet to the time of year, which it divides into three seasons (instead of the usual four). Kapha starts in late winter and lasts through the spring. Pitta goes from late spring through summer. And the Vata season extends from autumn through early winter.
So not only should you eat according to your dosha, but you should also add in foods that are appropriate for the season! A simple way to do this is to start with increasing the foods that are naturally available each season. For example, eat apples and root vegetables in the fall and winter, and greens and berries in the spring and summer. We are currently in the Vata season, and it is important to consume warming food and drink, like soups with root veggies, bone broths, and comforting teas and lattes. It is also the time to add in more healthy fats (like nuts and seeds) and more spices, which are very grounding (think ginger, coriander, turmeric, and saffron). One good example would be “golden” milk, a warm drink with turmeric.
As we get into February and March (Kapha), it will be good to avoid cooling foods, dairy, and sweets. When Pitta arrives in the summer, it’s time for detoxification and smaller meals with cooling foods.
**Please note, we provide this information for educational purposes only and do not practice or promote Ayurveda at Alliance Integrative Medicine.