The Ayurvedic Diet: What Is It and Does it Work?
You might be asking yourself: what is the Ayurvedic diet? The Ayurvedic diet is focused on setting guidelines for when and how you should eat, based primarily on your body type. It is based on the Indian Ayurvedic wellness system, an ancient medical practice that dates back thousands of years. This diet and these lifestyle practices focus on a holistic approach to healing your body. With that comes a focus on eating according to your dominant body type, or “dosha”. You can imagine your dosha as your most prominent energy.
The different doshas are derived from the five different elements, and as you imagine which one would best represent you, you can see how it may become a guide to your eating and wellness patterns.
- Pitta (water & fire) Dosha that describes people who are joyful and driven. Characteristics include sharp, hot, liquid, and mobile.
- Vata (air & space) Dosha that describes people who are creative and intense. Characteristics include dry, light, cold, and rough.
- Kapha (earth & water) Dosha that describes people who are calm, or even lethargic. Characteristics include moist, heavy, and static.
Many people identify with one or more doshas. Those who practice an Ayurvedic lifestyle believe that your prominent dosha will determine your eating style.
How Does the Ayurvedic Diet Work?
Upon determining your dominant dosha, you can create meals around foods that will help nourish your body and balance your energy. With each dosha’s characteristics come physical implications that you need to overcome, which will ultimately lead you to your best body and most productive, happy self. Each dosha faces different challenges that impact their body type.
- Pitta tend to have a medium-size build. Because Pittas are fiery, they tend to have a lot of energy, but lack of balance can lead them to become angry and cause digestion problems.
- Vatas are the thinnest body type. As cerebral personalities with busy minds, vatas can become anxious easily and sometimes have trouble putting on weight. If they are not eating the right diet they can easily become bloated and constipated.
- Kapha are the largest body types. This can mean low circulation and low energy. They can often have sluggish digestion and move slowly. Creating meals that help balance your energies and avoid digestion problems are the ways to succeed with the Ayurvedic diet.
The History of the Ayurvedic Diet
The literal translation of Ayurveda is "the science of life" and is a combination of Sanskrit words for Life (Ayur) and Science (Veda). The wellness practice originated out of India more than 5,000 years ago as early societies sought to enrich and extend their lives with better health practices. It is based on the belief that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between body, mind, and spirit.
The main goal of the Ayurvedic diet is to promote being healthy. As an ancient form of healing, Ayurvedic medicinal practices employ therapies that explore various processes for rejuvenation of the body, cleansing, and enhancing longevity. The main focus being on digestion, energy, and an individual’s diet. Today it is considered a form of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) in the US. It is still practiced by many around the world as a way to achieve a strong body through a series of diet, exercise and lifestyle practices, including sleep and mindful living.
Could the Ayurvedic Diet be Good for Me?
While this is not exactly a guided black-and-white diet to follow like Keto or Paleo, there are many ways you can use the principles of the Ayurvedic diet for yourself. In general, it promotes mindfulness about your body type and the food that you eat. Finding balance within your doshas can become more than just a diet, it can also be a way of life.
Benefits that can be expected from the Ayurvedic Diet:
Although the Ayurvedic diet has specific guidelines for each dosha, it champions eating whole foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. This can help counteract the tendency to indulge in higher amounts of processed food or trans fats.
Though there is limited research available on the Ayurvedic diet and weight loss, some studies have found that if practiced regularly it can help shed pounds. For example, a study of 200 people with pitta or kapha doshas showed that following the Ayurvedic diet for three months led to significant weight loss. Freeing up more energy and eating right for your body type can up your ability to exercise harder, for longer, leading to more weight loss.
Mindful eating emphasizes minimizing distractions during meals to focus on the taste, texture, and smell of your food. This can help you feel fuller, longer. It also adds to enjoyment you can get out of your food, especially your appreciation for healthier, whole foods. Tapping into your mind-body connection starts with your diet and how you fuel your body. As you become more aware of which foods may be causing you digestion problems, or resulting in an altered energy for the different dosha types, it may help you to continue to self-correct. Eating healthier, gaining more energy, and continuing an active lifestyle lead to a stronger mind-body connection, as well as ability to take charge of your health.
What Foods Should I Eat on an Ayurvedic Diet?
The Ayurvedic journey to find balance in your diet and your energies really starts with eating for your dosha. The Ayurveda Institute offers a lot of insight into how to eat for Pitta, Vata, Kapha doshas. In general, whole foods should take precedent with an emphasis on fruits and vegetables over processed foods or meats.
Here are some ideas on what to eat when following the Ayurvedic diet:
- Fruit such as apples (cooked), apricots, bananas, berries, cherries, melons, peaches, strawberries
- Vegetables cooked such as asparagus, beets, cucumber, fennel, garlic, green beans, parsnip, peas, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, summer squash. Supplementing with greens mix can also help bring back balance when digestive systems are out of wack.
Protein: eating clean protein or a supplement powder if you are vegetarian is the best way to go.
The other principles of the Ayurvedic diet that every dosha should follow is remembering to eat mindfully. Also paying attention to your hunger cues, stopping when you're full. Take your time to enjoy your food, eating slowly to allow for healthier digestion. And finally, wait to eat again until after your last meal has digested.
Supporting a healthy gut with the right greens or supplement powder, like Super Greens, can help achieve the best results for firing up your personalized Ayurvedic Diet.