What is an Ayurvedic Diet?

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  • Written By: Nick Doniger
  • Edited By: Jacob Harkins
  • Last Modified Date: 16 October 2018
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An integral part of the system of preventative health care known as Ayurveda is the practice of maintaining an Ayurvedic diet, which is an Indian dietary philosophy that balances key elements of the body to improve various aspects of health. The perceived benefits of such a diet include the upkeep of digestive, spiritual and emotional health, in addition to the prevention of diseases and disorders. This diet, developed around 4000 BC in India, takes into account the unique biological principles, or doshas, of every person and is therefore different for each person. Different types of foods are said to stimulate and/or balance each dosha.

Every person's body is believed to be governed by three doshas, according to Ayurveda. These three doshas, called Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, all work together to regulate body functions. Vata regulates movement, Pitta regulates metabolism and Kapha regulates structure.


The doshas are additionally meant to work in conjunction with the earth's elements, which represent various personality traits in each person. Vata works with air and space, Pitta works with fire and water, and Kapha works with earth and water. A person who is Pitta-dominant may be assertive, confident and ambitious, but may experience intense aggravation and irritability if his or her dosha falls out of balance. To maintain one's well being according to the Ayurvedic diet, one must be aware of his unique balance of doshas given at conception, known as the prakriti, or original constitution. The prakriti must remain in balance throughout a person's life in order to maintain proper health.

Varied food types are important in the Ayurvedic diet for people with different constitutions. For example, a Kapha-dominant person may gain weight easily, feel unusually groggy or have poor skin if his or her prakriti becomes unbalanced. The Ayurvedic diet would recommend avoiding fried foods, sweets, and cold food and drink for such a person in order to restore balance. Instead, such a person could benefit from consuming raw or bitter vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, bitter or pungent herbs and spices, and dark meat poultry products.

An Ayurvedic diet recognizes dosha-balancing abilities in foods with different types of tastes. It describes any type of food as being sweet, salty, sour, bitter, pungent, astringent or a combination of more than one of the six. For example, the Indian gooseberry, or anla, contains every taste quality except salty, whereas many of the foods consumed in a Western diet are dominantly sweet, salty and sour. When manipulating these different taste qualities in order to restore dosha balance, it is still considered important to consume healthful foods.

The diet generally supports eating fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, whole grains and raw milk. These are known as sattvic foods and are believed to help a person maintain proper emotional balance and digestion. Tamasic foods, such as meats, products with heavy preservatives, and oily foods, may lead to inertness and lethargy. In contrast, rajasic foods, such as caffeine, sweets, and anything overly spicy, may cause over-stimulation and lead to aggression, hyperactivity, or irritability.

Certain aspects of the Ayurvedic diet are considered fairly universal to all people, rather than being specific or unique for each person. It is recommended that a person eats a fairly small meal in the morning, a substantial mid-day meal and a small evening meal. Additionally, the importance of freshness in food is recognized by the diet. Fresh food is believed to contain more life energy, or pranah.

Digestive health is one of the most important aspects of the Ayurvedic diet. Every person's digestive system is regarded as unique. This diet usually recommends consuming mostly cooked foods, unless a person's digestive tract is strong enough to handle a wealth of raw foods. One of the most important things to avoid when practicing an Ayurvedic diet is the build-up of digestive toxins, or ama. These toxins, which result from partially digested food material not flushed out of the body, are believed to lead to lethargy, a lack of motivation and focus, or even serious health disorders.



Discuss this Article

Post 3

It's easy to find info on ayurvedic diet and there are diet lists online and in books. But I've never liked ready-made lists that are applied to lots of people.

And I think ayurvedic doctors also give diet lists specific to the person. And some people can have imbalances with more than one dosha, so you might not be using the right list otherwise.

Post 2

I think that the ayurvedic diet really works. I'm a pitta and I was shocked when I was given my ayurvedic diet. It was so right about the foods that were not good for me. I tend to have issues with acidity and had to take antacids whenever I had foods like tomato, hot spicy foods and orange juice. My list tells me to avoid exactly these foods.

I think we all need to learn about ayurvedic diet and follow the one that's right for us. We have natural tendencies and going against that doesn't make sense.

Post 1

I know that the ayurvedic diet is accompanied by or combined with different herbal drinks and teas to balance out the doshas as well. My sister was given a list of foods to eat and not to eat for vata imbalance, along with herbal tea. Some ayurveda centers and resorts also have detox programs in addition to ayurvedic diet and exercise.

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