Through part 1 and part 2, you should know have a general understanding of Ayurvedic dosha theory, your prominent dosha and current state of imbalance, and a detailed overview of each dosha. With this information as a preface, we can now dive into how to eat for each type. Before we get that specific, however, it’s important to remember that the doshas aren’t just body types — they are humors or forces that are found everywhere in nature. They govern not only the cycles of our bodies but also the cycles of the seasons and the times of day.
Vata dosha is the humor of movement, being made primarily of the air element. This means that vata governs all movements in and out of stable periods, i.e. transitions. Vata governs transitions in and out of the seasons, as well as transitional phases in our lives. Whenever we create excess movement or find ourself in a life transition, we experience greater vata dosha.
Vata is the dosha that governs late summer and fall, which is made obvious when we retreat back to the qualities that make it up. Vata is cold, dry and mobile, and so is autumn. As the summer heat (of pitta) starts to fade, the cooler fall winds start to blow, leaves dry and fall off the trees and the air becomes cold and crisp. Similarly, moisture is often sucked out of our bodies during the fall resulting in chapped lips and dry skin, and we might feel cooler. The ether element of vata draws us inward and upward, allowing us to more easily access higher planes of knowing and deeper intuitive insight, if only we match our rhythms and routines with that of the season.
As you’ll see in the food charts at the bottom of the page, foods that balance vata dosha are heavy, warm and moist. Foods like squash, sweet potato, grains, milk, ghee and warming spices like fresh ginger, cinnamon and long pepper help to balance its mobile, cold and dry qualities. Nature provides us with exactly the foods we need to balance vata; we often harvest squashes and other root vegetables in the late summer, perfect for bringing us into balance for the fall.
Kapha dosha is the humor of moisture and heaviness, being made of the water and earth elements. Kapha governs all things that aid stability and lubrication in our bodies and in life. In the seasons, Kapha is responsible for late winter and early spring, when heavy rains or snow accumulate and then, with heat from pitta, melt and run off the hills and mountains and into the valley streams. Similarly, it is often during this time of late winter and early spring that accumulated toxins follow the force of the seasons and come flowing, as sticky mucus, out of our sinus cavities.
Kapha is heavy and stable, and we often feel its effects in the dead of winter – we stay inside, hibernate a bit, sleep longer nights and have shorter periods of day light. Kapha invites us to stay put, to take time for ourselves and to find stability from our very face-paced world. If we’re not careful, however, we can fall prey to unbalanced kapha, turning us into couch potatoes.
Foods that balance kapha dosha are warm, dry and light to balance its cold, moist and heavy qualities. Perfect for early spring, mother nature provides us with fresh lettuce and astringent and bitter greens. During the coldest of kapha season, it’s best to eat warm foods to counter the cold, like roasted or sauteed greens. As the early spring approaches and the season becomes warm again, raw greens with pungent spices like dry ginger, garlic and black pepper help to transition us out of the heaviness of kapha season.
Pitta dosha is the humor of heat, being made primarily from the fire element. Where there is heat there is pitta, and as such, pitta governs the late spring and summer months. Indeed it is the heat of pitta that allows for the moisture of kapha to dissipate so that the land can warm and dry again. During the summer months, it is common for us to fall prey to pitta-related conditions, such as hot flashes, red skin rashes, red eyes, heat headaches, acid indigestion, loose stools, acne, night sweats and liver problems.
Pitta season invites us to be fiery, to live life to its fullest. Too much mental energy in the summer, however, (like working long hours) can lead to an imbalance of pitta and the aforementioned symptoms, including angry outbursts, jealousy and other “hot” emotions. Keep your cool by taking a break from excessive mental energies (work and school, for example), and be sure to be active during the cooler times of the day.
Pitta is best balanced by eating foods that are cold and dry to balance is hot and moist qualities. During pitta season, however, we have the highest amount of digestive capacity since pitta is the fire that governs digestion. Although dumping temperature-cold foods onto pitta is like dumping ice water into a heated oven (read: unproductive), eating foods that have cooling properties is helpful for managing pitta — things like bitter greens and green juices, sweet foods like rice and oats, and astringent fibrous foods like beans.
Once you know which dosha you have primarily out of balance, and once you’ve taken into account the season and your climate, you can make better decisions about which foods to choose to eat. One way to keep yourself healthy is simply to eat seasonally, shopping at local farmer’s markets to enjoy the bounty of balancing foods available in your area. Otherwise, you can follow the charts below.
Just like the doshas are understood through the lens of their qualities, so are their balancing foods. Ayurveda acknowledges that there are six tastes, and each taste has certain energetic qualities. Each of these qualities either balance or unbalance each dosha. The six tastes are sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent. The following chart shows each taste and the qualities associated with each.
As you can see, each taste has three main qualities associated with it. When apply the rule of like increases like and opposites reduce, we can see which tastes are best for each dosha. The following table describes this best.
In order to eat to balance your doshas, eat foods with tastes that provide balance (reduction). To balance the heat, light, sharp wet and unstable qualities of pitta, for example, we’ll eat foods that are cooling, heavy, dull, dry and stable.
Eating to balance your doshas can seem deceivingly simple, however, developing a deep understanding of the type and quality of your specific imbalance can be challenging as there are so many factors to take into account. The best rule of thumb is if you notice you have certain adverse symptoms that pop up seasonally, eat according to the season with the fresh foods that Nature provides at those times.
If you are seeking relief from a digestive disturbance or other physical imbalance, don’t hesitate to contact me. You can find out more about Ayurvedic appointments here.