by Dr Nikhil Natayil, Master in Ayurvedic Pharmaceutics and Herbs
In Ayurveda, the concept of body constitution is known as prakriti; everyone has a unique prakriti, which is determined at the time of conception and remains the same throughout their life. Knowing your prakriti is important, because it helps you make lifestyle choices and dietary changes suited to your constitution.
There are three main doshas, or energies, in Ayurveda: Vata is associated with movement; Pitta is associated with metabolism and digestion; and Kapha is associated with stability and structure. Your prakriti is a combination of these doshas, with one or two typically being dominant.
Based on your prakriti, you may have certain prominent physical, mental and emotional characteristics. For instance, someone with a Vata-dominant prakriti may benefit from grounding and calming practices, while someone with a Pitta-dominant prakriti may benefit from cooling and soothing practices. To discover more about your personal prakriti and dosha-type, book an appointment with an AyurMa Physician here.
Define your dosha: the basics
Vatas tend to have a thin build and dry skin. They are creative, but can be prone to anxiety or nervousness. They also tend to have a fast metabolism and may have difficulty gaining weight. Vata dosha can benefit from the following guidelines:
• Regular mealtimes: Irregular eating patterns can disrupt digestion.
• Cooked foods and warm drinks: Focus on foods that are easy to digest: cooked root vegetables, soups, stews, and casseroles. Use warming spices like ginger, cumin, fennel, turmeric and black pepper; sip on warm drinks made from these spices, as well as herbs. Avoid cold or iced beverages and cold or raw foods.
• Whole grains: Rice, quinoa, amaranth wheat and oats are a good source of complex carbohydrates and fibre; they provide sustained energy and help keep blood-sugar levels stable.
• Healthy fats: Include plenty of these: ghee, coconut oil, olive oil and sesame oil are good options; nuts and seeds are also good sources.
• Sweet, sour and salty tastes: Choose natural, unrefined sweet foods, such as ripe fruits, whole grains and root vegetables. Refined sugar and other sweeteners can aggravate Vata dosha. Sour and salty tastes can also help balance Vata dosha; think citrus fruits, fermented foods and vinegar as well as sea salt, miso and tamari. Avoid bitter, astringent, and pungent tastes.
• Sweet and sour fruits: Berries, ripe mangoes, grapes, melons, avocados and ripe bananas are easy to digest and help balance the dryness and coldness of the Vata constitution. Cooked fruits like baked apples or pears, stewed prunes or poached peaches are also good for Vatas, as they are warm and moist. Avoid fruits that are too astringent or drying, like raw apples, pomegranates, and cranberries.
• Well-cooked, moist and oily meats: Options such as organic chicken, turkey, and duck and freshwater fish, such as salmon, can be beneficial. Avoid dry and light meats like beef, lamb and pork.
• Dairy products: Ghee, milk, yogurt, lassi, paneer etc. are recommended.
Pitta is associated with fire and water. It governs digestion, metabolism and energy production, and an imbalance in Pitta can lead to acidity, heartburn, inflammation, indigestion, irritability and skin problems. The Pitta diet emphasises cooling and soothing foods. Other general guidelines for Pittas include:
• Midday meal: Eat your largest meal of the day at lunchtime, when the digestive fire (Agni) is strongest. Pitta types should avoid eating late at night, as this can disrupt sleep and digestion. Eat in a relaxed and peaceful environment, without distractions like TV or phones. It is also recommended to eat slowly and mindfully, chewing food thoroughly to aid digestion.
• Fruits and vegetables: Consume cooling, hydrating, sweet fruits like apples, pears, watermelon and mangoes, and vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli, cucumbers and leafy greens. Avoid sour, salty and pungent flavours such as tomatoes, citrus fruits, vinegar, hot peppers and fermented foods.
• Whole grains: Enjoy plenty of these, including quinoa and barley. Soaking grains and legumes overnight before cooking can help to make them more digestible and cooling.
• Healthy fats: Ghee, coconut oil and olive oil are good for this dosha. Avoid red meat; it is considered heating, and can aggravate Pitta.
• Spices: Certain spices can be beneficial for balancing Pitta, including coriander, cumin, fennel and cardamom, which are known for their cooling and digestive properties. Avoid fried and spicy foods.
• Beverages: Sip plenty of cooling beverages like water, coconut water, herbal tea and aloe vera juice. Avoid caffeine, alcohol and sugary drinks.
Kapha is associated with the earth and water elements, and is believed to control growth and stability in the body. The Kapha diet is designed to balance and reduce Kapha energy in the body, which is associated with sluggishness, weight gain and congestion. Some general guidelines for the Kapha diet include:
• Warm, light, and dry foods: These help counteract the heavy, cold and damp qualities of Kapha. Think light soups, stews and casseroles made with vegetables, grains and legumes. Avoid heavy, oily and fatty foods, fried foods, dairy products and red meat.
• Fruits and vegetables: Bitter and astringent tastes help balance Kapha by stimulating digestion and metabolism. Leafy greens including spinach, dandelion and kale work well, especially when steamed, roasted or sautéed, which makes them easier to digest. Other good choices are asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, carrots and sweet potatoes. Apples, pears, pomegranates and berries are ideal for Kaphas. Avoid heavy, sweet fruits like bananas, dates, avocados and mangoes.
• Spices and dressings: Cook with pungent spices like ginger, turmeric and black pepper. Avoid heavy, oily dressings and opt for light, tangy sauces made with vinegar or lemon juice.
• Nuts: Almonds, Brazil nuts, walnuts and pistachios are lighter and less oily than other nuts, and are a great source of protein, fibre and healthy fat.
• Whole grains and legumes: Good Kapha grains include quinoa, barley, millet, brown rice and amaranth. The best legumes are lentils, mung beans, chickpeas and black beans.
• Beverages: Drink herbal tea with ginger, liquorice or cinnamon to help stimulate digestion and circulation. Avoid cold drinks.