Ayurveda is a traditional wellness practice originating from India. Its literal translation is “science of life” and is about 5000 years old. According to Ayurveda, the elements of air, water, earth, fire, and space (ether) are the building blocks of everything in life.
The main goal of Ayurveda is keeping these elements balanced within the body by being mindful of what you eat, your thoughts, your daily routine, your actions, and other aspects of your lifestyle. It essentially seeks to create a strong body using specific diet, exercises, and lifestyle practices like mindful living and sleep.
This post will focus on the Ayurvedic diet.
What’s the Ayurvedic Diet?
The Ayurvedic diet is a comprehensive eating plan that provides guidelines for exactly what to eat, when to eat, and how to eat in order to boost your health, maintain wellness, and manage or prevent disease. Following the Ayurvedic diet means eating minimally processed foods or primary whole foods and practicing mindful eating habits.
As the name suggests, the diet is primarily based on the Ayurveda wellness system. Some studies have shown that the Ayurvedic practices, including those of diet, can significantly improve health.
However, following the Ayurvedic for weight loss purposes is not exactly a proven way of losing weight. But despite the lack of a scientific rationale for this kind of diet, many experts agree that its focus on mindful eating and unprocessed foods is a valuable takeaway.
How it Works
The Ayurvedic diet is built around the intake of 6 tastes (rasas)
For each meal, you will include foods that are:
You ideally start your meal with sweet tasting foods, like a sweet fruit, and then proceed to salty food, like seafood, and then sour (like a citrus fruit), and then finish it off with pungent foods (think peppers and onions) bitter (kale, celery, or green leafy vegetables) and astringent (like tea or green apples).
Key Principles of Eating
Eat mindfully: by concentrating on your eating: Avoid laughter, talking, and other distractions to appreciate your meal fully along with the wholesome benefits it provides.
Eat at regular, predictable times to help with digestion.
Eat quickly enough so that it doesn’t get cold.
Eat slowly enough to allow yourself to savor the taste.
Eat the right portions and be aware of signs of fullness and hunger signals to avoid overdoing it .
Only eat after your previous meal is fully digested. Don’t eat within 3 hours of your previous snack or meal, and don’t go without food for more than 6 hours. It’s recommended you start with a moderate breakfast and a larger, more satisfying lunch. Based on your hunger levels, dinner is optional.
What is My Dosha?
Here’s a quick video explain what your Dosha is really all about…
One of the key aspects of an Ayurvedic diet is that you eat based on your dominant constitutional types, also known as dosha. Think of dosha as your most dominant energy.
In general, there are three different doshas, all derived from the five elements, and each element has its unique attributes and qualities.
1. Vata (air and space)
Vatas are often described as intense, creative, or expensive. Their attributes include light, dry, rough, and cold.
People with the vata constitution tend to be on the thin, slender side, and often suffer from digestion problems. They are naturally creative, curious, and open-minded but are also prone to mental obstacles like anxiety, insomnia, and stress. Some of the common health problems for vata people include heart disease and neurological disease.
What to Eat
Vata diets should have more cooked and well spiced foods. This helps to balance the cool and dry nature of the vata body type. Try to include soups, oatmeal, curries, root vegetables, and rice, with a little sweetness and more cooked veggies than raw ones.
What to Avoid
Limit dry, light, and frozen or cold foods like cold drinks, raw vegetables, and crunchy dry snacks.
2. Kapha (water and earth)
Kaphas are commonly described as loving, calm, or lethargic. Their attributes include heavy, steady, stable, slow, and soft.
Most people under the kapha body type tend to have a larger body frame and struggle to control their body weight.
Their digestion is slow and sluggish, and there’s a tendency to have low energy. Although they are generally grounded, loving and supportive, kaphas often suffer from sadness and lack of motivation.
They are also known to be envious, insecure, lazy, and sad at times. They are more susceptible to chronic diseases, respiratory problems, fluid retention, and obesity.
What to Eat
The kapha diet should be lighter and more stimulating. Go for lighter proteins, vegetables, beans, and some fruits. Low-fat dairy products, honey, and all grains are also great.
What to Avoid
Eliminate cold drinks and heavy food, including pasta, ice cream, and stews. Also avoid very fatty meals or too many sweet foods.
3. Pitta (water and fire)
Pittas are commonly described as joyful, intelligent, and driven. Their attributes include hot, sharp, mobile, and liquid.
People belonging to the pitta constitution tend to have a medium-sized body composition, may have fiery personalities, and are often athletic, intelligent, driven, and in good control of their body weight.
Pittas have a strong digestion and hot emotions. They are ambitious, competitive, smart, and driven, but also aggressive and angry at times. They are more susceptible to infections, digestive conditions, heart disease, overexertion, and hypertension.
What to Eat
The pitta diet should ideally calm or cool down the fire. Go for foods like cucumber, avocado, cilantro, and bitter greens.
What to Avoid
Limit foods that are too stimulating or spicy, such as rice and lentils.
The Dosha Bottom Line
Keep in mind that those who follow the Ayurvedic lifestyle believe that no dosha is superior to another and everyone embodies all of the three doshas within them. You may have a fiery personality like a pitta, but your physical body is slender and lanky, like a vata.
You can also have two dominant doshas, or you could be a balanced tridoshic. Moreover, during different stages of your life, one dosha might become stronger than the other.
When you’re starting out on an Ayurvedic diet, your prominent dosha should determine your eating style. You should also compare the qualities of your dosha to the kind of qualities different foods have to see if they add more to your dominant dosha or bring in qualities that help offer balance.
And instead of focusing on entirely excluding foods, it’s better to focus on including more foods that have the qualities you’d like to increase.
Does the Ayurvedic Diet Work for Weight Loss?
It’s not exactly clear whether weight loss benefits that result from the Ayurvedic diet are caused by the eating recommendations based on the dosha, or from the focus on mindful eating and whole foods.
Nonetheless, research has demonstrated its effectiveness.
In a study involving 200 participants from a mix of all the three doshas found out that following the Ayurvedic diet plant that’s appropriate for the respective dosha of the participant encouraged healthy weight maintenance or weight loss.
At the start of the study, pitta and kapha people were all heavier than the vata people, and after 3 months of therapy, the pitta group shed the most weight, and along with kapha people, showed improvement in multiple measurements. The conclusion of the researchers was that Ayurvedic diets may be useful for enhancing weight loss.
In the International Journal of Obesity is a review that concluded Ayurvedic diets meant to achieve weight loss caused a clinically significant loss of weight in comparison to a placebo. Researchers from the University of Arizona and the University of New Mexico also published a study reporting that Ayurvedic and yoga lifestyles are an acceptable approach to weight management.
There’s also quite a strong evidence purporting that Ayurvedic diets may help in normalizing hormones and help prevent diabetes by improving insulin sensitivity.
While there’s clearly evidence on the potential weight loss and health benefits of the Ayurvedic diet, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what factors in the Ayurvedic way of life deliver the most benefits. If you don’t think the Ayurvedic diet is the right weight loss program for you, you can see a list of solid alternatives here.
Where Can You Find Recipes?
Before you start an Ayurvedic diet, it’s important to lean about it and find your dominant dosha. Many Ayurvedic medicine experts recommend visiting an Ayurvedic doctor or practitioner for best results.
Well, an Ayurvedic practitioner can expertly recommend the right foods combination to balance your dominant dosha and enhance the effectiveness of your diet. Moreover, they often have incredible book and delicious recipe recommendations that can serve as a full guide to your newfound Ayurvedic journey.
Alternatively, you can find plenty of Ayurvedic Diet recipe ideas online. Health and wellness blogs and websites, as well as Ayurvedic Diet focused blogs are great places to start. As a bonus, you get to meet with people on the same journey as you in these blogs, who can also share tips and recipe ideas of their own.
An Ayurvedic diet provides powerful benefits when it comes to achieving a holistic balance in both the physical body and mind and in addressing physical and mental health. In fact, the diet has been practiced over thousands of years by millions of people, and is widely recognized in many cultures as an essential component for overall health and wellness.
Ideally, the Ayurvedic diet is based on an individual’s dosha, which determines the types of foods that are best suited for their personality and lifestyle. If you’re looking to lose some weight, you’re more likely to see results if you adopt the Ayurvedic diet and its mindful eating practices.
Keep in mind that the goal here is not losing weight quickly, but to adopt an eating lifestyle that promotes a balance between body and mind.
Ben Corbin brings nearly 20 years of experience as a health and wellness author and writer. He holds a master’s degree, has a passion for health and fitness, and is driven to provide readers with accurate and honest diet reviews. Learn more about Ben and the DadQuarters mission at our About page.