AYURVEDA: Foods and their energies

The art of eating in harmony with nature is one of many strategies to heal your body and mind with Ayurveda

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In Western diet, foods are evaluated for proteins, calories, carbohydrates, vitamins, and other nutritional contents. However in Ayurveda, we look not only for vitamins, minerals, and chemical nutrient content, but first and foremost for the energetic properties in foods (and that includes herbs.)

Ayurveda evaluates our diet based on the tastes and its effect on the doshas, as well as the following energetic qualities of the food:

Temperature: cold or warm;

Weight: light or heavy; and

Moisture: dry or wet.

The ayurvedic approach treats what you are like right now, and takes it one day at a time, one season at a time.  When you wish to bring balance into your digestion, look at what qualities and tastes dominate in your diet, and balance them with the opposite qualities.

The following six tastes are at the core of this practice:

  • Sweet foods: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.  Examples: wheat, rice, milk, cheese, fruit, dates, etc. They reduce Vata and Pitta, but increase Kapha
  • Sour foods: organic acids like yogurt, cheese, sour fruits, fermented foods, lemon, etc. They reduce Vata, but increase Pitta and Kapha
  • Salty foods: minerals, natural salts, sea vegetables, etc. They reduce Vata, but increase Pitta and Kapha
  • Pungent foods: onions, chilies, ginger, garlic, radish, etc. They reduce Kapha, but increase Vata and Pitta
  • Bitter foods: dark leafy greens, turmeric, rhubarb, dandelion, etc. They reduce Pitta and Kapha, but increase Vata
  • Astringent foods: legumes, raw fruits and vegetables, pomegranate, etc. They reduce Pitta and Kapha, but increase Vata

As an example, if you want to balance Vata dosha, which tends to be cold, light, and dry, prepare your food in a way that is warm, moist or oily (unctuous), and heavier. In terms of taste, favor sweet, sour and salty tastes and reduce astringent, bitter and pungent foods.

If you wish to balance Pitta dosha, which tends to be hot, light, and wet or oily, favor cooling, heavier and drier foods. In terms of taste favor sweet, bitter and astringent tastes and reduce pungent (spicy hot), sour, and salty foods.

Finally if you wish to balance Kapha dosha, which tends to be cold, heavy, wet, and congesting, eat foods that are light, warm and drying.  The following tastes are best: pungent, bitter and astringent.  Make sure you reduce heavy, oily, sweet and cold foods, sour and salty tastes.

Ayurveda helps us becoming whole through the process of developing our consciousness, through observation, knowledge and action.  It implies changing or creating new habits, this may not be easy and may take some time. Observe the food you choose and eat, and start taking actions to enhance your quality of life.

This article is an excerpt from the chapter on “Food as therapy” in my Ayurvedic TT: From Theory to Daily Practice. Visit this page for more info and to register to this course.

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2 Comments

  1. Mary J. on July 13, 2016 at 4:15 pm

    Thanks for this ‘easy to digest’ overview of how Ayurveda applies to our diet.

  2. Nathalie Keiller on August 29, 2016 at 6:51 pm

    You are welcome. The hardest part for most people is the observation and recognition of our habits. Knowledge: the study of Ayurveda makes a lot of sense, which in turn makes “action” easier.

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