Ayurveda recommends foods for people according to their primary body type. The reason this is done is because it is believed foods can be both healing, and the source of imbalance and difficulties. By eating foods according to our Ayurvedic body type, the belief is that we will accumulate less Ama, or waste, in the body.
In Ayurveda, people are classified according to three principles, vata, kapha, and pitta. But it’s important to understand that although we may be dominant in one principle, we actually have all three present in our body. The others are in a smaller ration. Most people will actually be a combination of two of these principles, with the third only playing a minor role. But because we all contain the three, any of them can get out of balance.
Characteristics of Pitta dominant body types
* strong willed
* good digestion
* passionate about many things
Ayurveda’s Pitta constitution is calmed by cooling foods, such as fresh fruit and vegetables. Bitter green vegetables like watercress, parsley, collards and most greens suit pitta. Fruits that suit pitta body types include sweet berries, sweet apples and apricots, coconut, figs, mango, sweet oranges and pineapples, plums, watermelon, pomegranates, and prunes.
Other cooling foods include most dairy products, though sour cream, hard cheeses, and yoghurt don’t really suit pitta due to their being too high in fat, salt, or sour. But dairy that suits pitta includes milk, cottage cheese, soft cheeses, and ice cream!
Grains that suit pitta body types include barley, basmati rice, and wheat (unless you are allergic or gluten sensitive).
Pitta body types generally like a lot of protein, and they probably need a little more than the other Ayurvedic body types. Spices that are cooling in nature are also important. These include coriander, cumin, mint, parsley, dill and fennel. Garlic should be avoided though as it is too heating.
In terms of sweets, Pitta body types should use maple syrup, barley malt, brown rice syrup and honey that is 6 months or less old, preferably raw.
Things that can imbalance Pitta body types:
* excess heat, hot climates, and hot times of day
* vacations and times when there is increased mobility
* excess oil in the diet
* too many hot foods, including spicy foods. But this can also mean too many cooked meals
* excess caffeine, salt, red meat and alcohol
Characteristics of people with a dominant Vata body type:
* quick mind
* always on the go – mentally and physically
Dietary choices that support vata aim at grounding this energy-in-motion. Routine is also very helpful, though not naturally something vata body type people will create! Vata people benefit from meditation, warmth, soothing music, taking breaks, and resting (again, not a natural vata inclination!).
With regards foods, vata body types should include warming spices, including ginger and cloves, anise, cayenne, cinnamon, garlic, horseradish, caraway, mint, mustard seeds, parsley, cooked onion, paprika, rose water, vanilla, tarragon, thyme and rosemary.
People with the vata body type should minimize raw food, including salad, though salads should not be eliminated completely as they provide valuable nutrients. But vata should ground the salad with a dressing made from oil and vinegar, and be aware of the weather at the time of eating it. Being more sensitive to cold, vata’s should have salads on warmer days.
Icy cold drinks are not balancing for vata – in fact quite the opposite. Sugar also throws vata types off balance, though vata are lucky in that they can enjoy other sweets.
Vata generally love fruit, and it suits their ayurvedic constitution. The exceptions are apples, pears, cranberries, watermelon and dried fruit. Vata types should go for sweet and moist fruit, like mangoes, nectarines, bananas, coconut, fresh figs, peaches, and strawberries.
Cooked grains like oatmeal, basmati rice, and brown rice, are very grounding for the vata ayurvedic constitution. Beans (legumes), on the other hand, are not! Beans are cold, dry, and heavy – not the attributes that support vata.
Things that can imbalance vata dominant body types include:
* a lot of travel, especially by plane
* loud noises
* constant stimulation
* drugs, sugar and alcohol
* cold climates (especially extremely cold ones) and cold food
* frozen and dried food
Characteristics of people with a kapha dominant body type:
Kapha body types are not suited to a high protein diet like the Atkins diet. Not only should they avoid too much fat, but also, excessive heavy protein. The kapha quality is already heavy, and although this doesn’t sound great, it is what provides Kapha body types with a wonderful stability and strength.
Kapha should have light and low fat protein. Beans, with the exception of soy and soy products, are great for kapha. Soy milk is preferable to dairy though, for kapha. Beans help move kapha’s energy, and digestive system, a bit. Barley is also excellent. In terms of meat, chicken and turkey suit kapha.
Kapha body types should have plenty of vegetables, including bitter vegetables, peppers, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, eggplant, lettuce, onions, potatoes, mushrooms, corn cobs, peas, beets, and celery.
Dairy is heavy and cooling, and it does not suit the Kapha ayurvedic body type. Light and crispy food, like corn tortillas and popcorn, suit kapha. Kapha people should make sure they have variety in their diet, as kapha body types have a danger of falling into a rut more than others.
Asian and Latin American style meals are great for kapha. They are spicy and light, free of dairy, and have plenty of vegetables in them.
Things that can imbalance Kapha body types:
* too much fat in the diet, including oil we cook with!
* dairy products
* not enough stimulation and challenge
* not enough variety
* not enough exercise
* too much bread, iced foods and drinks, and sweets
References: Amadea Morningstar and Urmila Desai, The Ayurvedic Cookbook.