Feed your dosha! Diet is a key pillar to the edifice of robust health and vitality (Ojas) according to the ancient healing system of Ayurveda. Ayurveda aims to heighten your state of well-being by recommending to you diet plans that suit your prakruti (individual constitution), current dosha imbalances (vikriti), seasonal changes, timing, and lifestyle that you follow. concept of “dosha” is unique to Ayurveda.
In the Ayurvedic science of ahara, the idea is not to starve, but to eat nutritious, wholesome foods in recommended quantities that are aligned with your physical and mental makeup; make you feel light, energized; and do not increase toxicity or ama. So let’s quickly understand how the science of diet works in Ayurveda, based on your dosha type!
To understand that, we need to know what determines ‘healthy’ for an individual. Now, according to Ayurveda, each individual has a prakruti that is determined at the time of conception and vikruti is the imbalances in this precarious balance of doshas in one’s physiology, caused by various factors including environment, exposure to pollutants, bad food habits, a lifestyle that does not quite go with their dosha constitution.
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(from Sanskrit प्रकृति, prakṛti) means “nature”. It is, according to Hinduism, the basic nature of intelligence by which the Universe exists and functions. It is described in Bhagavad Gita as the “primal motive force”. It is a key concept in Hinduism, formulated by its Samkhya school, and refers to the primal matter with three different innate qualities (Guṇas) whose equilibrium is the basis of all observed empirical reality.
The prakruti of a patient is given a lot of importance in Ayurveda. Often translated as a person’s constitution, the term actually means “original creation.” The Sanskrit prefix “pra” means “original” and “kruti” means “creation”. A person’s prakruti is the inherent balance of the three doshas at the moment of their creation. It is at this moment that a person’s physiological and psychological tendencies become fixed.
Vikruti means “after creation.” The Sanskrit root “vi” means “after” and the root word “kruti” means “creation.” A person’s vikruti is the state of the three doshas after the moment of conception.
In Ayurveda, when we talk about the vikruti of a patient, we are referring to the current state of the three doshas and how they are expressing themselves in the body and mind. Due to the less than optimal environment most of us find ourselves in, our vikruti helps us to understand the imbalances or symptoms that we are experiencing. However, it should be understood that in an optimal environment, the vikruti and the prakruti are the same. In this state, tendencies exist in the body and the mind but they are not expressing themselves in a manner that is causing a disturbance.
An ideal diet or ahara that would feed your dosha contains ingredients that decrease or balance the vikrutis, and thereby reinstate good health, complexion, metabolism, and vitality. Based on each dosha type, there are specific ingredients and food items that are good for you, and some that you must avoid in order to reduce the aggravation of the dosha. Based on your prakruti, you are likely to have unique affinities towards particular tastes. These ingredients, food groups, and their suitability can vary based on time of the day and seasons too.
For example, simply based on one’s preferred tastes, vata people like sweet, sour, and salty foods; pitta types have a preference for sweet, bitter, and astringent; and kapha people like pungent, astringent and bitter foods. Nature beautifully balances the inherent excesses of these doshas through these preferences. But having wrong foods that go against one’s dosha type, can increase toxicity and speed up the occurrence of illnesses and diseases in the body
Ayurvedic principles that help improve digestion and lead a healthier lifestyle include
- Avoid snacking which can can interrupt your digestive cycle. The first hour after you eat, kapha is on the rise, when you feel heavy and dull. The following 2–4 hours, pitta takes control of the digestion when the heat inside the body increases. Finally, 4–5 hours after a meal, vata rises and you you start feeling light and hungry again. It is important to let this process happen instead of snacking in between meals.
- Ayurveda also recommends avoiding overeating. The stomach shouldn’t be completely full after a meal. Eat as much as you can hold within your palms formed into a cup. This is the amount of food that your body can digest, and assimilate without drawing a lot of energy from other physiological functions and channeling it into digestion. An overworked digestive system can slow down the process of effective digestion and assimilation of nourishment, and lead to the formation of amatoxins.
- To increase Ojas or vitality, eat foods that are freshly cooked and high in prana. Avoid leftovers when possible.
- Include all the six tastes in your meals. Each taste serves a specific function. For example, sweet-tasting foods are nourishing and grounding, sour foods have a cleansing and purifying quality to them. For balance and regulation, have salty foods; to detox and assimilate more minerals, bitter foods do the trick; pungent foods are warming and astringent foods are known to be cool and help reduce inflammations.