Note: this post was updated on November 15, 2013 to provide additional clarity.
A famous supermodel once said that nothing tastes as good as thin feels, but I’d revise that statement to say that nothing tastes as good as healthy feels.
I spent so much of my life completely unconscious about what I ate, whether it meant scarfing down junk food and late-night burritos or starving on salads and raw veggies. And I was paying the price with depression, skin problems, moodiness, gas, bloating, and water retention.
It was revolutionary to me that changing my diet could have such a profound effect on my overall health and that these symptoms could be lifted by eating in a certain way. I’ve seen this happen with patients, too.
Behold, the dosha food pyramid
One of the ways Ayurveda is so effective is in its scientific approach to crafting a diet and lifestyle to balance an individual. There is no one diet that fits everyone. A practitioner can look at the person and fine-tune based on season, age, overall digestive power (agni), previous diseases, family history, and a lengthy list of qualities and symptoms that factor into overall health.
The chart above shows the three doshas and some examples of foods that contain the same qualities. So, for example, if you are experiencing rashes, burning in your stomach, and searing headaches behind your eyes, this may be due to pitta out of balance and you’ll want to avoid the foods that will further aggravate your condition.
On the other hand, if you’re getting gas and bloating, that is due to eating more foods from the vata category, foods that will promote air and space in the body. If you’re feeling sluggish, your tongue has a white coating, you’ve gained a few pounds, and you’re cold and clammy, that could be an abundance of kapha and you’ll want to cut back on food from the kapha category.
Of course, this is overly simplified, but you get the idea. Here’s another way to look at it…another chart, but this one is flipped to show the tastes and some food examples that will reduce a given dosha that is aggravated or out of balance.
What’s your dosha?
Dosha is the term most people hear related to Ayurveda (even Dr. Oz did a show on the topic). There are ways to figure out the doshas that are most prominent in yourself–both the doshas you were born with called prakruti as well as the imbalances you may have or vikruti. (Nature’s Formulary has a good dosha quiz.)
To determine prakruti, take the quiz a first time thinking back to childhood and your body’s natural tendencies. For vikruti, take the quiz a second time while thinking of the present and any conditions that may be new or changes that have happened recently. (That said, it’s always best to seek guidance from a practitioner who has knowledge of diagnosis and treatment.)
Being healthy in the moment
Not only do you have a choice at each meal and in each moment to eat that donut or burger (or not), but you can actually heal yourself by eating right. Does that make you feel more empowered?
Yes, trust me, I know it’s difficult to forgo donuts, bacon, burgers, bacon-wrapped burgers, beer, pizza, ice cream, and ice cream with bacon crumbled on top, for a more simple and easy-to-digest diet.
I promise that after just a couple weeks of eating the right foods, at the right time, in the right season, in proper quantity, and based on overall digestion, that the feeling of true health is well worth forgoing (or at least reducing) harmful food.