It is easy for most to understand how what you consume in your diet will affect your health & well-being. Naturally some foods are more nutritious than others. Fruits & veggies will lead to greater general health than candy & processed foods. Ayurveda takes the knowledge a bit further and predicts which fruits and veggies are best for you and why. At each moment we all have a unique make-up of the elements of earth, water, fire, air, & ether, known as our dosha or constitution. This constitution affects how we respond to different foods. For example being a predominantly Vata constitution my body responds better to root vegetables than to leafy greens, but for others this may not be the case.
Foods, like all of nature, are made up of the five elements and consist of a unique combination of qualities. When we understand the qualities inherent in a food and know the qualities inherent in ourselves, how a food will affect us is also known. If our ultimate goal is to bring balance to the body the foods with the opposite qualities of our imbalance should be consumed. For example, if you were experiencing a Pitta or fiery imbalance then dull & smooth foods would bring you back to balance.
The key is to know which foods have the qualities that you need. The qualities of food are determined primarily by their taste, though these qualities can be altered through preparation and processing. The body craves life-sustaining foods and we are drawn to them through our sense of taste. From a whole foods perspective, what taste good for you will be nourishing and what taste bad is not likely a food that will sustain you.
Ayurveda divides up food into six tastes, each having its own set of qualities and elemental make-ups. The six taste of Ayurveda are sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, & astringent. The six different tastes will affect your health differently based on your dosha. To create optimal health in the body Ayurvedic teachings recommend that you choose foods to eat that balance your predominate constitution and take only a small amount of the taste that increase it. If you have an imbalance related to a specific dosha it is recommend that you avoid the foods that increase that dosha and increase the foods that bring you back to balance. The chart below will help you understand how each taste effects the doshas.
For me, my predominant dosha is Vata. Vata is related the constitution of air so in general qualities I experience are lightness and dryness. I would need foods that have the qualities of heavy & moist to bring me into balance. According to the table, foods with the constitution of earth and fire will help bring more harmony to my body. These foods have the taste of sweet, salty, & sour. I also have had times when I get stressed at work and begin to channel a lot of masculine energy. During these times I begin to accumulate some excess fire qualities in my body. This is categorized as a Pitta imbalance. During these times I have brought myself back to balance by consuming those taste which are Pitta are decreasing such as sweet, bitter, & astringent foods.
The key here to realize as with everything we are not striving for perfection but having the intention that the majority of the foods we consume bring balance to our bodies. One thing I’ve found helpful is to create a dosha specific pacifying shopping list & having a couple of go to recipes for breakfast lunch a dinner. This week I’ll be diving into the digestive qualities of each dosha and sharing some practical tips maintain a healthy digestion.