Tiffin Project

The Ayurveda Diet

by Todd Caldecott on January 26, 2012

Post image for The Ayurveda Diet

According to the Charaka samhita Ayurveda evolved out of a need to address the acute and chronic disease that emerged when humans first began to live together in settled communities. This suggests that the basic structure of Ayurveda could be as old as the Neolithic in India, some 10,000 years ago. By any measure Ayurveda is an ancient and venerable healing tradition, and has an enormous amount of empirical weight behind its practices, including diet. While I tend to recommend a strict Paleolithic diet in autoimmune disorders, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, the Ayurveda diet is suitable in many other conditions and as a general diet to promote good health.

Ayurveda recognizes two basic diets: vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Each is chosen on the basis of a number of different factors including constitution, ancestry, climate, geography, season, age, gender and disease. Secondary factors include personal habits, aesthetics, religion and culture, although strictly speaking, these aren’t within the scope of Ayurveda and in some cases may interfere with treatment. According to the late Dr. Mana Bajra Bajracharya of Kathmandu, a traditional Ayurvedic physician whose practice represented over 700 years of hereditary knowledge, there are prescribed ratios for each type of diet, whether vegetarian or non-vegetarian.

According to Dr. Mana, the general composition of a non-vegetarian diet should be:
• three parts starchy foods (e.g. whole grains, starchy vegetables)
• one part meat, poultry, fish, or egg
• one part green vegetables and seasonal fruits
• one part liquids, such as herbal tea, water, etc.

According to Dr. Mana, the general composition of a vegetarian diet should be:
• four parts starchy foods (e.g. cereals, starchy vegetables)
• one part legumes (e.g. dhal, beans, lentils) prepared as a soup
• one part dairy (e.g. milk, butter, ghee, curd)
• one part green vegetables and seasonal fruits
• one part liquids, such as herbal tea, water, etc.

The Ayurveda diet can also be modified on the basis of each dosha, emphasizing flavors and qualities in the diet that balance it. Specific diets that relate to the doshas are only used on a therapeutic basis, to reduce and balance the aggravated qualities. In contrast, diets used to balance the constitution have a greater degree of flexibility.

Vata-reducing diet
A vata-reducing diet is predominant in sweet, sour and salty flavors, expressing the qualities of hot, wet and heavy. This includes foods such as:

• Soup stock made from bones, marrow and seaweed
• Nourishing, fatty meats prepared as soups and stews, e.g. pork, lamb, goat, mutton, fish, beef, bison
• Leafy greens and other vegetables, eaten lightly stir-fried with warming herbs and spices
• Starchy vegetables, prepared with fat and moisture
• Whole grains and legumes, prepared as soups and stews with herbs and spices
• Boiled milk, with herbs and spices
• Fermented foods, e.g. pickles, sauerkraut, kefir, yogurt
• Stewed fruits, prepared with spices and fat
• Nourishing oils and fats such as olive oil, sesame oil, butter, ghee
• Warming herbs and spices, e.g. ginger, cinnamon, garlic, fenugreek, basil, hing, cumin
• Salty foods, such as seaweed, sea salt and mineral salts

Pitta-reducing diet
A pitta-reducing diet is predominant in sweet, bitter and astringent flavors, expressing the qualities of cold, light and dry. This includes a preference for foods such as:

• Soup stock made from vegetables, mushrooms as well as cooling herbs and spices
• Lean cuts of meat, prepared baked or grilled, e.g. poultry, fish, bison, elk, wild game
• Leafy greens and other vegetables, steamed or eaten raw
• Whole grains and legumes, prepared as soups and stews with cooling herbs and spices
• Raw milk, fresh yogurt, buttermilk
• Fresh fruit, with minimal citrus and sour varieties
• Cooling fats and oils, such as coconut and ghee
• Cooling herbs and spices, e.g. coriander, fennel, turmeric, clove, mint, cumin, licorice
• Cane sugar (jaggery, gur) in limited amounts

Kapha-reducing diet
A kapha-reducing diet is predominant in bitter, pungent and astringent flavors, expressing the qualities of hot, light and dry. This includes a preference for foods such as:

• Soup stock made from spicy herbs such as garlic, ginger, onion and chili
• Limited amounts of lean meats, prepared baked or grilled, e.g. poultry, fish, bison, elk, wild game
• Leafy greens and other vegetables, steamed or stir-fried with only a little fat
• Light and drying grains such as barley, buckwheat, millet and wild rice
• Most legumes, prepared with warming herbs and spices
• Sour and bitter fruits such as lemon and lime
• Fermented foods, made with bitter and pungent vegetables such as onion, daikon, radish, cabbage, tomato, peppers
• Warming herbs and spices, e.g. ginger, cardamom, cayenne, ajwain, black pepper, mustard
• Honey, in limited amounts

In my next set of entries, I’ll tackle vegetarian and vegan diets.

~ Todd Caldecott

For more info, visit: ToddCaldecott.com

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: