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Diet Based on Individuality or Constitution

Ayurveda insists on using a lifestyle and diet together. If this is done then the results are balanced and rapid.

Each person has a different need of nutrients and a different capacity to absorb and assimilate those nutrients. A healthy food for one person can be a disease-causing factor for another. In order to use the Ayurvedic system we need to look at food and food classifications differently than we are used to in the biochemical nutritional model. The Ayurvedic view of food is based on our Agni and how well we can digest the food and access the nutrients inside.

First, we can begin to view foods not as separate categories per se. Instead we can shift our point of view to seeing food according to the person who is going to eat it. This requires a paradigm shift in the way we normally look at food. The prime difference is looking at food according to the metabolism (Dosha and Agni) of the person rather than according to the nutrient content in the food or broad food groups.

Instead of saying, “Eat an apple a day because it has vitamin X”, the new viewpoint is, “What shall I eat today to keep my Doshas in balance.” This is an individualistic approach that requires the person to have a minimum understanding and responsibility for their own health.

It should be clearly understood that people using Ayurvedic nutrition are doing so because they want to take control over their life, health and empowerment. Ayurveda is a patient friendly system that encourages participation. Only you are capable of restoring your own health because it is you who is lifting your hand to your mouth and putting in the basic supply of health (food) into your body. No one is force feeding you food.

Eat According to Your Metabolic Capacity 

An effort has been made to distinguish between very aggravating and mildly aggravating foods as per constitution. This also applies to the opposite situation of very beneficial and mildly beneficial foods. In both cases an attempt has been made to show the variegated qualities of food in relation to an individual. The headings, Best, Medium, Mixed, Sometimes, Rarely and Worst have been chosen to give an indication of food actions on any given constitutional type. For the mathematical minded I have also included a percentage indication to show the percentage of use that is beneficial for any given type. This would mean that a food in the ‘Best’ column could be used 100% of the time by the person corresponding to the chart. By the same token a person choosing a food in the ‘Rarely’ column would use the food only 20% percent of the time.

The following chart will clarify the percentage idea. However, I have adjusted the number of times per week to correspond to the amount needed to aggravate a person. Hence, 20% is 1-2 times per week instead of four as eating a lemon four times a week is enough to aggravate a Pitta type, but not 1 or 2 times. The following chart can give you an idea as to the amount needed to disturb you. Note that almost no food is listed as 100% because it is possible to overeat or consume any food to the point of aggravation. Also note that almost no food is listed as ‘Worst’ or 0% because in most cases eating a food once per week will not aggravate your constitution. Therefore, we see that the majority of foods fall into a general use area for all of the constitutions.

100%21 times in the week

80%16-18times in the week

60%8-10 times in the week

40%3-4 times in the week

20%1-2 times in the week

0%0 times in the week

It should be pointed out that a variety of foods need to be eaten in a week’s time. If you eat a certain kind of food every day, day in and day out, it will have greater power to disturb you and cause disruption in your metabolism. It is far better to eat a variety of foods during the week.

The Kapha type of person has the slowest digestive function. These people will be the most prone to weight gain and obesity due to the slower rate of metabolism. They will have to pay the closest attention to the quantities of food consumed and will have the most restrictive diet accordingly. They are the most sensitive to carbohydrates especially in simple sugars, yet all excess tends to clog and further slowdown the transformation of food. Dairy products due to their mucus forming properties and congestive qualities can also trouble them. The enzyme function of these people is lower than the other types, but is consistent. Hence, they can have stronger digestive power than the fluctuating Vata type. The Kapha type has the most restrictive diet in both quantity and variety of foods.

In the table below a summery is given on the effects of food groups on the Kapha type. This is a general guide to show how groups of foods affect these people. The foods are grouped according to their general action on the metabolism of the Kapha type of person and judge nutritional value accordingly.

Summary of Kapha Type Food Groups

TYPE OF FOOD Effect of food on constitution
Percentage 100% 80% 60% 40% 20% 0%
Best Medium Mixed Some-

times

Rarely Worst
Fruits X
Vegetables X
Grains X
Beans X
Nuts & Seeds X
Dairy X
Oils X
Animal Products X
Sweeteners X
Spices X
Beverages X
Vitamins & Minerals X

Quality of food should be made a priority: organic, local, and seasonal when possible.All mixed or dual types should use a seasonal diet as per Dosha to keep the Doshas balanced.

Kapha diet

Kapha types have to make sure not to overeat, not to indulge in desserts and they should skip breakfast. Kapha types tend to have a slower metabolism (Munda Agni) so they have to pay close attention to the quantity of food and the consumption of simple carbohydrates, especially sugar, to prevent obesity or gaining weight. To balance out the oily, cold, heavy, dull and soft qualities (Gunas) of Kapha prioritize dry, warm, light, pungent, sharp qualities in meals. Munda agni will benefit from these changes. Kapha types should prioritize pungent, bitter and astringent tastes and minimize neutral, sour and salty tastes.

  • 2 meals per day, no breakfast, moderate lunch (1/2 to 2/3 of a dinner plate) and lighter dinner (1/2 of a dinner plate)
  • No snacking
  • Avoid dairy, oils, fried food, candy and all sweeteners; honey can be used occasionally
  • Fruit should be eaten alone or before a meal daily – favor sour or acidic tastes in the morning (instead of breakfast if needed) or dry fruit in the day (e.g., apples, cranberries, etc.)
  • Vegetables for every meal (e.g., cabbage family, etc.), about 1/3 of the meal
  • Astringent, bitter leafy greens are good 1x per day
  • Beans can be eaten daily 1x per day when they are well cooked, about 1/4 to 1/3 of the meal
  • Whole grains daily for lunch only, about 1/3 of the meal
  • Animal products such as meat, eggs, etc. should be avoided; when used limit to 100g per meal at lunch
  • Nuts 2x per week (e.g., 2 almonds)
  • Use hot or warming spices like pepper, onion, cayenne, ginger, garlic, mustard
  • Drink only when thirsty
  • No need for supplements
  • Eat regularly, chew properly, with attention, do not overeat!

 

Short Outline of Dinacharya for Kapha Prakriti 

  • Wake up early in the day, before sunrise when possible
  • Go to the toilet and remove waste (stool, urine, etc.)
  • Drink 250ml to 300ml of warm/hot water
  • Start cooking Ginger tea (see recipe {link page})
  • Clean or scrape the tongue, then gargle with Sesame oil (Gandusa)
  • Do Jala Neti (nasal wash) followed by one drop of sesame oil in each nostril
  • Do Utvartana (powder massage), or luffa sponge massage
  • Do strong Yoga Asana or strong exercise, end with 5 minutes of Nadishodhana (alternate nostril breathing)
  • Meditate 10 to 15 minutes
  • Take a hot shower or bath
  • Get dressed
  • Finish making Ginger tea, put in thermos to drink the whole day
  • Skip breakfast or eat one piece of sour / acid fruit (Grapefruit, etc.)
  • Go to work
  • Eat a substantial Lunch; if tried or sleepy after eating the quantity was too much
  • Take a short walk to digest and relax
  • Go to work
  • Mild Exercise (optional depending on morning exercise)
  • Eat a light Dinner, no dessert
  • Relax
  • Optional 5 minutes of Nadishodhana (alternate nostril breathing) before bed if the day was very difficult or if there are problems sleeping
  • Go to bed by 10 pm and sleep by 11 pm

Kapha Prakriti needs only two meals a day. Lunch should be the most nourishing meal and dinner should be lighter. Breakfast should be skipped, if needed sour or acidic fruit can be eaten at breakfast time. No solid foods should be eaten in the morning. Snacking should be avoided at all times of the day. If the desire to eat sweets and snacks happens in the evening after eating then the dinner meal was too light, or not nourishing.