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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 Vata type of person will tend to have a variable digestive capacity. This means that foods that are concentrated and hard to digest should be avoided or taken in small amounts. The Vata type is also sensitive to gas forming foods and foods that deplete the moisture content in the body. The astringency of some foods has a drying effect on the tissues and can deplete moisture content in tissues. The Vata type is the most prone to have food allergies due to their variable enzyme function. These people tend to binge and have both a variable appetite and digestion. Hence, they should consume food in moderate amounts and at regular intervals.

In the table below a summery is given on the effects of food groups on the Vata type of person. 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 Vata type and judge nutritional value accordingly.

Summary of Vata 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.

Vata Diet

Oily, moist, warm, soft, nourishing foods will be the most beneficial to counter balance dry, light, cold, mobile, rough qualities (Gunas) and the variable agni of Vata. Regular meals should be made a priority. Vata should prioritize neutral, sour and salty tastes and have less astringent and bitter tastes. Also, be careful with concentrated, gas-producing and drying foods such as crackers, chips, etc. Vata types are prone to food allergies, because of the three types they have variable enzyme production (Vishama Agni). Be aware of the tendency to binge eat or skip meals, opt for moderate and regular meals instead.

  • 3 meals per day; moderate size – 1/2 to 2/3 of a dinner plate
  • No snacking
  • Fruit 1x per day, not dry fruit, favor sweet, moist fruit before a meal or at 17h (5pm)
  • Whole grains for every meal, be careful to cook them well – about half of each meal
  • Vegetables 3x per day, the same amount or a little less than grains depending on which kind – root veggies are OK all the time for Vata types
  • Meat / Fish and sweeteners are OK if not vegetarian, but 1x per day if needed – meat & fish limit to 100g per meal
  • Use small amounts of dairy every day; spices like nutmeg, cardamom can be used to help digest dairy
  • Beans can be taken in small amounts 2x to 3x per week, use less than 1/4 of a dinner plate
  • Favor neutral foods, cooked and warm, with ghee or oil, sour and salty tastes are good
  • Avoid raw foods except in summer or seasonal fruit
  • Avoid eating too much bitter and astringent foods like beans, cabbage family; green salads are OK with salad dressing that is oil based to reduce light, cold attributes of the salad
  • Be careful with coffee and tea; drink enough water, more when you wake up in the morning (e.g., up to 1 quart (1 liter) and then drink during the day when thirsty
  • Nuts 1x per day, small amounts only (e.g., 3 almonds)
  • Supplements if needed 3x to 4x per week
  • Eat at regular times, do not skip meals! Chew properly, with attention, do not indulge in snacking!


Outline of Lifestyle (Dinacharya) for Vata Prakriti

  • Wake up early in the morning, before sunrise when possible
  • Go to the toilet to remove waste (stool, urine, etc.)
  • Drink 750ml to 1 liter of warm/hot water
  • Clean or scrape the tongue, then gargle with Sesame oil (Gandusa)
  • Put 1 or 2 drops of oil in each nostril (Snehana Nasya)
  • Do Abhyanga (apply sesame oil all over the body, or a Vata Massage oil)
  • Do mild Yoga Asana or mild exercise for 10 to 20 minutes, end with 5 minutes of Nadishodhana (alternate nostril breathing)
  • Meditate for 5 to 10 minutes
  • Take a hot shower or bath to remove oil from Abhyanga
  • Get dressed
  • Eat a light to medium Breakfast
  • Go to work
  • Eat a medium Lunch with some cooked food
  • Take a short walk to digest and relax
  • Go back to work
  • Mild exercise (optional: depending if there was morning exercise)
  • Eat a light to medium Dinner with mainly cooked food
  • Relax
  • Optional Abhyanga if needed, with optional 5 minutes of Nadishodhana (alternate nostril breathing); follow with hot shower. Do this if one has had a very stressful day
  • Massage the bottoms of the feet with oil, put socks on (to protect the sheets).
  • Go to bed by 10 pm and sleep by 11 pm

Vata Prakriti needs three meals a day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner should be about the same size. Vata type should not eat too much or too little; if they are hungry three hours after eating the meal was too light; if they are hungry six to seven hours later the meal was too heavy. Vata types can have a snack at 4 pm to 5 pm if they eat dinner later than 7.30 pm due to work; they should avoid sweets at this time – dried fruit, nuts, etc. are better in the afternoon. Snacking at other times should be avoided.