View Lifestyle info

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/Kapha type of person will tend to have a slow steady digestion with some periods in the autumn of a variable digestive capacity. There needs to be blending to some extent of the Vata/Kapha diets as this person is neither a pure Vata nor a pure Kapha type. So, removing extremes in the diet is good. For example, this type of person can eat a small breakfast if hungry. They can eat a small amount of sweet foods and they can also take some natural oils with their meals. All of these changes are needed to keep Vata in balance. However, if too much oil, sweets or heavy food is eaten their Kapha side will increase and they will gain weight. Regularity of meals is very important to keep the Vata side of this type in balance, while food choices are more important for the Kapha side. This type should eat a Vata diet from the 1st of June to the end of November and a Kapha diet from the 1st of December until the end of May (Northern Hemisphere).

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

Summary of Vata 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

Dual or mixed types should be put together. Generally dual types will tend to have some of both types and not have any clear-cut distinction between the two. The traditional way Ayurveda worked with these types was to have them change the kinds of foods they eat according to the seasonal changes in year. 

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 / Kapha diet

Vata Kapha types have to make sure not to overeat, not to indulge in desserts and they eat a light breakfast. Kapha types tend to have a slower metabolism (Munda Agni) and Vata types have a variable digestion (Vishama) so they have to pay close attention to the quantity of food and the consumption of simple carbohydrates, especially sugar, to prevent gaining weight or developing hypoglycemia. To balance out the oily, cold, heavy, dry, light and variable qualities (Gunas) of Vata Kapha prioritize warm, light, pungent, mildly sharp qualities in meals. The variable to low agni will benefit from these changes. Vata Kapha types should prioritize pungent, bitter and neutral tastes and minimize astringent, sour and salty tastes. A mixed type should eat roughly have the year a diet for Vata and half the year for Kapha with some blending of the diets.

Outline of Lifestyle (Dinacharya) for Vata Kapha Prakriti

  • Wake up early in the morning, before sunrise when possible
  • Go to the toilet to remove waste (stool, urine, etc.)
  • Drink 500ml of warm/hot water
  • Start cooking Ginger tea (see recipe {link page})
  • Clean or scrape the tongue, then gargle with Sesame oil (Gandusa)
  • Put 1 or 2 drops of Sesame oil in each nostril (Snehana Nasya)
  • Do Abhyanga every second day (apply sesame oil all over the body, or a Vata Massage oil)
  • Do mild Yoga Asana or mild exercise for 20 to 30 minutes, end with 5 minutes of Nadishodhana (alternate nostril breathing)
  • Meditate for 10 to 15 minutes
  • Take a hot shower or bath to remove oil from Abhyanga
  • Get dressed
  • Finish making Ginger tea, put in thermos to drink the whole day
  • Eat a light Breakfast that favors acidic fruit and warm drinks
  • Go to work
  • Eat a medium Lunch with some cooked food, dairy products are OK
  • Take a short walk to digest and relax
  • Go back to work
  • Mild exercise (optional: depending if there was morning exercise)
  • Eat a medium Dinner with mainly cooked food
  • Relax
  • Optional 5 minutes of Nadishodhana (alternate nostril breathing); follow with hot shower. Do this if one has had a very stressful day
  • Go to bed by 10 pm and sleep by 11 pm

Vata Kapha Prakriti needs three meals a day. Breakfast should be light and lunch and dinner should be about the same size. Lunch is fairly open with heavier foods. The Vata Kapha 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. 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. This type should eat a Vata diet from spring to fall and a Kapha diet from late fall through the winter.