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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 Equal type, or Vata/Pitta/Kapha type, of person will tend to have a strong, regular digestive capacity. In general, this is the best constitution for health, but also the rarest. Most foods in moderation are good for this type. They are closer to the Pitta/Kapha type than any other mix with a strong, regular, slightly slow digestive metabolism. They should avoid too many sweets and too much fried or oily food as their Kapha side can increase. They should also avoid too much fermented or pungent food – such as avoid daily consumption – because their Pitta side can easily become aggravated. Lastly, regular meals are very important to keep their Vata side in balance and stable. Hence, they should consume food in moderate amounts and at regular intervals during the day. Seasonal foods are the best for everyone and this is also true for the Equal type. Note a seasonal diet of changing according to constitution is not usually required for the Vata/Pitta/Kapha type. However, if there is a sign of weight gain the person can eat a Kapha diet from the 1st of December to the end of March (Northern Hemisphere).

Note that the Vata/Pitta/Kapha or Equal type is considered to be rare. These types of people are by far the least common, representing less than five percent of the population. They have the strongest immunity and are rarely sick. If you have a doubt about your constitution or Prakriti it is better to start with the hypotheses that you are a Dual type rather than an Equal type.

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

Summary of Vata Pitta 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. This is less important for the Equal type of person. 

Quality of food should be made a priority: organic, local, and seasonal when possible.

Vata / Pitta / Kapha diet

Equal types have to make sure not to overeat, not to indulge in desserts and they should generally skip breakfast. Equal types tend to have a slower, strong metabolism (balanced Agni) so they have to pay close attention to the quantity of food and the consumption of food to keep healthy. Equal types should prioritize neutral, pungent and bitter tastes and minimize astringent, sour and salty tastes.

Short Outline of Dinacharya for Vata Pitta Kapha Prakriti 

  • Wake up early in the day, before sunrise when possible
  • Go to the toilet and remove waste (stool, urine, etc.)
  • Drink 300ml of warm water
  • Start cooking Ginger tea (see recipe {link page})
  • Clean or scrape the tongue, then gargle with Sesame oil (Gandusa)
  • Do Jala Neti if needed (nasal wash)
  • Add one drop of ghee to each nostril
  • Do Abhyanga every second day or three times per week (Sesame oil all over the body, or a Vata Massage Oil)
  • Do Yoga Asana or exercise for 20 to 30 minutes, end with 5 minutes of Nadishodhana (alternate nostril breathing)
  • Meditate 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 medium Breakfast with fresh fruits
  • Go to work
  • Eat a medium Lunch; if tried or sleepy after eating the quantity was too much
  • Take a short walk to digest and relax
  • Go to work
  • Exercise now if unable to exercise in the morning
  • Eat a medium Dinner
  • Relax
  • Go to bed by 10 pm and sleep by 11 pm

The Vata Pitta Kapha Prakriti needs three equal meals a day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner should be roughly the same size from medium to fairly large. Vata Pitta Kapha types need more food than the other types due to the strong Agni (digestion) and balanced bodies. They need to eat every five or six hours. Skipping meals should be avoided. Snacking should be avoided between meals. It is better to eat substantial meals and avoid snacking. This type should follow a Kapha diet from late fall and winter and a Pitta diet in the early spring until mid-summer, and a Vata diet from late summer to late fall.