As one of the oldest medicinal systems in history, Ayurvedic principles and foods work with the body’s innate intelligence in order to promote natural self-healing.
Ayurvedic diets are customized depending on someone’s specific body type (or “constitution”), called a dosha. Because Ayurveda is based on rhythmic changes found in nature — including the rise and fall of the sun each day, the changing seasons, and the phases of life (birth, aging and death) — foods included in an Ayurvedic diet change throughout the year and can also fluctuate throughout someone’s lifetime.
In Ayurvedic medicine, health is defined as a state of equilibrium with one’s self (svasthya) and is also closely linked to one’s environment. While following a nutrient-dense, personalised diet is very important in Ayurvedic medicine, there are also other Ayurvedic lifestyle practices that help prevent disease and optimize well-being, both physically and mentally.
Ayurveda addresses the whole person — the body, mind and spirit — which means that diet, stress management, sleep, use of herbs and/or supplements, and movement all come together to support overall health.
So what are just some of it’s benefits?
1. Helps Improve Digestion
Ayurvedic diets include many wholesome foods that are easily digested, nutrient-dense and capable of improving gut health. Traditional Ayurvedic practices are used to transform the way that wholesome foods are metabolized, for example, by fermenting and cooking ingredients to make their nutrients easier to digest. Foods can be prepared in ways that help relieve digestive discomfort, such as served raw, dried, smoked, grilled, pickled, fermented or steamed.
There’s evidence that the Ayurvedic diet may help people overcome conditions affecting the gastrointestinal system, such as hyperacidity, irritable bowel syndrome, hemorrhoids, diarrhea, constipation and heartburn. Another major advantage of eating an Ayurvedic diet is that it limits processed, inflammatory foods that can lead to poor gut/microbiota health. These include foods like artificial additives, processed grains and refined fats. A major focus of the Ayurvedic diet is limiting “incompatibilities,” or foods that are not tolerated well. Incompatibilities that might lead certain foods to be excluded from someone’s diet depend on factors like the food’s processing, quantity/dose, time/season, combination of ingredients and specific tastes.
2. May Help Support Weight Loss or Maintenance
One study involving 200 subjects from a mix of the three doshas found that following an Ayurvedic diet appropriate for each participant’s dosha encouraged weight loss or healthy weight maintenance. At the beginning of the study, kapha and pitta people were heavier than vata people, and after the three months of therapy, the pitta group lost the most weight while both the pitta and kapha experienced improved in multiple measurements. The researchers’ conclusion was that “diets based on Ayurvedic constitution may prove useful in promoting weight loss.” There’s also evidence that Ayurvedic diets may help normalize hormones, improve insulin sensitivity and help prevent diabetes.
3. Encourages Eating Organic, Seasonal and Locally Grown Foods
The Ayurvedic diet always changes along with the seasons because we need different sources of nourishment at different points in the year. No matter what someone’s dosha is, it’s important to eat a diet that balances whichever dosha is peaking due to the season. Kapha is said to peak during late winter and early spring, vata to peak during summer, and pitta to peak during fall and early winter. According to Ayurvedic principles, here are guidelines for how to follow an Ayurvedic diet depending on the season:
Winter — You might notice that your appetite and hunger increase due to the need to build inner warmth. Eat less cold and light foods, like raw veggies, smoothies and salads. Eat more nourishing healthy fats, complex carbs like cooked grains, soups and stews. Increase intake of sweet, sour and salty flavored foods, but reduce intake of sour, pungent and bitter foods. Consume ghee, warming spices and raw honey to boost immunity.
Spring — Eat more bitter, astringent and pungent foods instead of sweet, sour and salty foods. Emphasize lighter, drier and warmer foods over heavy, fatty foods. Eat meat and fruit sparingly, consume more green plants, use warming spices, eat smaller portions, and increase exercise.
Summer — Eat more naturally sweet foods, and minimize hot tastes (spicy, pungent, sour, salty) and dry foods (those that are astringent and bitter). Emphasize cool, moist foods over dry foods, eat less fats, and consume more lighter foods. Eat less hot foods, soups or stews, and have more fresh fruits and veggies. Enjoy more freshly made juices, coconut products, yogurt, smoothies and cooling plants like cucumber, berries and melons.
Fall — Eat sweet and slightly bitter and astringent foods instead of pungent, sour, salty foods. Find a balance between cooling and hot foods and light and heavy foods. Eat more soups, warming spices, pomegranates and seasonal well-ripened fruits. Also eat more bitter, green veggies and spices.
4. May Help Improve Moods
According to Ayurveda, psychological states — including lust, anger, greed, desire, attachment and ego — are closely linked to food. Because the Ayurvedic diet takes into account someone’s specific body and mental type, metabolic processes and biological rhythms, plus seasonal variations and life stages, it can help improve mood stabilization and energy by tailoring the diet to someone’s specific needs.
For example, an Ayurvedic diet might include more grounding foods like complex carbs and healthy fats if someone is feeling nervous, having trouble sleeping or dealing with anxiety. Lighter foods, like smoothies and fruit, are recommended to reduce anger and lust. Specific tastes, like sweet, sour, bitter and salty, are also used to mitigate negative effects of someone’s constitution.
5. Fights Fatigue and Low Immunity
An Ayurvedic diet can also be helpful for overcoming fatigue, lethargy and susceptibility to illnesses due to stress. Foods like cooked vegetables; buttermilk; spices like garlic, cardamom, pepper and ginger; and honey are used to improve energy levels, prevent anemia and support immunity. Along with a healthy diet, herbs and supplements are also used in Ayurvedic medicine to improve the body’s ability to deal with stress, such as adaptogen herbs like ashwagandha and ginseng.
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