We’ve never been believers in the one-size-fits-all approach to diet and nutrition. But after our conversation with Ayurveda expert Sahara Rose where she answered the question “what is Ayurveda?” we became even more convinced that what you need to eat varies greatly from person to person — and even from day to day! The Ayurvedic tradition holds that we’re governed by three primary mind-body type, or doshas, and that depending on what dosha is dominant, your nutritional needs will be different. In this clip, Sahara Rose shares what each dosha needs in order to achieve balance and optimal health.
Vata: characterized by the moving, dynamic nature of wind. Vata energy is associated with creativity, communication, and lightness.
Pitta: characterized by the transformative nature of fire. Pitta energy is associated with intelligence, energy, warmth, and deep understanding.
Kapha: characterized by the binding nature of water. Kapha energy is associated with stability, heaviness, love, and compassion.
While you probably have a sense of which one you are just by reading these description, you can also take Sahara Rose’s dosha quiz to get a more detailed assessment.
It’s also important to note that your dosha type isn’t static. While you might have a particular dosha that remains dominant throughout your life, the particular balance of the three doshas will fluctuate from day to day and year to year, subsequently influencing your nutritional needs. Sahara Rose explains that your particular dosha balance will change based on factors like age, whether or not you’re menstruating, your stress levels, and so on.
So rather than saying “I’m a pitta,” and leaving it at that, it’s important to take stock each day. “It’s really about assessing where you are right now,” Sahara Rose says.
Choosing the Right Food and Nutrition for Your Dosha
Depending on your dominant dosha, and how you’re feeling on a given day, your nutritional needs will be different.
If you’re feeling overly “windy” (ie, bloated, gassy, constipated), your vata energy is out of balance and you need to eat more warming, grounding foods that will build up your digestive fire — the reason for your bloated feeling, Sahara Rose says, is that you’re not breaking down foods.
Cooked foods, spices, and root vegetables are good choices. Root vegetables are key, because, as Sahara Rose explains, “in Ayurveda, we take on energy from everything we eat.” So the root vegetables grounding properties will be transferred to you. This can also help with anxiety or insomnia, which are other symptoms of imbalanced vata energy.
If you have too much pitta energy, your digestive fire is too strong. That might mean you feel acidic, have heartburn, or get hot very easily. To balance this, you need more cooling, light foods, like coconut water, leafy greens, mint and other fresh herbs. It’s no coincidence that cooling foods grow in the summertime. As Sahara Rose said: “Look at what nature provides us with at that season, and most of the time it’s what our bodies need.”
An overabundance of kapha energy means that you are overly grounded in your body, which can mean that you gain weight very easily because your body holds onto everything you put into it. To balance this grounding energy, you need more stimulating foods that will turn up your metabolism, in particular strong spices like turmeric or cayenne pepper (remember that lemon-cayenne cleanse? That basically uses this principle — though not in a particularly balanced or healthy way). Kapha energy can also be balanced by choosing light foods and avoiding dairy and carb-heavy items that promote heaviness in your body.
Though exactly what you need to eat is complex and different each day, the underlying principle is a simple one. Says Sahara Rose, “it’s looking at your body where it’s at and eating foods with the opposite quality so you can regain balance.”
Watch our full interview with Sahara Rose to learn more about the ayurvedic diet, why eating seasonally is so important, how cold water affects your health, and much more.