Ayurveda: How India Uses Food to Heal

Everyone is different. We learn to embrace this meme in kindergarten, yet as we grow, our world homogenizes and sterilizes much like the cafeteria food that shapes us in those precious formative years. But if we are different, should we all be eating the same foods? Not quite, according to the Indian practice of Ayurveda.

Based on the principles of three distinct constitutions, Ayurveda suggests that everyone has a dominant trait, or dosha. These traits are noted in our appearance, our personality and how we are affected by foods. Some of us are fiery (pittas), some are a bit cooler (vatas) and some are earthy (kaphas). While we all have elements of each, we are typically dominant in one trait, but we can also have imbalances in others. You could be a kapha with too much wind energy (vata) or vice versa. And, what you eat or don’t eat can help to balance your system.

From mild issues such as insomnia or constipation to more serious health problems, food can make a huge difference.

How do you know what your dosha is?

There are lots of online surveys and books you can read, but the best way to identify your true dosha is to have a visit with an ayurvedic practitioner. What we may read in a book or online and diagnose as our true constitution may actually just be an imbalance.

Once you have an understanding of your body’s dominant humor, it’s then fairly easy to begin balancing it by adding certain foods and herbs, and eliminating others.

Fortunately for all constitutions, there are foods that are always balancing. You can use these if you’re experiencing recent or mild upset to your state of normal:

Sweet fruits (never dried): Stone fruits (peach, plum, apricot, pear), avocado, banana, berries, dates, citrus, pineapple, mango.

Cooked vegetables: Green leafy vegetables, squash, asparagus, carrots, beets,potato,artichokes.

Grains: Amaranth, oats, rice, wheat, wild rice, millet

Legumes and nuts: Adzuki beans, almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, flax, hazelnuts, mung beans, lentils, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, walnuts

Herbs: Allspice, basil, bay leaf, black pepper, cardamom, cayenne, chamomile, cinnamon, coriander, coconut, cumin, dill, fennel, garlic, ginger, mustard, nutmeg, parsley, peppermint, poppy seeds, rosemary, sage, spearmint, salt, turmeric, vanilla

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Photo: thepinkpeppercorn