Most diets out there give you hard and strict guidelines. That is not the case in Ayurveda. In fact, the Ayurvedic diet is tailored towards your dosha type, and some of the recommendations can shift with the season or as you age because your dosha can change during these times.
Understanding your dosha is the only “homework” needed to successfully implement an Ayurvedic diet. Really, this is just a dive into understanding who you are, how you tick, what throws you off balance and what makes you thrive. To start, discover your dosha type by taking this simple dosha quiz. Once you complete it, you will know if you are a vata, pitta, kapha or combination of these dosha types.
The beauty of an Ayurvedic diet is that it doesn’t have to be done all at once. I have been refining my Ayurvedic diet for more than two decades and I continue to make modifications to it. Why? Because my hormones have changed, I need more support for my joints and skin than I did 20 years ago, and I want to make sure that I have a strong and clear mind 20 years from now. I know my future is determined by what’s at the end of my fork today and Ayurveda helps me take a proactive and individualized approach in shaping my future health.
Practice Intermittent Fasting
For those who live in a time zone where the sun sets really early during certain times of the year, avoid eating after 6pm. This will generally give you at least 12 hours of fasting time. As you get older, your fasting time should become longer—aiming for 15 hours is best after the age of 40.
The reason that intermittent fasting is so important is because your gut needs a break to stay efficient, and your body detoxes and repairs overnight. If your digestive tract is working overtime during the night, your body won’t detoxify and regenerate as effectively because it’s too busy trying to digest your midnight snack.
Fasting during sundown honors your circadian rhythms. This automatically generates more energy and greater mental clarity, allowing you to jump out of bed feeling fresh and vibrant each morning.
Quick Start the Ayurvedic Diet
If you’re now convinced that the Ayurvedic diet and lifestyle is for you, but you’re not sure how to incorporate the general recommendations, here are a few simple ways to get the ball rolling:
- Swap out salt and white sugar for healthier, less inflammatory alternatives (for salt alternatives, try sea salt or Himalayan salt; for white sugar, try coconut palm sugar, jaggery or honey);
- Swap out butter or margarine for ghee; try to cook at least one meal a day with ghee;
- Swap out cold drinks for room temperature or warm beverages;
- Add at least one digestion-promoting spice to your meal (turmeric, cumin, fennel, cinnamon, etc.);
- Chew your food at least 15 times per bite;
- Reduce fast and processed foods by 25% and add one whole food to each meal;
- Reduce your intake of meat and carbs by increasing the number of vegetables you’re eating; aim for half your plate to consist of vegetables;
- Make one meal a week completely plant-based. Slowly work up to one entire day a week as a plant-based day—(maybe Meatless Mondays!);
- Reduce your use of the microwave by 25% and then after one month reduce it again to hit 50%;
- Reduce your consumption of leftovers by 25% and then after one month reduce it again to hit 50%;
- Grow an herb you can use in cooking like basil, dill or cilantro. As a next step, consider planting a fruit tree or starting a vegetable garden; and
- Meditate for 20 minutes a day. There is no pill or herb that has the global health benefits of a 20-minute daily meditation routine.
Vatas Take a Stroll After Eating
A brief, relaxing 5–15-minute walk will ground you and help to pull vata dosha types downward to support healthy digestion. Otherwise, the naturally airy vata energy can be dispersed upward into mental energy if you jump right back into work following a meal. This upward movement of vata negatively impacts the digestive fire.
Pittas Go Green
Pitta dosha types tend to favor certain fruits and vegetables over others. Pitta types should choose juicy cooling fruits such as melons and pears, green leafy vegetables (except for spinach) and cool or room temperature beverages. Pittas should minimize the consumption of sour and salty foods, acidic foods and beverages and meats.
Kaphas Spice It Up
Unlike pitta dosha types, kapha dosha types should consume spicy and bitter tastes, room temperature or hot beverages, honey and ghee in moderation and warm, cooked foods. Kaphas should avoid sweeteners, dairy and oils, salt, meats and cold drinks and desserts.
The Power of Mantra
There is an Ayurvedic proverb, “What you eat becomes your mind.” What this means is that your food influences everything about your mind—the way you think as well as your clarity, mood and memory. The foods we drink and the beverages we consume literally become a part of who we are and the impact that has on not only our brain, but our gut microbiome shapes the health of every organ in our body.
Today, after more than two decades of implementing an Ayurvedic diet, I am still finding ways to better care for myself through modifications in my diet, like including the power of mantra in our home garden. I do this by filling a metal container with water while I do my evening meditation, which involves chanting a mantra out loud. The water absorbs the vibrations of the mantra and I then give this water to our fruit trees and vegetables. Since I have been doing this, our garden is producing more food and the fruits and vegetables are much more flavorful and vibrant.
This lifelong connection to food is one of the great rewards of an Ayurvedic diet. What is on your plate becomes the result of a nurturing and respectful partnership between you and Mother Nature.
Dr. Kulreet Chaudhary
Dr. Kulreet Chaudhary, MD, is a neurologist, neuroscientist and an internationally recognized expert in the ancient practice of Ayurvedic medicine. She earned her medical degree at Loma Linda University School of Medicine; completed her internship at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and neurology residency at University of California San Diego (UCSD). Chaudhary is the author of “The Prime” (Penguin Random House, 2016) and “Sound Medicine” (Harper Collins, 2020); is a pioneer in the field of integrative medicine and is a highly sought-after speaker, researcher and adviser for Healthy Directions. She is the former director of Wellspring Health in Scripps Memorial Hospital, where she successfully combined conventional treatments with Ayurvedic practices of detoxification, diet and lifestyle management to help patients effectively manage chronic neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and migraine headaches. Her program was so successful that it is now used for a wide range of health concerns, including weight issues and chronic disease. Through her integrative approach, Chaudhary teaches her patients about the connection between mind, body and spirit, which impacts every aspect of health both physically and mentally. Learn more at www.DrKChaudhary.com.