Ayurvedic Diet Guide: Delving Into Ancient Wellness Practices

When a diet is more than just a food list.

There is a lot of intrigue surrounding traditional medicine and considering wellness in a comprehensive way.

The Ayurvedic diet is a great example of an approach to eating that takes a more holistic approach than just viewing nutrition in a silo independent from other health behaviors. 

Instead of just following a specific food list or counting your calories for weight loss, this lifestyle exceeds just nutrition but also focuses on other practices to improve your well-being.

In this guide, we will discuss what the Ayurvedic diet plan involves, the principles behind it, and what you can and cannot eat on the Ayurvedic diet. 

Let’s jump in!

Post it notes with the following saying on them: eat healthy, exercise, sleep well, keep things simple, think positive.

What Is the Ayurvedic Diet Plan?

Before we delve into the specifics of the Ayurvedic diet plan, discussing what “Ayurveda” means is helpful. 

The word “Ayurveda” is a combination of two Sanskrit words: Ayur, which means life, and Veda, which means science.

Therefore, the literal translation of the term Ayurveda is the “science of life.”

Ultimately, Ayurveda is an ancient wellness practice that dates back about 5000 years with its origins in India. The Ayurveda diet was birthed from the concepts of these traditional ways of eating and the traditional medicinal wellness and health practices of Ayurvedic medicine.

Ayurvedic medicine is all about holistic wellness, which extends beyond just physical health and wellness such that it includes the realms of spiritual and emotional wellness and happiness.

Therefore, in addition to guidelines about healthy foods, the Ayurvedic diet includes certain wellness practices surrounding nutrition and eating, such as mindful eating and exercise.

It also promotes healthy lifestyle practices such as getting enough sleep, living mindfully, and seeking to feed your soul as much as you feed your body.

A person smiling at the camera.

How Does the Ayurvedic Diet Work?

The principles of the Ayurvedic diet plan center around a concept known as eating foods for your specific “dosha.”

A dosha is essentially your constitutional type or a way to describe how your body and metabolism process food and use energy versus store energy.

The thinking is that if you follow the Ayurvedic diet plan in accordance with your specific dosha, you will give your body the best fuel to achieve ideal body weight, prevent or manage diseases, and attain optimal overall health and wellness.

Like other traditional medicinal diets and for health and wellness, the Ayurvedic diet is centered around eating natural, unprocessed, whole foods and finding balance in your diet as well as your life.1Rioux, J., & Howerter, A. (2019). Outcomes from a Whole-Systems Ayurvedic Medicine and Yoga Therapy Treatment for Obesity Pilot Study. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine25(S1), S124–S137. https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2018.0448

‌Generally, the Ayurvedic diet plan doesn’t involve calorie counting or counting specific macros such as how much protein, carbs, or fat you are eating in a day.

A group of women hugging each other.

Rather, you are supposed to focus on certain types of food, meals, and eating behaviors to support your body. 

This is then supposed to help your body, mind, and soul regulate appetite, energy, and hormonal balance and ultimately find an ideal body weight appropriate for your build, metabolism, and genetics.2Rioux, J., Thomson, C., & Howerter, A. (2014). A Pilot Feasibility Study of Whole-systems Ayurvedic Medicine and Yoga therapy for Weight Loss. Global Advances in Health and Medicine3(1), 28–35. https://doi.org/10.7453/gahmj.2013.084

‌While much of the theory behind the Ayurvedic diet plan is lacking in scientific evidence, there are several factors of the diet that can be incorporated into any healthy nutritional plan.

However, some aspects of the diet can be overly restrictive and not grounded on enough evidence.

Therefore, in my work as a Certified Nutrition Coach, I generally suggest incorporating some components of Ayurvedic dietary habits into a well-balanced nutritional plan but not necessarily following the Ayurvedic diet meal plan to a T.

A person eating.

How Do You Follow The Ayurvedic Diet Plan?

Again, the defining characteristic of the Ayurvedic diet style is that you eat according to your dosha, which is basically your dominant constitutional type or a way to describe your metabolism and body shape.

Much like how the Western culture uses somatotypes (endomorph, mesomorph, and ectomorph), Ayurvedic medicine uses the concept of doshas to describe both your body shape as well as how your body uses energy.

There are three main Ayurvedic doshas, all of which are derived from the five elements: space, air, fire, water, and earth. 

The characteristics of each of the three doshas are based on the specific combinations of the different elements:

  • Vata Dosha: space and air
  • Pitta Dosha: fire and water
  • Kapha Dosha: earth and water

You may be a blend of two doshas in the same way that might not fall squarely into one somatotype.

A person smiling.

However, you are supposed to try to choose your dominant Ayurvedic doshas when settling on your Ayurvedic diet plan.

It is recommended that beginners see an Ayurvedic doctor to determine their dominant dosha and to get specific guidance for the best Ayurvedic diet plan for their health needs.

If this is not possible, there are online questionnaires here to help you figure out your dosha for the Ayurveda diet.

Regardless of your primary dosha, the Ayurveda diet plan has some consistent principles that govern eating habits and wellness behaviors.

What Are The Ayurveda Diet Principles?

Each Ayurveda diet meal is supposed to include foods that hit on all of the primary taste notes, which are called rasas in Ayurvedic eating.

These include sweet, salty, sour, bitter, pungent, and astringent. These different tastes are also supposed to be consumed in a particular order during an Ayurvedic diet meal.

First, each meal begins with a sweet-tasting food.

Then have a salty food and a sour food. An example is fish and lemon, fish for the salty food and the lemon for sour food.

A person looking at their food, smiling.

Finally, finish the meal with pungent foods such as onions or astringent and bitter foods such as green tea, celery, or mustard greens.

Eat mindfully, and with concentration; all other distractions such as TV watching, reading, and even talking should be avoided. Pace your eating appropriately so that you are eating slowly enough to taste the food yet fast enough to prevent the food from getting cold.

Eat the correct portions, and never eat to the point of truly feeling full. Only have a meal when your previous meal has been digested so that you actually feel hungry.

Ayurvedic diet meal plan suggests a meal timing eating every 3-6 hours, meaning that you should be satiated for at least three hours, but you should not wait six hours for your next meal.

Eat your Ayurvedic meals in a pyramidal fashion such that breakfast is your largest meal, then lunch, followed by a small dinner.

Cooked vegetables.

What Can You Eat On the Ayurvedic Meal Plan?

The Ayurvedic food list depends on your dominant dosha type. Here is a brief summary of the foods to eat on the Ayurvedic diet basin on each dosha:

Ayurvedic Diet Vata Foods

  • Cooked veggies such as asparagus or beets
  • Whole grains such as quinoa or rice
  • Sweet fruit such as apples or cherries, but only in a cooked preparation
  • Bread
  • Protein sources such as beef, fish, eggs, and some types of dairy, in moderation
  • Nuts and seeds such as pecans, peanuts, Chia seeds, or flaxseeds
  • Fats including sesame oil and ghee
  • Spices and condiments such as black pepper, vinegar, and coriander leaves
  • Beer or white wine

The Ayurvedic diet Veda meal plan avoids the following:

  • Vegetables that are frozen, raw, or dried
  • Raw apples and watermelon as well as dried fruit
  • Starchy vegetables such as corn and potatoes
  • Barley
  • Legumes including chickpeas and split peas
  • Proteins such as turkey, lamb, and yogurt
  • Red wine
  • Chocolate
Sliced watermelon.

Ayurvedic Diet Pitta Foods

  • Sweet or bitter vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, or kale
  • Fruits, mainly just watermelon and raisins in moderation
  • Proteins such as egg whites, white meat chicken, and black beans in moderation
  • Almonds and coconut for healthy fats, along with unsalted butter
  • Pasta and dry cereal for greens
  • Beer and dry white wine for alcoholic beverages 

The Ayurvedic diet Pitta meal plan avoids the following:

  • Pungent vegetables such as onion, garlic, raw leeks, and spinach
  • Sour fruits, as well as apricots
  • Bread made with yeast, brown rice, rye, quinoa
  • Fatty fruits such as avocado, along with other fats such as sour cream and salted butter
  • Fatty meat such as beef and dark meat chicken, as well as all seafood other than shrimp
  • Chocolate
  • Red wine or sweet wine
  • Soy sauce, chili pepper
Cottage cheese.

Ayurvedic Diet Kapha Foods

  • Pungent or bitter vegetables like celery, onions, or carrots
  • Astringent fruits such as prunes or applesauce
  • Proteins such as turkey, shrimp, and lima beans
  • Dairy including buttermilk and cottage cheese
  • Granola cereal
  • Dry red wine or white wine

The Ayurvedic diet Kapha meal plan avoids the following:

  • Juicy or sweet vegetables such as zucchini, cucumber, and summer squash
  • Sweet or sour fruits such as grapefruit, oranges, or figs
  • Grains such as cooked oats, pasta, rice, wheat, pancakes
  • Proteins such as tofu, duck, kidney beans, and freshwater fish
  • Chocolate
  • Soft or hard cheeses
  • Ketchup
  • Hard alcohol and spirits 
A sign that says healthy life.

Overall, the Ayurvedic diet plan isn’t rooted in much scientific evidence in terms of the foods you should be eating for your primary constitution.

However, there are some Ayurvedic diet health benefits that can create a healthy lifestyle when it comes to food and your well-being.

These include the emphasis on mindful eating, incorporating different flavors into each meal to satisfy your physical and emotional desires for food, incorporating exercise and sleep into your lifestyle, and only eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full. 

Additionally, there are no processed foods, foods with added sugars, or artificial ingredients in Ayurvedic diet plans.

However, the Ayurvedic diet meal plan food lists are limiting and can be difficult to follow.

Nutritional deficiencies can develop if you are too rigid and confined with how few foods you are eating in your Ayurvedic diet recipes.

Plus, this diet style is relatively impractical if you have a family and each person has a different dominant dosha. You would need to make different Ayurvedic diet recipes for each member of the family.

Furthermore, choosing the correct dosha may require seeing a special Ayurvedic doctor.

Finally, Ayurvedic medicine generally incorporates herbal supplements as well, some of which may be untested or can interact with other medicines you are taking.

Therefore, you should speak with your doctor before switching to Ayurvedic remedies.

A person stretching.

References

  • 1
    Rioux, J., & Howerter, A. (2019). Outcomes from a Whole-Systems Ayurvedic Medicine and Yoga Therapy Treatment for Obesity Pilot Study. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine25(S1), S124–S137. https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2018.0448
  • 2
    Rioux, J., Thomson, C., & Howerter, A. (2014). A Pilot Feasibility Study of Whole-systems Ayurvedic Medicine and Yoga therapy for Weight Loss. Global Advances in Health and Medicine3(1), 28–35. https://doi.org/10.7453/gahmj.2013.084
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Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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