In ayurveda, an ancient Vedic system of natural healing (also known as “alternative medicine”), optimal health is said to be achieved when three elemental substances, or doshas, are in balance. Humans, being composed of these same elemental substances, tend to manifest one dominant dosha’s characteristics physically, emotionally and mentally–leading to an imbalance in the others. To counter your dominant dosha and achieve balance you are supposed to eat foods that oppose and/or honor its characteristics.
Still with me here?
Assuming your hippie bullshit radar is properly tuned, it is no doubt firing at full blast. But hear me out because this is cool.
I first studied doshas in my yoga teacher training but at the time was also working on my masters in standard Western nutrition and really could not be bothered by all the hippie bullshit so it went in one ear and out the other. A few weeks ago I felt compelled (for some unknown reason) to give it another look and have been (quite literally) devouring all of it since.
Specifically, I shifted a stale, boring diet of cold salads and smoothies to one heavy on warm comfort foods with butter and carbs galore and I feel better than ever. Not buying it? Here’s the deal…
I am vata dosha. Vata, composed of air and ether, represents movement and is: cold, light, dry, irregular, moving, quick and changeable. Physically, vatas are thin and agile with dry hair (hello.) and skin and cold hands and feet. Emotionally, vatas are energetic, creative and flexible and crave new and exciting experiences. A vata imbalance manifests physically as weight loss, weakness and restlessness. An imbalanced vata will feel worried, anxious and stressed.
To counter these inherently cold, dry, flighty characteristics, vatas should seek a warm and grounding lifestyle, including foods that are oily, heated and heavy.
Anything that chills the body is off limits which means my usual frozen morning smoothie is (allegedly) a terrible way to start my day and should be traded for something like oatmeal. Raw vegetables aggravate vata so my daily salad is swapped for lentils and rice. Dry, light foods don’t do anything to help ground so I’m supposed to opt instead for heavy sweet fruits like bananas, coconut, papaya and pineapple. In fact, all sweeteners are recommended for vata–I suspect to balance our extreme bitterness? (I knew I loved this diet.)
I don’t know. I’m into it. I’ve always known that salads just don’t do it for me and that carbs are very important to me (rice and wheat are best for vata) and that I’m freezing all the time.
Please believe I’m not actually following a strict ayuvedic diet (at ALL). I do, after all, put ice in my drink when I feel like it and it’s not as though I’ll never eat another salad. But I definitely do believe that certain foods make me feel better than others and they happen to be the ones that violate a lot of the popular nutrition out there right now: NO GLUTEN. NO CARBS. NO SUGARY FRUITS. TONS OF RAW LEAFY GREENS. LOW FAT. AVOID BUTTER AT ALL COST.
I find myself getting caught up in the hype sometimes and that’s when I get stuck in the smoothie-salad cycle of lameness that, as it turns out, certainly isn’t harming me but might not be doing me any favors either. Not in the Vedic sense anyway.
What I have forever hated about diets in general is that no one program can work for everyone but they are often packaged that way, as a one-size-fits-all solution. I guess that’s why I like this idea of eating for who you are.
You can determine your dosha with an online quiz here.
You can find dosha food lists to favor and avoid here.