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Ayurvedic Diet: Eating For Optimal Health And Balance

Ayurveda is an ancient Indian system of medicine. It emphasizes a holistic approach to health and wellness.

Reviewed by Rachel Colthrop, L.Ac
Fact checked by Nattha Wannissorn
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In Ayurveda, the diet is an essential part of maintaining health. There are 6 key points to understanding an Ayurvedic diet.


Ayurveda recognizes three doshas or bio-energies in the body:

  1. Vata
  2. Pitta
  3. Kapha

Each dosha has specific qualities and characteristics.

The Ayurvedic diet aims to balance the doshas by eating foods that support your dominant dosha. It also emphasizes eating to balance the other two doshas. This can be achieved through the use of certain spices, herbs, and cooking methods.

Here’s a breakdown of the three doshas and the types of foods that each dosha should eat:


Vata Dosha:

  • Elements: air and space.
  • Qualities: cold, dryness, lightness, movement, and changeability.
  • Personal qualities: thin build, dry skin, brittle hair, anxious, restless, and having a hard time sleeping.
  • Balancing food qualities: warm, grounding foods that are nourishing and moist. 
  • Food examples: cooked grains (rice and quinoa), cooked vegetables ( sweet potatoes or carrots), healthy fats (ghee and sesame oil). 
  • Foods to avoid: raw and cold foods, as well as caffeine and alcohol.

Pitta Dosha:

  • Elements: fire and water.
  • Qualities: hot, oily, intensity, heat, and sharpness.
  • Personal qualities: medium build, sensitive skin, oily hair, easily angry, irritability, and digestive problems.
  • Balancing food qualities: cooling and refreshing foods that are high in water content.
  • Food examples: fresh fruits and vegetables (cucumber & watermelon), leafy greens, and lean protein (chicken and fish).
  • Foods to avoid: spicy and fried foods, as well as alcohol and caffeine.

Kapha Dosha:

  • Elements: earth and water.
  • Qualities: sability, heaviness, grounded, slow, and cool.
  • Personal qualities: large build, sensitive skin, oiliness, easily gains weight, and low energy.
  • Balancing foods: eat light, warming foods that are low in fat and high in fiber.
  • Food examples: spices (ginger and turmeric), as well as legumes, grains, and vegetables.
  • Foods to avoid: dairy, fatty foods, sweets, and salty foods.

Food Qualities

Ayurveda categorizes foods based on their qualities, such as hot or cold, heavy or light, and dry or oily. Eating foods that balance your dosha can help maintain a healthy mind and body.

Hot (Heating) And Cold (Cooling)

Foods are categorized as hot or cold based on their energy or virya. Hot foods include chili peppers, ginger, and garlic. They stimulate the body and increase metabolism. Cold foods include cucumber, coconut, and watermelon. They have a cooling effect on the body and can help reduce inflammation.

Heavy Or Light

Foods are categorized as heavy or light based on their properties or guna. Heavy foods, such as red meat, cheese, and fried foods, are harder for the body to digest. They can leave you feeling sluggish. Light foods, such as leafy greens, fruits, and grains, are easier to digest. They can help promote feelings of lightness and clarity.

Dry Or Oily

Foods can be dry or oily based on their properties or guna. Dry foods, such as crackers, bread, and popcorn, tend to be harder to digest. They can lead to constipation. Oily foods, such as avocados, nuts, and seeds, can help lubricate the digestive tract and promote regular bowel movements.

The 6 Tastes (Rasa)

ingredients to taste

Ayurvedic dietary guidelines also emphasize the importance of the six tastes. Each taste has a unique effect on the body and mind. A balanced diet should include all six tastes in appropriate proportions.

1. Sweet

  • Energetic: nourishing and grounding.
  • Body function: building tissue, promoting energy, and supporting the immune system.
  • Foods: grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and sweeteners like honey and maple syrup.

2. Sour

  • Energetic: stimulating and cleansing
  • Body function: promotes digestion and elimination.
  • Foods: citrus fruits, vinegar, fermented foods (yogurt and pickles), and sour flavors (tamarind and sour cherries).

3. Salty

  • Energetic: hydrating and grounding.
  • Body function: supports the nervous system and promotes fluid balance.
  • Foods: sea salt, kelp, and other sea vegetables, as well as salty foods like cheese and cured meats.

4. Bitter

  • Energetic: cooling and detoxifying.
  • Body function: promotes healthy digestion and supports the liver. 
  • Foods: leafy greens, bitter melon, turmeric, and coffee.

5. Pungent

  • Energetic: heating and stimulating.
  • Body function: promotes circulation and metabolism.
  • Foods: hot peppers, ginger, garlic, and spices like cumin and coriander.

6. Astringent

  • Energetic: drying and tonifying.
  • Body function: promotes healthy skin and mucous membranes and supports the digestive system.
  • Foods: beans, lentils, pomegranates, and vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower.

Timing Of Meals

fruit arrange as a clock

According to Ayurveda, meal times are also important for maintaining balance. Eating at regular intervals and avoiding skipping meals helps balance the digestive system. There are certain times during the day when the digestive fire (Agni) is at its peak. Eating at these times makes it easier for the body to digest food and absorb nutrients. 


Breakfast is an essential meal of the day in Ayurveda. It should be eaten between 7-9 am. The digestive fire is at its strongest during this time. making it easier for the body to digest and metabolize food. A healthy breakfast consists of warm, cooked, and easy-to-digest foods that balance your dosha.


Lunch is the main meal of the day in Ayurveda. It should be eaten between 12-2 pm when the digestive fire is at its peak. A balanced meal consists of grains, vegetables, and proteins. This helps sustain energy levels throughout the day.


Dinner should be eaten between 6-8 pm when the digestive fire is weaker than during lunchtime. Eat a lighter meal during this time. This promotes better digestion. It also ensures that the body has enough time to digest the food before bedtime.


Snacking is not encouraged in Ayurveda. It can interfere with the body’s natural digestive rhythm. If you feel hungry between meals, a light snack consisting of fresh fruits or nuts is best. Avoid heavy, processed foods as a snack.

Seasonal Eating

Ayurveda also emphasizes seasonal eating. Eating foods that are in season and grown locally helps to balance the body’s natural rhythms.

Here are some general guidelines for eating with the seasons according to Ayurveda:


Eat light and cleansing foods such as bitter greens, sprouts, and fresh berries. This helps support the body’s natural detoxification process. It also prepares it for the warmer months ahead.


Eat cooling and hydrating foods such as watermelon, cucumber, and coconut water. These foods can help balance Pitta and prevent heat-related imbalances.


Eat grounding and warming foods like root vegetables, warming spices, and cooked grains. These foods can help balance Vata and prepare the body for the cooler months ahead.


Eat nourishing and warming foods such as soups, stews, and hearty grains. These help balance Kapha and provide the body with the energy it needs to stay warm during the colder months.

Mindful Eating

In Ayurveda, mindful eating is also essential. It emphasizes paying attention to the food you eat and savoring each bite. It also is important to eat in a calm and relaxed environment.

Designing A Meal

Designing a balanced meal is an essential part of following an Ayurvedic diet. According to Ayurveda, a balanced meal should include all six tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent) in appropriate proportions. The ideal proportion of tastes in a meal will depend on your unique dosha, as well as the season and time of day.

A balanced meal should include a combination of complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and high-quality proteins, along with a variety of vegetables and spices.

  1. Choose a source of complex carbohydrates, such as brown rice, quinoa, or sweet potatoes.
  2. Choose a source of high-quality protein, such as lentils, tofu, or chicken.
  3. Add a variety of vegetables to the meal. Include leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, and colorful veggies like beets or carrots.
  4. Balance the tastes by adding a small amount of healthy fat, such as ghee, coconut oil, or avocado.
  5. Season the meal with Ayurvedic spices. Cumin, coriander, turmeric, or ginger support digestion and add flavor.

Remember to listen to your body and adjust your meals as needed. Pay attention to your dosha and any imbalances you may be experiencing. By designing balanced meals that incorporate the Ayurvedic philosophy, you can promote optimal health and wellness through nutrition. An Ayurvedic practitioner can also help you design meal plans that will best support your constitution.

At BIOptimizers, we’re agnostic about diets. Rather, we recommend you understand the pros and cons of each, and implement them as nutritional strategies at the right time for the right goals according to the hierarchy of nutritional decisions. This approach eliminates potential pitfalls of any dietary dogmas and allows you to keep your results for life. To learn more, download your free first chapter of the Nutrition Bible here.

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