Diet is one of the key ways to maintain and restore dosha balance. According to Ayurvedic principles, each individual’s diet should be suited to his or her prakriti. And, during times of vikriti, or imbalance, the diet can be used to either decrease or increase the three doshas until balance is restored. The dosha balancing effect is determined by its taste and qualities.
In Ayurvedic nutrition there are six different tastes and six major qualities. The tastes and qualities with attributes similar to those of a dosha increase that dosha, while tastes and qualities dissimilar to the characteristics of a dosha decrease that dosha. The six tastes and the six major food qualities, and their effect on the different doshas, are listed below:
The Six Tastes
Bitter: The bitter taste is found in spinach, romaine lettuce, endive, chicory, chard, kale, and tonic water. The bitter taste decreases both kapha and pitta, but increases vata.
Pungent: The pungent taste is found in chili peppers, cayenne, ginger, and other hot-tasting spices. The pungent taste decreases kapha, but increases pitta and vata.
Astringent: The astringent taste is found in beans, lentils, cabbage, apples and pears. The astringent tast decreases kapha and pitta, but increases vata.
Salty: The salty taste is found in any food to which salt has been added. The salty taste increases kapha and pitta, but decreases vata.
Sour: The sour taste is found in lemons, limes, vinegar, yogurt, cheese, and plums. The sour taste increases kapha and pitta, but decreases vata.
Sweet: The sweet taste is found in table sugar, honey, rice, pasta, milk, cream, butter, wheat and bread. The sweet taste increases kapha, but decreases pitta and vata.
The Six Major Food Qualities
Heavy: Heavy foods include bread, pasta, cheese, and yogurt. The heavy quality decreases vata and pitta, but increases kapha.
Light: Light foods include millet, buckwheat, rye, barley, corn, spinach, lettuce, pears and apples. The light quality decreases kapha, but increases vata and pitta.
Oily: Oily foods include dairy products, meat, fatty foods, and cooking oils. The oily quality decreases vata and pitta, but increases kapha.
Dry: Dry foods include beans, potatoes, barley, and corn. The dry quality decreases kapha, but increases vata and pitta.
Hot: The hot quality describes hot beverages and warm, cooked foods. The hot quality decreases vata and kapha, but increases pitta.
Cold: The cold quality describes cold beverages and raw foods. The cold quality decreases pitta, but increases kapha and vata.
By selecting foods appropriate for your prakriti, you can maintain or restore your proper dosha balance.