Ayurveda, translated as the "science of life," is a system of medicine that utilizes various therapies including diet, yoga, and herbal preparations, to restore harmony and balance within the body.
The principles of Ayurveda are based on the concept of tridosha, or the system of three doshas. The three doshas, known as Vata, Pitta and Kapha, are dynamic forces with distinct characteristics that shape all things in the universe. Each person is born with a unique constitution, called prakriti, that is composed of varying amounts of influence from each of the three doshas.
In the Ayurvedic view, an imbalance between the doshas produces a condition called vikriti, a Sanskrit word that means "deviated from nature." According to Ayurvedic principles, each individual's diet should be suited to his or her prakriti.
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 of a food is determined by its taste, either salty, sour, sweet, bitter, astringent, or pungent and its other qualities, either heavy, oily, cold, hot, light, or dry.
The Ayurvedic diet recommends foods for each dosha based on the taste and quality of food.
Vatas should emphasize the consumption of foods with a salty, sour or sweet taste. Vatas should also eat plenty of foods that are heavy, oily, and hot in quality. More specifically, Vatas do well on a meat-based diet, and can handle lots of dairy products in the diet. In addition, Vatas should eat only well-cooked foods and consume warm beverages instead of cold beverages.
Pittas should emphasize the consumption of foods with a bitter, sweet, or astringent taste. Pittas are also encouraged to consume foods that are heavy, oily and cold in quality. Pittas are well-suited to a vegetarian diet.
Kaphas should emphasize the consumption of foods with a bitter, pungent, or astringent taste. Kaphas need lots of foods that are light, dry, and warm in quality. More specifically, all vegetables are suitable for Kaphas, and because Kaphas tend to have slow digestion, ginger should be eaten every day for its ability to stimulate digestion. Although Kaphas can handle some meat in the diet, it should be eaten on an occassional basis only.