“When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use;
When diet is correct, medicine is of no need.”
Good digestion is the basis of good health, according to Ayurveda. And good digestion starts with a balanced, healthy diet! Therefore, one of the most important things you can do for your health is to give your daily diet some attention.
As you can see from the proverb above, food is considered to be as powerful as medicine in Ayurveda. In fact, there is a sloka (excerpt of verse from the ancient texts of Ayurveda) that says “food is medicine when consumed properly.” If we eat foods uniquely suited to our physiology, and follow a sattvic (life supporting) routine that enhances digestion, our bodies will reap the benefits, and we will find that our days will be happier, healthier and filled with real vitality — at any age.
The Ayurveda-Digestion Connection
According to Ayurveda, one of the most important factors in health is good digestion. When your digestive fire (agni) is strong, ojas (life essence) is abundant in your mind and body. When, on the other hand, your digestion is poor, ama (toxins) are deposited in the digestive tract. Over time, when ama accumulates it can give rise to all manner of discomforts in the mind and body, ranging from acid stomach, constipation, and/or diarrhea, to skin issues, allergies, brain fog, hampered immunity, and a host of other problems.
Below, you’ll find some basic dietary Ayurvedic principles for optimal digestion.
The Ayurvedic Diet: Eat According to Your Dosha Type
One of the key tenets of Ayurveda is that no two people are alike, and therefore, no two people’s dietary needs are exactly the same. For this reason, there is no “one-size-fits-all” Ayurvedic diet. In Ayurveda, the ideal diet is based on an individual’s constitution, also known as their “dosha type” or “mind-body type.” The three mind-body types (or dosha types) are: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
The doshas are mind-body elements that govern all facets of our bodies’ functioning—from the size and shape of our body to the power of our digestion, the way our thoughts move, and the way we speak. Not sure what your Ayurvedic mind-body type is? Take our Dosha Quiz and get personalized recommendations for your ideal diet and lifestyle.
10 Ayurvedic Dietary Dos and Dont's
Knowing your dosha (mind-body) type is the first step toward finding the perfect diet for you. That being said, there are some basic Ayurvedic dietary foods and practices that apply to everyone. They are as follows:
Favor a Vegetarian Diet. The Ayurvedic diet is, generally speaking, a whole foods diet rich in plenty of fresh, organic produce, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, and—if tolerated—dairy foods like milk, yogurt, and soft cheeses like panir. Fruits and vegetables (largely cooked) are valued in Ayurveda not only for their nutritional value, but also because they are good natural internal cleansers. The specific food guidelines for Vata Dosha Diet, Pitta Dosha Diet, and Kapha Dosha Diet will help you choose a variety of fruits and vegetables suited to your physiology and the season.
If meat is currently part of your daily diet—don’t worry! Simply aim to reduce the quantity you eat and favor lighter proteins like fish and chicken, over heavier, harder-to-digest proteins like red meat.
Avoid Processed Foods, Leftovers, and Raw/Cold Foods. Whereas whole foods promote ojas (life essence, as you recall), foods that are overly processed, frozen, canned, and full of additives and sugar are harder for your body to break down efficiently into nutrients. Leftovers fall into this category, too. As a result, it’s better to avoid “junk foods” like these and turn your attention to whole foods instead.
Note: raw foods, while technically whole foods, are harder to digest than cooked foods. For this reason, Ayurveda generally favors well-cooked, lightly spiced veggies over raw salads. Ice-cold foods and drinks are also better avoided, as they dampen the digestive fire and can lead to indigestion (ice water and cold soda, we’re looking at you!). Caffeinated beverages and alcohol are best avoided, or consumed in moderation.
- Include all Six Tastes in Every Meal. In Ayurveda, taste plays a big role in food selection, because different tastes affect the doshas—the mind-body elements responsible for every facet of the body’s functioning. The six tastes are: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, astringent, and pungent. Each one has a different effect on the doshas. From the perspective of Ayurveda, a healthy meal includes all six tastes, thereby harmonizing the doshas. Learn more about the six tastes of Ayurveda and how they affect your digestion.
Eat Three Meals a Day. Routine is everything in Ayurveda! For this reason, it’s helpful to “train” your agni to receive three solid meals per day, rather than grazing and snacking throughout the day (which can overburden the digestive system), or fasting and skipping meals (which can throw your digestive fire out of balance).
Make Lunch Your Biggest Meal and Dinner Your Lightest. As the sun reaches its highest point in the sky, at noon, your digestive fire is at its highest, too. For this reason, Ayurveda recommends eating your largest meal of the day at noon, when your inner fire is burning brightly and better able to digest and assimilate.
Eat a lighter, well-cooked meal at least three hours before bed, and try to be in bed around 10:00 p.m. or before. Eating a big, heavy meal late in the evening can tax your body when it’s doing its nightly “rest and repair” cycles.
- Eat in a Calm, Settled Environment. Balanced health goes beyond physical wellness to well-being in mind, spirit, emotions, and the senses as well. The food we eat can nourish our mind, body, and emotions, not just our body. Cooking and eating in a harmonious atmosphere turns food into nectar. A pleasant, tidy, cheerful environment and the nurturing company of friends or family will actually make mealtimes more nourishing. When eating, try to avoid watching TV, reading, checking your screens, scrolling the news, or discussing stressful topics.
- Eat a Balanced Amount. Your mother told you to always clean your plate, but Ayurvedic wisdom advises you to eat until you feel comfortably full, and no more. When you start to burp, that would be about enough! Try to avoid eating to the point of discomfort, or eating rationed portions that leave you feeling hungry and dissatisfied.
- Be Spice Wise. Spices not only add flavor and aroma; they also bring therapeutic value to any meal. Spices help boost natural immunity, and most of them can rev up your digestion so your body is able to absorb and assimilate the nutrients from the foods we eat! If you are new to the world of spices and aren't quite sure what to choose, try one of our ready-to-use Churnas.
Stay Well Hydrated. An Ayurvedic diet would be incomplete without a mention of liquids! It’s important to stay hydrated throughout the day by drinking pure water (either room-temperature, or warm for cleansing). At lunch, you can also drink lassi, a probiotic Ayurvedic beverage made from yogurt, water, and spices. And don’t forget the balancing power of Ayurvedic teas!
Our Raja's Cup comes with antioxidant power as well as rich coffee-like flavor. Our delicious, therapeutic Herbal Teas have balancing effects ranging from calming and cooling to soothing worries and helping with sleep. Vata and Pitta-predominant types: at bedtime, try a cup of Organic Vata Tea, or boiled milk. Try boiling milk with a slice of fresh ginger, or blended with a spoonful of Organic Rose Petal Spread, or made with our Organic Vata Tea (Vata Milk), or with a pinch of cardamom or nutmeg to aid sleep.
- Try Herbal Digestives. Sometimes, your body just needs a little extra help with digestion. Ayurveda offers a wealth of time-tested botanical formulas to help improve digestion comfortably and naturally. For an overall digestive boost to help you curb cravings, try Herbal Di-Gest, a powerful formula with pomegranate, cumin, and ginger. If occasional acid indigestion crops up, Aci-Balance is an excellent, cooling option that offers both short-term and long-term comfort. Sluggish gut? Our Organic Digest Tone (Triphala Plus) is a classic three-fruit formula that supports digestion, elimination, and absorption.
Ready to get started with Ayurvedic eating? Be sure to check out our extensive collection of Ayurvedic recipes for inspirations, tips, and more!
© 1999, 2021 Maharishi AyurVeda Products International, Inc. (MAPI). All Rights Reserved. MAPI does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. See additional information.