I recently had the pleasure of signing up for my own insurance plan and what an experience it was! The cost of healthcare, even under the Affordable Care Act, can be too high for many families to afford. The more I learn about the current healthcare system in the United States, the more I want to find alternatives. Our system is far too flawed, inaccessible, and money-driven to be sustainable. But luckily there are alternatives!
One alternative that I’ve found particularly fascinating is Ayurveda. It’s a system of preventative medicine developed in India around 5,000 years ago. The word Ayurveda is comprised of two Sanskrit words: Ayu, meaning “life” and Veda, meaning “balance”.
Balance is an important concept in Ayurvedic medicine, as it’s thought that health is a result of the balance between mind, body, and environment. Understanding doshas, or mind-body types, helps to maintain the balance that leads to a healthy being. It’s also important in Ayurveda to eat foods that either have a balancing effect on the dominant dosha or foods that will help stabilize a dosha that has become excessive.
The three dosha types are Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, each corresponding to an element and expressing a blend of emotional, mental, and physical characteristics. In the diagram below, you can see these three dosha types inside the innermost hexagon. If you’re curious about your dominant dosha you can take the Dosha Quiz here. It doesn’t take long to complete and at the end you’ll have the opportunity to learn a lot more about your dosha type.
- Quick minds
- Grasp new information quickly
- Infectious enthusiasm for life
- Emotionally sensitive and empathetic
- Love change and thrive on new experiences
- May be sensitive to sound/touch
Since Vata is dry, cooling, and light, Vatas should favor foods that are oily, warming, or heavy. Vata should enjoy sweet, heavy fruits like bananas, avocados, mangoes, berries, etc. while eating fewer dry, light fruits like apples, pears, and cranberries. Vatas should cook their vegetables and minimize raw vegetable consumption as cooked foods are best for easy digestion. All varieties of nuts are recommened but beans can aggravate Vata so try to be mindful of them.
- Perform well under pressure
- Excel in setting big goals and persevering until mastery is achieved
- Articulate, bold, direct
- Abundance of stamina and energy
- Warm and loving friends
Pitta is characterized by the fire element and as such Pittas should favor foods that are cool and refreshing and reduce foods that are spicy, salty, or sour. They should avoid yogurt, cheese, and sour cream which have the tendency to aggravate inflammation. They should also avoid the nightshade family (think peppers, tomatoes, eggplant) and should instead favor veggies like asparagus, sweet potatoes, broccoli, summer squash, and green leafy things.
- Peaceful and calm yet capable of skillful action
- Loyal and devoted friends
- Accepting and non-judgemental
- Detail oriented
- Steady minds
- Inherent desire to help others
Kapha should avoid foods that are fermented, including curds and cultured dairy products. Instead, they should favor foods that are light, dry, and warm. Kapha types can eat all spices and herbs but should be cautious with salt. Grains such as barley, buckwheat, and rye are best. The light, dry fruits that should be avoided by Vata types (think apples and cranberries) are perfect for Kapha types.
Doshas are only a small part of Ayurvedic medicine but if you want to learn more about the history of Ayurveda or its other principles here are a few websites with a lot of information:
It’s important to recognize that what we consume is directly related to the way we feel and how we function. Understanding our dosha types can help create a more holistic view of how we approach our health. Remember that there are many valuable alternatives to Western medicine! More often than not, prevention is key so do your research and stay informed. Let’s take care of ourselves, look out for our neighbors, and foster sustainable communities 🙂
-Destiny Dahl, Story Core & Sustainability Intern