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The Holistic Approach

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Forget new diet fads and trends! Aakriti Patni tells you about age-old Ayurvedic diets and the secret to a healthy lifestyle the holistic way

An ancient medicinal system that originated more than 3,000 years ago in India, Ayurveda, the science of life and longevity, combines the profound thoughts of medicine and philosophy to bring to people the highest quality of physical, mental and spiritual growth. One of the fastest paths to a healthier and holier lifestyle, Ayurveda has an effect on your emotional and mental well-being, while also focusing on a healthier physical lifestyle.

A holistic approach to health, Ayurveda draws out three energies or doshas — Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Each dosha is responsible for bringing about particular physical and personality traits. An Ayurvedic diet takes into account your body type or dosha and formulates a meal plan according to its characteristics, ensuring that your diet supports your body and is in tandem with how it functions. Not fads, but rather the oldest and healthiest diets that existed, Ayurvedic diets are specially designed according to your body type and do not depend on the latest superfood or technology to help you lose weight. Furthermore, an Ayurvedic diet isn’t just for those who want to shed weight; it’s a healthier lifestyle option that everyone should adopt.

But, if you’re confused about which dosha governs you and how to adopt a holistic diet, we are here to help you out. We spoke with Luke Coutinho, health coach in the field of Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine and Holistic Nutrition, Prameet Kotak, holistic wellness expert, and Ayurvedic doctor, Dr. Ravi Paneri, about the Ayurvedic diet and the different doshas.

1. VATA DOSHA

This dosha represents the element of air and governs the physiology of motion. Luke helps us understand the characteristics of Vata Dosha and the kind of diet and exercise routine that go with it.

DIET PLAN

The ideal diet for those trying to balance Vata Dosha would consist of warm, cooked soupy foods as well as nuts and vegetables and hot milk.

Principles

  • Eat warm, soft and cooked foods.
  • Avoid dry and crunchy foods, as well as raw vegetables and salads.
  • Eat cooked cereal, oatmeal or stewed fruits for breakfast.
  • Eat dairy products such as yoghurt and cheese during the day.
  • Sweet, sour and salty tastes should be favoured, while bitter and spicy tastes should be avoided.
  • All nuts and oils can be consumed.

Foods to eat

  • Fruits and vegetables: Sweet and sour fruits such as bananas, oranges, peaches and cherries are good dietary options. You can eat beetroot, carrot, cucumber, spinach, radish, sweet potato, tomato, zucchini and asparagus.
  • Grains: Rice and wheat products and cooked oatmeal are beneficial. Make sure to eat less barley, millet, buckwheat and rye.
  • Dairy: According to Luke, good fats such as ghee and butter work well for Vata Dosha, as do milk, yoghurt and cheese.
  • Legumes: Eat yellow moong dal and red lentils (laal masoor dal)
  • Spices: Cumin, ginger, cardamom and black pepper in small quantities are good. Turmeric tea will provide relief from indigestion.

EXERCISE ROUTINE

Those who fall in this category, are generally enthusiastic and have bursts of energy, but tend to tire quickly, so an ideal workout for those of this type should be non-intensive and slow-paced. Since the Vata body type is on the slender side, smaller and more fragile, a high-intensity workout routine can backfire and lead to depletion of resources and energy, rather than benefit you. Since Vata Dosha governs the physiology of motion, your exercise routine should work to develop balance and agility.

Principles

  • The ideal time to exercise is early morning. Afternoons can also prove to be productive for working out.
  • Avoid exercising at night, as this can prove to be too stimulating, disrupting your sleeping pattern.
  • Engage in slow-paced, non-weight-bearing and low-intensity exercises.

During the winters, keep your exercise routine indoors.

Exercises

  • Relaxing, rhythmic activities balance Vata Dosha and so activities such as yoga, tai chi, swimming and rollerblading are ideal choices.
  • Avoid power yoga as it may prove to be too strenuous on the muscles. Instead opt for restorative yoga.
  • When the weather is warm, make the most of nature and exercise outdoors. Take long walks, hikes or cycle.
  • If you’re keen on weight training, stick to light weights and a short workout time to avoid straining yourself.

Body characteristics

Slender and bony body structure, dry skin, frizzy hair and a cold body temperature. An imbalance may cause you to suffer from insomnia, constipation and fatigue.

Personality characteristics

A quick learner, creative and excitable, you adapt easily and enjoy change but you tend to get anxious and nervous easily.

2. PITTA DOSHA

This dosha represents the element of fire and governs the physiology of metabolism. Prameet and Dr. Ravi help us understand the characteristics of Pitta Dosha.

DIET PLAN

Those trying to balance Pitta Dosha should avoid spices, alcohol, coffee and acidic foods. Their diet should consist of juicy and sweet fruits and vegetables high in water content.

Principles

  • Eat your meals at regular, scheduled times.
  • An imbalance of Pitta Dosha may be due to eating too much hot and spicy, salty or fermented food.
  • Balance Pitta Dosha with sweet, bitter and astringent tastes and cool foods.
  • Allow time for leisure and relaxation; don’t overwork yourself.
  • Avoid fried foods, tea and coffee, red meats, nuts and a high protein diet.

Foods to eat

  • Fruits and vegetables: Sweet grapes, mangoes, oranges, plums, kiwi, papaya and coconut are good options. Vegetables such as cucumber, sweet potato, zucchini, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage and green leafy vegetables (except spinach).
  • Grains: You can eat wheat, white rice, barley, oats and quinoa. Avoid corn, millet and rye.  
  • Dairy: Include milk, butter and ghee in your diet. Avoid cheese, but it is alright to eat cottage and cream cheese.
  • Lentils: All lentils should be consumed in moderation.
  • Spices and herbs: Coriander, cilantro, turmeric, cumin and saffron can be eaten.

EXERCISE ROUTINE

Ambitious and with a strong drive to win, those with Pitta Dosha are active and energetic. Pitta Dosha represents the element of fire and thus this body type tends to have a high functioning metabolism. However, they are prone to overheating and sweating profusely, which is something they have to avoid in order to balance their dosha. So those with Pitta Dosha should avoid exercising in direct sunlight.

Principles

  • The ideal time to exercise would be early morning or early evening.
  • Avoid exercising outdoors during the afternoons, or when the sun is at its strongest.
  • Exercise in cool environments and engage in water-based activities to keep your body temperature in check.
  • Outdoor activities prove to be the best form of working out.

Exercises

  • Calm and cooling excercises balance the Pitta Dosha and so water-based activities such as swimming, kayaking, surfing and paddle-boarding are ideal choices. 
  • Exercise outdoors when the weather is cool and try winter sports such as skiing, snow boarding and ice-skating.
  • Competitive and strenuous sports such as tennis, racquetball and basketball should be followed by a cooling activity such as swimming.

Body characteristics

A lean body with good muscle tone, sensitive to heat and warm temperatures, you may experience premature baldness, greying or thinning of hair and a reddish-pink complexion. An imbalance can cause digestive problems such as acidity and diarrhoea.

Personality characteristics

Intelligent, ambitious and a perfectionist, you may be temperamental and get irritated and frustrated easily.

3. KAPHA DOSHA

This dosha represents the element of water and governs body structure and growth. It is the most common body type, and Luke decodes the diet for this dosha.

DIET PLAN

A diet rich in spices, vegetables and legumes will benefit those with Kapha Dosha. They should avoid fatty foods, sweets and foods rich in salt because of their slow digestion.

Principles

  • It’s important to maintain a balanced diet and a regular workout routine.
  • Eat warm, cooked food and drink hot beverages.
  • Avoid cold beverages and frozen desserts such as ice creams.
  • Warm temperatures suit this type.
  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule.

Foods to eat

Fruits and vegetables: Pomegranates, peaches, apples, papaya and guava are perfect for the Kapha Dosha diet. Green leafy vegetables, asparagus, carrot, potato, beetroot, peas, broccoli and cauliflower are also good options to include in your diet.

Grains: Wheat, rice, barley, oats, corn, millet and rye recommended.

Dairy: Drink low-fat milk and avoid whole milk. Lassi and buttermilk are also good options.

Lentils: All lentils can be eaten.

Spices: Spicy food is perfect for the Kapha Dosha diet and sharp flavours such as ginger and pepper work wonders. Avoid excess salt.

EXERCISE ROUTINE

With a strong build and great physical strength, the Kapha body type is perfectly built for high-intensity workouts. But, an imbalance in this dosha leads to sluggish body movements and those with this dosha will be stagnant and unmotivated to exercise. So, a fast-paced and high-intensity workout regime is suited to this dosha, as it gets the blood pumping.

Principles

  • The ideal time to exercise would be between 6am and 10am or later in the evening, between 6pm and 9pm. 
  • Maintain a strict workout regime, one that is high in intensity and builds stamina.
  • Avoid missing or skipping your scheduled workout as it will throw you off and you may find it difficult to bounce back.
  • Appoint a personal trainer or exercise with a gym buddy to make sure that you are motivated and don’t miss a day of exercise.
  • Exercises where you work up a sweat will be more effective.

Exercises to follow

  • High intensity and fun activities are the best workouts for this dosha, so try new things like zumba, aerobics, hot yoga and spinning classes.
  • Weight training and cardio workouts are both ideal for this dosha, so incorporate weight-lifting exercises and perform cardio-related exercises such as skipping in between weight training.
  • Change your workout regime from time to time. For a change replace gym routine with adventure sports.

Body characteristics

Typically a large body structure, with a tendency to be overweight, you have wide hips and shoulders, oily skin and thick and wavy hair. An imbalance in this dosha may  cause you to suffer from chest congestion, blocked nose, sluggish digestion and high triglycerides.

Personality characteristics

You’re a slow learner, but have a good memory, are honest, loyal and reliable.

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