The paleo diet consists of eating foods that mimic what our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate. It eschews modern-day processed foods and instead encourages fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, fish and grass-fed meats.
It also cuts out refined carbs, salt and sugar. But experts caution that it can be hard to get all the nutrients you need from this plan.
When moving toward an ayurvedic diet, you’ll likely follow these basic principles to guide your food choices and build your meals.
Despite what a modern grocery store might have you believe, “foods change from season to season,” says Douillard. “Nature’s nutritional cycle took a year to complete,” he says. Not only will you aim to eat in-season fruits and vegetables, but you’ll follow seasonality in your meals. Here are some general recommendations from Douillard to get started.
Spring Go for spring-harvested foods, like fresh leafy greens. Drink dandelion tea.
Summer Eat fresh, light, water-rich produce to balance out your hydration.
Fall Home in on nuts, seeds, and grains (to store up energy for the winter), as well as end-of-summer produce.
Winter Eat warm soups, heavy stews, and more nuts during the colder months.
The 6 Tastes
According to one review, in ayurveda, there are six major tastes, which are combined in certain ways to create your meals (more on that below).
Food Combination Principles
Next, you can follow guidance on which foods go together. “Ayurveda [holds] that certain combinations of foods are harder to digest and challenge your digestive fire [a traditional ayurvedic concept],” says Plumb. For example, some foods with competing flavors may wreak havoc on your gut (such as sour and sweet).
Note: Many of these ayurvedic principles are not based in conventional nutritional research, and if you have a chronic condition like diabetes, speak to your healthcare provider before you make any dietary changes. With that in mind, here are a few basic and typical food pairing tips, according to ayurvedic practitioners and institutions.
- Don’t mix fruit and dairy. Avoid adding berries to yogurt or milk in a fruit smoothie. Fruit is broken down quickly during digestion and turned into sugar, while dairy’s proteins take longer to digest; “together, they can create [an accumulation of] gas inside your belly,” says Plumb. Lower-sugar fruits, like berries, are better paired with nuts, seeds, and grains, some practitioners says.
- Eat most fruit, especially melons, alone. Fruits are quickly broken down in your gut, so eat these on their own. This is especially critical for melons, says Plumb.
- Don’t combine cheese and legumes. Beans and dairy can both be difficult to digest, which is why it’s preferable to keep these separate.
- Cook vegetables together. Doing so can help balance them out so they “get along,” which will ultimately aid digestion, per the Ayurvedic Institute. In addition, you want to keep raw and cooked vegetables separate, per Banyan Botanicals.
Eating for Your Constitution (Dosha)
According to ayurvedic philosophy, your dosha is your constitution, or dominant energy type, and it informs what and how you should eat. There are three main doshas: vata, pitta, and kapha, which correlate to the elements of air, water, fire, earth, and ether.
The general idea in ayurvedic eating is to balance your dosha(s), in part, with food. To do so, you may choose foods with opposite elemental properties to your dosha or doshic combination. For example, because a pitta-dominant person has a “fiery” constitution, they may want to avoid spicy peppers and opt for cooling cucumbers instead. A certified ayurvedic practitioner can help you identify your individual constitution to formulate an ayurvedic diet and wellness routine catered to you. But here are the basics of eating for your dosha.
The vata dosha correlates to the air and ether elements. “Vatas tend to be dry and cold,” says Susan Weis-Bohlen, an ayurvedic practitioner in Reisterstown, Maryland, and the author of Ayurveda Beginner’s Guide. Vata-dominant people are more likely to experience bone and joint problems (physically), and distraction and spaciness (psychologically).
Eat Warm, moist, oily, grounding foods, like warm soups and stews. Try avocados, eggs, butter, and sweet potatoes. Drink warm water.
Avoid Raw salads, bitter foods
The pitta dosha correlates to the fire and water elements. “There’s nothing a pitta loves more than a spicy, hot burrito on a summer day, or an iced frappé on a winter day,” says Weis-Bohlen. Pitta-dominant people are prone to overheating and the reactions associated with it: anger and aggression emotionally, and migraines and rashes physically.
Eat Cooling, watery foods, like coconut, cucumbers, zucchini, freshwater fish, rice dishes, and lentils. “Calming, cooling foods will help pitta balance themselves,” she says. In addition, grains, pastas, and breads, which can supply the sugar — or sweetness — may soothe an aggravated pitta’s needs.
Avoid Overly spicy foods, red wine, vodka
The kapha dosha correlates to the earth and water elements. Embodying these features, kaphas are born nurturers. “They’re likely to carry a bit of extra weight,” says Weis-Bohlen. Balance a cold and wet constitution with dry foods.
Eat Grains, like quinoa and millet; ghee, butter, and olive oil in moderation (so as not to consume excess calories), and warming spices like turmeric, cumin, coriander, black mustard seed, ginger, and cinnamon
Avoid Heavy, cold, and wet foods, like avocado