Food For Thought

Does your stomach bother you after eating certain foods? Are large meals unsatisfying to you? Ayurveda may offer solutions. The Sanskrit ayur means "life" and veda means "knowledge." This ancient Indian system of medicine aims to prevent illness and disease by maintaining balance throughout the body.

One way to achieve this equilibrium is through diet. According to Ayurvedic theory, individuals are comprised of varying degrees of three forces: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. When these forces are in harmony, we achieve health. Using the checklist below, determine which force governs you and identify the best foods to help you uphold balance.

—Brie Doyle

Which Are You?

Check the qualities that are most like you. The force checked most is your dominant one.

Choose the best foods for balance.

Air

Vata
Quick mind and wit (but poor memory retention)
On the go (physically and mentally)
Difficulty establishing regular patterns and routines
Loves heat and the sun
Thin body

To decrease Vata
Choose sweet, sour, and salty tastes

To increase Vata
Choose pungent, bitter and astringent tastes

Fire

Pitta
Determined
Intelligent, alert, and organized
Temperamental
Loves cool temperatures
Well-proportioned body

To decrease Pitta
Choose sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes

To increase Pitta
Choose pungent, sour and salty tastes

Earth

Kapha
Slow, but good endurance
Calm, loving, and complacent
Patterns and routines easily established
Loves heat; bothered by cold, damp weather
Thick, large frame

To decrease Kapha
Choose pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes

To increase Kapha
Choose sweet, sour and salty tastes

The Six Tastes

Sweet

Sour

Salty

Pungent

Bitter

Astringent

Sugar

yogurt

olives

wasabi

dark green leafy vegetables

lentils

honey

sour cream

soy sauce

chilies

eggplant

beans

milk

lemons

tamari

peppers

rhubarb

green apples

butter

blue cheese

seeweeds

garlic

sesame

green grapes

breads

pickles

chips

onions

chocolate

pears

almonds

tomatoes

mustard

beer

chard

meats

raspberries

radishes

coffee

spinach

avocados

strawberries

tea

orange peels

sweet fruits

lemon peels

sweet vegetables

Sources: Stop Your Cravings by Jennifer Workman, MS, RD (The Free Press, 2002); Ayurveda: A Life of Balance by Maya Tiwari (Inner Traditions, 1995); Ayurvedic Cooking for Westerners by Amadea Morningstar (Lotus Press, 1995); The Ayurvedic Cookbook by Amadea Morningstar (Lotus Press, 1990); Ayurveda: The Science of Self-Healing by Vasant Lad (Lotus Press, 1984).