Eating Ayurvedic: A Diet for Balancing Vata
The diet to balance vata is similar to the many of the high-fat diets out there, including the Atkins, Weston A. Price, ketogenic and Paleolithic diets. In Ayurveda a high-fat diet is used to help regulate a fast metabolism, to help put on weight and balance the nervous system. It is useful to nourish the body, enhance fertility and prevent aging. High fat diets are also useful to slow a strong appetite, and when eaten with lots of vegetation can be an effective weight loss strategy for some.
- Soup stock made from bones, marrow and seaweed (e.g. Soup Stock p. 147)
- Nourishing, fatty meats prepared as soups and stews, e.g. pork, lamb, goat, mutton, fish, beef, bison (e.g. Five-Spice Bison Stew, p. 164)
- Leafy greens and other vegetables, eaten lightly stir-fried with warming herbs and spices (e.g. Spicy Saag, p. 154)
- Starchy vegetables, prepared with fat and moisture (e.g. Ginger-Tamari Winter Squash, p. 156)
- Whole grains and legumes, prepared as soups and stews with herbs and spices (e.g. Urad Mung Dhal, p. 180)
- Boiled milk, with herbs and spices (p. 173)
- Fermented foods, e.g. pickles, sauerkraut, kefir, yogurt (p. 158)
- Stewed fruits, prepared with spices and fat (p. 199)
- Nourishing oils and fats such as olive oil, sesame oil, butter, ghee
- Warming herbs and spices, e.g. ginger, cinnamon, garlic, fenugreek, basil, hing, cumin
- Salty foods, such as seaweed, sea salt and mineral salts
How do you know if a vata-balancing diet is right for you? One way to use the diet is to treat vata-specific health issues, such as aging, epilepsy or anxiety, and another way is to use it to balance your constitution. What follows are the features of a vata constitution, taken from my book Food As Medicine: The Theory and Practice of Food. Please also check out the pages on a pitta-balancing and kapha-balancing diet to see if these diets are more suitable. Remember too, that you can be a combination of the doshas, and so the best might be a balanced combination of two or three different diets.
Vata constitution is more sensitive to qualities such as dryness, coldness and lightness, and thus measures are taken on a general basis to balance these aspects by emphasizing qualities such as wet, hot and heavy. Physically, there is a general tendency to being underweight, with dry rough skin, small wiry muscles and irregular proportions. The bony prominences of the skeleton and the veins are easily observed due to a deficiency in the overlying muscular and fat layers. Vata types will usually display a strong aversion to cold, with irregular or poor peripheral circulation. A tendency to more or less constant movement, often confused or peripheral to the situation at hand, including twitching, tapping, bouncing, picking and shaking. The joints often pop and crack, and the muscles have a tendency to go into spasm. Vata is the most sensitive of the constitutional types to sensory stimuli, with poor powers of recuperation and endurance. Digestive powers are typically weak or erratic (vishimagni), with a general tendency to constipation.
Stay tuned for next week’s post featuring “How to Eat to Balance Kapha”