Ayurvedic diet

The Ayurvedic diet is part of Ayurvedic medicine, which has been practiced for 1000s of years. Ayurveda focuses on holistic mind and body healing. Let’s dive into the principles of the Ayurvedic diet and how to start. 

What is the Ayurvedic Diet?

The main goal of the Ayurvedic diet is to achieve svasthya — a state of optimal health. 

To get there, you must balance several physical, mental and physiological factors (i.e. strength, metabolism, temperament). 1

Along with lifestyle, certain foods and herbs may help or inhibit svasthya. Ayurveda categorizes people in doshas with specific guidelines for each. 

What dosha am I?

According to the Ayurvedic Institute, there are 3 dosha classifications. Each is a unique mix of general traits and common struggles. 2

  • Vata dosha: Lean or thin build. Usually energetic, talkative and lighthearted. Creative, moody, flexible but possibly indecisive. May struggle with anxiety, mindfulness and motivated by threats. 
  • Pitta dosha: Medium or muscular build. May have great friends but also enemies. Strong-willed and passionate. Often a leader that’s direct and takes charge. May struggle with anxiety, stress, mindfulness and bad mood. 
  • Kapha dosha: Solid or thick build. Calm, easygoing, loving and caring. May be slow to act and react but is very purposeful. May struggle with stress, threats and have less curiosity. 

Benefits of the Ayurvedic Diet

There are several great concepts in the Ayurvedic diet. While it may be hard to follow long-term, here are principles to take away from this diet:

  • Dosha personalization. Individualized diets can help you better achieve your goals and manage chronic disease. 3 You’ll get the most personalization by working 1-on-1 with a Registered Dietitian. 
  • Mindful eating. Mindful eating (AKA intuitive eating) is a specific way to consume your food. It makes you slow down so eating is an “experience.” It can help you enjoy your meal and be satisfied with smaller portions.
  • Plant-based foods. While it’s not a vegan or vegetarian diet, it emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. Plant-based diets improve various aspects of chronic disease and their biomarkers. 4
  • Well-studied antioxidants and other compounds. Turmeric, an anti-inflammatory, is often used in Ayurveda. It can support the cardiovascular system, liver, immune system, digestive system and may improve brain function. 5 Turmeric and curcumin may help in arthritis therapy, but larger studies are needed. 6 Pomegranates, another common Ayurvedic food, contain compounds that help reduce oxidative stress and fight inflammation.  

Drawbacks of the Ayurvedic Diet

Even though Ayurveda has been around for centuries, that doesn’t mean it’s totally safe or proven by science. If you’re thinking about starting the Ayurvedic diet, keep these drawbacks in mind:

  • Not a replacement for conventional medicine. While natural healing is paramount in Ayurveda, many holistic methods don’t compare to the effectiveness of modern medicine.  
  • Lacks evidence. More evidence is needed to determine if Ayurvedic dietary guidelines yield significant results. However, one study showed that an Ayurvedic diet and yoga program yielded weight loss in participants. 7  
  • No apparent rhyme or reason. As you’ll see in the dosha food lists below, it’s hard to fully understand why some foods are allowed and others aren’t. This can make it hard for you to learn and master the diet without referencing back to the lists. 
  • Some healthy foods are restricted. When you take a look at the dosha foods, you may be confused as to why some “healthy foods” are not allowed on your dosha. This may limit your options, lead to nutrient deficiencies and make it hard to stick with.

What to Eat on the Ayurvedic Diet

Ayurvedic dieters eat based on their dosha. Below are abbreviated lists of preferred and off-limit Ayurvedic foods, though they’re not based on substantial science. 8

50 Vata Foods to Eat50 Vata Foods to Avoid
Applesauce
Apricot
Asparagus
Avocado
Banana
Beef
Beet (root)
Berries
Black olives
Brazil nuts
Butter
Buttermilk
Carrots
Cashews
Chicken
Cooked apples
Cooked cabbage
Cooked oats
Cooked onions
Cooked peas
Cooked vegetables
Cow milk 
Cucumber
Dark turkey
Eggs
Fennel
Ghee
Goat milk
Green beans
Mayo
Melon
Orange
Peanuts
Pineapple
Plums
Pumpkin
Quinoa
Red lentils
Rice 
Salmon
Seitan
Shrimp
Soft cheese
Sprouted wheat bread
Strawberries
Summer squash
Tuna
Vinegar
Walnuts
Watercress
Artichoke
Barley
Beet greens
Black beans
Black tea
Broccoli
Brown lentils 
Carbonated drinks
Celery
Cereal
Chocolate
Chocolate milk
Coffee
Cold dairy
Cold soy milk 
Couscous
Dried fruits (raisins, prunes)
Dried vegetables
Eggplant
Flaxseed
Frozen vegetables
Hard liquor
Horseradish
Iced tea
Kidney beans
Lamb
Lima beans
Maple syrup
Millet
Pasta
Pears
Peas
Polenta
Pomegranate
Popcorn
Pork
Powdered milk
Raw apples
Raw onion
Raw tomato
Raw vegetables
Red wine
Tempeh
Venison
Watermelon
White sugar
White turkey
Yeast bread
Yerba mate
Yogurt
50 Pitta Foods to Eat50 Pitta Foods to Avoid
Almond milk
Almonds (soaked and peeled)
Applesauce
Avocado
Beer
Berries
Black beans
Cherries
Chicken (white)
Chickpeas
Coconut
Cooked beets
Cooked carrots
Cooked leeks
Couscous
Cow milk
Dates
Egg whites
Figs
Flaxseed
Freshwater fish
Ghee
Goat milk
Granola
Grapes
Leafy greens (kale)
Lettuce
Mung beans
Mushrooms
Pasta
Pomegranate juice
Popcorn (unsalted)
Potatoes
Prunes
Pumpkin
Quinoa
Raisins
Soft cheese
Soy milk
Sprouts
Sunflower seeds
Sweet and bitter vegetables
Sweet apples
Tofu
Unsalted butter
Watermelon
White turkey
White wine (dry)
Yogurt
Zucchini
Almonds (with skin)
Bananas
Beef
Beet greens
Brown rice
Caffeine
Carbonated beverages
Cashews
Chia
Chicken (dark)
Chili pepper
Chocolate
Corn
Dark turkey
Egg yolk
Garlic
Grapefruit
Green chili
Green olives
Hard cheese
Hard liquor
Hazelnuts
Horseradish
Kelp
Ketchup
Lemon
Macadamia
Millet
Miso
Mustard greens
Oats
Pecans
Pickles
Pork
Raw beets
Raw onions
Red wine
Rye
Salmon
Salt
Salted butter
Sesame
Sour apples
Soy sauce
Spinach
Tahini
Tomatoes
Tuna
Vinegar
Yeast bread
50 Kapha Foods to Eat50 Kapha Foods to Avoid
Apples
Apricot
Barley
Basmati rice
Beet greens
Black beans
Buttermilk
Cabbage
Carrot juice
Cauliflower
Cereal
Cherries
Chia
Chicken (white)
Chickpeas
Chili pepper
Cooked tomatoes
Couscous
Cranberries
Dry wine (red or white)
Eggs
Flaxseed
Freshwater fish
Ghee
Goat milk
Granola
Horseradish
Leafy greens (kale)
Lemon and lime
Lentils
Millet
Mung beans
Oats
Onions
Peppers
Polenta
Pomegranate
Prunes
Raisins
Salted popcorn (no butter)
Shrimp
Soy milk
Sprouts
Tapioca
Tofu
Venison
Watercress
White beans
White turkey
Wild rice
Almonds (soaked and peeled)
Avocado
Banana
Beef
Beer
Black walnuts
Brazil nuts
Brown rice
Butter
Caffeinated beverages
Cashews
Chicken (dark)
Chocolate
Coconut
Cow milk
Cucumber
Dark turkey
Dates
Hard liquor
Kidney beans
Kiwi
Lamb
Mayo
Miso
Olives
Orange
Pancakes
Papaya
Peanuts
Pineapple
Pistachios
Plums
Pork
Pumpkin
Raw tomato
Salmon
Salt
Saltwater fish
Sesame
Soy beans
Soy sauce
Sweet potatoes
Sweet wine
Tahini
Tuna
Vinegar
Watermelon
White rice
Yeast bread
Zucchini

How to Eat on the Ayurvedic Diet

A huge practice in Ayurveda is mindfulness. Mindful eating makes you stop, eliminate distractions and enjoy the meal in front of you. Doing this can help you feel more satisfied (even with smaller portions). 

How to practice mindful eating:

  1. Make your meal or snack visually appealing.
  2. Limit all distractions at meal time. No cellphone, TV, driving, eating at your desk… 
  3. Eat seated at a table.
  4. Eat until you’re 80% full. Your stomach is a vessel. Imagine what it would feel like to be 80% full. 
  5. Take your time. Make your meal last 20 minutes from first bite to last. 

It’s really helpful to practice mindful eating with foods you “binge” on. Maybe you overdo it on chocolate, potato chips or French fries. However, mindful eating should be done with all foods on the Ayurvedic diet.

  1. Payyappallimana U, Venkatasubramanian P. Exploring Ayurvedic knowledge on food and health for providing innovative solutions to contemporary healthcare. Front Public Health. 2016;4:57. Published 2016 Mar 31. doi:10.3389/fpubh.2016.00057
  2. Travis FT, Wallace RK. Dosha brain-types: A neural model of individual differences. J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2015;6(4):280-285. doi:10.4103/0975-9476.172385
  3. Bush CL, Blumberg JB, El-Sohemy A, et al. Toward the definition of personalized nutrition: A proposal by the American Nutrition AssociationJ Am Coll Nutr. 2020;39(1):5-15. doi:10.1080/07315724.2019.1685332
  4. Eichelmann F, Schwingshackl L, Fedirko V, Aleksandrova K. Effect of plant-based diets on obesity-related inflammatory profiles: A systematic review and meta-analysis of intervention trials. Obes Rev. 2016;17(11):1067-1079. doi:10.1111/obr.12439
  5. Hewlings SJ, Kalman DS. Curcumin: A review of its effects on human health. Foods. 2017;6(10):92. doi:10.3390/foods6100092
  6. Daily JW, Yang M, Park S. Efficacy of turmeric extracts and curcumin for alleviating the symptoms of joint arthritis: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. J Med Food. 2016;19(8):717-729. doi:10.1089/jmf.2016.3705
  7. Rioux J, Howerter A. Outcomes from a whole-systems Ayurvedic medicine and yoga therapy treatment for obesity pilot study. J Altern Complement Med. 2019;25(S1):S124-S137. doi:10.1089/acm.2018.0448
  8. Lad V. Food guidelines. Ayurvedic Institute website. Accessed January 27, 2021.