At the basis of Ayurveda are the four elements; water, air, earth, and fire. These elements hold numerous different qualities. Air is quick moving and tends to be cold but is also necessary to move oxygen through our bodies. Water is moist, clear, and needs to be pure in order to sustain life. Earth is heavy, grounded and full of nutrients needed for nourishment. Fire is hot and penetrating and without heat all living things will die. Each one of these elements, along with their qualities, can be found in our fruits and vegetables. These foods are vehicles for the elements to enter into our body. This is why eating a diet full of living and nutrient dense fruit and vegetables is imperative to a whole life, healthy life-force (prana), and strong digestive fire (agni).
In Ayurveda, the doshas and elements are broken down together. Air as Vata, Fire as Pitta, and earth and water as Kapha. You are born into this world with a specific elemental energy, but in Ayurveda, we like to call it your Prakriti. Your Prakriti is the nature that exists in your body, is determined at the time you are born, and remains constant throughout your life.
Just as you hold certain qualities to nature, so does our food. As the saying goes in Ayurveda, you are what you digest. If you are eating things with the same qualities as your prakriti, you most likely will develop an imbalance that then leads to dis-ease. This is why eating for your dosha is key.
Although Ayurveda observes eating for the doshas as an important principle, it also emphasizes that eating a well balanced meal that includes all tastes and elements is the goal. Consider the current season, summer. The qualities of summer are dry and hot. Therefore, the fruits and vegetable produced during this season help balance those qualities by being hydrating and cooling. Some examples are berries, melons, figs, cucumber, basil, squash, and at the very end of summer apples. Eating seasonally is critical because the harvest that is produced supplies necessary vitamins, minerals, and elemental qualities for your body during that season. In Fall and winter, you will see many fruits and vegetables that are loaded with vitamin C as well as antioxidants to help support your immune system during times of the year you are more likely to become sick.
Eating seasonally will always have strong benefits, but taking it a step further and eating for your dosha will increase your health even more. In summertime, a Vata prakriti might feel their best. The warmer weather helps the colder vata, as well as heating foods like stone fruits, corn and peppers. A Kapha prakriti might experience the same as the summer qualities help their agni, but can tend to be drawn toward sweet and sticky, which can negatively impact them. However, a Pitta prakriti might feel that summer is too much due to the fact that the qualities of summer and qualities of Pitta are the same. A Pitta prakriti would want to strictly stick to cooling foods and stray towards cooling elements during this season.
Some examples of cooling fruits and veggies during the summer are:
- Red grapes
Some examples of heating fruits and veggies during the summer are:
- Stone fruits (apricots, peaches, cherries, plums)
- Green grapes
- Brussel Sprouts
- Chilies and Peppers
- Brown Rice
- Most nuts (except almonds)
Notice how most of the cooling foods tend to have a lot of water, and can be eaten raw. They are hydrating and cooling, helping to balance agni, are nutrient dense and help energize you through the summer. Take the chance to walk through your local farmers market this season to check out the beautiful spread of colors and seasonal produce that you could indulge in. Your body and nature will thank you!