Ayurveda: The Best Diet for the Pitta Dosha
What Are Ayurvedic Doshas?
In Ayurvedic philosophy, the five elements (air, earth, ether, fire, and water) combine in pairs to form three dynamic forces or interactions called doshas. Dosha literally means "that which changes." The word is derived from the Sanskrit word, 'dus', which is equivalent to the English prefix 'dys,' such as in dysfunction, dystrophy, etc. Here, dosha can be regarded as a fault, mistake, error, or a transgression against the cosmic rhythm. Dosha is also known as the governing principle of every living being in nature.
In Ayurvedic medicine, body types are classified into three doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. But, it's important to understand that although we may be dominant in one dosha, we have the energy of all three present in our body. Most people will actually be a combination of two of these doshas, with the third only playing a minor role. Because our bodies contain all three, any of them can get out of balance. The element combinations of each dosha are as follows:
- Vata: Air and Ether
- Pitta: Fire and Water
- Kapha: Water and Earth
In this article, I will be going into detail about the Pitta dosha only, as it would take volumes to write about them all!
What Is the Pitta Dosha?
Elements and Energy
Pitta is the force created by the dynamic interplay of water and fire. These forces indicate transformation. They influence and control each other, but their balance is vital. Imagine that if you had too much fire, it would boil your water away. If you had too much water, it would put out the fire.
What May Cause an Imbalance in Pitta?
- heat and humidity
- excessive movement
- too many hot foods—both in terms of spice and temperature
- overconsumption of oil, caffeine, salt, red meat, and alcohol
Characteristics of a Pitta-Dominant Person
- good digestion
Associated Parts and Processes of the Body
- small intestine
- sweat glands
- body temperature
- skin coloration
- brightness of the eyes
- intelligence and understanding
- feelings of anger, hate, and jealousy
What Foods Balance Pitta?
You can balance excess pitta with foods that are cool, dry, and heavy with a mild, naturally sweet, bitter, or astringent taste. For example, milk, rice, beans, steamed vegetables, and sweet, ripened fruit are good for the Pitta dosha.
- Vegetables: asparagus, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, green beans, green (sweet) peppers, leafy green vegetables, lettuce, mushrooms, okra, parsley, peas, potatoes, sprouts, squash, sweet potatoes, zucchini
- Fruits: apples, avocados, cherries, coconut, figs, dark grapes, mangos, melons, pineapples, plums, prunes, raisins
- Grains: barley, oats, wheat, white rice (preferably basmati rice)
- Meat: chicken, shrimp, and turkey (all in small amounts only)
- Eggs and Dairy: butter or ghee (clarified butter), egg whites, ice cream, milk
- Beans: chickpeas, mung beans, tofu, and other soybean products
- Nuts and Seeds: coconut, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds
- Oils: coconut, olive, soybean, and sunflower
- Herbs and Spices: Spices should be generally avoided as they heat the body. In small amounts, the following sweet and astringent spices are okay: cardamom, cilantro (green coriander), cinnamon, coriander seed, dill, fennel, mint, saffron, turmeric, and small amounts of cumin and black pepper.
- Sweeteners: All sweeteners are acceptable except honey and molasses.
The Pitta Diet
You can balance excess pitta with foods that are cool, dry, and heavy with a mild, naturally sweet, bitter, or astringent taste. For example, milk, rice, beans, steamed vegetables, and sweet, ripened fruit are good for the Pitta dosha type.
What Foods Should You Avoid?
Pitta types should avoid pungent and oily foods such as curry, fried foods, and spices such as cayenne, garlic, and dry ginger. Stimulants like smoking, alcohol, coffee, pickles, vinegar, fermented foods, curds, til, and mustard oil should also be avoided or reduced.
- Vegetables: beets, carrots, eggplant, garlic, hot peppers, onions, radishes, spinach, tomatoes
- Fruits: sour and unripe fruits, apricots, bananas, berries, sour cherries, cranberries, grapefruit, green grapes, oranges, papayas, peaches, persimmons
- Grains: brown rice, corn, millet, lentils
- Eggs and Dairy: buttermilk, cheese, egg yolks, sour cream, yogurt
- Meat: red meat and seafood
- Oils: almond, corn, safflower, sesame
- Sweeteners: honey and molasses
- All pungent herbs and spices should be avoided.
Avoid processed and fast foods as they tend to be heavy on salty and sour tastes. Japanese and Chinese food are good choices. Avoid highly spicy food such as what is often found in Mexican restaurants.
Other Tips for Balancing Pitta
- To bring down aggravated Pitta, put two teaspoons of ghee (clarified butter) in a glass of warm milk (skip the ghee if you have high cholesterol).
- Pitta energy is increased during the summer. During hot, dry seasons, all doshas would benefit from increasing Pitta-friendly foods and decreasing Pitta-aggravating foods.
- Mental and emotional peace and constructive lifestyle routines are important to restoring and maintaining balance between all the doshas.