For ultimate health, your diet can be tailored to your particular constitution (take Pukka's dosha quiz here to find out yours). If you are intolerant of any food or simply don’t like it, then avoid it.
In all cases, try to eat primarily vegetarian and organic. I have seen too many unhealthy vegetarians (and vegans) in my clinic. It is essential for vegetarians to eat an especially healthy diet. This takes a fair bit of effort – soaking, boiling and kneading – but it can be fun and has results.
You MUST eat lots of wholegrains, pulses and nuts. Include seaweeds and herbs and spices in your diet (ginger, turmeric, cumin and coriander are essentials). One easy way to do this is to cook your rice and vegetables in deeply nourishing concentrated ‘stocks’ that contain herbs, spices and vegetables. Make sure you are getting the correct balance of healthy oils, particularly Omega-3 and Omega-6 (where the ratio should be 1:2). Vegetarian sources of Omega-3 do not convert very well to Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), so keep your levels of hemp and flax seed high, whilst reducing your intake of Omega-6 oils. Ayurveda recommends taking ghee with food (2tsp per day) to nourish the tissues.
It is important to supplement your diet with superfoods and specialist ‘pukka’ herbs (see The Pukka Larder): use chywanaprash, the herbal tonic jam, and rejuvenating herbs such as ashwagandha, aloe vera juice and ginseng when appropriate. For an extra nutritional boost add goji berries to porridge, put shatavari in rice pudding and mix amla berries into soups. Because of difficulties in getting enough Vitamin B12, as well as the pervasive nutritional depletion in the food chain, I would recommend supplementing with a wholefood multi-vitamin as well.
When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. When diet is correct, medicine is of no need
THE VATA DIET
This regime nourishes the nervous system, raises the digestive fire (agni) and aids the absorption of nutrients. Follow this diet if you are predominantly a vata type, or are suffering from a vata imbalance, as it is useful for relieving nervous tension, cramps, pain, anxiety, coldness, insomnia, bloating, constipation or pebble-like stools, and dryness. It is particularly valuable at the vata times of year, which are primarily spring and autumn.
- eat at regular times
- eat to less than full
- practice relaxation
- emphasise foods that are warm, soupy, heavy and oily
- favour foods that are sweet, sour or salty
- reduce foods that are cold, dry or hard
- reduce foods that are very spicy, bitter or astringent
- avoid yeast, refined sugars, coffee, tea, tobacco, drugs, poor-quality oils and extremely spicy foods
- supplement your diet with chywanaprash
Grains Rice (basmati, brown, wild), wheat, oats (cooked) and quinoa are very good. Amaranth is fine in moderation, but reduce barley, corn, millet, buckwheat and rye, as these are a little drying and can be difficult to digest, creating wind. Beans and pulses Avoid all beans, except for marinated tofu and mung beans and, occasionally, red lentils.
Vegetables Avocado, beetroot, cucumber, carrot, sweet potato and seaweeds are the best. Peas, Brassicas and leafy green vegetables, summer and winter squashes and potatoes are best well- cooked in oil or ghee with mild, digestive spices. Avoid the Solanaceae (nightshade) family (unless potatoes are cooked as above). Raw vegetables, especially onions, should also be avoided, as these all create wind.
Fruits Favour sweet, sour or heavy fruits, such as berries, banana, grapes, cherries, all citrus fruit, fresh fig, peach, melon, plum, fresh dates, pineapple, mango and papaya. Cooked apple and pear are fine. Soaked prunes and raisins should be taken in moderation, but avoid dried fruits, uncooked apple and pear, pomegranate and cranberries, as these can create wind.
Nuts and seeds All are good in moderation, especially when soaked.
Meat and fish Seafood and a little chicken and turkey are fine; beef should be avoided as it is difficult to digest.
Dairy All dairy products are nourishing, particularly yoghurt. Always boil milk before you drink it, mix with cardamom seeds and drink it warm. Don’t take milk with a full meal or with fruit. If intolerant, substitute with almond or rice milk. Avoid ice cream, powdered milks and soya milk. Cook with plenty of ghee to moisten ‘dry’ foods.
Oils All oils reduce dryness and are nourishing. Emphasise hemp, sesame, olive, sunflower and flax.
Herbs and spices All are fine, particularly asafoetida, cardamom, cumin, fresh coriander, ginger, fennel, dill, cinnamon, salt, cloves, mustard seed and black pepper. These help reduce gas and spasms in the digestive system.
Sweeteners All are good, especially honey, molasses, barley malt and maple sugar. Avoid all refined white sugar.
Superfoods Asparagus and spirulina are particularly nourishing for vata.
Drinks Take plenty of warm water and spicy and relaxing herbal teas, such as ginger and chamomile.
THE PITTA DIET
This heat-reducing diet is useful for predominantly pitta types, or for those suffering from pitta imbalances, such as inflammations, skin conditions, itching, yellowing of the eyes, urine and stools, loose and smelly stools, joint pain, hot flushes, acidity, ulcers, bitter taste in the mouth, anger, irritation, infections and fever. It is particularly beneficial in late spring.
- include cooling aloe vera juice daily
- emphasise foods that are cool, refreshing and liquid (e.g. fresh fruits and vegetables)
- favour foods that are sweet, bitter or astringent
- reduce foods that are spicy, salty or sour
- avoid pungent foods
- avoid alcohol, coffee, tea, yeast, chocolate, cheese, yogurt and meat;
- also avoid low-quality oils, which increase inflammation
Grains Increase wheat, basmati rice, barley and oats. Reduce corn, rye, millet and brown rice.
Beans and pulses Tofu, mung beans, aduki beans, chickpeas, kidney beans and lentils all reduce pitta. Avoid all others.
Vegetables Favour avocado, cucumber, cooked beetroot, sweet potato, leafy green vegetables, pumpkin, summer squash, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, okra, lettuce, sprouted beans, peas, green beans and seaweeds. Keep potato, cooked spinach and olives to a minimum, and avoid the rest of the Solanaceae (nightshade) family. Also avoid Alliums, especially raw onions, garlic and radishes, and raw beetroot, spinach and mustard greens, as these all increase heat and acidity.
Fruits Favour sweet fruits such as grapes, lime, cherries, all types of melon, coconut, pomegranate, mango, apple, berries, fully ripened orange, pineapple and plum. Reduce sour fruits such as grapefruit, lemon, papaya, unripe orange, pineapple and plum.
Nuts and seeds Hazelnuts and sunflower seeds are good. Avoid peanuts, as these can create inflammation.
Meat and fish Chicken, pheasant and turkey are preferable, but beef and seafood increase inflammation.
Dairy Milk, butter and ghee are good for pacifying heat. Avoid sour and fermented foods like yoghurt, cheese, sour cream and cultured buttermilk. Also avoid egg yolk.
Oils Flax, hemp, borage, evening primrose, olive, sunflower and coconut oils are best. Reduce sesame, almond and corn oil.
Herbs and spices Cinnamon, coriander, dill, aniseed, cardamom, fennel, turmeric, fresh ginger and small amounts of black pepper are good, but asafoetida, ginger powder, cumin, fenugreek, clove, celery seed, salt and mustard seed strongly increase heat and should be taken in moderation. Chilli powder and cayenne should be avoided.
Sweeteners All natural sweeteners are good, except for honey and molasses.
Superfoods Aloe vera, asparagus, chlorella, spirulina and wheat grass juice all help to cool the system and clear inflammation. Almonds are also good.
Drinks Cool drinks, and minty and refreshing herbal teas.
THE KAPHA DIET
This regime reduces fluid and congestion and can be followed by predominantly kapha types, or those suffering from a kapha imbalance, such as sinus congestion, a thick tongue coating, paleness, high cholesterol and oedema (swelling). It is also useful for banishing tiredness, heaviness and sluggishness and is particularly beneficial during the winter months.
- eat only when you are hungry and not between meals emphasise foods that are light, dry or warm
- favour foods that are spicy, bitter or astringent
- include ginger in your daily diet: take a pinch of fresh ginger root with a few drops of lemon juice before each meal reduce foods that are heavy, oily or ‘cold’
- reduce foods that are sweet, salty or sour
- avoid overeating, especially at night
- do not eat raw or refrigerated foods
- avoid yeast, salt, cheese, yoghurt, chocolate, refined sugars, flour, low-quality oils and meat
Grains Increase barley, corn, buckwheat, quinoa, rye and millet, as these are slightly drying and/or warming. Avoid or reduce intake of wheat and oats, as they increase heaviness and congestion. The sweet nature of rice is generally aggravating for kapha, although the lightness of basmati and wild rice make them acceptable.
Beans and pulses All beans are fine, except tofu, which is very cold and hard to digest. Vegetables Increase aubergine, beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, celery, green leaves, kale, potato, pumpkin, Alliums, Brussels sprouts and seaweeds. Reduce avocado, okra, olives, tomato, cucumber, sweet potato and summer squash as these increase fluids.
Fruits Lighter fruits, such as apple and pear, are better, especially if baked or stewed. Reduce sweet, heavy or sour fruits such as orange, banana, pineapple, fig, date, coconut and all types of melon, as these increase heaviness and congestion.
Nuts and seeds In general, reduce nuts as they are too oily. Pumpkin and sunflower seeds are fine.
Meat and fish White meat from chicken or turkey is fine, as is seafood. Avoid or reduce red meat and pork, as they are too congesting.
Dairy Milk diluted with water is better, or use goat’s milk. Always boil milk first, preferably with cardamom or ginger to help reduce any mucus-generating properties, and drink it warm. Do not drink milk with a full meal, or with sour or salty food. A little ghee is fine. Avoid butter, eggs, cheese, yoghurt, buttermilk and buffalo milk.
Oils Reduce all oils. Virgin coconut oil is fine for frying. Use hemp, flax and sunflower as cold- pressed oils straight onto food (i.e. not for cooking).
Herbs and spices Include all spices, especially ginger. Avoid salt, which increases water retention and mucus.
Sweeteners A little honey (2 tsp/day) helps to reduce congestion. Reduce all other sugar products.
Superfoods Aloe vera, almonds, asparagus, broccoli sprouts and chlorella can help to cleanse the system.
Drinks Hot drinks and spicy and warming herbal teas, such as ginger, cinnamon and fennel.
Not sure whether you're a pitta, vata or kapha? Take the quiz here to find out
This extract is taken from A Pukka Life by Sebastian Pole , £14.99, Quadrille Publishing