Do you remember your dosha? Only a small percentage of people are purely Vata, Pitta or Kapha. In most cases, two doshas combine to determine our dominant physiological and personality traits. The primary aim of the Ayurvedic lifestyle, as mentioned earlier, is achieving a balance of your physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing by balancing the three doshas within you through specific practices.
For instance, Vata shows up as an imbalance in the nervous system and the gut; Pitta in the digestive and hormonal systems and Kapha through the respiratory system and basic structure of the body. So, your sleep cycle, consumption of foods and herbs, exercise, meditation and cleansing of the body should be determined by the dosha that has become excessive.
Regardless of your dominant dosha, Ayurvedic nutrition principles encourage the consumption of fresh, unprocessed foods. For us that means shopping the outside sections of our supermarkets for raw, uncooked meats and organic fruits and vegetables, while avoiding highly processed foods, including canned and prepackaged foods. Easier to do than you might think!
Timing Your Meals for the Greatest Possible Benefit
Ayurvedic principles also govern the timing of meals. In the Ayurvedic view, one of the doshas is dominant at all times during the day, a theory known as the Master Cycles of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
In the first cycle, Kapha predominates from 6 am to 10 am, Pitta from 10 am to 2 pm, and Vata from 2 pm to 6 pm. In the second cycle, Kapha predominates from 6 pm to 10 pm, Pitta from 10 pm to 2 am, and Vata from 2 am to 6 am.
Because Pitta is responsible for digestion and metabolism, the ideal time for a large meal is during the period from 10 am to 2 pm when Pitta is dominant. As a result, all people, regardless of their dominant dosha, should take their largest meal sometime around 12 noon, because during this period the body digests most efficiently. Then, at dinnertime, try lighter but tasty foods like hearty soups, homemade flat breads and baked vegetable and/or grain casseroles.
Stop and think about the eating habits in other countries – take Europe, for example. In many, the heaviest meal is still eaten at noon, with a light supper in the evening. And when we were primarily an agricultural society, it was the same here. But in our North American culture today, the reality is that it’s not only not always possible, but also inconceivable for most people, so here are a few suggestions to keep those digestive juices working more efficiently:
- Try to make it a rule to eat before sunset – even non-Ayurvedic experts maintain that we should allow 3 – 4 hours after a meal before going to bed in order to fully digest our meals, particularly protein, before falling (or trying to fall!) asleep.
- Keep portions smaller – a palm-sized serving of meat, lots of fresh, lightly cooked vegetables and grains or brown rice depending on your dosha.
- Eat slowly and chew thoroughly, really savouring your food.
- Drink a glass or two of water before your meal to stimulate your digestion and lower your appetite.
Not only will you feel better, your metabolism will be more efficient and you just might shed a few of those unwanted pounds! Next post will discuss the foods that keep the doshas in balance. Stay tuned!