In Ayurveda, emphasis is placed on diet as a therapeutic and preventative health measure to manage one’s state of health. Following an Ayurvedic diet most appropriate for your body type is beneficial for mind, body and emotional health. Here we examine the Kapha diet, a diet best suited to those with a Kapha imbalance or Kapha body type. Don’t know your body type? Take this free quiz!
The Kapha Diet + The Doshas
Kapha pacifying foods help balance Kapha dosha when it is in an aggravated state. If Kapha is aggravated, a Kapha diet is required.
Kapha balancing foods calm Kapha dosha by opening the channels of the body.
Foods with sharp, hot, light and mobile properties increase circulation and expulsion of the pathological form of Kapha (mucus), all the while supporting proper digestion and elimination.
There are specific simple principles that are to be followed while discovering a Kapha pacifying diet that works for you.
A depleted state of Kapha is generally seen in Pitta and Vata aggravation. This can also happen in a Kapha body type. These conditions are common and may demand the use of foods that increase the properties of Kapha.
In such cases rich, cooling, sweet and oily foods like dairy products are used for a short period of time until the Kapha regains its strength.
Kapha Diet Food Choices
What determines the choice of foods for a Kapha type? The basis of any Ayurvedic diet and therapeutics is the rule of opposites and similarities.
Kapha is slow, cold, dense, heavy, slimy, soft, sweet and oily. Eating foods that neutralize these qualities can help balance excess Kapha. These are foods that are easy to digest, hot in temperature and property, light, clear, rough and dry.
They have bitter, pungent or astringent tastes. On the other hand, if Kapha has to be increased, foods with similar properties to Kapha have to be included in the diet until the Kapha comes into a balanced state.
Having known the broad guidelines about the Kapha diet, let us analyze what exactly these guidelines mean and the Ayurvedic principle behind the choices.
What does hot food mean? Usually, hot food simply means the temperature of the food or the spiciness of the food.
In Ayurveda, we are talking about the spiciness of the food. “Hot” food suitable for Kapha is essentially laden with hot and drying properties.
Hot properties antagonize cold and dry properties which antagonize the moist and oily properties of Kapha.
Some foods (millets) and spices (black pepper) make even the Kapha aggravating foods (like yogurt) congenial to a Kapha prakriti, a Kapha body type.
For example, adding black pepper to yogurt makes it digestible and assimilable for a Kapha person without aggravating Kapha. Without the black pepper, the yogurt alone could cause mucus production.
Similarly taking a porridge of millets and yogurt does not let the curd aggravate Kapha. Millets are drying enough that it neutralizes the mucus-producing effects of the curd.
On the other hand, foods with cold and slimy properties like tapioca, refrigerated foods that haven’t been warmed and cold drinks aggravate Kapha.
These foods are akin to Kapha’s cold and slimy properties and are thus best avoided.
Foods which do not appear moist and slimy like okra or ladyfinger could still aggravate Kapha if taken in excess. Examples include wheat, rice, and nuts. These foods aggravate Kapha due to their sweet property.
On the other hand amla (Indian gooseberry) which has a sour taste, a sweet after effect and a cold potency still pacifies Kapha. This is due to its prabhava and associated astringent taste. In fact, amla has all six tastes except salt.
What happens when we eat foods with hot and drying properties in order to counter the cold, slimy and oily properties of Kapha?
Overeating foods with hot properties like dried ginger and black pepper pacifies aggravated Kapha for the moment.
If however they are consumed in excess for a long time they can disturb the optimum level of Kapha needed for maintaining the body’s lubrication.
Gastritis, arthritis or dry cough could result. So take caution to not overeat such foods.
Don’t know your body type? Take this free quiz!
Tastes That Pacify Kapha
Kapha is pacified by the pungent, astringent and bitter tastes and aggravated by the sweet, salty, and sour tastes.
Knowing about these tastes allows us to design a pacifying Kapha diet without having to constantly refer to extensive lists of foods to favor and avoid.
So let us learn about these tastes.
The Pungent Taste
Many spices have a pungent taste and due to their hot and dry properties, they are Kapha pacifying.
Examples include dried ginger, turmeric, and black pepper. Constitutionally the pungent taste is made up of the fire and air elements which antagonize the water and earth elements of Kapha, pacifying it strongly.
The Bitter Taste
The bitter taste is cooling, rough, drying, light, and generally reducing to Kapha. It possesses all qualities that tend to pacify Kapha. It is generally lacking in our diet due to its unpalatable taste.
Hence it can come in handy when there is an aggravation of Kapha due to excess Kapha producing foods that cause indigestion.
Spices like turmeric and fenugreek seeds and leaves can add a bitter taste to our food whenever it is needed. Constitutionally the bitter taste is a combination of air and ether.
The Astringent Taste
The astringent taste is dry, cold, and heavy in nature but pacifies Kapha moderately due to its drying property. Triphala, artichoke and jack fruit are examples of the astringent taste.
The astringent taste constitutionally is a combination of air and earth elements.
The Sweet Taste
Sweet is cooling and grounding and in moderation, promotes longevity, strength, and healthy bodily fluids and tissues. It’s heavy, oily, moist qualities tend to slow down digestion.
It’s often suggested in Ayurveda to eat dessert first as an appetizer when the digestive or metabolic fire is at its peak.
The sweet taste is found in foods like most fruits, most grains, root vegetables, milk, ghee, fresh yogurt, eggs, nuts, seeds and most oils except mustard.
The sweet taste due to its cooling, grounding, nourishing, strength building, and satisfying properties is most potent to aggravate Kapha.
Please note that when we talk about the sweet taste we are talking about foods with a naturally sweet taste, and/or a sweet post-digestive effect. These include sweet potatoes, white rice, and wheat.
Constitutionally the sweet taste has the elements of Kapha, water, and earth, and hence aggravates Kapha the most.
The Sour Taste
The sour taste awakens the mind and senses, stimulates digestive juices, improves digestion and eliminates excess wind.
It aggravates Kapha if taken in excess. Lemon juice, tamarind, sauerkraut, apple cider vinegar and sour-sweet fruits like orange, pineapple, and kiwi are a few examples.
Due to its constitutional elements of fire (provokes Kapha) and earth (supports Kapha), it has a moderate Kapha aggravating effect.
The Salty Taste
The salty taste stimulates the appetite and digestion. It helps retain moisture and supports proper elimination. It also improves the flavor of many foods.
The main source of the salty taste is salt in its various forms – sea salt, rock salt, and common table salt.
It is to be used in very small quantities. Constitutionally it is composed of fire and water and hence can aggravate Kapha moderately.
The Kapha Diet Rules To Follow
If you are a Kapha person you may have experienced that even after following a Kapha diet, you still face Kapha disorders. The reason could be wrong eating habits.
When it comes to pacifying Kapha, how and when you eat may be just as important as what you eat. Kapha gets pacified if you make it a point to eat in a peaceful environment, allowing enough time to chew your food.
Also, keep a healthy balance of hydrating and drying foods. Eat a light breakfast and two major meals at the proper times. Do not eat in between meals, except some fruit or a small quantity of a dry Kapha reducing snack.
This further keeps Kapha in balance and aids the delicate digestion of Kapha. Avoid water with meals (except a few sips) and immediately after meals to help preserve the delicate digestive fire.
Mucus or morbid material of indigestion known in Ayurveda as ama
This also helps prevent the production of a pathological form of Kapha – mucus or morbid material of indigestion known in Ayurveda as ama.
Sometimes, it is impossible to avoid all Kapha aggravating foods. When that is the case simply cook them in a Kapha pacifying medium like mustard oil. Or combine them with Kapha pacifying foods and spices.
Spicing them appropriately and using tastes like pungent or bitter, helps you digest the food properly without aggravating Kapha.
Being a Kapha prakriti person (Kapha body type) or having Kapha aggravation, occasional fasting on spiced boiled vegetables and soups can be beneficial.
These should have hot and dry properties like a spiced thin moong dal soup. Or fast on herbal teas and honey along with boiled and spiced vegetables.
But doing this for prolonged periods of time is best avoided as this may aggravate the other doshas particularly Vata dosha.
Don’t know your body type? Take this free quiz!
The Kapha Diet: Meal Suggestions
Still not clear what you can have to tame Kapha? Well, here are a few suggestions for all three meals.
Breakfast may be skipped if you do not feel hungry even after a night’s forced fasting. Alternatively, you may have a basil tea with honey followed by a platter of fruits. Eat your lunch only after you feel hungry.
In any case, even if you are hungry at breakfast time it is advisable to have hot and light breakfast. The options could be a barley or rolled oats cereal cooked in skim milk or water. Oats with bran is also a suitable choice.
Rye or millet toasted bread with egg whites. A vegetable sandwich using multigrain bread is another choice.
Herbal tea like cinnamon, basil, ginger, and honey can be taken an hour after breakfast to help balance any aggravation of Kapha.
Morning is Kapha aggravation time according to our biological clock.
Ideally, lunch is the main meal of the day meaning it’s the largest and the most nourishing. Consume lots of steamed and sautéed vegetables. Compliment them with beans and appropriate grains.
Try quinoa, amaranth, barley or multigrain bread. You may also have lean white meat or egg whites. Try quinoa kitchari.
Dinner is ideally significantly smaller and lighter than lunch. Soups and stews are often a wonderful choice because they are warm and nourishing, even when light.
A smaller serving of lunch can often work, too. For some, especially when weight loss is indicated, it’s best to make dinner the ultra-light meal of the day.
You may have spiced soups and boiled vegetables or egg whites or a small portion of lean meat with vegetables.
Consult a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner before trying the herbs, remedies or dietary guidelines mentioned in this article.