Vata dosha in a Vata Kapha prakriti, or dosha type as it is popularly referred to, is the dynamic force and usually calls the shots in all spheres of the physiology of a Vata Kapha dominated person. The state of appetite and digestion is no exception. Let’s take a look at the ideal Vata Kapha diet.
Vata makes the appetite and digestion erratic while the secondary dosha Kapha, by virtue of its properties, has a dampening effect on both.
So typically, a Vata Kapha appetite and digestion are either erratic or weak. However, practically we may see many people having Vata Kapha prakriti who gain weight, having ravenous hunger.
This is a deviation from their Vata dominated dosha type and is called ‘vikriti’, literally meaning deviation from prakriti or nature.1
In fact, this is because of the excessive accumulation of fat tissue in the body and has a pathophysiology of its own behind increasing the appetite.
Although, an increased appetite does not always translate into a good ‘digestive fire’ or for that matter the ‘metabolic fire’ which is controlled by the ‘digestive fire’. Usually, there is an increase in the appetite but a decrease in the overall metabolism.
Barring this unusual state governed by the ‘vikriti’ state of weight gain, Vata Kapha digestion will show a typical pattern as mentioned earlier.
So, consideration of the nature of the Vata Kapha digestion becomes a primary factor in deciding which foods are to be consumed and how they should be consumed. One may argue, why only digestion?
Food affects the other properties of dosha also and as such will affect all the physiological, and psychological aspects of the person influenced by the constituent dosha Vata and Kapha. Well, there is no denying this fact, but unless the food is properly digested, it cannot perform its other functions.
So not only in this dosha type, rather in all dosha types the effect of a particular food on the digestion, characteristic of the said dosha type, should be thought of while selecting the food.
However, we have a peculiar situation here which gives another angle to the selection of foods for this body type: there are many properties of Vata and Kapha which are antagonizing!
Which Dosha To Prioritize
So, it becomes challenging for one to design a diet plan which can be used to cater to two dosha having so many opposite properties. It is just like a mother trying to accommodate two siblings having different food choices! So, what does she do?
She would just try to heed to one’s choice at one time and to the other at another time. Alternatively, she will prioritize as per the situation.
Say if one is malnourished, or sick or one has come home from school or is more aggressive (not a criterion I would approve of but it does happen), she will give preference to this child.
This is exactly what one must do; one has to see if any of these two dosha needs immediate attention, that is, it may be aggravated or may be depleted.
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How To Pacify Both Vata And Kapha
In both conditions, one should ignore the other for the time being and plan the diet for the day or the next meal according to the latter.
Not only the condition of the dosha in question, the time of the year (season) and time of the day (whether it is Kapha time or Vata time) also matter in planning a meal. All this is to be considered if any dosha needs immediate attention.
But in other situations, you may have two separate dishes in a meal that cater to either dosha or you can tweak the recipe of a dish in a way that it caters to both dosha.
For example, Apple could be aggravating for both Vata and Kapha but a baked apple with cinnamon can be good for both dosha.
How To Create Balanced Meals For Vata Kapha Diet
Another point I wish to make at this juncture is that it is not necessary to always go for pacifying foods for the constituent dosha.
If constituent dosha is not aggravated, you may go for those foods which have properties akin to a particular dosha, of course along with other balancing foods (with antagonizing properties), as a precaution. This will not allow them to aggravate the dosha in question.
Practically it is quite difficult to know and memorize the properties of each food item and its effect on dosha.
So, we have another way of classifying foods, through their tastes or ‘Rasa’ as it is called in Sanskrit.
There are six tastes in all. Out of these sweet, sour and salty pacify Vata but aggravate Kapha. On the other hand, the other three, pungent (like black pepper), bitter and astringent (like spinach) aggravate Vata but pacify Kapha.
Here also one is in a catch-22 situation as is while deciding foods based on properties.
Pungent (like black pepper), bitter and astringent (like spinach) aggravate Vata but pacify Kapha.
That is why having a Kapha Vata prakriti poses a great challenge to decide on the food to be selected.
However, there is no need to always use the antagonizing tastes or properties (so as to pacify the dosha) but in the normal state, a blend of foods having antagonizing properties and tastes to both constituent dosha can be chosen.
Applying this principle, one can realize that in the case of Kapha Vata or Vata Kapha prakriti, in normal circumstances, one can afford to use foods with all the six tastes without fear.
This does not happen in other dosha types except for the tridoshic prakriti. The only caution is to be a little biased towards the dominant dosha as it has more chance of getting aggravated than the other, as our hypothetical mother may heed to the more aggressive child.
Speaking particularly of choosing foods as per the properties, if one really wishes to dwell deep into the subject, generally, foods which are heating, irrespective of other properties they have will be pacifying for both the dosha as coldness is one property that is common to both.
But there are many exceptions to the rule and hence selecting foods by taste and relating them to dosha is easier and relatively accurate.
General Rules For Vata Kapha Diet
All said and done, we do have certain rules which if followed will see that both the dosha generally remain in balance. This will be followed by a list of foods that includes foods that are to be frequently taken, less frequently taken and sparingly taken in normal circumstances.
- Always prefer freshly cooked meals over refrigerated ones, warm instead of cold food, and eat in small quantities at regular intervals rather than eating big meals in one go.
- Eat only when hungry, or better still if the previous meal has been digested, marked by the return of appetite and a clear burp not smelling or tasting of previous meal, and a lightness of stomach.
- One should sit and eat at a calm place and eat consciously and slowly so that you can chew the food properly. Eating while walking, working and talking is likely to cause gas, indigestion (at gross and subtle level) and heaviness, which Vata Kapha is prone to.
- Liquids should be taken an hour prior to or an hour after meals, so as not to dilute the digestive juices. Few sips are, however, allowed, if the body demands it. Taking small quantities of water at regular intervals throughout the day is best.
- Keep the breakfast and dinner light and make lunch the heaviest meal of the day. Dinner should be had by 8 pm latest.
- Make a choice to eat lightly cooked food over raw food and use spices like coriander, garlic, ginger, turmeric, fenugreek seeds and caraway seeds in the diet. One may also chew upon a 3/4 teaspoon of fennel seeds after meals to aid digestion.
- Fats like olive oil, mustard oil, sesame oil, and ghee are good for you. Intake should be between 4-6 tsp per day.
- Two servings of 250 ml of skimmed milk or goat’s milk can be had in a day or milk substitutes like warm coconut milk with a dash of turmeric or almond milk (diluted) may be used. Soy milk is too vata aggravating and is best avoided. A bi-weekly probiotic yogurt (at room temperature) mixed with Amla powder and honey can be taken in the day time. Taking yogurt daily and after sunset is best during summer months, a cup of buttermilk can be taken spiced with pepper and roasted cumin seeds and a pinch of rock salt before lunch. In colder months, yogurt as above may be taken. Butter can also be used in small quantities.
- Grains like oats, wheat, brown rice, basmati rice, amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa, and barley are good for you. Prefer whole cereal-based dishes instead of refined flour-based dishes. Always use cereals along with ghee to counter the dry property of the grains. In case Kapha seems to be aggravated, the use of millets along with a little ghee or barley can be beneficial.
- White meat is generally preferred over red meat as they are easier to digest. So, pork and beef is to be avoided but chicken and turkey go well with Vata Kapha prakriti and can be taken. Mutton is also alright. Seafood aggravates Kapha and hence too much of the same should be avoided. Egg whites are all right and eggs with yolk can be taken twice a week. One should also experiment with vegetable sources of proteins like moong beans and lentils. They should be cooked using spices like ginger, asafoetida, garlic, cumin, and turmeric. Vegetarian diets are healthier on a long-term basis as has been proved by various studies and thus worth trying.
- All vegetables are good for Vata Kapha except that raw and too fibrous vegetables are to be avoided particularly. Too fibrous vegetables like artichoke, jackfruit, cauliflower can cause flatulence and Vata aggravation. If you need to take them, then you should take them well cooked and in small quantities. Similarly, root vegetables like carrots and starchy vegetables can aggravate Vata and Kapha and should be taken well cooked and in small quantities. The choice will depend upon if the constituent dosha is aggravated or are balanced. A stuffy nose, heaviness in abdomen, phlegm, lethargy, coated tongue, and sticky stools denotes Kapha’s aggravation and flatulence, aches, and pain, restlessness and decreased sleep denotes a Vata aggravation.
- Most of the fruits except too sweet or too sour or too raw are good to have.
- A moderate intake of lightly fried nuts in ghee and seeds (sautéed with olive oil or ghee) is all right
- To appease or pacify Vata and Kapha, hot, sour, salty and pungent (like black pepper) tastes need to be included in your diet and cold types like sweet (potato, wheat, sugary stuff), astringent (salads, spinach) and bitter (leek, bitter gourd, turmeric) should be used in moderation. But as said earlier, one can judiciously use all the six tastes keeping the state of the constituent dosha in mind. Another point to make here is that while eating as per the two dominant constituent dosha, the tertiary dosha should not be totally ignored (Pitta in this case). If a situation of aggravation of tertiary dosha Pitta is there, then sour and pungent tastes must be avoided and sweet (not in form of sugar but grains mentioned above and vegetables like zucchini, gourd, squashes) taste and astringent taste preferred. All foods should be adequately cooked.
- Avoid having too much tea, coffee, and alcohol.
Vata Kapha Sample Menu
A sample menu for a Vata Kapha diet can look like this.
Start Of Day
A glass of warm water can mark the start of the day. This can be followed by 8 almonds and 10 raisins which have been soaked overnight. They should be chewed properly and swallowed with the help of a little water. This can be followed by a cup of herbal tea.
For this 1 teaspoon of coarsely ground coriander seeds and 5 leaves of mint and 2 leaves of basil and 1/2 crushed peppercorn in one and a half glass of water is boiled in one and a half cups of water. It is reduced to half and strained.
It can be had lukewarm or hot 2-3 times a day. A little raw sugar or maple syrup may be added to it for taste. This is for balancing all the three doshas.
Breakfast can be composed of cereal or milk or multigrain bread with a little butter, or a platter of fruits followed by the herbal tea. The breakfast is best-kept light so that the lunch is not hampered. Skipping breakfast altogether aggravates Vata and is not advisable.
Before lunch, a glass of buttermilk as suggested above or herbal tea with fruit can be taken.
The lunch can be comprised of cereals in the form of bread or grains cooked with liberal amounts of ghee or other fats, proteins in the form of white meat or lentils and beans and cooked vegetables.
Lentils and beans should be spiced using the spices mentioned earlier to counter the Vata aggravating effects.
Dinner can be the same as lunch but lighter and can include soups. Bone broth could prove to be very beneficial in Vata aggravation conditions and in peak winters. It can be spiced with peppers and ginger to counter its effect of increasing Kapha.
If you’d like to learn more about Ayurvedic nutrition, check out Todd Caldecott’s course below.
Cheat Sheet: Vata Kapha Diet
Going through the general guidelines and considering the guiding principles to choose suitable foods for the Vata Kapha diet might be a daunting task. So here is a cheat sheet of a list of foods which one can have more often, less often or sparingly in accordance to Vata Kapha prakriti.
Please consult a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner before following the dietary recommendations mentioned in this article.
- Dey, Subhojit, and Parika Pahwa. “Prakriti and Its Associations with Metabolism, Chronic Diseases, and Genotypes: Possibilities of New Born Screening and a Lifetime of Personalized Prevention.” Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, Medknow Publications & Media Pvt Ltd, Jan. 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4012357/.