Ayurveda considers that the heating or cooling nature of food is determined by its innate potency - the effect that it has on the body. Warming foods aid in improving metabolism, digestion and circulation. Cooling foods provide nourishment, build tissue and add strength to the body.
Whilst preparing meals, it is essential to maintain a balance between the use of both warming and cooling foods – taking into account one’s natural constitution (Prakruti), one’s current imbalances (Vikruti) and the current season.
For example, a Vata type, or an individual with a Vata imbalance has a tendency for coldness in the body – which can manifest as poor circulation, poor digestion, erratic digestion, gas, bloating and gurgling in the intestines (See also below for further examples). During Vata season (e.g. autumn, early winter) this coldness can become even more aggravated. So Vata individuals need to ensure that there are enough warming foods in each meal, along with Vata grounding and nourishing foods (e.g. foods that are predominantly sweet, sour, or salty in taste).
A Pitta individual usually has sufficient heat in the body, which in excess will lead to heat imbalances (see below). Pitta types usually need more cooling foods to balance out this excess heat, especially during summer.
AYURVEDIC APPROACH TO FOOD
Ayurveda considers that what we put into our bodies (ultimately) either provides the fuel for life or depletes it. For this reason, Ayurveda recommends the use and intake of foods that are vibrant - full of Prana, or vital life energy – which include seasonal (preferably organic) fruits, vegetables, high-quality grains and cold pressed oils, and whole foods in general that are not overly processed or synthetic.
Foods (or drinks) which are microwaved, frozen, canned, processed/refined, deep fried, fast-food, or leftovers are considered to be devoid of nutritional value, with many processed foods today being made with artificial colours, flavourings, additives, preservatives, chemical pesticides, and/or genetically altered ingredients. Ayurveda sees that these foods lack nutritional value and life force, and thus contribute to an array of imbalances and subsequent illnesses.
Ayurveda recommends a diet of:
- Whole grains and legumes (which includes whole wheat, spelt, brown rice, quinoa, rye, amaranth, teff, sorghum, barley, beans, lentils, tofu) – where possible organic
- Fruits and vegetables (local and seasonal fruits and vegetables whenever possible) – where possible organic
- Organic and unhomogenised milk, buttermilk, ghee
- Sparing consumption of meat products and if consumed, preferably organic
The following high-quality foods should be used sparingly:
- Natural sources of sugar (such as raw honey, maple syrup, jaggery, molasses,)
- Nuts and seeds (such as almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, pecans, flax seeds, walnuts, almonds)
- Unrefined oils (such organic sunflower oil, extra-virgin olive oil, ghee)
Cooling foods provide nourishment, and aid in the building-up of fluids (and many are especially important for the building of bodily tissues (lymph, blood, muscle, fat, nerves, bones, reproductive system / immunity), within the body. However, eating cooling foods can impart a sense of heaviness, as too much cooling food can slow down the metabolism (which can imbalance both Vata and Kapha). Cooling foods are harder to digest and, in excess hamper digestion and metabolism.
Cooling foods include:
Apple, Blackberry, Blueberry, Cantaloupe, Melons, Cranberries, Dates (soaked or dried), Figs, Grapes, (red, purple, black) Guava, Honey Dew, Jackfruit, Kiwi, Lime, Melons, Mulberry, Pears, Persimmons, Pomegranate, Raisins, Raspberry, Strawberries, Watermelon
Acorn Squash, Aloe vera, Artichoke, Asparagus, Avocado, Beet greens, Bean Sprouts, Broccoli, Burdock root, Butternut squash, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Celery, Chard, Chickweed, Chicory Lettuce, Cucumber, Dandelion Leaves, Endive, Fennel, Grape Leaves, Green beans, Gourd, Kale (also most bitter greens), Lettuce, Okra, Parsnip, Peas, Potato, Pumpkin, Red Leaf Lettuce, Romaine Lettuce, Summer squash, Sweet peas, Sweet potato, Yam, Zucchini
Amaranth, Barley, Basmati Rice, Oats, Quinoa, White Rice, Arborio Rice, Seitan (wheat meat), Sorghum, Spelt, Tapioca, Wheat, Wild Rice
Alfalfa, Black beans, Black-eyed peas, Brown lentil, Butter bean, Cannelini bean, Chick pea, Fava beans, Green beans, Kidney beans, Lima beans, Mung bean, Pinto beans, Red lentils, Soy beans, Split peas, White navy bean
NUTS AND SEEDS:
Almond, Chia Seeds, Coconut, Hemp Seed, Sunflower Seed
Buffalo Milk, Butter (salted), Butter (unsalted), Condensed milk, Heavy Cream, Milk
Buffalo meat, Rabbit, Turkey, Venison
Agave Nectar, Brown Rice Syrup, Date Sugar, Fructose, Maple syrup, Monkfruit, Raisins, Raw sugar, Stevia, Sucanat, Turbinado sugar
Avocado oil, Coconut Oil, Olive oil Sunflower oil
Cilantro, Fennel Seeds, Poppy Seed, Rose water
PLANTS BASED MILKS:
Almond Milk (without skin), Amaranth milk, Coconut milk, Oat milk, Quinoa milk, Soy milk, Rice milk
Cold water, Iced water
Signs of excess cold quality on the body can include: Pale skin, slow heartbeat, cold hands and feet, poor digestion, gas, bloating, excess gurgling in colon, weakened kidneys.
Heating foods contain the properties of combustion, metabolism and digestion. When balanced, impart a feeling of lightness to body and mind.
Heating foods include:
Apricot (fresh), Bananas (ripe), Cherry, Currants (dried), Grapefruit, Lemon, Mango, Orange, Papaya, Paw Paw, Peaches, Pineapple, Prunes (dried), Tamarind
Arame, Artichoke, Beets, Brussel sprouts, Carrots, Chives, Chillies, Corn, Daikon radish, Dulse, Garlic, Horseradish, Kombu, Eggplant, Leeks, Mushrooms, Mustard greens, Onion, Peppers, Parsnip, Radish, Spinach (cooked), Tomatoes, Turnip, Wasabi, Winter squash
Buckwheat, Brown Rice, Corn, Millet, Rye, Teff
Brown lentils, Tempeh, Toor Dahl, Urad dahl
NUTS AND SEEDS:
Almonds (with skin), Brazil nut, Cashews, Hazelnuts, Macadamia, Peanuts, Pecans, Pine nuts, Pistachios, Sesame Seeds, Walnuts. Note: Pumpkin and seeds are more neutral)
Buttermilk, Goat Milk, Ghee, Yoghurt (homemade)
Beef, Chicken, Duck, Eggs, Fish, Lamb and Mutton, Pork, Shrimp
Alcohol (all types), Chocolate, Coffee, Kombucha, Miso, Olives, Pickled vegetables, Tempeh, Sauerkraut, Vinegar (all types)
Honey (raw and cold pressed only should be consumed), Jaggery, Molasses
Apricot, Mustard, Sesame, Walnut
Ajwain, Allspice, Basil, Bay Leaf, Black Pepper, Caraway Seeds, Carob, Cayenne Pepper, Celery Seed, Chamomile, Chillies, Cinnamon, Cloves, Coriander Seed, Cumin, Curry Leaves, Dill, Fenugreek, Ginger, Hing (Asafoetida), Jalapenos, Lemongrass, Marjoram, Mustard Seed, Nigella (black cumin), Nutmeg, Orange Zest, Oregano, Paprika, Parsley, Rosemary, Safflower, Sage, Salt (Mineral Salt), Star Anise, Tarragon, Thyme, Turmeric
PLANT BASED MILKS:
Almond milk (with skin), Buckwheat milk, Brazil nut Milk, Cashew milk, Chestnut Milk, Macadamia Milk, Pumpkin Seed milk, Sesame milk, Teff milk
Signs of excess heat in body can include: Red skin, red sclera (eyes), tip of tongue red, acne, ulcers, rashes, anger, irritability, impatience, excess sweating, acid reflux, sour burp, gastritis, heart burn, very hot hands and feet.