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Foods to suit your physical constitution

Ayurveda believes that each of us is born with a certain type of physical and mental constitution based on the energies of life. Dr Shikha Sharma tells you how to identify your own.

health and fitness Updated: Jul 24, 2010 16:39 IST
Dr Shikha Sharma
Dr Shikha Sharma
Hindustan Times

In several articles, I have talked about the basic body constitution. The body constitution is every person’s foundation. It is your basic energy type, which, in these modern times, would be referred to as your genetic type. Everyone’s basic bio-energy is fixed much before her or his birth, in the womb at the time of conception. This bio-energy is called your prakriti. In situations of mind-body imbalance the bio-energy can get disturbed and in this disturbed form, it is called the vikruti.Vikruti is like an artificial cover on the basic prakriti.

The three bio-energies – vata, pitta and kapha – are the energies of life or nature. They are embodied on earth in the human body and mind. So your prakriti encompasses both your mind and body.

RiceOn a higher plane, these energies have certain properties. Vata has the property of creativity, thought, movement, transportation, communication and progress. Pitta has the energy of transformation and action, and passion. And kapha has the energy of harmony, synergy and togetherness. So creative thoughts are a result of vata energy. The transformation of food energy to life energy happens because of pitta energy. And body structure is the result of kapha energy.

Vata, pitta and kapha all resonate with the basic natural elements or panchamahabhutas – air, water, fire, earth and vacuum. In nature, vata resonates with air. Pitta resonates with a mix of fire and a little water and kapha resonates with a combination of earth and water. Since we humans are created from nature, both the mind and the body mirror nature. The spiritual mind and soul are what we get from the higher cosmos.

Here are some of the properties of each type of bio-energy to help you identify your own. Remember that most people are a combination of two energy types.

Vata: Quick and creative (and they hate the cold)

The mind of the vata energy type is very creative and quick. Vata people may be easily distracted and in some cases, this may lead to confusion or inability to finish work on time. They have a tendency to multitask from choice and may sometimes take up far too many tasks than they can accomplish in a given time.

The hair may be wavy and dry and may break if it isn’t oiled regularly. Thirst is erratic – a vata person may drink a lot of water on some days and no water on other days. Energy levels fluctuate wildly. Sometimes, they may feel a burst of energy and at other times, they may feel completely drained. Vata people may lose weight easily but any weight gain will begin to show only in later years. Their body frames are slim and the bone structure light. The appetite is small but erratic and sometimes, they may feel extremely hungry.

The voice and speech is rapid and in some high vata cases, may also be slightly dry or husky and not very clear. The digestive system is sensitive and prone to constipation, which may be of the dry kind.

Vata people tend to be impatient and restless and some may suffer from anxiety, fearfulness and nervousness. Also, body pain is a common complaint. They are good with technology and gadgets. They may show a mild addiction for tea or coffee or video games. As far as weather goes, they prefer a warm climate to a cold one. Vata women may have a slightly lower blood pressure than those with other prakritis. They sweat less and prefer sweet and sour foods.

Recommended foods
Warm foods Hot soups, garam masalas, nuts and oil seeds, eggs, fish, thick stews, wheat
Foods with good hydration Rice, watery vegetables, barley, fruit
Food with lubrication All oils, butter, ghee, fats, bananas
Foods with soft fibre Oats, bael sherbet, rice bran, oat bran
Foods that decrease gasSaunf, elaichi, haldi, salt. Vata people should have frequent meals

Foods to avoid
Rough and dry foods, cold foods, raw and fibrous foods

Body pain, irregular menstrual cycles, sleep problems

Kapha: Happy go lucky! (and no bad hair days)
Kaphas have the best skin among all the energy types and may have large eyes. They also have thick, long hair which, if looked after well, is better than that of all the other types. They have excellent stamina and reproductive systems. On the flip side, they have sluggish livers and a tendency to gain weight. Also, they tend to be sedentary and do not enjoy too much activity or exercise.

Kapha people are the most happy-go-lucky of all people and usually look happy even if they are upset inside. They are natural at bringing people together and building institutions and friendships. They are very patient and are good planners, so they do not lose their cool in difficult situations. They are also attractive for their balance and stability. In fact, stability is the hallmark of the kapha personality.

On the other hand, they may become shy, reticent, introverted and worse, lazy, with a penchant for over-eating, over-drinking and living a life of leisure. They get uncomfortable in rainy or very cold weather. The disorders they may face are obesity and diabetes. Kaphas rarely lose their tempers and speak in a calm, steady voice. They are genetically strong and sturdy.

Recommended foods
Dry foods Foods that absorb water, warm foods that work as natural laxatives, herbal teas
Cereals Dry and low sugar cereals like millets, jawar, bajra, and corn – boiled or roasted (no corn flour)
Oils Olive or peanut oil, nuts and oil seeds are good
Liver boosters All leafy vegetables, salads, aloe vera, sprouts
Herbs and spices They are excellent for kapha people

Foods to avoid
All dairy products including dahi, milk, creamy and oily foods, white rice and maida, breads and pasta

Obesity, fibroids (with pitta as an additional factor), diabetes, high cholesterol

Pitta: perfectionists, driven by goals and milestones

Pitta people have a larger build and better stamina than vata people. Their skin tends to be a little oily and their hair may suffer from premature greying. Pitta people have fine, straight hair that is thicker than that of vata people. They often feel extremely thirsty and can drink lots of water all the time. Compared to the other two prakriti groups, they are extremely focused but may sometimes become very hyper and driven Type A personalities. Their voices are commanding and sharp and they have good leadership qualities.

On the other hand, these qualities tend to make them short-tempered, tense and often, frustrated. They may also suffer from high blood-pressure and cholesterol.

Pitta people are great perfectionists and like to be organised at all times (this is what tends to make them frustrated). They have excellent digestive systems but may have a tendency to over-eat. They also require a regular, sound, seven to eight-hour sleep. They thrive on goals and milestones and cannot tolerate heat. They sweat a lot and have a tendency to blood disorders, infections and pimples. Sometimes, they may suffer from body odour. On the other hand, they have good vision and shiny skin.

Recommended foods
Cooling foods Barley, bael sherbet, rice, mung dal khichri
Alkaline foods Aloe vera, all green leafy vegetables, fruit, all salads, all vegetables
Oils Cool oils like olive oil and rice bran oil (avoid mustard oil and trans fats)
Fibre foods Wheat bran and wheat, oat bran and oats, barley, all dals, especially kala channa. Lots of water
Meat Dairy and warm meats like game meats and meats from hooved animals – but strictly in moderation

Foods to avoid
Garam masalas, fried foods (especially), foods with garam tasir. Skipping lunch is dangerous for pitta people as this is when pitta gets aggravated

All acne, blood infection and liver problems, pancreas problems

First Published: Jul 23, 2010 17:27 IST