Very often I am asked if I cook or eat in an ayurvedic way, or if I offer ayurvedic cooking classes. You can easily find interesting recipes on the Internet, but first, the most important thing is to understand the basics of how Ayurveda sees nutrition.

The 5 elements and 6 tastes:

The basic concepts are fairly simple. As always, the basic principles go back to the 5 elements: ether, air, fire, water and earth. It is therefore important to understand them perfectly.

Ayurveda links the elements 5 to 6 tastes based on their effect. The classification goes like this:

Taste
Element
Sweet     Earth + Water  
Sour Earth + Fire
Salty Water + Fire
Pungent Fire + Air
Bitter Air + Ether
    Astringent   Air + Earth

 

A balanced diet should include the six tastes so that everyone consumes all elements. However, as we already know, each person has different proportions of these elements in them; therefore our diet should help us bring the elements that are lacking by favouring certain tastes over others.

Vata should favour tastes that bring the earth, fire and water in its constitution since those are the ones naturally lacking. Pitta must encourage air, ether and earth and Kapha air, ether and fire.

Dosha
Made of
Tastes to favour
Vata
Air and Ether Sweet, sour, salty
Pitta
    Mostly Fire, a little bit of Water    Sweet, bitter and astringent
    Kapha   
Earth and Water     Pungent, bitter and astringent   

 

• Sweet foods are not limited to candy; rice, milk, nuts, meat, root vegetables and seeds are sweet by nature.
• Yogurt, lemon, acidic fruits, vinegar, and fermented foods are sour.
• All types of salt (sea, mountain), tamari sauce, and seaweed are salty.
• Ginger, black pepper, cloves, chillies, garlic, and wasabi are pungent (or spicy).
• Pomegranate, turmeric, green leafy vegetables, cranberries, and black tea are astringent.
• Green leafy vegetables, aloe, and fenugreek are bitter.

Very often people who are attracted to certain tastes (spicy or salty for example) but for the 'wrong reasons'. Their natural tendency to consume certain flavors or food is because they are unbalanced and they tend to eat what they are used to rather than what would balance them. So pay attention to the effects of what you eat! If you already have a lot of fire in you, do you think that spicy food or coffee will help you calm down or refresh your system?

Ayurveda is a science of observation. After your meal, pay attention to the effects you feel (heat, dryness, restless, clear mind, etc.) and used the following 20 attributes.

The 20 attributes

Ayurveda uses attributes to name everything that makes the universe. They go by pairs and will allow us to understand the food and their effects.

Dull Sharp
Hard Soft
Heavy Light
Cold Hot
Wet Dry
Dense Subtle
      Rough             Smooth     
Slow Quick
Solid Liquid
Oily Brittle

 

Each food has its own qualities. For example, a root vegetable has heavier qualities than a leafy green vegetable. Root vegetables grow in the earth, they are dense and do not see the light of the sun. The green leafy vegetables grow above the ground, they are light in nature, and grow under the sun. So if you feel ungrounded, eating a sweet potato will certainly help. On the contrary if you needed to feel lighter, eat green leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach.

But beware; this doesn’t end there. If you like sweet potato but you feel more Kapha (heavy, lethargic) you can use spices to balance and heat it up. Add black pepper, cinnamon, ginger and maybe even a little cayenne.

If you are Vata (hyperactive, short memory, anxious) and you like kale, simply sauté it in a little clarified butter or sesame oil (to make it hot and heavier since raw is cold and difficult for some Vata to digest) along with coriander, cumin, and salt.

If you're Pitta and you can not seem to live without your hot sauce, make sure to cool it down with coconut milk, fresh coriander and cucumber.

Enjoy fun understanding the qualities and tastes of your food, and season it depending on your constitution!

Have fun and continue to observe the effects they have on you. Everyone is unique!

Bon appétit!


Eléonore, trained in the Iyengar yoga tradition, has been teaching yoga since 2008. Later, she completed an advanced 500h training in Kripalu yoga, in the United States. She has been practicing Thai Yoga Massage since 2009 in Montreal and is a teacher at Lotus Palm. Her passion for knowledge of the human body and a better art of living brought her to anchor her education in Ayurveda. She completed her 250h training at the Kripalu Institute and continues her education regularly. She currently teaches workshops to adapt your yoga practice according to Ayurveda.

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