What foods match your dosha? Fruits are naturally sweet sour and refreshing. Some fruits, like apples, also have an astringent or drying property, depending on variety, macs more than fiji, for example. Your mouth feels a bit dry after a bite of apple, or quite dry after a bite of unripe banana–this is the astringent flavor. Pomegranates are another great example of this, as are persimmon, especially if not perfectly ripe.
Some fruit are more sweet than sour, like ripe figs, dates, bananas, some fruits are especially cooling, like watermelon, ripe bananas or oranges. Some fruits can be less cooling, like raspberries, strawberries and peach which are actually a bit spicy and considered warm in Chinese medicine. . And some fruits that are actually very sweet, like tree ripened mango, are still quite sour and acidic.
Why are the flavors of foods important? Because Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine both have observed the effects of the flavor of foods on different body-mind types, called Dosha in Ayurveda.
This aspect of food medicine is especially advanced in Ayurveda, where it is observed that, for example, Vatta dosha, dominated by elemental air, and therefore naturally cold, dry, ungrounded, is grounded, warmed, nourished and soothed by foods that are naturally sweet, sour, and salty, when consumed in moderation, especially if combined with other foods that have an unctuous and warming quality. This is because the sweet taste is naturally moistening—think about how your mouth tastes in the morning with a swig of juice vs just water.
The sweet taste is naturally nourishing and moistening, which ethereal dry Vatta needs desperately– most grains, flesh foods, dairy, vegetables are sweet, the sweet taste is the staff of life, all the other flavors either aid the digestion of sweet things or cleanse our bodies. This is why fleshy earthy damp solid Kapha needs to limit sweet tasting foods; it is already naturally well nourished and moist and need to eat more cleansing bitter green vegetables and stimulating spices.
Sour and salty are also moistening and building like sweet– they hold fluids in, which is good for Vata, and they are also heat producing flavors, which benefits cold Vatta (and aggravates Pitta).
Though many fruits are naturally sweet and sour, raw fruits are generally also cooling, so in excess will actually aggravate Vatta, which is naturally cold. The idea is to not increase what is already tending to be excess. Vatta is cold and dry so cold and dry foods and experiences increase or aggravate cold dry Vatta. So each dosha has to choose fruits that are appropriate, and in the case of Vatta, be careful about overeating raw fruit, especially in winter, and may even benefit from lightly cooked fruit, and when in a state of strong elevation or imbalance will want to eat stewed or baked fruits, even sweetened and with warming sweet spices like nutmeg, cinnamon and clove.
The astringent quality of some fruits like apples aggravates/elevates Vatta, because the astringent flavor is naturally drying, which is why, exactly, they are pacifying to wet muddy Kapha dosha, composed of the Water/earth element. Kapha on the other hand needs to restrict the naturally moistening quality of sweet fruits, which, practically speaking means less fruit altogether. Since water is cold/cooling, Kapha also likes warmth, so should not overeat raw fruit, especially in Kapha season, late winter/early spring, and may add spices, even hot ones like cayenne, to fruit, as is done in Mexico and India, but without the added salt and citric acid.
Pitta on the other hand is easily aggravated by the sour and spicy/pungent taste and pacified by bitter, sweet, and astringent. These are the people, people with any kind of heat symptoms on the skin, in the gut, in the mind, such as eczema, psoriasis, GERD, ulcers, some colitis and IBS, hemorrhoids, migraines, who should avoid sour fruit like the plague, avoiding all but the sweetest fresh picked berries, mangos, oranges, and tomatoes, and even then should eat them only in extreme moderation.
Pitta is the firey hot dosha, so it can be quite liberal with cooling fruits, especially in summer. These are the folk that can plough thru large portions of watermelon and still feel great, and can tolerate winter stone fruits like pear and apple quite well. I think any dosha has to be mad eating melons out of season, again, as its going to creat Ama/digestive toxins, but also because its just the wrong season to eat such a cooling food.
On Fruit Out of Season and Picked Green (Factory Farmed Fruit)
Fruit picked green that is left to ripen in the supermarket coolers create a huge problem for digestion and dosha balance. These fruits are often overwhelmingly astringent and sour, as we see with supermarket berries. This strongly aggravates the all three doshas, and in general promotes Ama/digestive toxins, because you are asking the body to digest something that has not gotten to the place nature intended for it. It is unripe. Try that in the real world.
In the real world, in nature, you would not pick a green strawberry or peach and try to eat it. It is inedible. In nature, there are numerous fruits that appear on bushes and trees for brief periods, in season, so we get less of them, but when we do get them they are very sweet, giving overwhelming pleasure and sweet memories. My memory of rambutan in Sri Lanka and jackfruit in India is like that, and even if I never taste them again, the memory sustains me and continues to nourish, which is the nature of sweetness. Sweet food and sweet experiences are nourishing, whereas bitter is cleansing; we grow as much from failure as success, for example. And when you eat fruit in season your longing for them grows, and with this longing, which is a kind of heat, grows your digestive fire/Agni, so that when you finally get that fruit in season your fire matches the cooling energy of the fruit.
So its best to avoid fruit out of season and fruit picked unripe as much as you can. Its not 100 % possible, unless you grow your own and live in every climate. But you can do it more than less. And if you are a landowner living in San Diego, my god, the list is endless; you can even grow decent bananas and mangoes here.
A particularly egregious example of fruits out of season are berries, incredibly sour and astringent when out of season. Though Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine are against frozen food, because it is not fresh and is old and transformed into a wrecked item, I think you would even be better off freezing ripe in-season berries than buying them in the winter off the shelf. Then you have to heat them up when using.
This is the difference between looking at foods from an energetic natural standpoint, and just counting nutrients. Sure, there may be anti-oxidants in green berries, but can your digestive fire liberate them? Sure pomegranate is high in anti-oxidants, and, being high in astringency, is excellent for Pitta and Kapha. But pomegranate juice and cranberry can strongly aggravate Vatta, except for very sweet juice in very small portions. This becomes urgent info in a disease like interstitial cystitis, which is very much a combined Pitta/Vatta imbalance, in which cranberry needs to be modified with something like licorice root, or in cases of insomnia and anxiety, emblematic of Vatta imabalance.
The starting point of a healthy diet in natural medicine is to match foods and cooking styles to your bodymind type, moderated by personal inclination, taste, and experience. If there is a food here or there that makes you feel great even though it is theoretically wrong for you, tell them Dr. Shalom said its OK. Listening to your body is as important as any dogma. Lists and theories have to be digested like anything else, internalized and made your own. This info is the beginning of the process, not the end. Do your best, don’t worry, and experiment.
In Ayurveda fruits picked at the wrong time (too soon, as in factory farm fruit growing,) and fruits eaten in the wrong season, (imported from far away lands in another hemisphere) create digestive toxins, called Ama. Try to eat fruits in season and that are ripened on the tree to maximize digestion of nutrients and experience. Match fruits and how you eat them to your body-mind type/Dosha, for Vata—sweet, sour and salty, possible heated, and with sweet warming spices in cold weather, for Pitta—sweet, bitter and astringent, avoiding sour, heat producing fruits, for Kapha—astingent, bitter, pungent, less fruit altogether, with added hot spices even.
Vatta—pacify with sweet, salty, sour. Aggravate with spicy, bitter, astringent
Favor: Sweet fruits, cooked fruits, fruits in season, grapes, cherries, peaches, melons, coconut, banana, sweet citrus, pineapple if sweet, plums and berries if sweet, mango, figs.
Avoid/Reduce: Dried fruits, apple, pear, pomegranate, cranberry, melon out of season
Pitta—pacify with sweet, bitter, astringent. Aggrevate with spicy, salty, sour.
Favor: Sweet fruits same as Vatta, larger quantity than Vatta, add astringent like pomegranate
Avoid/Reduce: Grapefruit, peach, sour fruit of any kind, papaya (its heating), persimmon, olives, berries out of season.
Kapha—pacify with astringent, bitter, spicy. Aggravate with sweet, sour, salty.
Favor: Astringent fruits like apple, pomegranate, cranberry, persimmon, small amounts of dried fruit.
Avoid/Reduce: Less fruit altogether, all sweet fruits, see Vata favor list for fruit to avoid.
copyright eyton j. shalom, m.s., l.ac. february 2013 san diego ca all rights reserved use with permission please contact for reprint permission.