Healthy Diet in Ayurveda: Pacify Kapha in Early Spring/Late Winter
A big part of healthy diet in Ayurveda (and Chinese Medicine) is eating with the seasons. Now we are in the Kapha season in the Northern Hemisphere, Late Winter/Early Spring, roughly the 6 weeks before and 6 weeks after the Spring Equinox on March 20. Choose a diet that follows the season; when Kapha predominates; eat foods that reduce Kapha
Healthy people of all doshas should favor a diet that pacifies, or reduces, Kapha this time of year, but if Kapha is your dominant body-mind type then you should follow a Kapha pacifying diet more closely. Also, anyone with a Kapha elevation (even a Pitta-vatta or Vata-pitta could have elevated Kapha) should follow this diet more closely.
The general principles:
Kapha is the manifestation of Water and Earth in the human being. When the mix is right, you get strong bricks full of empathy and kindness. A person that is grounded and of a strong build. Look for thick, slow moving limbs and a slow voice. Kaphas take action slowly and deliberately, and process new material slowly, even when they are brilliant.
But when the mix of water with earth is wrong, you get phlegm, dampness, edema, fluids where there should not be fluids like watery eczema, athlete’s foot, excessive vaginal discharge, laziness, clogging, dealing with conflict by withdrawal, holding on to things that are no longer useful.
In nature Kapha season is the time when the snow melts and the rivers rage and flood. The ground is moist. So the principle of managing Kapha is to keep things dry and sufficiently warm. It is still cold out, and not yet hot.
When there is too much water in Kapha you get mud. You cannot build structure with mud.
During Kapha season, or any rainy season, too, Kapha is elevated in nature, so its elevated in human beings. We are effected by climate and the world around us, just as plants are.
Kapha Lifestyle in a Nutshell: Needs Stimulation
Kaphas are strong and capable of hard physical labor, but can be the couch potato when unbalanced, withdrawing into beer and television. Kaphas need stimulation in lifestyle as in diet. Kaphas need to find ways to articulate, to express, to move. They need vigorous hard exercise. Get them digging ditches or climbing mountains. Get them into the sun, especially if Kapha/vata. Give them crayons and bold colors to play with. Keep them away from sugar and wheat or too much meat, or dairy. Kaphas cannot overeat. They gain weight and keep it on.
Kapha Pacifying/Reducing Diet is lighter, less oily, warming, with lots of vegetables and less sweet, sour, salty.
- Kapha is heavy, so we eat lighter food.
- Kapha is increased by sweet, sour, and salty tasting foods which are all moistening. So we decrease those and increase their opposites.
- Kapha is decreased by bitter, pungent, and astringent tasting foods which are drying, cleansing, and stimulating.
Key point for reducing Kapha:
All grains are sweet, and wheat is the sweetest and also cooling, all flesh food is sweet (which includes bland…notice that we never eat meat or fish without salt, sour, or pungent/bitter added) much fruit is very sweet, starchy veggies, but especially sweet potato, and all dairy is sweet. So to reduce Kapha reduce grains, especialy wheat and rice, flesh, and dairy.
Kapha diet: Lighter food, lots of bitter, pungent and astringent tastes, less sweet, sour and salty, less heavy and oily food, more warm food, less cold energy food (e.g. cucumber, melon), no refrigerated temperature cold food.
Lighter food is cooked vegetables, stir fry, steamed, sautéed, baked, beans, soups without cream.
Warming food is cooked food with spices
Bitter is green vegetables, herbs and spices, quinoa, grapefruit, olive
Pungent is spices, turnips, some veggies, onions, garlic
Astringent is some veggies like brocoli, apples, beans, pomegranate, lentils, rye, tea. If it leaves your mouth feeling dry, its astringent.
Sweet is most fruits, all grains, meat, starchy veggies, dairy, carrots, yams
Salt is salt, seaweed
Sour is citrus, vinegar, fermented foods, cultured dairy like yogurt
Cold energy food is water, cucumber, tomato, melons, most fruit, tomatoes, and of course anything that is refrigerated
Specific Foods For Kapha
Note: We need all 6 tastes in our diet. So you reduce the undesirable flavors, you don’t eliminate them.
And you can have small bits of the bad foods. Favor the good foods, reduce the bad ones. But if you have a strong Kapha elevation, you will need to eliminate many of the bad food, especially wheat and dairy which are cold, sweet, and heavy.
Low fat milk is the only dairy for Kapha. Avoid cheese and yogurt which are too heavy. Goat milk is lighter, so better than cow. Boil milk if you do have it, with spices, like Masala Chai. Real masala chai, not the fake one at Starbucks. Clove, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, nutmeg, even turmeric. Strong.
Milk is heavy food, like meat. Drink it alone, not at mealtime.
Avoid wheat, rice, oats. Quinoa, barley, corn, millet, rye, buckwheat are all preferable as they are either light, or more bitter, less sweet.
Honey is ok, as its warming and a bit spicy. No other sugar is good for Kapha
Lighter, less sweet, less sour, more astringent like apple, pear, pomegranate, cranberry, persimmon.
Reduce very sweet fruit like grapes. Avoid very sour tropical fruits like pineapple or cold fruits like banana
Green veggies, spicy veggies like radish, all the cruciferous, all veggies except tomato, cucumber, sweet potato and summer squash/zucchini; have those less.
All spices except salt. Less salt. This is the dosha that tolerates chillies. But respect your secondary dosha; if its elevated, especially Pitta, be cautious.
Beans are great; they are light and astringent. Be careful your sauce is not like barbecue. Made it spicy, like curry.
Tofu is too cold, but if you have it once in a way, bake it with spices.
Lighter meat like chicken and turkey. If fish then freshwater fish like trout, salmon, whitefish.
copyright eyton j. shalom, l.ac. april 2014 san diego ca usa all rights reserved, use with permission.