Choosing the Ideal Ayurveda Diet for Weight Loss

1342968_12234562_picGiven all the information on doshas and imbalances, on the six tastes, and on various food qualities, how do we ultimately decide what food is best for us? While it is true that a person with a particular mind/body balance is most likely to over-accumulate the dosha that predominates, this is not always the case.

Due to our modern lifestyle, filled with so much sensory stimulation, computers, travel, stress, multi-tasking and irregular sleep habits, a large percentage of people end up with some kind of Vata imbalance. So while it is true that a Vata dominated type will most likely develop Vata imbalances, Pitta and Kapha types can also  find themselves with Vata imbalances.

Those trying to lose weight often assume that they should avoid Kapha-type foods. But in fact it could easily be that an underlying Vata or Pitta imbalance is causing poor digestion, triggering food cravings and comfort eating, thus leading to weight gain. Eating light salads, raw vegetables and other light, cold foods (and in some cases spicy foods) would only serve to aggravate these imbalances and work against weight loss. In creating an Ayurveda weight loss program or any other kind of targeted health regime, it is recommended to see an expert in Ayurveda pulse assessment before committing to a particular diet.

It is important to defer, initially, to an intellectual understanding of recommended foods. Suppose you are craving chocolate. The taste of chocolate is both bitter and sweet. When we get cravings it usually means our body requires the nutrients naturally provided by foods with those tastes (especially the bitter taste which tends to go missing in our western diet). Rice and spinach provide sweet and bitter tastes and are probably the kinds of foods that what the body is actually looking for. But the mind turns that craving for sweet and bitter into a craving for chocolate. Bad habits can create “false” desires. Sometimes retraining the mind/body is necessary before we can trust our instincts to lead us to the proper diet. Once we develop truly natural eating habits, the body itself becomes the best Ayurvedic authority.

There are two different approaches to diet: balancing and purifying.  A balancing diet includes all six tastes but favors more of those that will help pacify the one or two doshas that are out of balance. A purifying diet targets the build-up of ama in the system. Ama is the end product of poorly digested food. It is said to be at the basis of the vast majority of illnesses and disorders. Because ama contributes to the early stages of so many diseases, reducing ama and enhancing digestion is a critical part of the Ayurvedic understanding of balanced health. Next week we’ll look at an ama-reducing diet and how we can promote ideal digestion.

To find information about Ayurveda Consultations, visit the website for The Raj, Ayurveda Health Spa and Treatment Center:



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Ayurveda: How Food’s Taste and Qualities Affect Balanced Health

Last week we looked at the Ayurveda principle of including all six tastes in every meal in order to assure balanced nutrition — and balanced doshas. This week we will explore the building blocks of both the doshas and the six tastes: the five “mahabhutas” or primordial elements of creation. These elements are earth (prithivi), water (jala), fire (tejas), air (vayu) and space (akasha). These elements combine in different ways to make up the three doshas and the six tastes.


Vata is a combination of space (akasha) and air (vayu).

Pitta is a combination of fire (tejas) and, in lesser amounts, water (jala)

Kapha is a combination of earth (prithivi) and water (jala)


Sweet is dominated by earth and water (prithivi and jala)

Sour is dominated by earth and fire (prithivi and tejas)

Salty is dominated by water and fire (jala and tejas)

Pungent is dominated by air and fire (vayu and tejas)

Bitter is dominated by air and space (vayu and akasha)

Astringent is dominated by air and earth (vayu and prithivi)

How the Tastes Affect the Doshas

Sweet, sour and salty tastes increase kapha and decrease vata

Pungent, bitter and astringent tastes decrease kapha and increase vata

Pungent, sour and salty tastes increase pitta

Sweet, bitter and astringent tastes decrease pitta.

As an example, we can see how vata, being made of the combination of air and space, would be aggravated by the bitter taste, which is dominated by air and space, as well as by the pungent and astringent tastes, which both contain the element of air. Qualities are increased by similar qualities and reduced by their opposites.

There are also additional pairs of food properties that can affect the balance of our doshas. These pairs are: heavy and light, cold and hot, and oily and dry.

Heavy and Light:

Heavy foods increase kapha and reduce vata

Light foods increase vata and reduce kapha

Cold and Hot

Cold foods increase kapha and vata and reduce pitta

Hot foods increase pitta and reduce vata and kapha

Oily and Dry

Oily foods increase kapha and reduce vata

Dry foods increase vata and reduce kapha

Not only do these qualities affect the doshas, they can also be natural signals regarding the nutritional value of the food. For example, heavier foods are harder to digest than lighter foods. If a person has a low digestive capacity, that person should take care to favor lighter foods. In the same way that a large log can snuff out a fire, too much heavy food can overload even a normal digestive system. This will result in the creation of ama, or impurties in the body. Common heavy foods include meat and oil and fatty foods.

Next week we will look into improving digestion, avoiding ama, and look at the difference between balancing and purifying diets. Ideally an Ayurveda consultation with an expert in pulse assessment will allow you to pinpoint the tastes and qualities of food that are best suited to balance your doshas and to enhance your digestion.

Find more information at The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa and Treatment Center:

Creating Balance Through Taste

One of the most basic principles in Ayurveda is that all of the six tastes should be included in every meal. This helps to assure that the food we are eating gives us complete nutrition, that our diet is balancing all three doshas, and that our food gives us a sense of satisfaction. Eating all six tastes has also been said to stimulate the proper sequence of the digestive process.

If you repeatedly omit some of the six tastes you may develop food cravings or find yourself searching the cupboards for “something more”. This can lead to weight gain or binging. The simple step of making sure you have included all of the tastes can help to overcome unnatural eating habits, often leading to easy and natural weight loss.

The six tastes are: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, astringent (dry and puckering) and pungent (spicy).  If you have one or more doshas that are out of balance or that tend to go out of balance you will want to include greater quantities of certain tastes in order to balance your individual constitution. Different combinations of tastes bring different doshas into balance.  For instance, vata dosha is balanced by increased amounts of salty, sour and sweet tastes. Pitta is reduced by bitter, sweet and astringent tastes. And kapha is balance by pungent, bitter and astringent tastes.

Next week we’ll look at the six tastes and their connection with the five “mahabhutas”—the primordial elements of creation (earth, water, fire, air and space). This week we will review the six tastes one by one:

The Six Tastes

Sweet foods include: Sugar, rice, milk, cream, butter, ghee and wheat products.

Sweet foods, because they are cold and heavy, increase kapha. If eaten in excess they can cause weight gain, a dull or sleepy mind, and congestion. Vata types benefit from sweet foods because sweet adds steadiness and physical energy. Sweet can also help pacify pitta because it cools the body.

Sour foods include: Lemons, cheese, yogurt, tomatoes, grapes, oranges, berries and other sour fruits.

Sour foods enhance digestion and increase thirst. Excessive thirst is a pitta characteristic, but because sour foods trigger the desire for more water, they can also make your body heavier (more kapha). Too much sour food can create sharp, acidic problems such as ulcers, blood chemistry imbalances, acne and rashes, and heartburn. Vata types benefit from eating sour food because it stimulated digestion.

Salty foods include: Salt, soy sauce, seaweed, and kelp

Salt is hot and spicy, increasing Pitta in the body. It also attaches itself to water molecules, making tissues heavier—a kapha function. Too much salt can lead to pitta disorders, such as inflammation, acne and overeating. Kapha disorders, such as becoming overweight, are also aggravated by too much salt. Salt is a good taste for balancing vata b because it stimulates and steadies digestion.Foods_(cropped)

Bitter foods include: Bitter greens (endive, chicory, mustard greens, parsley, sprouts), leafy greens (kale, spinach, chard), brussels sprouts, zucchini, celery, sprouts, beets and grapefruit.

Because of their light, cool, dry quality, too much bitter foods can put vata out of balance, diminishing the appetite and causing weight loss, headaches, unsteadiness, dry skin and weakness. Like sweet tastes, bitter foods cool the body and are therefore pitta pacifying.

Astringent foods include: Beans, lentils, dal, pomegranates, apples, pears, broccoli, asparagus, green beans, grains such as rye, buckwheat and quinoa, turmeric, marjoram and tea and coffee.

Astringent foods are dry and cooling. For vata types, astringent food can cause constipation or gas. Like bitter, this taste is effective in pacifying pitta and kapha.

Pungent foods include: Cayenne, chili peppers, radishes, ginger, anis, onions, horseradish and spicy foods.

Pungent foods are hot and spicy. For kapha imbalances, pungent foods are ideal for heating up your body and clearing congestion. Too much spicy food can cause excessive thirst, irritation, or anger in pitta types or in anyone during hot weather.

One simple option is to use “churnas”, special spice mixtures that are formulated to include all six tastes. However this shortcut has its drawbacks. Getting the bitter taste from spices is not going to give your the same exposure to the health-creating vitamins, minerals, and cancer-fighting components contained in foods such as brussel’s sprouts and kale.

A consultation with a Vedic expert can help you determine which tastes should predominate in your meals in order to provide optimum balance. For more information on  consultations at The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa and Treatment Center, visit

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Creative Commons. The image is used under the terms of Googles Creative Commons rules: This photograph and credit do not constitute an endorsement of this blog or products mentioned.)

Ayurveda Pulse Assessment — A powerful tool for maintaining balance

DCF 1.0 Just as specialists such as meteorologists and auto mechanics have special tools to help them in their field, Ayurvedic experts use “nadi vigyan” (pulse assessment) to evaluate your mind/body make-up and to pin-point potential weaknesses in the physiology.

When an Ayurvedic expert takes your pulse, he or she does not count the beats per minute. Rather, the expert places three fingers on the artery of your wrist and detects patterns and rhythms that signal your body’s state of health.

“What we feel in the pulse is the direct reflection of the physiology where consciousness first sprouts into matter,” says Mark Toomey, head of the Vedic Health office at The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa and Treatment Center. “From this level our assessment has maximum value.”

With this ancient tool, experts can determine your “prakriti” (existing mind/body balance) and detect your “vikriti” (any area that is out of balance and which, if left untreated, may sprout into disease or disorder.)


Prakriti literally means “nature” and refers to your essential nature or body type.

“Knowing your prakriti or body type helps determine your potential strengths and weaknesses. Then we can prescribe the correct diet, routine, behavior, herbal preparations and Ayurvedic treatment program to restore or maintain a healthy balance,” says Toomey.


Equally important is the identification of vikriti. Vikriti refers to any accumulation of the three doshas that is not natural or appropriate for the individual. Imbalance in the doshas can be caused by a variety of reasons, including stressful activity and wrong diet or routine for one’s particular body type (prakriti).

Taking the pulse allows the Vedic expert to determine not only which dosha is imbalanced but also the exact location of that imbalance in the body. This is done by analyzing the five subdivisions, or “subdoshas”, of vata, pitta and kapha.

For instance, you may have an imbalance of apana vata, the subdivision of vata located in the colon and lower abdomen. This could cause gas, constipation, or even lower back pain. Or you might have an imbalance in tarpika kapha, the subdosha of kapha located in the sinus cavities, head and spinal fluid. This is linked to sinus conditions, hay fever, and sinus headaches.

Once these imbalances are identified, specific dietary and lifestyle changes,  herbal remedies and Ayurveda treatments can be recommended to treat the subdoshas that are out of balance.

“Detecting and treating imbalances at this early stage can help prevent illness,” says Toomey. “This makes pulse assessment a powerful tool for promoting and maintain health and vitality.”

To schedule an appointment for an Ayurveda Pulse Assessment or to learn more about the Ayurveda approach to health, contact The Raj:

1-800-864-8714 ext. 9000


Nature’s Wonderfood…Brussels Sprouts?

brussel-sprouts-92240_640I’ve never understood why brussels sprouts have such a bad reputation. Smothered in butter and sprinkled with salt, they have always been one of my favorites. Lately I’ve switched to olive oil and still love them. Given their long list of amazing health benefits, brussels sprouts are vegetables that should be added to everyone’s grocery list.

I’ve come across a few tips for cooking brussels sprouts to get the most out of their health-improving benefits and the most out of their flavor. You’ll find them down at the end of the blog. But first, let’s look at what this wonderfood does for us.

1. Researchers now believe that brussels sprouts have a unique ability to protect DNA. Daily consumption of 1.25 cups of brussels sprouts was linked with the improved stability of DNA within white blood cells.

2. Brussels sprouts help fight cancer. They beat out kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage (all part of the cruciferous vegetable group) in providing glucosinolates. Glucosinolates are the chemical starting points for a variety of cancer-protecting components. Two examples:

–Sinigrin is a glucosinolate that prompts pre-cancerous cells to “commit suicide” – a natural process called apoptosis. According to scientists at the Institute of Food Research in Norwich, the effect is so powerful that even the occasional meal of brussels sprouts can destroy precancerous cells.

–Sulforaphane (another glucosinolate in brussles sprouts) has been proven to trigger the liver to produce enzymes that detoxify the body of cancer-causing chemicals. They have also been shown to inhibit chemically induced breast cancers in animal studies. Research published in the Journal of Nutrition shows that sulforaphane can halt the proliferation of breast cancer cells, even in the later stages of their growth.

3. Brussels sprouts, especially when steamed, can help lower cholesterol levels. Apparently steaming the mini-cabbages allows them to better bind with bile acids in the digestive tract. This makes it easier for bile acids to be excreted from the body. The result is a lowering of cholesterol levels.

4. Protein! While many vegetables contain small amounts of protein, brussels sprouts have enough to make them a meat-substitute.

5. Brussels sprouts are full of things that we need: Vitamin A helps the body fight against infection (and promotes a glowing complexion).  With three times the amount of vitamin C as oranges, this super-vegetable helps maintain healthy tissues and organs. The vitamin D in brussels sprouts aids in the absorption of calcium and phosphate, allowing for stronger bones. It also supports brain cell functioning. The vegetable is also an excellent source of vitamins B6 and K and contains iron, copper, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous and potassium.

6. Brussels sprouts boost fertility in men and women due to their high levels of folic acid. Folic acid helps line the womb with the proper nutrients, thus raising sperm survival chances. Folic acid has also been associated with increased sperm levels.

The Washington Health Foundation recommends eating 1 1/2 cups of brussels sprouts two to three times a week. They also recommend adding additional cruciferous vegetables twice a week and upping their amount to 2 cups.

Here’s a more expanded list of health-promoting cruciferous vegetables:

Arugula, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, daikon radish, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, radish, rutabaga, turnip, watercress.

Cooking Brussels Sprouts

Overcooking brussels sprouts has two disadvantages. Not only do you lose much of their nutritional value and taste, they also begin to have an unpleasant odor. To get the most out of the vegetable, cut each sprout in quarters and let them sit for 5 minutes, then steam for an additional 5 minutes. (There is a whole science behind letting them sit after you chop them — some even suggest adding lemon juice at this stage. For now lets just say it helps activate healthy enzymes). Or chop and add to a stir-fry mix. Or, if you really don’t like the taste, chop them into tiny pieces and sprinkle over a salad. While raw brussels sprouts won’t yield the vegetable’s full nutritional value, you will still get a great deal of the benefits of this wonder-food.

To take a dosha test and find out what vegetables best support your body type, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website: