Sunday, 19 May 2013

Eating my way through winter, the Vata Dosha way.

Brrr; it's winter-like in Melbourne - although it is not officially winter.  The first day of winter is June 1, but it is so cold, rainy and miserable already that it feels like winter came too early.

The best thing about winter is being able to eat for my dosha.  

For those not familar with this term, Ayurvedic medicine believes there are three energies circulating the body and governing physiological activity. 

Everyone has a preferred or dominant dosha (in combination with the other doshas).   There are three main types; Vata, Pitta and Kapha.   I have a Vata dosha with a smattering of Pitta.

According to Deepak Chopra's website:  Vata dosha ...

"Physical Characteristics: Those with a predominance of Vata dosha usually have a thin, light frame and excellent agility. Their energy comes in bursts, and they are likely to experience sudden bouts of fatigue. Vatas typically have dry skin and hair and cold hands and feet. They sleep lightly and their digestion can be sensitive. When the Vata dosha becomes imbalanced, it manifests in the body as weight loss, constipation, hypertension, arthritis, weakness, restlessness, and digestive challenges.
Emotional Characteristics: Vatas love excitement and new experiences. They are quick to anger but also to forgive. When Vatas are in balance, they are energetic, creative, and flexible. They also take initiative and are lively conversationalists. When unbalanced, they are prone to worry and anxiousness and often suffer from insomnia. When they feel overwhelmed or stressed, their response is, “What did I do wrong?”
Bizarrely, the qualities of Vata mean that I have to do the opposite to balance them.  For example, the Vata qualities are: 
 Cold, light, dry, irregular, rough, moving, quick, changeable.
So, to balance them I need to stay warm, eat heavy moist foods, have a regular routine in my life, try to stay calm and serene and take things easy.  
As long as Vata is in balance, I will be lively and enthusiastic, with a healthy body.
Everyone has a bit of Vata in them, which is why we all sometimes burn ourselves out and need to rest and get our selves 'right again'.  

"Balancing Vata

Excessive stress in your life leads your Vata force to become imbalanced, your activity will start to feel out of control. 
Your mind may race, contributing to anxiety and insomnia. You may start skipping meals, resulting in unintended weight loss, and your digestion may become irregular. 
  • To balance Vata, make choices that bring warmth, stability, and consistency to your life. Try to get to bed before 10pm, awaken by 6am, and eat your meals at regular times.
  • Avoid becoming chilled and keep your head covered when the weather is cold.
  • Light exercise that enhance balance and flexibility is best for a Vata body type. Take care not to push yourself too far and exceed the limits of your energy. 
  • Favor soothing, calming music.

Vata-Balancing Foods

To balance your dominant dosha you should:
  • Eat larger quantities, but don’t overeat.
  • All sweeteners pacify Vata and may be taken in moderation.
  • Fats and oils are beneficial in the digestive system.
  • Low-fat dairy products are recommended. 
  • Rice and wheat are the best grains for balancing Vata. 
  • Sweet, heavy fruits such as: bananas, avocados, mangos, apricots, plums, berries, coconut, figs, grapefruit, orange, lemon, melons, papaya, peaches, pineapples, rhubarb, kiwi, dates, nectarines and dried fruits.
  • Eat fewer fruits such as apples, cranberries, pears, and pomegranates. To ease digestion, fruits are best eaten lightly cooked or sautéed or eaten alone.
  • Cooked vegetables are best.  
  • All varieties of nuts are recommended.
  • Beans can aggravate Vata, with the exception of tofu, lentils and mung bean."
So, my winter dosha balancers include:

Porridge, with honey, banana, crushed nuts and a dollop of Greek yoghurt (sometimes I microwave a handful of frozen mixed berries instead of banana)
Toast and avocado, or cream cheese or sardines or peanut butter
Veges, prepared any way (usually stir fried) with a sprinkle of lemon-infused olive oil and a dollop of tahini
Lentil and vege soups or casseroles (the thicker the better) with a sprinkle of lemon-infused olive oil
Rice soup (any vege soup with left over rice added) with a sprinkle of lemon-infused olive oil (yup, I love my olive oil!)
Lots of hot water and lemon juice
Real dark chocolate (I posted previously about my favorite - a New Zealand brand 'Whittikers' Dark Ghana ... dairy free dark choc - not too bitter not too sweet ... just right.)

(To find your dosha combination take the test on the link above.  It is interesting to find out that the way your preferences for eating and living are actually the correct thing for your body.)

How would you eat to balance Kapha? Since their qualities are the opposite of Vata; heavy, slow, steady, solid, cold, soft, oily, they need to eat the opposite of the Vata. Lots of light fruits, salads, low oil stir fries, very little dairy, green juice fasting, few sweets.  Also, they would need excitement in their lives, lots of change and an erratic routine.  

Pitta qualities?  Hot, light, intense, penetrating, sharp, acidic. Those with a predominance of Pitta have a fiery nature in both body and mind. Eat cooling foods like sweet fruits such as melons, cucumbers,  stay away from honey, but moderate sugar is ok, laugh a lot, and balance exercise with rest. 

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