AND RAW FOODS: NOTES
by Tom Billings
Notes for a talk given in August 1997. These are notes only;
a brief summary of major points. For more details, consult the references cited at the
Ayurveda is a Sanskrit term that translates as the science of
life. Ayu=life, veda=knowledge.
- (oldest) active traditional health system of India - a
complete medical/health system that began over 5000 years ago (but has many modern
innovations - a genuine holistic health system with physical, mental, and spiritual
components - classic Ayurveda developed surgery ('Sushruta Samhita') thousands of years
ago - including plastic surgery, opthalmic (eyes), and periodontal (gums) surgery. (Some
raw fooders object to surgery. Would you refuse surgery after an accident, to "patch
Ayurveda is a QUALITATIVE, ATTRIBUTE BASED system. It models
nature in terms of 3 "doshas", where dosha can be translated as "that which
can go wrong".
Elements: Dosha Short Description Function
Earth + Water = Kapha Water Stability/Structure
Fire + Water = Pitta Fire Transformation
Air + Ether (Space) = Vata Air Movement
Note that ether is not really an element, but the property of
The doshas are often spoken of as being purely matter, but
they are more than matter - they are a force, or energy as well. To make matters more
complicated, the subtle energies behind the doshas are often discussed separately: vata
(prana), pitta (tejas), kapha (ojas).
Doshas on the Physical Level
Dosha Primary Site Manifestations
Kapha Stomach & Lungs Mucus, cholesterol, etc.
Pitta Small Intestine Liver Bile (& Stomach Acid)
Vata Colon Gas and Dissolved Gas
In Ayurveda, the vata-pitta-kapha model is used to analyze
disease and health, foods and medicines.
The doshas have qualities (based on their constituent
elements), and the increase or decrease of the doshas in the body, depends on the
qualities of everything ingested (i.e., if the ingested item has similar or antagonistic
qualities: similar items will increase the dosha, antagonistic items will decrease the
Qualities Associated with the Doshas:
Vata: dry, cold, light, mobile, clear, subtle, rough
Pitta: slightly oily, hot, intense, light, fluid, sour,
mobile or liquid
Kapha: oily, cold, heavy, stable, smooth, viscid, and soft.
Body Types: Finding Your Type
Bodies are classified by types, according to which doshas are
dominant in the person. Prakruti = your genetic constitution, the balance of your doshas
at birth. Vikruti = the balance of the doshas in your body, right now. If the
vikruti=prakruti, there is balance. Balance is required for optimal health. Most people
are dual dosha, i.e. there is a dominant dosha, and a secondary dosha. However, everyone
has all 3 doshas in your body.
The general body types are:
pitta-vata and vata-pitta, PV/VP pitta-kapha and kapha-pitta,
PK/KP vata-kapha and kapha-vata, VK/KV
"pure" vata, pitta, kapha P, V, K vata=pitta=kapha
(very rare, and these people are usually incredibly healthy) VPK
See references for tables of body types, to determine your
vikruti and prakruti. The most reliable way to determine your body type is to have your
pulse read by a qualified Ayurvedic health professional. Common mistakes with body type
* getting confused when you feel that you fit into more than
one dosha. This is normal. Most people are dual dosha, e.g. vata-pitta, pitta- kapha, and
so on. * confusing prakruti and vikruti. This is easy to do if you have been unbalanced
for a long time, as some are. * seeing yourself as you want to be, rather than as you
When evaluating your body type, remember that: vata is cold,
dry, irregular; pitta is hot, oily, irritable, kapha is cold, wet, stable.
Substances are classified according to their effect on the
doshas (i.e., their effect on the body) when ingested. Ayurveda teaches that ANY substance
on the planet can be used as medicine, if the dose/method is correct, and the substance is
processed to detoxify it (required for toxic substances only). This is quite different
from systems that teach that medicines don't exist!
Food, medicine, poisons: a logical approach.
Foods are those substances that nourish the body and mind.
Medicines are those substances that assist digestion, thereby promoting good nutrition and
the removal of toxins. Poisons are those substances that block digestion and/or prevent
This can be viewed in terms of domination:
Poisons are those substances that (try to) dominate you.
Foods are those substances that you dominate (digest).
Medicines are those substances that assist you in dominating
Ayurveda recognizes that toxins can be created in the body
and mind. The word ama is used to describe toxins. Ama is not limited to the body;
negative thoughts are regarded as a form of mental ama. Also, physical ama can occur in
vata, pitta, kapha forms/manifestations.
Ama is formed when one eats the wrong foods, and/or engages
in crimes against wisdom, prajnaparada. [Note: the word sin implies guilt, there are no
emotions attached to prajnaparada.] One can view prajnaparada as going against common
Emotions Associated with the Doshas
Vata: fear/anxiety Pitta: anger Kapha: greed.
Causes of disease: "perversity of mind" is the
ultimate cause of every disease (negative thoughts). The physical toxins that occur are a
symptom, not the actual cause, of most disease.
In treating disorders, Ayurveda first seeks to restore health
on the physical level by balancing the doshas via diet, herbs, etc. Then, the mental and
spiritual problems are addressed with meditation and yoga. The ultimate goal of Ayurvedic
treatment is to heal the entire person: body, mind, spirit. Unfortunately, most people
nowadays are primarily interested in the body, and ignore the spirit and mind. Also,
treatment in Ayurveda is specific to the individual; it is not a "1 treatment cures
all", "1 diet cures all" type of system.
Foods are analyzed by their qualities, and their effect on
Rasa: taste - the start of digestion - sweet, sour, bitter,
pungent, astringent, salty
Virya - during digestion - heating or cooling effect
Vipak - after digestion (assimilation) - the effect after
digestion, i.e., the energy (in rasa or taste terms) during assimilation
Prabhav - exceptions to the rule. A food that has one of
rasa, virya, vipak that is different from the usual effects. Example: honey has sweet
rasa, and sweet vipak. Normally the virya would be cooling, as sugar is cooling. However,
honey has virya=heating, and can aggravate pitta if consumed in excess.
Note: the best set of food tables is in the Lad and Lad
cookbook cited in the list of references.
Examples of food analyses in Ayurveda:
Cilantro Rasa: Astringent, sweet Virya: Cooling Vipak: Sweet
Tridoshic: decreases V, P, K
Cayenne Pepper Rasa: Pungent Virya: Heating Vipak: Pungent
Decreases V, K; greatly increases P
Goat milk Rasa: Sweet Virya: Cooling Vipak: Pungent
Tridoshic: reduces V, P, K Promotes strength, and *decreases* mucus (if consumed properly)
Eating Ayurvedic Style
Many people think that an "Ayurvedic diet" is a
diet of spicy Indian food. Not necessarily - an Ayurvedic diet is a diet that matches your
body type to the foods consumed - eating those foods that sustain your body type, to avoid
unbalancing your prakruti (natural tendencies). Ayurveda includes countermeasures to let
you "cheat" now and then, without harming yourself. (That is, although Ayurveda
recommends foods per your body type, there is no undue emphasis on "dietary
purity" or "dietary discipline".)
Eating according to Ayurveda is a learning process, that
involves: + learning the properties of foods + listening to your body, to see not only the
reaction to certain foods, but also the signs of possible imbalance + matching the foods
you eat to your individual state and needs.
Foods for Vata Constitutions
Good: most sweet, sour, salty tastes Avoid: bitter, pungent,
astringent Vata people generally have weak/irregular digestions. Raw foods diets are
hardest for such people. (Discussed later.)
Fruits: most sweet fruits are good for vata. However,
avoid/minimize dried fruit. Overconsumption of sweet foods will increase/aggravate vata,
rather than soothe/reduce it. Excess fruit consumption can increase ungroundedness.
Vegetables: most vata people find cooked vegetables easier to
digest than raw. See discussion later on this. Avoid dried, frozen veggies.
Grains: wheat is best for vata, but it is heavy and some are
allergic to it. Sprouted oats are OK. Most other grains are drying and are not good for
vata. Cooked, with oil or butter, they are not so drying and may be easier for vata to
handle. Sprouted and made into milk substitutes, they are similarly easier for vata.
Legumes: only mung beans, adzuki beans, and small lentils are
OK for vata (and spices may be necessary to help digest them).
Nuts and Seeds: pretty much all nuts, seeds are OK for vata,
but one must be careful and consume only what one can digest!
Oils: sesame oil, ghee are good for vata. Ghee is a
digestant, sattvic, considered the best oil. Again, eat only as much as one can digest.
Dairy: all good for vata, if you are not allergic.
Sweeteners: in moderation, sweeteners reduces vata. In
excess, they aggravate both pitta and vata.
Spices: all, in small quantities, are good for vata
Note: vata people are prone to addiction, including sugar and
alcohol (alcohol has vipak=super sweet).
Foods for Pitta Constitution
Good: sweet, bitter, astringent Avoid: sour, salty, pungent
Pitta people generally have strong digestion and can do well on raw food diets.
Fruits: avoid sour fruits, sweet fruits are OK. Pomegranate
reduces pitta and is one of the best foods for pitta. Bananas, papayas should be used only
occasionally - they are too "hot" for pitta.
Vegetables: all veggies, except salty ones (tomatoes) and
pungent ones (e.g., radishes) are good for pitta.
Grains: wheat, barley, oats, rice are good,. Other grains are
heating and should be eaten only occasionally.
Legumes: pitta can best digest them, but their gas production
is still a problem. Mung beans are best; pitta can eat any legumes (in small amounts)
except for lentils.
Nuts and Seeds: most are too hot, too oily for pitta.
Coconut, pumpkin, sunflower are OK.
Oils: avoid oils; small amounts of olive oil, ghee are OK.
Dairy: sweet and/or non-fermented dairy is good. Milk,
butter, ghee are good; cheese, yoghurt, sour cream, are not.
Sweeteners: sweet is cooling, so pitta can tolerate sweet
better than others. Honey is heating - use sparingly.
Spices: cooling/mild spices only: coriander, fennel,
cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric, small amounts of cumin, ginger.
Foods for Kapha Constitutions
Good: bitter, pungent, astringent Avoid: sweet, sour, salty
Kapha should limit their food intake, and avoid fat.
Fruit: avoid very sweet, very sour fruits. Dried fruits are
OK. Astringent fruits are good. Vegetables: pungent and bitter vegetables are good; avoid
sweet vegetables (sweet potatos).
Grains: hot, drying grains like millet, buckwheat are good.
Wheat is heavy, hard for many kapha people to tolerate in large quantities.
Legumes: avoid heavy legumes like soy, kidney beans. Mung
beans, red lentils are OK.
Nuts and seeds: too oily, heavy. Can eat small amounts of
sunflower and pumpkin seeds on occasion.
Oils: generally avoid. Small amounts of ghee, sunflower oil
Dairy: small amounts of goats milk, ghee OK. Otherwise avoid
- most dairy is too heavy & oily for kapha.
Sweeteners: avoid, as they increase kapha. Raw honey is the
exception - it reduces kapha.
Spices: any/all are OK, except salt.
Managing Dual Dosha Prakrutis
Dual dosha refers to those with 2 dominant doshas - this is
actually very common, as people who are nearly "purely" one dosha, are rare. For
example, a VP person is one whose vata dosha is dominant, pitta secondary, and kapha a
In order to manage dual doshas, one needs to know that the
seasons can be characterized by doshas as well (and also times of day):
Doshas are most active in the seasons: Winter is kapha season
Early Spring: kapha season Late Spring and all of Summer: Pitta season Fall is Vata season
Doshas are predominant at certain times of day (times are
approximate) 9 AM - 3 PM Pitta 3 PM - 6 PM Vata 6 PM - 9 PM Kapha 9 PM - 3 AM Pitta 3 AM -
6 AM Vata 6 AM - 9 AM Pitta
Returning to the topic of managing dual doshas; the basic
idea is to follow a diet that reduces the dosha that is dominant in the season.
* a PV/VP person should follow anti-vata diet in Fall/Winter,
and anti-pitta diet in Spring/Summer. Tastes: avoid pungent foods (aggravates P & V),
favor sweet foods (sweet reduces both P & V). Caution on sugar: avoid psychological
dependence on sugar/sweet foods; work to develop sweetness in your entire life, not just
your diet. "Favor sweet foods" here means to eat foods (not alcohol) whose vipak
is sweet, not the rasa. Many foods have sweet vipak, but the rasa is not sweet.
* a PK/KP person should follow anti-pitta diet in
Spring/Summer, and anti-kapha diet in Fall/Winter. Tastes: bitter & astringent reduce
K, so are the best tastes. Sour and salty both aggravate P & K - avoid.
* a VK/KV person should follow anti-vata diet in Summer/Fall,
and anti-kapha diet in Winter/Spring. Tastes: "hot" tastes preferred - sour,
salty, pungent. "Cold" tastes to be minimized: sweet, bitter, astringent. You
can balance sour and salty tastes with sweet; pungent with bitter and astringent.
Raw Foods Diets
Raw foods are in general considered cold and some of them are
difficult to digest. Pitta predominant people, with their innately strong digestions, can
generally do well on raw foods diets.
Recall that kapha is cold, so raw foods may increase kapha in
such persons. Kapha people, by using some countermeasures, can usually succeed on a high
raw diet - if they eat intelligently.
Classic Ayurveda says that vata predominant people should eat
cooked food, as their digestion is irregular and weak. Gabriel Cousens reports good
results with raw food diets for vata people, by using the standard Ayurvedic
recommendations for vata, applied to raw foods. Some of these measures can also be used by
kapha people to make raw easier for them:
* one dish meals. The foods come together and become one food
for the stomach. In raw foods, this means: raw soups (e.g. Ann Wigmore's energy soup, and
the blended salads of Dr. Stanley Bass), raw stews (sprouts/avo, with raw soup poured over
them), and one bowl salads where the ingredients are in small pieces.
* using spices to enhance and strengthen digestion - mostly
hot spices, to counteract the cold of vata/kapha - ginger, peppers (hot/black), nutmeg,
* warming the food to around 118 degrees F (some suggest
* (not for kapha) using oily dressings, and or oily foods
(such as avocados) to increase the time the food takes in digestion, thereby improving
digestion. Oil strongly decreases vata, but aggravates kapha.
Additionally, there are a number of other countermeasures one
can use to help keep the doshas in balance:
* regular oil massage (daily if possible). For vata, use
sesame oil, for kapha, use mustard or corn oil, for pitta, use castor or sunflower oil.
* herbs. You can get a formula from an Ayurvedic
practicioner, but most people also take triphala churna. This is the most commonly used
herb in Ayurveda. "Triphala churna" translates literally as "3 fruit
powder" - it is 3 dried fruits, ground up. I (and millions of other people) take it
daily. Dose: 1/2 tsp dry with warm water at night, or (the method I use) 1 tsp soaked in 1
cup of water overnight, drink in morning.
* yoga postures. Each pose has a doshic effect. The lotus
pose is tridoshic. Most backward bends reduce pitta, most forward bends reduce vata, and
surya namaskar (sun salutation) reduces kapha.
Dealing with Imbalance
* anti-doshic diet to reduce the excess doshas
* herbs to reduce the dohas
* regular yoga and meditation
* oil massage
* Pancha karma - a cleansing procedure that is highly
effective in removing ama and reducing excess doshas. Primary techniques of Pancha karma
are: oleation - oil massage & oil ingestion, to get excess doshas to return to their
"homes", their principal sites in the body, after which the doshas are
eliminated by the following: emesis (therapeutic vomiting) - get rid of kapha, purgation
to get rid of pitta, and enemas to eliminate vata. Pancha karma is less stressful to the
body, and often more effective than long fasts. (Long fasts usually aggravate vata.)
* other procedures
The Most Difficult Imbalance for Raw Fooders?
Probably a PV or VP person with both P & V out of
balance. This is difficult, because the measures used to reduce vata (spices), may
aggravate pitta. The restriction to a raw vegan diet makes things challenging here.
In this case, one must be willing and able to thrive on a
very limited diet, as raw vegan foods that are tridoshic and/or P-, V- are few and far
between. In order to get balanced under such conditions, discipline, routine, and extra
measures (e.g., castor oil enemas, herbs) may be required.
Life is much simpler in this case if one admits raw dairy to
the diet. Raw milk is a complete food, and is P-, V-. A raw diet that includes raw milk
will be much easier to achieve balance on.
Other Aspects of Ayurveda of Interest to Raw Fooders
Tongue diagnosis. By looking at your tongue, you can check
for: - toxins (ama) in the colon and G.I. tract - malabsorbption of nutrients (a topic of
great interest to raw fooders) - the condition of other internal organs.
This info is also available through pulse diagnosis, but
reading radial pulses, Ayurvedic style, is both an art and a science - much practice
required. Fingernail diagnosis, and eye diagnosis, also can provide information on the
conditions of your internal organs and possible imbalances. These diagnostic systems are
illustrated in the first book by Dr. Lad, listed below.
Recommended Reading in Ayurveda
Prakruti: Your Ayurvedic Constitution, by Robert Svoboda
Ayurveda: Life, Health, Longevity, by Robert Svoboda
Ayurveda: The Science of Self-Healing, by Vasant D. Lad
Ayurvedic Cooking for Self-Healing, by Vasant D. Lad and Usha
Ayurvedic Healing, by David Frawley
And other books by Vasant Lad, Robert Svoboda, David Frawley,
Bhagwan Dash, Maya Tiwari.