Balancing Pitta Dosha: Diet
Ayurvedic texts recommend the principle of opposites for reducing the level of a dosha that has become aggravated. Since the characteristics of Pitta include sharpness, heat, and acidity, qualities that are opposite to these in diet and lifestyle help restore balance to Pitta dosha.
Include a few dry foods in your daily diet to balance the liquid nature of Pitta, some “heavy” foods that offer substance and sustained nourishment, and foods that are cool to balance the fiery quality of Pitta. So what exactly does this mean in terms of foods you should choose and foods you should stay away from? Here are some specific dietary tips:
If you need to balance Pitta, choose ghee, in moderate quantities, as your cooking medium. Ghee, according to the ancient ayurvedic texts, is cooling for both mind and body. Ghee can be heated to high temperatures without affecting its nourishing, healing qualities, so use ghee to sauté vegetables, spices or other foods.
Cooling foods are wonderful for balancing Pitta dosha. Sweet juicy fruits, especially pears, can cool a fiery Pitta quickly. Milk, sweet rice pudding, coconut and coconut juice, and milkshakes made with ripe mangoes and almonds or dates are examples of soothing Pitta-pacifying foods.
The three ayurvedic tastes that help balance Pitta are sweet, bitter and astringent, so include more of these tastes in your daily diet. Milk, fully ripe sweet fruits, and soaked and blanched almonds make good snack choices. Eat less of the salty, pungent and sour tastes.
Dry cereal, crackers, granola and cereal bars, and rice cakes balance the liquid nature of Pitta dosha, and can be eaten any time hunger pangs strike during the day.
Carrots, asparagus, bitter leafy greens, fennel, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, green beans and bitter gourd (in very small quantities) are good vegetable choices. They become more digestible when chopped and cooked with Pitta-pacifying spices. Vegetables can be combined with grains or mung beans for satisfying one-dish meals. Avoid nightshades.
Basmati rice is excellent for balancing Pitta. Wheat is also good – fresh flatbreads made with whole-wheat flour (called atta or chapatti flour and available at Indian grocery stores) combine well with cooked vegetables or Pitta-balancing chutneys. Oats and amaranth are other Pitta-balancing grains.
Choose spices that are not too heating or pungent. Ayurvedic spices such as small quantities of turmeric, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cardamom and fennel offer flavor, aroma and healing wisdom.
Drink sweet lassi with lunch to help enhance digestion and cool, not ice-cold, water to quench thirst.
Suggested Food Choices for Pitta Dosha
The following list of suggested foods is by no means all-inclusive, but offers starting guidelines if you are new to ayurvedic dietary principles. We will add to this list regularly, so please check back often!
Grains: Rice, wheat, barley, oats, amaranth, sago, all cooked until tender
Vegetables: Asparagus, tender and bitter greens, bitter gourd, carrots, fennel, peas, green beans, zucchini, lauki squash, artichoke, parsnips, okra, celery, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, sweet potatoes, all cooked, small quantities of raw lettuce, carrots or cucumber
Fruits: Avocado, pineapple, peaches, plums, grapes, mangoes, melons, pears, pomegranates, cherries, all kinds of berries, apples, coconut, dates, fresh and dried figs, raisins (soaked), all ripe and sweet
Lentils: Mung beans, mung dhal, red or brown lentils, small portions of garbanzos, lima beans, black beans, all cooked until butter-soft
Dairy: Whole milk, cream, butter, fresh yogurt (cooked into foods), lassi, cottage cheese, fresh paneer cheese
Oils: Ghee, olive oil, walnut oil
Herbs: Cilantro, curry leaves, parsley, fresh basil, fresh fennel, fresh mint
Nuts and Seeds: Almonds (soaked and blanched), sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds
Spices: Turmeric, cumin, cardamom, coriander, fennel, small quantities of black pepper, Chinese cinnamon, mint, saffron, dill, sweet orange zest
Other: Rice milk, soy milk, sucanat, turbinado sugar, date sugar, and tofu in moderation (diced small and cooked with spices)