STOP! Is that Recipe Actually Ayurvedic? - Ayurveda | Everyday Ayurveda

STOP! Is that Recipe Actually Ayurvedic?

By on October 19, 2016

The internet proliferates with recipes for Ayurvedic foods. You can find ‘Ayurvedic’ recipes for everything from smoothies to popsicles to kale chips. What makes these recipes particularly Ayurvedic? Is it the spices, the ingredients or the combinations?

How can you determine whether a recipe is Ayurvedic or not?

Ayurvedic foods are not necessarily Indian—any cuisine can be Ayurvedic. But, the food or recipe should follow the basic guidelines of Ayurvedic dietetics set out in the Samhitas—the basic Ayurvedic medical texts which underlie all of Ayurvedic medicine. So let’s investigate, in 3 parts, what makes a recipe, or food, Ayurvedic?

Is it Ayurvedic? Basic Ayurvedic dietetics

In Ayurvedic medicine, food and herbs are understood to have some rudimentary characteristics.

Taste (Rasa)

Taste is separated into six categories:

  1. Sweet
  2. Sour
  3. Salty
  4. Pungent
  5. Bitter
  6. Astringent

These tastes exert different effects on the body and the doshas. The sweet, sour and salty tastes increase the Kapha dosha and decrease the Vata dosha. Pungent, bitter and astringent foods calm Kapha but aggravate Vata. Sweet, bitter and astringent pacify Pitta while pungent, sour and salty aggravate it.

Potency (Virya)

Food and herbs also have the ability to perform a specific action, i.e, to heat or cool, to moisten, to dry, etc. A strong, dominating ability, so strong that even the digestive fire (agni) cannot change it is known as virya. The most dominating abilities are heating and cooling, i.e. different foods exert a heating or a cooling effect on the body.

Post-digestive Effect (Vipak)

Ayurvedic medicine has a unique understanding about the post-digestive effect (vipak) that food and herbs exert. This post-digestive effect develops as a result of the digestive process.

  • Sweet vipak usually comes after the tastes sweet or salty are digested. It increases Kapha and improves the elimination of wastes from the body.
  • Sour vipak usually comes about after the sour taste is digested. It increases Pitta and also improves elimination of wastes from the body.
  • Pungent vipak usually comes about after the pungent, bitter or astringent taste is digested. It increases Vata and restricts the movements of wastes from the body.

Qualities of Food

Foods and herbs also have qualities that characterize them like heavy to digest, light to digest, dry, moist, sharp, etc.

These qualities affect the process of digestion and the function of the body, mind and doshas. These qualities are, perhaps, the easiest to assess besides taste, as they can be pretty apparent—i.e. feeling sluggish and dull after eating a heavy food or breaking into a sweat after eating a dish full of hot and sharp chilies.

Eat all 6 Tastes

A healthy person should have all six tastes in their diet with a predominance of the sweet taste–foods with the sweet taste like rice, ghee, milk and mung beans help build good bodily tissues. Ayurvedic recipes try to balance the taste, potency, post-digestive effect and qualities of foods, so that they become easy to digest and so that they are appropriate to the season and to the person eating them.

MEMBER CONTENT: Related Everyday Practices
EP - FreshBest

Is it Ayurvedic? Ayurvedic rules for eating

In Ayurvedic medicine, there are some very definite rules for the types of food that should be consumed regularly so that it promotes good digestion and the proper nourishment of the body, mind and spirit.

Eat Warm Food

The Ayurvedic medical texts are very clear that food should normally be consumed at a warm temperature because this ignites the digestive fire, eases the digestive process, helps in the proper movement of the Vata dosha and reduces the Kapha dosha. Thus, any recipe for food that is to be consumed at a cold temperature should not be consumed regularly. To put it simply: as a general rule, food should be cooked, not raw.

Eat Fat

Food should be unctuous or contain some fat. This also ignites the digestive fire, eases the digestive process and helps Vata to flow in its proper direction. Foods that are excessively dry, like kale chips, should not then be consumed regularly, especially because dark leafy greens possess the bitter taste which in combination with the dry quality would be aggravating to Vata dosha.

Avoid Heavy Foods

Food should be light and easy to digest. Thus, foods that are heavy, cold and sweet, like smoothies, should not be consumed regularly.

Food should not increase sticky secretions in the body (abhishandi) or cause burning (vidahi). Abhishandi foods are those that combine the heavy, sour and oily qualities which then increase sticky secretions in the body. An example of this is yogurt. Tomatoes and white potatoes are quite possibly abhishandi. Vidahi foods combine the sour, pungent, heavy and oily qualities and cause burning—coffee and spicy tomato sauce are examples of vidahi foods.

Thus, as a general rule, the majority of foods that you eat should be cooked, contain some oil or fat and spices that ease digestion. Other foods can be consumed, but not as a regular part of your diet.

Some of the foods that the medical texts suggest for regular consumption are:

  • Ghee
  • Milk
  • Mung beans
  • Rice, the best being aged red rice

Is it Ayurvedic? Unwholesome foods (Viruddha Ahar)

Finally, Viruddha ahar should be avoided. Viruddha ahar is unwholesome food and/or manners of consumption or preparation which stir up and aggravate the doshas without eliminating them from the body.

“All drugs and diets which dislodge the various doshas but do not expel them out of the body are to be regarded as unwholesome.” – Charaka Samhita, Sutrasthanha 27/85

The Charaka Samhita, the oldest existing Ayurvedic medical text, goes on to describe the following foods as viruddha ahar.

  • Eating foods that are inappropriate to place and time or inappropriate to the present state of your digestive power or bowel health — so, for example, eating ice cream on a freezing cold day or eating dry popcorn when you are constipated.
  • Cooking food either too little or too much and inappropriate mixing ingredients like mixing heating and cooling foods together.
  • Making food combinations that are recognized as having a negative impact on digestion—like fruit and milk, milk and fish or milk with salt.
  • Consuming food of inferior quality like stale food or food that has had all of its good qualities processed out of it.
  • Eating before the previous meal is digested or without actual hunger.
  • Eating foods that you are not accustomed to or dislike.

(Charaka, Sutrasthanha 27/86-101)

What this means then is that intake of a food that increases doshas in the body by magnifying seasonal, climactic or inherent qualities is not recommended and that continued intake will stir up the doshas and cause problems. An example of this might be intake of a dry, sharp and pungent dish in a dry and arid land or season—like taking kale chips made with sharp and pungent spices in the dry heat of summer on a frequent basis or intake of cold and fatty ice cream in the cold and wet part of winter.

Furthermore, if your digestion is weakened then intake of a heavy food is viruddha ahar and if you have strong, insistent digestive power then habitual intake of light and unsatisfying food is viruddha ahar.

Is it Ayurvedic? The conclusion

So, what this all means is that you must evaluate recipes and foods based upon what is appropriate to your inherent nature and to the land, season and time that you are in. The food also must be evaluated based upon your current state of digestive power, health and bowel function as well as whether your body is actually ready to eat and that the food you are considering is something you are accustomed too.

Eating this way will allow you to evaluate how food affects you and as you become in tune with eating seasonally and appropriately for the environment that you are in, you will naturally be eating Ayurvedically.

RECIPE: Ojas-Building Green Smoothie

Applying the principles that Nadia Marshall outlines in this article, we developed our own “Ojas-Building Green Smoothie.” It’s a simple recipe, so not burdened with improper food combining. It includes Vata-balancing oils and digestive aids, and it should be served room temperature or slightly warm.

The result is a nutritious green smoothie that’s digestible, won’t aggravate Vata when taken in moderation, and is balanced enough to support the formation of healthy tissues and Ojas.



Print Friendly, PDF & Email

About Kathy Gehlken

Kathy Gehlken is an Ayurvedic Practitioner, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Certified Massage Practitioner and Wellness Coach in the San Francisco Bay Area.  She has studied Modern Nutritional Science, Ayurveda—the health science of India—and a variety of massage modalities…Ayurvedic, Swedish, Deep Tissue and Reiki.  Learn more at

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Receive Everything Ayurveda In Your Inbox. Free!
Subscription and Privacy: Our free weekly newsletter is sent every Wednesday, and it's filled with our newest Ayurveda articles and resources.Your information will never be shared or sold to a 3rd party.
Green Smoothie pop-up
GYAB Webinar pop-up
Non-fat kitchari pop-up
Ayurveda Test pop-up
VA: Reading Pop-Up
VA: Tutoring Pop-Up
Poop Sheet Pop-Up