If your prakriti or original constitution has more Kapha in it, you will exhibit many of the characteristics and qualities of Kapha when you are in balance than people who have more Pitta or Vata in their make-up. And that's natural. But if the qualities become extreme, or more pronounced than usual at a given time, then the Kapha in you has in all likelihood become aggravated or imbalanced, and needs to be brought back into balance. And if a predominantly Vata or Pitta person starts exhibiting many Kapha qualities, that indicates a Kapha imbalance in that Vata or Pitta body type. In both cases, it is then time to follow a Kapha-balancing diet and lifestyle to help restore the level of Kapha in the physiology to its normal proportion.
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Factors that can cause Kapha dosha to increase in the physiology include a diet that contains too many deep-fried, sweet or heavy foods, over-consumption of ice-cold foods or beverages, exposure to cold and damp, daytime sleep, and lack of exercise.
Ayurvedic texts recommend the principle of opposites for reducing the level of a dosha that has become aggravated. Since the characteristics of Kapha include heaviness, softness, sweetness, cold, stability and unctuousness, qualities that are opposite to these in diet and lifestyle help restore balance to Kapha dosha.
Include a few dry foods in your daily diet to balance the oily nature of Kapha, foods that are nourishing but light to counter the heaviness of Kapha and warm foods with a zing to them to balance the sweet, cold quality of Kapha. Here are some specific dietary tips:
- If you need to balance Kapha, choose ghee (purified butter fat) or a healthy oil, in very small quantities, as your cooking medium. Ghee can be heated to high temperatures without affecting its nourishing, healing qualities, so use ghee to sauté vegetables, spices or other foods. Steaming foods and then adding a mixture of spices sautéed in very little ghee is best. In general, avoid too many oily foods.
- Light, warming foods help balance Kapha. Clear vegetable soups with beans and diced vegetables, stews made with Kapha-balancing vegetables, bean casseroles, dhal soups and light grain/vegetable combinations are ideal for balancing Kapha, especially when combined with Kapha balancing spices. Stay away from too much salt and instead infuse dishes with fresh herbs and spices for flavor.
- The three Ayurvedic tastes that help balance Kapha are pungent, bitter and astringent, so include more of these tastes in your daily diet. Apples, garbanzo beans cooked with Kapha-balancing spices or steamed broccoli or cauliflower with a light olive oil and spice mixture make healthy Kapha-pacifying snacks. Eat less of the salty, sweet and sour tastes.
- Dry cereal, salt-free crackers and rice cakes balance the liquid nature of Kapha dosha and make good snacks. However, eat snacks in moderation if you are trying to balance Kapha, and avoid sugary snacks. Honey in small quantities is the recommended sweetener.
- Carrots, asparagus, okra, bitter leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, daikon radish and bitter gourd are good vegetable choices. They become more digestible when chopped and cooked with Kapha-pacifying spices. Vegetables can be combined with lighter grains or mung beans for satisfying one-dish meals. Avoid nightshades. Fresh green chili peppers and fresh ginger root add flavor while balancing Kapha.
- Choose lighter whole grains, and eat grains in moderation. Barley, buckwheat, millet and couscous are good choices. If you choose heavier grains, such as rice or wheat, eat very small quantities.
- Zesty warming spices are wonderful for balancing Kapha. Ayurvedic spices such as turmeric, cumin, coriander, cayenne, black pepper, dried ginger, asafetida (hing), cloves and fenugreek offer flavor, aroma and healing wisdom.
- Drink lassi infused with digestion-enhancing spices and herbs with lunch and lots of warm water through the day to help flush toxins from the body.
Suggested Food Choices for Kapha 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.
- Grains: Buckwheat, quinoa, barley, millet, oats, amaranth, sago, small portions of Basmati rice, all cooked until tender
- Vegetables: Asparagus, all kinds of greens, bitter gourd, green beans, lauki squash, artichoke, celery, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, kohlrabi, daikon, radish, cabbage, all cooked
- Fruits: Apricots, prunes, peaches, pears, cherries, berries, apples, lemons, limes, pomegranates, dried figs, raisins
- Lentils: Mung beans, mung dhal, toor dhal, red or brown lentils, small portions of garbanzos, lima beans, black beans, all cooked until butter-soft
- Dairy: Whole milk diluted with water, lassi, small portions of cottage cheese
- Oils: Small portions of ghee and olive oil
- Herbs: Cilantro, curry leaves, parsley, fresh basil, fresh mint, fresh oregano, fresh thyme, sage, neem leaves
- Nuts and Seeds: Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds
- Spices: Turmeric, cumin, cardamom, coriander, fennel, dried ginger, Chinese cinnamon, black pepper, Chinese cinnamon, mint, saffron, dill, lime zest, nutmeg, cayenne, fenugreek, mustard seed, oregano, marjoram, thyme, rosemary, paprika, mace, cloves
- Other: Raw honey in moderation, unsalted unbuttered popcorn, crackers in moderation, cooked tofu in small quantities (diced small and cooked with spices).
- The primary lifestyle recommendation for balancing Kapha is to get moving. Physically, get some exercise every single day. Mentally, challenge yourself with new activities – learn a new skill, solve some puzzles or take a class. Emotionally, welcome new relationships in your life by making it a point to meet people – volunteering comes naturally to the caring Kapha nature and can provide a forum for building nurturing new bonds.
- Do not skip meals, and do not fast. The Kapha digestive agni tends to be low, as does appetite, and not eating on time slows down the metabolism even more. Start your day with a light breakfast. Eat a sustaining meal at lunch, and a lighter meal for dinner. The Amalaki Rasayana helps enhance digestion and revs up the metabolism.
- Daily elimination is very important to prevent ama from accumulating in the body. Triphala Rasayana helps promote regularity as well as toning the digestive system. Since Triphala is gentle, not habit forming and not depleting, it can be taken indefinitely to maintain regularity.
- Deep-cleanse oily skin twice a day with a natural cleanser to rid the skin of surface impurities and grime. Once a week, exfoliate your skin with a cleansing scrub. Shampoo your hair every other day at least with a gentle natural shampoo. The Ayurvedic oil massage, performed each morning before your shower or bath can help dislodge embedded toxins and increase natural energy levels.
- Protect yourself from the damp and cold. Drink lots of warm water, infused with warming spices such as turmeric, dried ginger and black pepper. At-home steam therapy can help open clogged channels.
- Vigorous activities are ideal exercise for Kapha-dominant people. Exercise everyday for best results, but without overstraining. Racquetball, singles tennis, jogging and aerobics are good activity choices for balancing Kapha. Exercise in the morning if you can to get a good charge for the day ahead.
- If Kapha dosha is out of balance, you'll tend to feel tired even after a solid ten hours of uninterrupted sleep. Go to bed early and wake up really early in the morning, definitely before sunrise, to improve the quality of your rest. Do not indulge in daytime snoozes.
- Add zest to your life by consciously incorporating variety and new experiences into your life. Travel, meeting new people and trying new hobbies are ways to embrace change.
- Set aside about 30 minutes each day for meditation, to help balance the heart, mind and emotions and to enhance body-mind-spirit coordination.