What Is the Ayurvedic Diet?

01/30/2023 | 13 min. read

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Most diets out there give you hard and strict guidelines. That is not the case in Ayurveda. In fact, the Ayurvedic diet is tailored towards your dosha, and some of the recommendations can shift with the season or as you age because your dosha can change during these times.

Understanding your dosha is the only “homework” needed to successfully implement an Ayurvedic diet. Really, this is just a dive into understanding who you are, how you tick, what throws you off balance and what makes you thrive.

Once you have this wisdom, it’s easy to navigate your way through the Ayurvedic diet—which is not really a diet but a manual for how to live successfully by accurately caring for your body and mind through your food choices.


                                                            What is your dosha? Find out now by taking the dosha quiz


A Proactive Approach to Shaping Your Health

The beauty of an Ayurvedic diet is that it doesn’t have to be done all at once. I have been refining my Ayurvedic diet for over two decades and I continue to make modifications to it. Why? Because my hormones have changed, I need more support for my joints and skin than I did 20 years ago, and I want to make sure that I have a strong and clear mind 20 years from now. I know my future is determined by what’s at the end of my fork today and Ayurveda helps me take a proactive and individualized approach in shaping my future health.

When Ayurveda first came out with these recommendations thousands of years ago, life was simpler, food was more wholesome, and we were far less busy. I feel we need the Ayurvedic diet more today than ever before because our lives have never required so much from us. The Ayurvedic approach to food helps support us as we manage the oftentimes unrealistic demands from the modern world.

Below is just a short list of the benefits you will notice after beginning an Ayurvedic diet:

  • Weight loss (if you need it)
  • More energy
  • Greater mental clarity
  • Improved sleep
  • Balanced mood
  • Healthier digestion and a happier gut
  • Regular elimination
  • Healthier aging (aka “Ageless Aging”)
  • Improved skin
  • Hormonal balance
  • Metabolic flexibility

General Guidelines of the Ayurvedic Diet

Let’s first start with the basics of the Ayurvedic diet that are recommended for every dosha. Remember, you don’t have to do everything at once. Start with one step and when you feel ready, go to the next one. Enjoy every step, as each one is helping you to be more loving, nurturing and caring to yourself.

Eat Prana-Rich Foods

Prana means life force. You can look at this as the underlying energy that keeps us healthy and vibrant.

Certain foods are higher in prana than others, including fresh, whole foods and whole foods that come from the earth but may still be sold in a bag, such as grains, nuts, seeds, dried fruits and lentils.

Foods that have been grown without harmful pesticides and using biodynamic agriculture techniques also tend to be higher in prana. Honey and ghee are a source of concentrated prana too. 

But in my opinion, the highest prana-rich foods are the ones you lovingly grow yourself.

One way to immediately boost prana is to stop using the microwave and switch back to stovetop, crockpot or oven cooking. Additionally, opting for freshly prepared foods over leftovers will boost prana. Food begins to denature within hours of being cooked, so leftovers only have a small fraction, if any, of the original prana in the food. At most, you can reuse your lunch for dinner within the same day, but anything beyond that is not worth it if you’re looking for ways to boost prana.

Make Lunch the Largest Meal of the Day

Your digestive power is linked to the sun and is referred to as agni in Ayurveda. Agni translates into fire, and our digestive fire is intimately connected to the sun, which is the source of fire for our entire planet through the heat and light it provides. 

When the sun is strongest at midday, we should consume our largest meal of the day. When the sun is weakest in the evening, we should consume the least amount of food, and it should be light and easy to digest.

Even if you can’t do this every day, by following this recommendation most days of the week you’ll notice a significant increase in your energy and mental clarity.

Practice Intermittent Fasting

This goes hand in hand with the previous recommendation of eating most of your food when the sun is out.

For those who live in a time zone where the sun sets really early during certain times of the year, don’t eat after 6pm. This will generally give you at least 12 hours of fasting. As you get older, your fasting time should become longer—aiming for 15 hours is best after the age of 40. 

The reason that intermittent fasting is so important is because your gut needs a break to stay efficient, and your body detoxes and repairs overnight. If your digestive tract is working overtime during the night, your body wont detoxify and regenerate as effectively because it’s too busy trying to digest your midnight snack.

Fasting during sundown honors your circadian rhythms. This automatically generates more energy and greater mental clarity, allowing you to jump out of bed feeling fresh and vibrant each morning.

Eat in a Mindful Manner

Mindful eating means eating without distractions (TV, electronics and even talking). These distractions actually pull energy way from the process of digestion and bring it up to the brain for “digesting” all of the information you’re feeding your mind. Eating in a quiet, settled environment and taking 30 seconds of silence before starting your meal help your mind shift gears so it can rest, relax and digest. 

Your brain receives signals from your senses to help it prepare your gut to properly digest your food—this includes the sound, touch, sight, smell and taste of your food. We try to eat with our hands as much as possible when at home to provide the sense of touch—this is a common practice in India. 

When you’re distracted, your brain doesn’t get any of this important sensory information so it not only doesn’t prepare your gut for the meal, it also converts digestive energy to mental energy. This leads to overeating, malabsorption and indigestion because your gut is shut down. 

My teenage son loves talking during mealtime. It wasn’t until he began having stomachaches that he finally realized that he wasn’t chewing his food during meals and was eating much more than he was able to digest because of his excessive talking. His personal experience with improper digestion helped him to finally reduce how much he talks during meals and to aim for chewing each bite 30-50 times, which is the Ayurvedic recommendation.

I know that for many families, mealtime can be a time to catch up with each other through conversation. In my family, we make time to catch up with each other in ways that doesn’t involve food, like going for an evening walk, or during family days or our weekly family meeting. 

Eat Until You’re 80% Full

It takes about 10-15 minutes for your brain to actually realize that you are full, which is why you should stop eating once you notice that you are about 80% full. This not only reduces your overall caloric intake each day, it also improves your digestion.

Your stomach is a sack and it needs some space to mechanically churn the digestive contents and break down your food. If you are eating until you are completely full, when your stomach is essentially at max physical capacity, there is no room to churn food to break it down.

Don’t Snack, Unless It’s Fruit

Your gut typically needs at least 3-4 hours to digest and move the contents out of your stomach. An Ayurvedic diet spaces meals 3-4 hours apart so that your stomach is empty by the time of your next meal. If you keep adding new food into your stomach while it is still trying to digest the prior meal, your overall digestive capacity is impaired and that creates ama, or toxins, due to the undigested food.

Fruit is an exception to this rule because it is quickly digested. If you’re truly hungry (and aren’t emotional eating), reach for a piece of fruit either one hour before your next meal or two hours after your last meal.

Walk After Eating

A brief, relaxing 5-15 minute walk grounds you and helps pull Vata downward to support healthy digestion. Otherwise, the naturally airy Vata energy can be dispersed upward into mental energy if you jump right back into work following a meal. This upward movement of Vata negatively impact the digestive fire.

Cook With Spices

Spices help you digest your food. Adding spices like ginger, black pepper, cumin, fennel and turmeric can turn your meal into nature’s delicious pharmacy, enabling your food to heal you from the inside out. In fact, many of these ancient spices are being studied for treating chronic conditions like arthritis, dementia, IBS, and asthma.

Soak Certain Foods

There are certain foods that naturally contain anti-nutrients and enzyme inhibitors, which can cause digestive issues. This doesn’t mean you can’t eat them. It just means that they need to be soaked in warm water before cooking or eating them, which neutralizes these compounds.

This includes foods like nuts, seeds, grains, lentils, and dried fruits (dates, goji berries, raisins and jujube). I soak these foods overnight and then cook or consume them in the following days. Many people who thought they weren’t able to eat these types of foods find that they tolerate them well once they have been soaked.

Cook with Love and Calm

This is not always easy to follow when you’re in the middle of a hectic schedule or if you had an argument with someone right before you’re about to cook. But your mental energy while cooking is one of the ingredients that you put into your food. 

My mom always cooked from her heart, and if her heart was processing something painful, she simply didn’t have the desire to cook. If she was the only one available in the family to cook a meal when she was feeling sad, we could taste it in her food.

Of course, we all have days when cooking is the last thing we want to do, even though we have to do it! When I’m in that spot, I breathe deeply for a minute to at least get into a calmer state of mind, understanding that my mindset is one of the “spices” going into my family’s meal. My husband chants mantras while he is cooking to help add the positive vibrations of the sound into the food and help shift his mind into a more loving and calmer space.

Dosha-Specific Adjustments

Once you understand these general guidelines, it’s time to dive into the specifics of which types of whole foods to eat and which seasons to adjust your diet, based on your dosha(s). 

Here are some general recommendations to help you get started:



  • Warm, soft, unctuous (oily), cooked foods
  • Room temperature or hot beverages
  • Cooked cereal, cooked oatmeal, stewed fruits or soaked fruits for breakfast
  • Sweet, whole foods, such as dates and raisins.
  • Sweet, sour and salty tastes


  • Raw vegetables and salads
  • Cold drinks and frozen desserts (such as ice cream, popsicles, frozen yogurt etc.)
  • Light, dry, crunchy food
  • Spicy (hot) tastes



  • Juicy cooling fruits (such as melons and pears)
  • Green, leafy vegetables (except for spinach)
  • Cool or room temperature beverages
  • Sweet, bitter and astringent tastes


  • Pungent (hot/spicy), sour and salty tastes
  • Vinegar and other fermented beverages and foods
  • Acidic foods and beverages (such as citrus, tomatoes, coffee, alcohol and soda)
  • Meat in excess



  • Warm, soft, cooked foods
  • Lots of vegetables
  • Light, dry, crunchy food
  • Room temperature or hot beverages
  • Honey in moderation
  • Ghee in moderation
  • Spicy, bitter and astringent tastes


  • Sweeteners (except honey in moderation)
  • Dairy and oils (except ghee in moderation)
  • Salt
  • Meat
  • Raw vegetables and salads
  • Cold drinks and frozen desserts (such as ice cream, popsicles, frozen yogurt etc.)

Easy Ways to Get Started Today

If you’re now convinced that the Ayurvedic diet is for you, but you’re not sure how to incorporate the general recommendations, here are a few simple ways to get the ball rolling:

  • Swap out salt and white sugar for healthier, less inflammatory alternatives (for salt alternatives, try sea salt or Himalayan salt; for white sugar, try coconut palm sugar, jaggery or honey).
  • Swap out butter or margarine for ghee; try to cook at least one meal a day with ghee.
  • Swap out cold drinks for room temperature or warm beverages.
  • Add at least one digestion-promoting spice to your meal (turmeric, cumin, fennel, cinnamon, etc.).
  • Chew your food at least 15 times per bite.
  • Reduce fast and processed foods by 25% and add one whole food to each meal.
  • Reduce your intake of meat and carbs by increasing the number of vegetables you’re eating; aim for half your plate to consist of vegetables.
  • Make one meal a week completely plant-based. Slowly work up to one entire day a week as a plant-based day—maybe Meatless Mondays!
  • Reduce your use of the microwave by 25% and after one month reduce it again to hit 50%.
  • Reduce your consumption of leftovers by 25% and after one month reduce it again to hit 50%.
  • Grow an herb you can use in cooking like basil, dill or cilantro. As a next step, consider planting a fruit tree or starting a vegetable garden.

Seeds of Wisdom

There is an Ayurvedic proverb, “What you eat becomes your mind.” What this means is that your food influences everything about your mind—the way you think as well as your clarity, mood and memory. The foods we drink and the beverages we consume literally become a part of who we are and the impact that has on not only our brain but our gut microbiome shapes the health of every organ in our body.

Today, after over two decades of implementing an Ayurvedic diet, I am still finding ways to better care for myself through modifications in my diet, like including the power of mantra in our home garden. This lifelong connection to food is one of the great rewards of an Ayurvedic diet. What is on your plate becomes the result of a nurturing and respectful partnership between you and Mother Nature.

Dr. Kulreet Chaudhary

Meet Dr. Kulreet Chaudhary

Dr. Kulreet Chaudhary is an integrative neurologist, Ayurvedic practitioner, and author of The Prime and Sound Medicine. Her combined expertise in both modern neurology and the ancient science of health known as Ayurveda gives her a truly unique perspective that has helped thousands of people to feel better and achieve health goals they never thought possible.

More About Dr. Kulreet Chaudhary