If you awake with bloating, nausea, fatigue, or brain fog, you might be quick to blame poor sleep or weak digestion for your troubles. Ayurvedic medicine, however, would beg to differ. According to Ayurvedic philosophy, lethargy and stomach upset, especially in the morning hours, are most commonly indicative of a poor diet. More specifically, fatigue is associated with eating a dinner that is too large, too heavy, or simply inappropriate for your doshic type. Eating an Ayurvedic dinner may just be the key to brightening your mornings and restoring your vivacity!

This week we will explain what qualifies as an Ayurvedic dinner and what Ayurvedic dinner is most appropriate for your dosha.

Dinner is for Paupers

The old adage that one should eat “breakfast like a King, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper” doesn’t completely apply here. Indeed, Ayurvedic medicine actually stipulates that lunch should be the largest meal of the day. Agni, or digestive fire, is highest in the middle of day. Eating a large lunch thus ensures that your largest meal is digested and absorbed most efficiently.

However, Ayurvedic medicine would certainly concede that you should eat dinner like a pauper. That’s because the digestive fire is weakest in the evening. It is therefore healthier to eat a small, light, and healthy dinner than a large, heavy one. If your dinner is too large or heavy, you will likely have difficulty digesting it due to dwindling agni. The result? Your body fails to excrete ama, or toxins, and to digest properly. And that means bloating, fatigue, digestive troubles, and general malaise the next day.

Ayurvedic philosophy recommends consuming dinner between 6:30 and 7:00pm—not too close to bedtime. Generally speaking, light soups and fresh salads are excellent Ayurvedic dinner options. Avoid heavy, oily foods, or foods that are high in carbohydrates, as these are too heavy for your body to process in the evening.

If you use oil, choose a light, cooling one like olive oil. Limit your consumption of high-carb grains, beans, eggplant, radishes, dill, red cabbage, and tomatoes. Instead, choose lean meats, fibrous, slow digesting grains, and light vegetables. Squash, bell peppers, lettuce, mixed greens, green cabbage, and cucumbers are excellent additions to an Ayurvedic dinner.

Pacify Your Inner Kapha

Kapha energy governs the evening. Thus, it is important to eat a kapha-pacifying Ayurvedic dinner. Doing so staves off the heavy, slow qualities of kapha that can lead to lethargy and poor sleep. Eating kapha-aggravating foods high in carbs and fat can also slow metabolic activity—a logical outcome, as kapha types typically have slower metabolisms.

In addition to avoiding heavy foods, you should steer clear of sour foods in the evening. Limit your consumption of fermented foods and citrus to earlier in the day (or not at all, if you are a kapha). Also limit your consumption of dairy, which aggravates kapha, and especially fermented dairy products like yogurt and cheese. Opt for light, cooling vegetables and lean proteins instead. Steamed vegetables, particularly greens, cabbage, broccoli, and asparagus are great for pacifying kapha. Be wary of high-carb root vegetables like beets, carrots, and parsnips.

The Ayurvedic Dinner for Your Dosha

Ayurveda also offers different recommendations for a healthy dinner based on your doshic type. Vatas, for example, require three ample meals a day. They are better able to tolerate carbohydrate sources like fruit, grains, and beans in the evening. A vata type may be able to consume root vegetables in the evening, whereas a pitta should opt for steamed vegetables and kapha should stick to steamed or lightly sautéed green vegetables.  A vata may enjoy dates, avocadoes, and coconut in the evening, whereas kapha should stick to lighter fruits like mangos and peaches. Pitta should avoid fruit entirely in the evening.

Portion sizes differ from dosha to dosha, too. Vatas often have a hard time keeping weight on. They can therefore handle a heavier evening meal. Pittas would do well to eat light yet solid food, like a modest portion of stew or a source of lean protein and vegetables. Kaphas can enjoy a light soup and salad. Kaphas benefit more from fasting than any other doshic type and may even benefit from skipping dinner altogether.

Tips for Optimizing Your Digestion

The perfect Ayurvedic dinner won’t be enough to relieve fatigue and indigestion if you aren’t taking the proper steps to optimize your digestion. Try chewing a slice of fresh ginger before a meal. Stick to warm water throughout the day, and don’t drink water during or immediately following a meal. Try eating slowly and mindfully, which eases digestion and can fight cravings and blood sugar fluctuations. Finally, try taking a light walk after dinner two or three hours prior to bed.

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