Best Winter Superfoods for Your Dosha (Ayurvedic Body Type)

Best Winter Superfoods for Your Dosha (Ayurvedic Body Type)

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Choose the right diet for you!

endurance training running winter telomere length longevity vata winter

Choosing the right foods has become extremely complex, controversial, and confusing for most people. With promises coming from every angle of the food pyramid, from paleo to vegetarian to vegan to gluten- and dairy-free, making healthy choices has become more confusing than ever! 

In this article, I will describe very simple, basic rules of eating according to nature’s harvest and your body type. Then, I will show you how to identify superfoods for your body type this winter, when you might need them most. 

Don't know your body type? Take the quiz! 

Ayurvedic Eating Rule #1: Eat in Season 

It is very simple. Print the free grocery lists for each seasonal harvest, or, in my book The 3-Season Diet, circle the seasonal foods you like and eat more of those during that season. 

Winter is governed by air, and is cold and dry. During winter, all body types should eat more nourishing and warming foods, such as soups, grains, and steamed veggies, found on the Winter Grocery List. These foods are higher in proteins and fats, which insulate the body during cold months. 

Spring is governed by earth and water, and is usually quite wet and muddy from rain or snowmelt. During spring, all body types should eat more light and dry foods, such as berries, sprouts, and greens, found on the Spring Grocery List, to combat the heaviness and congestion that spring can bring. 

Summer is governed by fire, and is generally hot and fiery. During summer, all body types should eat more cooling foods, such as salads, smoothies, and fresh fruit, found on the Summer Grocery List, to stay cool, calm, and hydrated in the heat. 

Fortunately, nature’s harvest of warming, higher-protein and -fat foods in winter helps balance its cold and dry extremes. After winter, nature harvests sprouts, berries, and leafy greens to antidote the congestive tendencies of spring, and then cooling fruits and veggies in summer to balance out the heat. Eating off of the seasonal grocery lists provides the perfect antidote for the extremes of each season, keeping each body type balanced. 

Ayurvedic Eating Rule #2: Adjust for Your Primary Body Type  

While each body type should change their diet for all three growing seasons or harvests, they must especially emphasize seasonal eating during the season of their predominant or primary body type. Vata types in winter, pitta types in summer, and kapha types in spring must pay more attention to eating seasonally. Here are the rules: 

  1. During winter, cold, dry vata types must eat more strictly off the Winter Grocery List of warming, insulating foods to stay nourished and balanced. 
  2. During spring, easygoing kapha types must strictly follow the decongesting Spring Grocery List to antidote the tendency to gain weight, hold onto water, and become congested.  
  3. During summer, hot, fiery pitta types must be extra strict to eat off the Summer Grocery List to stay cool and calm. 

Ayurvedic Eating Rule #3: Identify Superfood Season for Your Body Type 

When you are in the season that correlates with your primary body type, such as winter if you are primarily vata, all the foods on the Winter Grocery List with an asterisk are going to be superfoods. The foods with asterisks on each grocery list are the foods primarily grown in that season. The foods with asterisks will have more therapeutic qualities for the related body type during that season. 

Ayurvedic Eating Rule #4: Identify Winter Superfoods for Your Body Type 

Superfoods for Vata Body Types in Winter 

Vata types are more sensitive to stress, which is processed through the intestines. This makes intestinal health and elimination a weak link for vata types. Winter superfoods for vata will provide more healthy fats to combat stress and support intestinal function. 

While all foods on the Winter Grocery List with an asterisk are superfoods for vata, there are a handful that really shine. Vata types should make an effort to eat more of the following winter superfoods during the cold winter months: 

lifespa image, avocado, tuna and tomato salad
  • Nuts and seeds are naturally high in protein and fat, and provide much-needed insulation for vata types in winter. They are high in omega-3 fatty acids and minerals, which are also important for vata types to store each winter. 
  • Animal proteins are very acidic in nature, and thus drive high-quality proteins and fats deep into the tissues storage sites. The acidity allows this to happen more efficiently than plant-based proteins, which are more alkaline. 
  • Olive oil is loaded with antioxidant polyphenols, which support healthy cardiovascular function and also act as a great winter insulator for vata body types. 
  • Avocados are about 85% fat and harvested during winter in warmer climates, making them the perfect winter fruit. They are high in omega-3 fatty acids as well as carotenoids, which are powerful and natural antioxidants. 
  • Ghee’s primary fat is butyric acid, and the microbes in our guts make butyric acid. This fat is the primary fuel for colon cells, does the major driving of immunity, and feeds other good microbes throughout the intestines. 
  • Licorice + Cinnamon Tea lubricates the intestinal wall, boosts circulation, and warms up the cold hands and feet of a vata body type in winter. 
  • Ashwagandha is harvested in fall and is heavy, sweet, and warm—the perfect antidote to winter. It also boosts endurance, stamina, immunity, and a stable mood, which are all much needed in winter. 

Superfoods for Pitta Body Types in Winter 

To find superfoods for pitta body types in winter, take both the Summer and Winter Grocery Lists and cross-reference them. Whichever foods are found on both lists become superfoods for pitta in winter. 

Pitta types are generally prone to inflammation, and this often takes place in the digestive system, sometimes leaving pitta types with a distended belly. The best superfoods for this will provide more fiber and help move more bile from the liver into the intestines. Bile is like a Pac-Man gobbling up old toxic cholesterols and other toxins in the liver and intestines.  

If there is enough fiber in your diet, it will attach to the toxic bile and escort it to the toilet. But without enough fiber, up to 95% of toxic bile is recirculated back to the liver, with all the toxins in tow. Here are some of the most important winter superfoods and bile movers for pitta body types: 

  • Beets are loaded with constituents (like betaine) that boost bile flow and digestive enzyme production. They are also rich in the fiber needed to escort toxic bile to the toilet. 
  • Artichokes are loaded with fiber, support liver function, and are one of the best foods to increase bile production and help the body become a better fat burner. 
  • Kale is a well-known nutrient-dense superfood high in fiber and micronutrients to support liver function and detoxification. The high fiber content of kale requires it to be cooked in winter to qualify as a winter superfood for pitta types. 
lifespa image, baked apples stuffed with pumpkin seeds
  • Apples are high in fiber, which, again, helps escort toxic bile to the toilet. Apples have high levels of malic acid, which opens up bile ducts and flushes sluggish and congested bile out of the liver and gallbladder. In winter, apples are also best cooked. 
  • Coconut oil is a cooling oil. Remember, pitta types are both hot and dry, much like a desert. Coconut oil helps antidote both the dryness of winter and the heat of their type. Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, which converts to monolaurin in the gut, where it acts like a microbial scrub for bad bacteria. It is also a great alternative fuel supply to sugar. It absorbs quickly into the blood and is readily available as a ketone to fuel the brain. This is great for post-meal sweet cravings! 
  • Chamomile tea is cooling and is also somewhat demulcent, helping lubricate the lining of the intestines, which has a tendency to get dry in winter. 
  • Brahmi (Centella asiatica) is a nerve tonic that calms the nervous system and insulates pitta types from damaging stress in winter. 

Superfoods for Kapha Body Types in Winter 

Kapha types are generally heavy in nature and the harvest in winter is also heavy, so kapha types have to be careful to not eat too many heavy and rich foods in winter. Kapha types also have a slow metabolism, so if they eat too much heavy food, they can gain weight and become lethargic. Some of my favorite superfoods for kapha are: 

  • Mung beans are loaded with fiber to help escort toxic bile into the toilet, as well as to help keep blood sugar and sugar cravings stable. They are also the only bean that has “anti-flatulence factors,” which means, unlike other beans, they are easy to digest and do not cause gas. 
  • Pumpkin seeds are loaded with zinc and magnesium, two very common nutritional deficiencies. Seeds are somewhat preferable in winter over nuts because they are lighter and easier to digest. They are also high in the more active gamma-tocopherol form of vitamin E, which is great for cardiovascular health and circulation. 
lifespa image, grilled brussel sprouts
  • Brussels sprouts are a well-known nutrient-dense superfood, loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. They are high in vitamins C and K, which support vascular health and circulation. They are also loaded with the fiber needed to ensure toxic bile makes it to the toilet. 
  • Grapefruits are rich in vitamin C, which boosts immunity and promotes healthy circulation. Pink grapefruits are high in an antioxidant called lycopene, shown to support prostate health. The pith or white part of the grapefruit skin is high in constituents like diosmin, shown to support vascular function and microcirculation, which is in part responsible for cellulite and weak veins. 
  • Ginger is one of the best spices for kapha types in winter. Ginger is warming, boosts circulation, strengthens digestion, and is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory for kapha types, who love a healthy boost of circulation and stimulation during winter months. 
  • Turmeric is a warming spice that liquefies mucus in kapha types. Kapha types can become congested as a result of the dryness of winter. 

What are some of your favorite winter superfoods for your body type? Let us know in the comments below! 

We recommend "Superfoods for your Ayurvedic Body Type: Spring Edition": https://lifespa.com/superfoods-for-your-body-type-spring-edition/

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Gratefully,
Dr. John

22 thoughts on “Best Winter Superfoods for Your Dosha (Ayurvedic Body Type)”

  1. Dear Dr. Douillard,

    For Pitta-Vata constitution which dosha should be supported or both. I feel I am a bit Vata aggravated – dry skin and mucus, cold feet and hands being some of the signs.

    Thank you!
    Respectfully:
    Milena

    Reply
  2. Dear Dr. Douillard,

    I am a Pitta-Vata, with aggravated Vata by the early winter and dryness – mucus in nasal passages, cold feet/hands, lack of apetite, dry lips and skin.

    Besides oiling myself up and supporting the Vata aggravation, I was wondering, which dosha should I feed with the superfoods (the Pitta or the Vata)?

    Thank you very much!
    Respectfully,
    Milena

    Reply
    • Dear Milena,

      In my humble opinion you should first of all calm down aggrevated vata and only then pay attention to the second dosha, pitta in your case.

      Kind regards,
      Emil

      Reply
      • Dear Emil, Happy New Year.

        Thank you very much for your response! I am still figuring the balance. I have a little challenge – it seems that the teas/herbs/meals (i.e warm) for calming vata seem to aggravate my pitta. I try to go by the hours of the day or use tridosha calming herbs. Any thoughts?

        Also, I was hoping I might get an email reminder that a blog post has been responded to. So, I have missed the answer, since I had posted a few questions and can’t find them any more. Is there a way for me to set up to recieve reminders when an article I posted a question to has been answered?

        Thank you very much! Warm regards,
        Milena

        Reply
  3. Dr. Douillard,
    Great article and really helped clarify how to work both seasonal eating and eating for your body type. I have been following your eating program for my constitution of Vata for almost two years and can really tell the difference. I have one question that always pops into my mind as I go through the year—-is there ‘seasonal exercise for body types’? I know there are body type exercises, but are there seasonal ‘twists’ we can do to further this connection? It seems as the year progresses, I am drawn to different types of exercise and do try to incorporate the nose breathing 12 minutes a few times a week, but seems the wayside during certain seasons. For example, right now in December my body is enjoying yoga/stretching immensely and feel I’m actually ‘saving myself’ from added stress and building immunity and flexibility but losing body tone. Prior to this for a number of months I was on a ‘barre/dance/pilates’ kick that was thoroughly enjoying and gained a ‘fit’ physique. Jan-May-ish —I’m able to do more HIIT and weight lifting exercise and really enjoy it (this is the main time I incorporate the 12 min workout) and swap a little fat for muscle—-just not one of these ‘choices’ forever! I need the changes of the seasons to freshen my enjoyment on exercise—just like I enjoy changing up the diet seasonally. Any thoughts on how this exercise approach logically fits into an Ayurvedic lifestyle?

    Reply
    • Hi Wendy. This is a interesting question! Thanks for asking. In general, it is best to lean towards the more heating exercises in the winter and cooling activities like swimming in the summer. It’s important to reference time of day in regard to exercise as well. In the evening it’s better to do the more calming gentle yoga classes, while in the morning doing more stimulating cardio activities. The middle of the day should be used as a time for your main meal, less a time for intense exercise. Be well.

      Reply
  4. I am a Vata/Pitta type (practically equally) so this article is extremely helpful and useful. One other factor for me is that I live on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. I’ve often wondered how the difference in the temperatures and in the seasons here would factor into applying the 3 Season Diet. Please comment and advise

    Reply
    • Great question! The 3-Season Diet still applies to the tropics. The goal of the 3-Season Diet is to help us attune to the climate and harvests of the area of where we live, rather than follow the lists.

      Though the seasonal shifts are not as extreme in Hawaii as they are on other areas of the planet, those small swings in temperature, sun and rain still have a dramatic impact on those who live in Hawaii and have acclimated. I lived on Maui for 10 years and when the temp went below 68F, everyone got sick and complained of feeling too cold because most of were not following the island’s harvests.

      In general, eat:
      • more of a Kapha balancing diet (‘Spring diet’) in the winter
      • more of a Pitta balancing diet (‘Summer diet’) in the summer
      • If you live in a windy spot, keep the Vata balanced ( incorporate some aspects of the ‘Winter diet’), especially during the windy season(s).
      • In general, eat lighter in Hawaii. Though fat and protein are important, you don’t need as much in the colder months as those of us in snowy areas.

      If you wish to be more specific, eat foods that match the qualities of your local harvests. Each island has a number of different micro climates that range from grey/rainy/lush to dry/sunny. Pay attention to what is growing wild and in the gardens and farms in your area and eat more foods with those qualities. In addition, focus more on foods that are the opposite qualities of the weather and land where you are. For example, the rainy/lush sides of the island typically need a more Kapha balancing diet, particularly during the wettest months. The sunny/drier sides typically need more of a Pitta balancing diet, especially during the hottest driest months. If you live in a windy area, balance Vata by avoiding foods that are too dry, spicy, bitter or stringent. Here is a list of harvests in Hawaii: http://localfoods.about.com/od/searchbyregion/a/HawaiiSeasons.htm

      The ‘recipe’ is basically to eat foods that match the qualities of the local harvests.

      Reply
  5. I’m an 40-lb.-over-weight 64 year-old woman, who has been a vedic vegetarian since the 80’s. I’m Pitta-Kapha, and I’ve been told the overweight is out-of-balance Kapha, which was pushed out of balance by Vata. I live in Hawaii where there are only two season, summer and winter.
    Any tips for diet? I’m already working on your weight loss program.
    Many thanks, Kathy C.

    Reply
  6. Hello Dr Douillard,

    I see that bananas are a superfood for winter. I’m conflicted because we do have it sold at the supermarkets here but it says that it was grown in Ecuador but I live in Vancouver, Canada. Shouldn’t I eat foods that are not only seasonally but are also locally too?

    Reply
    • Hi Chris. Thanks for the comment. Yes it’s best to stick to the seasonal and local foods. Bananas are denser fruits so in that respect that are more balancing during the winter.

      Reply
  7. The list of dosha-appropriate edibles for winter is strangely confused in many ways. If anyone’s taking this advice in an attempt to balance their disease state, they may end up worsening their condition. Just some starter info for those interested: vata and kapha should select warm and hot foods for winter that are also appropriate to their constitution – wet and oily/fatty for vata, and dry and oily for kapha. (Though kapha may also do fine with certain animal fats during this time, such as more oily duck/bird fats.) On the other hand, pitta will naturally be increased during winter (for those with pitta as one of their primary doshic influences), as part of pitta’s responsibility concerning the biting cold weather is to rev up metabolism and create heat on the surface of the body. This is not what is usually taught in today’s ayurveda, which incorrectly refers to ancient knowledge.

    Exceptions to the above are many, and involve special types of environments and geographic locations. Your best bet will always be to learn about the native peoples and animals of the regions, and the seasonal dietary items available during late fall and winter (late fall items often can be stored and used well into winter). Indigenous advice for your location should always take priority over ayurvedic ideals – and after that, you can apply ayurvedic items that match the scheme.

    And especially for kapha types: definitely avoid grapefruit and pumpkin seeds during winter, as these are likely to exacerbate any conditions you have related to kapha, regardless of any one special quality they have – because in total, all effects combined, they will worsen kapha conditions during the winter. Mung bean isn’t likely to do harm for kapha during the winter, but will not generally act as a good therapeutic agent for kapha-imbalanced types looking to fight winter weather. Buckwheat is one to consider, as it’s much drier and more warming (depending on how it’s prepared, or who you ask). For beans, someone with kapha problems would likely be better off preparing lentils or smaller varieties of standard beans (for example, give adzuki a try). If you’re living in the tropics or some place similar, where warmth isn’t going to be an issue, adjust according to traditional diets of the area for the season, if any variations between seasons exist. (Available fish will change at least.)

    Hope this helps!

    Reply
    • Namaste C – What is shared and the nature of the sharing deeply resonates. Are you serving as a practitioner with a ‘formal’ practice? This is a so-called ‘wider’ yet precise subtle view as the clarity and undivided nature of apparent micro and macro conditions and prakriti and purusha which arises as the pure Knowing itSelf. This may only be recognized by means of subtle discrimination and a quality of readiness which aligns with and as the Knowing expressed. This site may not allow the exchange however is there a means to connect? Gratitude and for this sharing. Om Shanti Om

      Reply
  8. Hmmm . . . I studied Ayurveda at The Chopra Center and, unlike this article which states that Pittas are hot and dry, the Pitta dosha is listed as fire and water. I have seen other websites that also list Pitta as fire and water (so hot and wet).

    Reply
    • Great point, Catherine!

      This is definitely a consensus throughout the Ayurvedic world. What Dr. John sees here in ultra-dry Colorado are predominately dry Pitta types, due to our dry summers. This article is provided to give an idea of ways to balance out what each individual experiences and to give an idea of what aspects different foods can provide to help with that individual balance.

      Best,
      LifeSpa Staff

      Reply
    • Catherine, you’re correct. Pitta is composed of ‘fire and water’ elements, according to the ancient texts. This is a metaphorical reference to pitta (the substance of pitta and the imbalance in personal constitution known as pitta) being… warm or hot, and damp or wet.
      The elements of the doshas have differing levels depending on the person, disease, etc. In other words, metaphorically, pitta can be more hot than wet, so much so that it steams for a brief period and dries up fluids, leading to vata disease (because of dryness and coldness generated by the heat of the fire consuming the body’s fluids and ojas, an essence of nourishment from food). While it’s still incorrect to say that pitta is dry in nature, it can lead to a pitta-vata situation where someone exhibiting pitta characteristics also is quite dry. It’s a problem to misidentify the doshas, though. They have different treatment. If a person shows signs of pitta-vata, but are treated as a pitta, they will develop vata and kapha disorders as a result of improper diagnosis and treatment.

      In ancient ayurveda, doshas were mentioned almost entirely in regard to disease, not body types. Other than disease, the doshas were described as actual measurable things within the body. The problem that you brought up with the article is a result of thinking of the doshas incorrectly as “body types” – because when you have multiple patients you call ‘pitta body types,’ and then they are also very dry, you would naturally associate dryness incorrectly with pitta. (Well, not you, but others!)

      So long as it’s understood that there are no actual ‘body types’ for the doshas in ayurveda, it does no harm to label someone as pitta or vata or pitta-kapha, etc etc. More-over, the primary doshic influences a person deals with can change over time. For example, a person who has been kapha-like and had kapha-related issues for their whole life might undergo strenuous weight loss therapies for a year or two, and next thing you know they’re more of a pitta-like or vata-like nature. Many of the best long-distance runners began as having kapha dosha problems almost exclusively, and have now become highly vata-dominant.

      Last mention, about pitta: those who are both dry and hot in nature might be considered vata-pitta, a combination of doshic influence. This doesn’t mean they will show the entire set of symptoms for both vata and pitta, however, because just like wild fires and wind are unpredictable, vata and pitta are fairly unpredictable. The doshic influence may appear in one organ or another, or one side of the body, or one dosha may be influenced by another more dominant one, etc.

      Hope this helps!

      Reply
  9. i would like to know how to correctly identify my body type i have taken a quiz from you site but i feel it may not be accurate because some questions are difficult to answer by my understanding
    how to better make my answers

    Reply
    • Hi Susan,

      Great question! You may get different answers based on an underlying imbalance, which would indicate which dosha you would need to balance. In this respect, your quiz results can change as those aspects change.

      When answering the questions on the body type quiz, you can select multiple responses as appropriate, or skip questions as appropriate. It is always best to answer in relation to your more recent experience, as that will provide the most relevant balance of your dosha and any doshic imbalance you may currently be experiencing.

      Hope that helps!

      Best,
      LifeSpa Staff

      Reply
  10. I am confused about the statement of Pitta being hot and dry as it is made up of water and fire element. Fire brings the heat and dryness but the “liquid” element of Pitta should add a snighda quality which is not dry.

    Reply

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