The best foods for vata dosha are those that provide warmth, moisture, oil and earthiness. By nature, vata is cool, dry, rough, and light, so eating foods that neutralize these qualities—foods that are warm, moist, oily, smooth, and nourishing—will help to balance excess vata. One nutrition rule applies above all others for Vata types: “Eat hot meals at regular times.” Such a rhythm will be very good for your digestion.
According to the Ayurveda, we are all ruled by three different energies, or doshas, known as vata, pitta, and kapha. These doshas are governed by the elements, earth, water, air, ether, and fire. We’re all made up of a unique combination of these three forces. If you don’t know which dosha is most predominant for you, the Ayurvedic Body Type quiz is a fun and easy way to find out.
Vata dosha is composed of the air and space elements, and it governs all movement in the body (1). Foods for vata dosha lean towards lightness and need more nurturing foods rich with a sweet taste, oil, and salt. According to Ayurveda, sweet, sour, and salty tastes have a pacifying effect on vata and should be included in any vata balancing diet. This is because these three tastes are ascribed with energy that is heating, lubricating, and grounding (2).
Ayurveda also classifies foods according to the six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, astringent, and bitter. Vata pacifying foods include the tastes: Sweet, sour, and salty.
Foods for Vata Dosha: Qualities to Favor
By nature, vata is cool, favoring warm and cooked foods will help feed the digestive fire needed to keep vata in balance. Foods with a cooling essence, like cold and frozen foods or carbonated drinks, raw foods and even leftovers that have been refrigerated can aggravate Vata, even if they are served warm.
Vata’s dryness is offset by eating cooked rather than raw foods, by cooking and garnishing foods with generous amounts of high-quality oils or ghee, and by staying hydrated. Consuming warm or hot fluids—but no cooler than room temperature is ideal. Due to the drying nature of vata, it is important to adequately hydrate. Reduce or avoid diuretics such as coffee and alcohol as they are ungrounding and depleting to the body.
Grounding, Heavy, and Nourishing
In general, it’s better to think in terms of grounding vata’s lightness with sustenance—eating foods that offer solid, stabilizing sources of energy and deep nourishment to the physical body. Generally, these foods will naturally taste sweet. Ideal examples include cooked grains, spiced milk, root vegetables, stewed fruits, nuts, and seeds.
Eating foods and preparations that are smooth in texture—things like bananas, rice pudding, hot cereal, hot spiced milk, root vegetables, puréed soups, and the like—can really help to soothe vata’s roughness. There’s a reason that raw fruits and vegetables are sometimes called roughage; their fiber content gives them a very rough quality. This is why vata does well to resist large quantities of raw vegetables, and should enjoy raw fruits in moderation.
The sweet taste is the foundation of a vata-pacifying diet. It is the predominant taste in most of vata’s staple foods, and also vata’s primary source of nutrition. Emphasizing the sweet taste does NOT require us to eat large amounts of refined sugar or sugary-sweet foods. In fact, doing so tends to exacerbate vata’s tendency to over-exert and then crash.
The sour taste awakens the mind and the senses, improves digestion, promotes energy, moistens other foods, and helps to eliminate excess wind (think gas and bloating).
Salt stimulates the appetite and digestion, helps retain moisture, supports proper elimination, and improves the flavor of many foods. Salt is already over-emphasized in the typical Western diet, so simply being mindful of including savory flavors and ensuring that your food has some salt in it will likely be sufficient.
Vata is pacified by the sweet, sour, and salty tastes and aggravated by the pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes. Understanding these tastes allows us to make better choices whether or not we have an extensive list of Foods for Vata Doshas.
Recommended Foods for Vata Dosha
*tip – save the image below to refer back to recommended foods.
It’s not just what you eat that impacts your health, but how you eat it. It’s important to live a vata lifestyle. Eat at regular times throughout the day. Sleep and wake at regular times throughout the day and do your best to maintain as consistent with a schedule as possible.
- Mustard Greens
- Cooked Onions
- Acorn Squash
- Winter Squash
- Sweet Potatoes
- Water chestnuts
- Baked Apples
- Figs (fresh)
- Dark Chicken
- Dark Turkey
- Fresh water fish
- Oats (cooked)
- Sour cream
- Raw honey
- Raw sugar
- Maple syrup
- Rice syrup
Nuts and Seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Bay leaf
- Poppy seeds
Food list notes:
Vegetables: Avoid exceptionally dry, rough, and cold vegetables, including most raw vegetables.
Fruits: Fruits to avoid are those that are exceptionally cooling, astringent (drying), or rough, which includes most dried fruit (unless it has been soaked or cooked to rehydrate).
Meats: If you do eat meat, the meats to favor are those that are nourishing, sweet, moist, and relatively easy to digest. Meats to avoid tend to be either too light and dry, or too heavy, for vata.
Grains: Avoid grains that are exceptionally light, dry, or rough, or especially dense and heavy.
Dairy: Dairy products are generally quite balancing for vata, but it’s good to avoid highly processed preparations (like powdered milk), and especially cold dairy products.
Sweeteners: Most sweeteners are good for vata, but it’s generally best to avoid large quantities of refined sugar. Favor sweeteners in their most natural state over anything highly processed.
Legumes & Nuts: The beans that work best for vata are a little less dense, rough, and dry, than other legumes. In moderation, all nuts and most seeds are pacifying to vata. They are oily, nutritious, and they offer a power-packed combination of proteins and fats that’s highly beneficial to vata.
Oil: Most oils are beneficial for vata, provided they are high-quality oils.
Spices: Experimenting with a wide variety of new and exotic spices is generally great for vata, and can help to kindle overall digestive strength.
Foods for Vata Dosha: Suggested Meals
Breakfast is a critical meal when vata is elevated. After an overnight fast, vata needs real nourishment. A hearty breakfast is generally very stabilizing to the entire system when vata is elevated, provided it is not too heavy for one’s digestive capacity.
There are a number of healthy breakfast foods to choose from:
- Cream of rice with ghee and cardamom
- Warm cereal like oatmeal and rice porridge with ghee, dates, and maple syrup
- Baked sweet potato, yam or acorn squash with a nut or seed butter
- A bowl of oats with cardamom and ghee
- Eggs with sautéed or steamed vegetables
You can also garnish your breakfast foods with warming spices like ginger, cinnamon, coriander, garlic, and cloves.
Ayurveda regards lunch as the most important meal of the day, so no matter how busy your schedule may be, try to have a wholesome and balanced meal that includes various food groups. Hearty grains, steamed and sautéed vegetables, breads, soups, and stews are excellent building blocks for lunch.
Dinner is ideally a bit smaller and lighter than lunch. But to soothe vata, it needs to offer adequate nourishment. Soups, stews, or a smaller serving of lunch often fit the bill.
- Spicy foods such as Mexican or Indian foods with plenty of high-quality cold-pressed oils
- Steamed vegetables with a recommended source of protein
- Sweet Potato with Kale & Ginger
- Soups like Butternut Squash Soup with Fennel, Ginger & Garlic
This list is meant to help you deepen your understanding and begin to see eating patterns—not to create a sense of restriction or deprivation.
If food lists tend to have that effect on you, do your best to internalize the qualitative guidelines above. Prioritize eating regularly and embrace a mindful approach to eating. That is as good a starting place as any.