top of page

are your food combinations making you sick? Ayureveda's basics

Food combinations & temperatures and Our Digestion

In the yogic science and Ayurveda, food is medicine.

And Like all medicine, it is said to consist of different chemical compositions.

These can be experienced directly during the 3 stages of tasting or 3 RASA (a more accurate way of conveying this concept of RASA would be ‘taste in action’ –

as it is happening) It’s an incredible skill, the sensory enabling of a human being to taste a ‘medicine’s’ composition,

and therefore experience and/or deduce its potency or power, and then, also to know in advance, the action it will result when you eat it –

in your Digestive system. because simply put - if you are aware -

you EXPERIENCE these 3 RASA and you will experience each one to have a different taste, no matter how subtle:

on entering the mouth,

while chewing and

after chewing,

you experience an after taste

The Yogic Science & Ayurveda goes further in saying that the middle taste, will be most dominant and therefore that middle taste will have the most dominant specific effects on one’s entire being, not just your physicality. For example eating a hot chilli will not only heat your body, but also your emotional and mental state, eating ice cream will most definitely chill you out! A heavy Pizza will make you heavy headed and eating light and airy rice cakes will make you spaced out and often also full of hot air!

Now this is where we often get confused.

Because eating ice- cream will COOL – but only temporarily –

It will drop your internal temperature and after a short while, your digestive tract will respond to the sudden drop and seek to raise the inner fire once again, to its optimum. It is always looking to keep a certain degree and match or better the external environment. This is why often we see heavy set, big boned or overweight people eating ice cream in winter –

it induces heat in the body. Conversely, you find many ‘hot blooded’ red faced pitta prone types gulping down chili in Mexican restaurants until they are pouring with sweat – cooling!

Just to recap, many of you at brave already know that there are 6 six classified tastes:

sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent.

Each of these tastes, a combination of the five (pancha) mahabhutas or “great elements” -

earth, water, fire, air and ether/space

In other words… you are eating the entire periodic table, the universe, its chemical combinations- these 6 over-all tastes.

So Virya or the ‘power’/potency of the food, the middle taste, will generally result in two sensations;

Ushna or hot - heating

and Shita or cold - cooling

Now again this is where we often come unstuck…

Because not only is it important to choose the right tastes for your constitution, for your tendency to accumulate specific dosha, especially when your constitution is being impacted on by other factors like immobility, like over-using one side of your body, like undergoing treatment etc but it’s also It is so important to understand that the ‘right food’ isn’t enough to KEEP YOUR METABOLISM IN HARMONY…

Cooked food may be cooling depending on what it’s taste/potency/action

And cold food – cooked and uncooked can be heating

and raw food can be VERY heating!

there is no or little correlation with the prevailing temperature of the food, but rather what its composition is and then….what it takes to digest it i.e. if it’s hard to digest that means your body has to “cook£ it in YOUR stomach juices for longer and hotter.

However, generally, the same cooked food item is easier to digest than the same uncooked item.

Any medicine/food, when in excess or for the incorrect constitution or at the incorrect time/season, or in the incorrect amount will have dramatic effects.

There are four sub categories of hot and cold foods:

USNA POTENCY - Hot foods - generally contain qualities that promote combustion, digestion, and impart a feeling of lightness in all respects. When in excess or for the incorrect constitution or at the incorrect time/season, or in the incorrect amount - purging & vomiting will result and in Ayurveda they lead to impotence and infertility, destroying semen.

Usna foods pacify Vata (i.e. they give the digestion some help, bringing up body temp, warming and often oiling) for example, oily fish, pungent cheese,

and Kapha (because they heat they also cut through cold clammy conditions and dry up excess mucous) garlic, onion and then honey which while it has a sweet taste is heating ( which is why it is in most flu & cold remedies)

and promote Pitta (they boost digestion) dosha. Other examples are artichoke, ginger, tomatoes, peppers, mustard, cumin, ghee, dates, some pickles etc. Always check your brave lists! It’s never obvious J

Warm foods - generally subdue the Pitta dosha while promoting Vata & Kapha.

Generally foods with a hot, pungent or spicy taste are of the Usna virya, but there are always exceptions. Again, if you consume these incorrectly, in the incorrect amount, at the incorrect time or in the incorrect COMBINATIONS, some of the conditions that result are those that provoke over-heating:

gastritis, ulcers, heartburn, colitis, diarrhea, rashes, headaches, often mis-diagnosed as

ALLERGY, bowel & stomach cancer, liver problems etc.

Hot foods will often also increase one’s appetite, meaning one is never satiated or will be prone to over-eat. However for some people pungent food will be the most satisfying, helping them eat less… think of India Ji...

SHITA POTENCY - Cold foods - encourage nourishment, strength and BALAM – loosely this translates into consistent endurance or steadiness. They also play a role in aiding the production and retaining of fluid and plasma, they create ‘a sense of heaviness’, or groundedness.

Cold wet foods like cucumber, potato, melon, coconut, cauliflower, oranges, lychee, pumpkin, mint and fennel are great for cooling down Pitta constitutions and dosha.

They have a refreshing effect on the body, especially when the outer environs are hot, but they are generally harder to digest. They can compromise digestion and the immune system. Cold foods can stress on the digestive tract, are harder to assimilate and result in more residues and debris in the body.

Most sweet fruits are Shita virya while sour are of the Usna type - lemon is an exception.

So to summarize before we go further into the detail -




From which we can also deduce


Sushk - dry

isnigdh - moist

laghu - light

guru - heavy

and here we come to the next COMMON CONFUSIONS.

The first is Combinations ….

BECAUSE we don’t want to be eating heat and digestion promoting foods TO HELP GET THE DIGESTION GOING and then nullify the effects with cold, digestion nullifying, cooling foods.

Often the combination will lead to AMA

that white mucous on the tongue, in the stool, toxins.

For example HONEY – hot, drying in action with DAIRY - cold, moistening in action. Often, we are told we are ----------

intolerant, or allergic to ----------- but in actual fact you are simply creating a toxic soup. Think of our point above re honey and dairy when it comes to smoothies, or bitter food like spinach which is drying and lightening (that’s why we say it ‘detoxes’) and tahini or sesame oil paste …. Heavy, sweet and heating. Not to mention mixing TWO HEAVY OILY PROTEINS , one heating and one cooling , like eggs with avocado.

The second, action,

generally, dry foods are hot in potency and unctuous foods are cold, again there are exceptions!

Sour, Pungent or Bitter tasting heavy food are generally COLD in action

Sweet, Salty or Astringent tasting light foods are generally HOT in action, which on an intellectual level is illogical….

A pungent food should usually be heating and an astringent cooling, but if you ATE ONE OF THESE….

You would EXPERIENCE that as above –

it is not the case for these, of course, again with exceptions!

Hence, while putting together your meals it is important to pay attention to ‘balance’ the amount of hot or cold for YOU, while sticking to what’s good for your constitution, condition, time of life, seasonal changes etc.

Before your eyes roll and you give up on all this complexity – :)

remember it’s about

AWARENESS: that’s why Yogi’s like to practice eating in silence,

in a quiet place, slowly


we say chew 36 times, chew your solids until liquid and your liquids as you would solids....


Our Swami Parvathi always says

“ Not only are you what you eat, but you are what you ate 3 days ago!”

we are just trying to empower you here, give you some insight into why… you feel this way Today, so that you can better control your own experiences, your own energy levels, your own state of well-being. Eat live, eat colour, eat fresh…. Don’t eat ‘stale’, old, packaged or tinned food! Including bottled water!


in Yogic science and Ayurveda if you combine everything on the plate, the 4 – 6 tastes, the hot, warm and cold, and then eat…

your digestion will be prepared for the over-all combination rather than trying to deal with the individual items.

We don’t expect you to become an expert in Ayurvedic nutrition, give up animal products and eat as in the Yogic Sutras

(well it would be amazing if you could!) we do expect you though to treat your food as you do your allopathic meds - reading the side-effects, choosing wisely, not over-medicating, knowing when your body has had enough…

brave kechari mung dahl & spices

At brave we have various recommended nutritional lists we use, based on constitutional types (PRAKRTTI), on acquired conditions (VKRTTI) and on states of accumulation (DOSHA). As this little document illustrates, it’s far better to get someone who is an expert to help you! So we don’t and won’t publish lists with the exception of our brave EASY TO DIGEST LIST in the files section of our facebook group brave recovery warriors. Because it’s a great place to start for everyone and can do no harm. Because, in our experience, predominantly warm, easy to breakdown and freshly cooked food is always best for digestion.

As all the great teachings say

‘let your food be your medicine;

let your body be your instrument’.

brave is a registered non-profit that has supported over 2000 people through their Recovery from Serious Physical Trauma - on a donation basis. Using an integrated rehabilitative approach, we practice a daily brave Recovery Regime of Breath, Yoga Therapy, Ayurvedic nutrition, Inversion Therapy, Somatics, Homeopathy and Peer to peer support. United, we are committed to using the Physical Trauma Recovery Experience as an opportunity for building a new life filled with unlimited possibility.Based in the BoKaap, Cape Town, over the past 9 years, our community has grown across continents, injuries, abilities and disabilities, cultures and conditions toward one goal - well BEing The information shared is not intended as a substitute for the advice and treatment by your doctors and/or health care professionals from all disciplines, Allopathic, Homeopathic, Ayurvedic. It is designed to compliment and enhance a Health Care Regime. If you are injured, have an illness and/or are pregnant, you must seek professional treatment and advice from registered, reputable health care provider before practising any of the techniques, practises or treatments recorded, published and depicted by brave and it's members.

Copyright ã Brave Foundation 2017

Featured Posts
Search By Tags
bottom of page