Ayurveda identifies eight factors that affect our ability to make good use of food’s nutrition. Once you incorporate these factors, you can make appropriate food choices in every moment, even if you have to grab something spontaneously from, say, a supermarket deli case.

the nature of the food

This refers to a food’s basic nature—which of the Six Tastes it is comprised of, whether it is ultimately heating or cooling, and whether it builds up tissue in the body or depletes it.


This refers to how the food is prepared, ie: cooked. We sometimes think that food processing always impairs the nutritional value of the food, but it can be either harmful or helpful and includes everything that has happened to food before it reached your dinner plate. The important consideration is, “Has the food processing enhanced the digestibility (ie: usefulness to the body) of the food or has it impeded it?”

Sometimes processing is necessary to make a food more digestible, such as cooking beans or potatoes. Sometimes processing will fundamentally change the nature of a food, such as culturing milk to create yogurt or cheese. Even removing a peel from a banana or slicing an apple could be called processing.

We are bombarded by processed, packaged, adulterated foods in our grocery stores; this type of processing is to be avoided. To limit chemically processed foods, please read the ingredient list on any package. If the contents of the foodstuff have names that an eight year old would struggle with pronouncing or the ingredients would not be found in a kitchen, then it is better left on the shelf.

food combining

The key to properly combining foods is to pay attention to the strength of your digestive fire. If your digestive fire is strong, poor food combinations in small amounts may be tolerated, but if ill-advised food combination continue, it will weaken the digestive fire, form toxic metabolic wastes, and in the long-term create disease.

Observe your digestion. If you experience digestive symptoms, you may want to switch to a simpler diet with foods that don’t battle each other in the belly.

quantity of food portion size

If a food is nutrient dense, take a small portion. These foods tend to be heavy and they may suppress the digestive fire if taken in too great a quantity. Typically, protein-rich foods, fats, and grains or starchy vegetables fall into this category.

If a food is nutrient rich and low calorie, take a large portion. This would be true of vegetables and greens that are high in fiber, mineral, and vitamin content but low in caloric value.

If a food is nutrient poor and high in calories, avoid it entirely or take small quantities only. This is the case with dessert treats and snack foods.

habitat, climate, location (ie: shop local!)

We are a product of our environment. When the habitat is heavy, dense, and moist, we want to cultivate the opposite qualities in our foods. When our climate is hot, light, and sharp, we want to cultivate the opposite qualities in our foods. By taking in foods that are seasonally available in our locale, we will typically have access to foods that will antidote the local environmental qualities.

timing of meals and seasonal foods

Ayurveda advises that the main meal is taken at midday when agni is its strongest. In addition to this, it is best to have completely digested the previous meal before eating the next meal. Proper timing of our meals allows us to have the strongest digestive fire possible.

As the seasons change, the doshas move through their cycles. In springtime, greens are abundant and they provide spring-cleaning for our bodies. In the summer, fruits and vegetables are abundant and they provide the energy we need for the longer days. In fall, the nutrient dense foods—such as root vegetables and winter squash and grains or legumes that may easily be stored—are available; these provide the sustenance for the long winter ahead.

By taking foods as they are seasonally available, we will naturally pacify the dosha.

guidelines for healthy eating

There are many rules in Ayurveda to assure conscious dining, and they begin at the grocery store with making the best choices for our food quality. They continue as we bring awareness to all phases of dining: considering the quality of the food you will be taking before you eat, paying attention to the food’s effect on your body while you eat, and taking care that the food you eat is well digested after you eat.

By remaining consciously present with our food, we will recognize problematic foods or food combinations before they have the opportunity to negatively impact us.

These food habits also stabilize the nervous system supporting full and healthy digestion.

self-awareness and self-responsibility

As an example, if you notice that a food is not necessarily good for you, you may still choose to eat it and take the responsibility to minimize its negative impact. For example, if you plan to eat some ice cream, you may choose to do it in the middle of the day when the digestive fire is its strongest, you may take only a small portion, or you may support your digestive fire after the treat to assure that it stays strong.

At the end of the day you, and only you, are responsible for what you put into your body. By exercising your self-awareness, you choose, in the moment, the best foods for you right now. Self-responsibility is the notion that you behave in a way that is in alignment with your best intentions for your health and wellbeing.