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How to Balance Pitta Dosha

 

Qualities to Favor 

By nature, pitta is oily, sharp, hot, light, spreading, and liquid, so eating foods that neutralize these qualities—foods that are dry, mild, cooling, grounding, stabilizing, and dense—can help to balance excess pitta.

This section offers a closer look at how you can begin to recognize the qualities of different foods. The intention is to give you a more intuitive grasp of what will reduce pitta, without having to constantly reference lengthy lists of foods to favor and avoid.

Favor Cool over Warm or Hot

The cool quality can be emphasized by eating foods that are cool in temperature or that have a cooling energetic—and by using cooling spices generously.

Most spices are heating in nature, so pay careful attention to the ones that balance pitta (you’ll find a comprehensive list below of Pitta-Balancing Foods).

Raw foods tend to be naturally cooling, and pitta tends to be able to handle them better than the other doshas; so mixing in an assortment of raw fruits and vegetables will generally be supportive—especially in the warmer months.

On the other hand, it is best to minimize your exposure to fiery hot dishes, foods with a sharply warming energetic, alcohol, and caffeine; all of these influences will naturally increase internal heat.

Favor Dense, Grounding, and Nourishing Over Light

While the heavy quality is the true antithesis to pitta’s lightness, Ayurveda teaches us that very heavy foods (such as deep-fried foods) are not generally supportive of optimal health. It’s better to think in terms of grounding pitta’s lightness (and heat) with sustenance—eating foods that offer solid, stabilizing sources of energy and adequate nourishment.

Generally, these foods will naturally taste sweet. Most grains, milk, root vegetables, seeds, and cooling oils are good examples. But excess pitta can cause a sharp and sometimes insatiable appetite, so it’s equally important not to overeat.

Highly processed foods such as canned foods, ready-made meals, and pastries often lack prana(vital life force energy), are excessively heavy, and should be minimized as much as possible.

Favor Dry and Dense Over Oily or Liquid

Pitta’s liquid nature and tendency toward excess oil make drying or astringent foods like beans, potatoes, oats, pasta, popcorn, and most vegetables very supportive.

When cooking, use a moderate amount of a high quality oil or ghee. Minimize especially heating oily foods like eggs (egg whites are better), hard cheeses, olives, nuts, sour cream, and the like.

If given a choice between a soupy, liquidy meal and one that is denser and drier, opt for the latter. 

Favor Mild over Sharp

Sharp flavors like pineapple, pickles, vinegar, and sharp aged cheeses are better replaced with milder, gentler tastes, like those found in apples, cucumbers, lime juice, and soft cheeses.

Similarly, stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, and hard alcohol are too sharp and penetrating for pitta. Do your best to substitute more stable and sustaining sources of energy.

Tastes to Favor and Avoid

Pitta is pacified by the sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes and aggravated by the pungent, sour, and salty tastes. Understanding these tastes allows us to make better choices whether or not we have an extensive list of Pitta-Balancing Foods handy.

Emphasize

Sweet

  • Favor naturally sweet foods like sweet fruits, most grains, squashes, root vegetables, milk, ghee, and fresh yogurt.

  • The sweet taste is cooling and heavy. It pacifies heat, satisfies thirst, benefits the skin and hair, and tends to be grounding, nourishing, strength building, and satisfying.

  • Avoid refined sugar or sugary sweet foods; naturally sweet foods are best.

Bitter

  • The bitter taste predominates bitter greens—like kale, dandelion greens, and collard greens. It is also found in bitter melon, Jerusalem artichokes, dark chocolate, and pitta balancing spices like cumin, neem leaves, saffron, and turmeric.

  • The bitter taste is exceptionally cooling, but also drying.

  • Bitters cleanse the palate and improve the sense of taste. They tone the skin and muscles, benefit the blood, relieve burning and itching sensations, satisfy thirst, balance the appetite, support digestion and help absorb excess pitta.

Astringent​

  • Legumes—adzuki beans, black-eyed peas, chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, pinto beans, soybeans, and so forth—are classically astringent in taste. Some fruits, vegetables, grains, baked goods, and spices are also astringent in taste—things like apples, cranberries, pomegranate, artichokes, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, popcorn, rice cakes, crackers, basil, coriander, dill, fennel, parsley, and turmeric.

  • The astringent taste is heavy, cold, and dry.

  • Pitta benefits from the compressing, absorbing, union-promoting nature of the astringent taste. It can curb pitta’s tendency to spread, tone bodily tissues, prevent bleeding disorders, thwart diarrhea, and also absorb excess sweat and fluid.

Minimize

Pungent

  • Pungent is a spicy, hot flavor like that found in chilies, radishes, turnips, raw onions, and many especially heating spices.

  • The pungent taste is particularly hot and light—both qualities that disturb pitta.

  • Too much pungent taste can cause excess thirst, burning sensations, dizziness, and excess heat (especially in the intestinal tract).

Sour

  • Minimize sour foods like vinegar and other fermented foods, hard cheeses, sour cream, green grapes, pineapple, grapefruit, and alcohol (an occasional beer or white wine is fine).

  • Pitta is aggravated by the hot, light, and oily qualities of the sour taste.

  • Too much sour taste can increase thirst, disturb the blood, create heat in the muscles, and give rise to burning sensations in the throat, chest, or heart. It can even promote sour feelings like jealousy or envy.

  • An occasional squeeze of cooling lime juice as a garnish is the best way for pitta to include the sour taste.

Salty

  • The salty taste is almost singularly derived from salt itself.

  • Much like the sour taste, it is salt’s light, hot, and oily nature that aggravates pitta.

  • The salty taste can disturb the blood’s balance, impede the sense organs, increase heat, aggravate the skin, and lead to grey hair, wrinkles, and excess thirst. It can also intensify our desire for stronger flavors, which can provoke pitta even further.

Pitta-Balancing Foods

 

 

Pitta can be brought back into balance by eating the right foods. Read below to find out what you can add and subtract from your Ayurvedic diet to help pacify this dosha. If you are not certain whether your pitta is out of balance, take my free Ayurvedic Profile quiz.

Fruits

Fruits that pacify pitta will generally be sweet and somewhat astringent. Dried fruits are typically also acceptable, but are best in small quantities, so as not to further accelerate pitta’s tendency toward rapid digestion. Fruits to avoid are those that are exceptionally heating or sour (like bananas, cranberries, and green grapes). You’ll find many fruits in both the favor and avoid columns below because different varieties of the same fruit can truly be pacifying or aggravating, depending on how sweet or sour they are. When trying to balance pitta, learning to distinguish between these tastes and choosing sweet fruits over sour ones is always very helpful.

And remember, fruits and fruit juices are best enjoyed alone—30 minutes before, and ideally at least 1 hour after, any other food. This helps to ensure optimal digestion. Note: this rule does not apply to fruits that we typically consider vegetables (avocados, cucumbers, tomatoes, etc.). You will find these fruits listed among the “vegetables.”

 

Favor

  • Apples (sweet)

  • Applesauce

  • Apricots (sweet)

  • Berries (sweet)

  • Cherries (sweet)

  • Coconut

  • Dates

  • Figs

  • Grapes (red, purple, black)

  • Limes

  • Mangos (ripe)

  • Melons

  • Oranges (sweet)

  • Papaya

  • Pears

  • Pineapple (sweet)

  • Plums (sweet)

  • Pomegranates

  • Prunes

  • Raisins

  • Strawberries

  • Watermelon

Avoid

  • Apples (sour)

  • Apricots (sour)

  • Bananas

  • Berries (sour)

  • Cherries (sour)

  • Cranberries

  • Grapefruit

  • Grapes (green)

  • Kiwi

  • Lemons

  • Mangos (green)

  • Oranges (sour)

  • Peaches

  • Persimmons

  • Pineapple (sour)

  • Plums (sour)

  • Tamarind

Vegetables

Vegetables that pacify pitta will generally be somewhat sweet and either bitter, astringent, or both. Many vegetables include some combination of these tastes; so experimenting with a wide variety of vegetables is a great way to diversify your pitta pacifying diet. Pitta can usually digest raw vegetables better than vata and kapha, but mid-day is often the best time of day to have them because digestive strength is at its peak. The only vegetables for pitta to reduce or avoid are those that are particularly spicy, heating, sharp, or sour—like garlic, green chilies, radishes, onion, and mustard greens.

 

Favor

  • Avocado

  • Artichoke

  • Asparagus

  • Beets (cooked)

  • Bell Peppers

  • Bitter Melon

  • Broccoli

  • Brussels Sprouts

  • Burdock Root

  • Cabbage

  • Carrots (cooked)

  • Cauliflower

  • Celery

  • Cilantro

  • Collard Greens

  • Cucumber

  • Dandelion Greens

  • Green Beans

  • Jerusalem Artichoke

  • Kale

  • Leafy Greens

  • Leeks (cooked)

  • Lettuce

  • Mushrooms

  • Okra

  • Olives (black)

  • Onions (cooked)

  • Parsley

  • Parsnips

  • Peas

  • Peppers (sweet)

  • Potatoes

  • Pumpkin

  • Radishes (cooked)

  • Rutabaga

  • Spaghetti Squash

  • Sprouts (not spicy)

  • Squash, Summer

  • Squash, Winter

  • Spinach (raw)

  • Sweet Potatoes

  • Watercress

  • Wheat Grass

  • Zucchini

Avoid

  • Beet Greens

  • Beets (raw)

  • Corn (fresh)

  • Daikon Radish

  • Eggplant

  • Garlic

  • Green Chilies

  • Horseradish

  • Kohlrabi

  • Leeks (raw)

  • Mustard Greens

  • Olives, green

  • Onions (raw)

  • Peppers (hot)

  • Radishes (raw)

  • Spinach (cooked)

  • Tomatoes

  • Turnip greens

  • Turnips

Grains

Grains that pacify pitta are cooling, sweet, dry, and grounding. Grains tend to be staples in our diets, and overall, pitta benefits from their sweet, nourishing nature. You’ll also notice that many of the grains that benefit pitta are rather dry; this helps to offset pitta’s oily nature. When it comes to balancing pitta, avoiding grains that are heating (like buckwheat, corn, millet, brown rice, and yeasted breads) is the most important guideline.

 

Favor

  • Amaranth

  • Barley

  • Cereal (dry)

  • Couscous

  • Crackers

  • Durham Flour

  • Granola

  • Oat Bran

  • Oats

  • Pancakes

  • Pasta

  • Quinoa

  • Rice (basmati, white, wild)

  • Rice Cakes

  • Seitan

  • Spelt

  • Sprouted Wheat Bread

  • Tapioca

  • Wheat

  • Wheat Bran

 

Avoid

  • Buckwheat

  • Corn

  • Millet

  • Muesli

  • Polenta

  • Rice (brown)

  • Rye

  • Yeasted Bread

Legumes

Legumes are generally astringent in taste and are therefore largely pitta pacifying, so feel free to enjoy a wide variety of them. Beans that are not appropriate for pitta are those that are especially sour or oily and, not coincidentally – also heating.

 

Favor

  • Adzuki Beans

  • Black Beans

  • Black-Eyed Peas

  • Garbanzo Beans (Chickpeas)

  • Kidney Beans

  • Lentils

  • Lima Beans

  • Mung Beans

  • Mung Dal

  • Navy Beans

  • Pinto Beans

  • Split Peas

  • Soy Beans

  • Soy Cheese

  • Soy Flour

  • Soy Milk

  • Soy Powder

  • Tempeh

  • Tofu

  • White Beans

Avoid

  • Miso

  • Soy Meats

  • Soy Sauce

  • Urad Dal

Dairy

Dairy products tend to be grounding, nourishing, and cooling, so many of them are balancing for pitta. Those to avoid are exceptionally sour, salty, or heating. As a rule, dairy milks (cow’s milk, goat’s milk, sheep’s milk, etc.) should be taken at least one hour before or after any other food. For this reason, avoid drinking milk with meals. Almond and rice milks are good substitutes, if you need to combine milk with other foods, or if you don’t digest dairy milks well.

 

Favor

  • Butter (unsalted)

  • Cheese (soft, unsalted, not aged)

  • Cottage Cheese

  • Cow’s Milk

  • Ghee

  • Goat’s Milk

  • Goat’s Cheese (soft, unsalted)

  • Ice Cream

  • Yogurt (homemade, diluted, without fruit)

Avoid

  • Butter (salted)

  • Buttermilk

  • Cheese (hard)

  • Frozen Yogurt

  • Sour Cream

  • Yogurt (store bought, or with fruit)

Nuts & Seeds

Nuts and seeds tend to be extremely oily and are usually heating, so most of them are not terrifically balancing for pitta. That said, there are a few types of nuts, and several seeds that are acceptable in small quantities; these varieties tend to be less oily, and are either mildly heating or cooling in nature.

 

Favor

  • Almonds (soaked and peeled)

  • Charoli Nuts

  • Coconut

  • Flax Seeds

  • Halva

  • Popcorn (buttered, without salt)

  • Pumpkin Seeds

  • Sunflower Seeds

Avoid

  • Almonds (with skin)

  • Brazil Nuts

  • Cashews

  • Chia Seeds

  • Filberts

  • Macadamia Nuts

  • Peanuts

  • Pecans

  • Pine Nuts

  • Pistachios

  • Sesame Seeds

  • Tahini

  • Walnut

Meat & Eggs

Pitta does best with animal foods that taste sweet, are relatively dry (like rabbit or venison) and that are either mildly heating or cooling in nature. Meats that don’t work are those that are especially oily, salty, or heating (things like dark chicken, beef, salmon, or tuna).

 

Favor

  • Buffalo

  • Chicken (white)

  • Eggs (white only)

  • Fish (freshwater)

  • Rabbit

  • Shrimp

  • Turkey (white)

  • Venison

Avoid

  • Beef

  • Chicken (dark)

  • Duck

  • Eggs (yolk)

  • Fish (saltwater)

  • Lamb

  • Pork

  • Salmon

  • Sardines

  • Seafood

  • Tuna Fish

  • Turkey (dark)

Oils

Despite being oily in nature, pitta does well with a moderate amount of oil – as long as it is cooling. The very best oils for pitta are sunflower oil, ghee, coconut oil, and olive oil. It’s also important to keep in mind that toxins tend to concentrate in fats, so buying organic oils may be more important than buying organic fruits and vegetables.

 

Favor

  • Coconut Oil

  • Flax Seed Oil

  • Ghee

  • Olive Oil

  • Primrose Oil

  • Sunflower Oil

  • Soy Oil

  • Walnut Oil

Avoid

  • Almond Oil

  • Apricot Oil

  • Corn Oil

  • Safflower Oil

  • Sesame Oil

Sweeteners

Since the sweet taste is one that soothes pitta, most sweeteners are well tolerated by pitta, but some are simply too heating or too processed for pitta. In general, naturally occurring sweet tastes are far more balancing than sugary sweets, so even the appropriate sweeteners should be used in moderation.

 

Favor

  • Barley Malt

  • Date Sugar

  • Fructose

  • Fruit Juice Concentrates

  • Maple Syrup

  • Rice Syrup

  • Sucanat

  • Turbinado

Avoid

  • Honey

  • Jaggary/Piloncillo

  • Molasses

  • White Sugar

Spices

Most spices are heating by nature and therefore have the potential to aggravate pitta. The spices to favor are only mildly heating, help to maintain a balanced digestive fire without provoking pitta, and, in some cases, are actively cooling. In particular, the cooling qualities of cardamom, cilantro, coriander, fennel and mint help to calm pitta’s heat. On occasion, these spices can be used to make foods that would otherwise be too hot for pitta more tolerable. Cumin, saffron, and turmeric, though heating, also offer some particularly valuable pitta pacifying properties.

 

Favor

  • Basil (fresh)

  • Black Pepper (small amounts)

  • Cardamom

  • Cinnamon (small amounts)

  • Coriander (seeds or powder)

  • Cumin (seeds or powder)

  • Dill

  • Fennel

  • Ginger (fresh)

  • Mint

  • Neem Leaves

  • Orange Peel

  • Parsley

  • Peppermint

  • Saffron

  • Spearmint

  • Tarragon

  • Turmeric

  • Vanilla

  • Wintergreen

Avoid

  • Ajwan

  • Allspice

  • Anise

  • Basil (dry)

  • Bay Leaf

  • Caraway

  • Cayenne

  • Cloves

  • Fenugreek

  • Garlic

  • Ginger (dry)

  • Hing (Asafoetida)

  • Mace

  • Marjoram

  • Mustard Seeds

  • Nutmeg

  • Oregano

  • Paprika

  • Pippali

  • Poppy Seeds

  • Rosemary

  • Sage

  • Salt

  • Savory

  • Thyme

  • Trikatu

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