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Introduction to Ayurvedic Nutrition, Part 2: Five Elements, and Doshas

Five Elements

Ayurveda emphasizes that we're all unique and require different things to thrive. Cultivating your intuition to recognize what you need requires really tuning in to yourself to see how nature is reflected within you.  According to principles of Ayurvedic nutrition, the basic foundation of the universe and everything within it, including us as humans, is created with qualities from the five elements (Panchamahabhutas) – Earth, Water, Fire, Wind, Ether.  The Earth elements represents a grounding, heavy, dense quality with a structural function.  The water element describes a soft, cool, liquid quality that softens the earth.  The fire element represents transformation – of all metabolic processes, digestion, reproduction, eyesight, etc.  Wind is stored energy that allows for movement.  Ether represents the containers of space within our body.  As we start to notice the qualities of these elements within ourselves, we can start to intuitively choose what we need to nourish and balance these qualities. 

Consuming foods with qualities similar to what is present within us will increase those qualities.  Consuming foods with qualities opposite to what is present within us will decrease those qualities.  For example, chilis are hot and spicy.  If you're already a fiery personality, chilis will increase this quality within you.


The five elements are present in different proportions in all things.  The way in which these five elements interact and combine within a person is defined by the three doshas – vata, pitta, and kapha.  The vata dosha is predominant in the air quality, the pitta dosha is predominant in the fire quality, and the kapha dosha is predominant in the earth quality.  Each dosha is associated with different physiologic functions, and Ayurveda uses these as a map to understanding how your mind and body work.  So by knowing your dominant dosha (everyone has more than 1 dosha) you can start to choose foods and other substances to help bring that dosha back into balance. 

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