The Healing Foods Diet:
How to Restore Your Health, Energy and Mood With Ancient Dietary Wisdom
BY CYNTHIA COPPLE
the healing foods diet is a powerful way to restore health, eliminate digestive issues and create all around balance and harmony in the body.
Your Healing Diet: Step-by-Step
I have seen this healing foods diet have a profound effect on my clients, increasing their clarity of vision and energy, eliminating depression, mood swings and energy dips, as well as helping them lose weight and improve libido and sexual performance.
You may have had a goal previously and felt your energy fizzle out before you reached it, or you had doubts and worries that made you put your goal aside. This healing diet is the first step to bring your blueprint back into balance. Being in balance physically, mentally and emotionally will eliminate many of the toxins that are blocking you from clarity of vision and achievement of your health goals.
Three Body Type Blueprints
Sensitive Blueprint = Space + Air
(Vata, Skinny, slim build, with fast mind)
Passionate Blueprint = Fire + Water
(Pitta, Normal weight, medium build, balanced temperament)
Stable Blueprint = Water + Earth
(Kapha, Heavier weight, large frame/build, stable, steady mind and movement)
Three Core Principles of a Healing Diet
I am indebted to Ayurvedic Doctor Pankaj Naram for showing me the value of this healing foods diet, which I have modified, followed (mostly!) and taught for over 30 years. The Healing Diet is based on three guiding principles: 1) Eliminate foods that cause imbalance 2) Focus on eating easy-to-digest foods that heal the body, and 3) Regulate eating times.
Foods that Cause Imbalance and Disease
A healing diet that supports vibrant health creates balance and maximum function in the digestive system. Certain foods, such as red meat, rich cheeses, sugar and processed grains, inhibit digestion, and so will be avoided on the Healing Foods Diet.
Another key factor not often understood is the impact of temperature. Food and drink should always be warm, not cold. The body is 98.6 degrees, and eating or drinking anything cooler than that, recent studies have shown, significantly slows down or impairs digestion and is counterproductive to a healing diet.Avoid the temptation to eat foods taken directly from the refrigerator. No ice or carbonated drinks during this healing diet!
Easy-to-Digest Healing Foods
Easy-to-digest foods give our digestive system a rest so it can work on digesting toxins and excess fats instead of hard to digest foods. Eighty percent (80%) of the foods you will eat on the Healing Diet will be fresh, warm and cooked. Up to 20% may consist of raw or salad vegetables, since raw foods are generally more difficult to digest. Soups are highly recommended, as they are very easy to digest. For weight loss, warm, cooked foods are the sure secret of success!
Our Cultural Eating Habits
In our culture it is considered normal to snack frequently or skip meals. This practice prevents our food from being properly digested. According to Ayurveda, the toxic products that are created by indigestion are not only the cause of symptoms such as weight-gain, disturbed sleep and low energy, but they are the beginning of most diseases. This is why this Healing Foods Diet is so important and powerful.
Food goes through three steps to be fully digested. First, it is liquefied by the churning action of the stomach. Then it moves into the small intestines where it is broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream. Lastly, what remains goes into the colon where the gasses are absorbed and solid waste is compacted for elimination. Each phase parallels the activities of the three blueprints: Stable (stomach), Passionate (small intestines) and Sensitive (colon).
It takes a minimum of three hours and maximum of six hours for food to go through this process and for the system to be ready to start on new food. If you are constantly eating, the digestive fire becomes depleted, as it does not complete each cycle before starting up again. If you go too long without eating, the fire diminishes or goes out. Other factors that significantly inhibit digestion are cold food and eating late at night—all of which are not recommend on the healing foods diet protocol.
In this healing diet there are no “snacks,” just regularly spaced meals. If you crave a snack, you can have it for dessert. This is in order to create sustainable, level energy throughout the day. According to Ayurveda, that energy is life-support; it decreases stress and anxiety, and increases your immune strength. Eating at regular times is like walking a tightrope with a net beneath you.
Eating at irregular times is like walking a tight-rope without a net—very stressful!!
Your Meal Times
Ideally, before starting the Healing Foods Diet, you will fill out the Current Diet Assessment form in my book,Know your Blueprint: The Ayurvedic Secret to Restoring Your Vitality and Passion In 30 Days to get a perspective on how you are currently eating. You will use it to compare how you are eating at the end of the four weeks.
You want to set your ideal meal times to when you will naturally be hungry.
Looking at your current diet, notice if you are eating meals at regular intervals (for example, every three hour or four hours, or five or six hours). If your eating habits are regular, and you feel hungry at mealtimes and have energy after eating, you will continue to eat at your current times. Remember not to eat in between your regular times.
If you are eating at irregular intervals, you will not have optimum digestion. You need to re-set your mealtime schedule on the healing diet.
Set Your Ideal Meal Times
This is an exercise to find your ideal meal times and when you will be hungry.Imagine that you ate a good dinner last night, slept well and woke at your normal time. What time do you feel hungry or eat breakfast?
Imagine you ate a good breakfast—when do you next feel hungry? Keep asking yourself when you will next feel hungry and write down the times you are imagining you might be hungry. Then look at the times you wrote down in this exercise and notice how many meals you ate in a day, and what the regular interval between meals was.
What you have written down will be your starting point for your meal times during this healing diet program. Some people may eat three meals, others four or five. When you have a “healing food snack” it should be considered a meal, and you will eat meals now instead of “snack foods.”
Lunch should be between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. and should be your biggest meal. Dinner should ideally be before 6:00 p.m., lighter (soupier) than lunch, and not close to bedtime.
Other meals should be heavy or light depending on hunger (if you are used to a “snack,” something like soup is a good substitute). Snack foods can be desserts after meals.
Write down your mealtimes. This will be your meal schedule for the next four weeks. After three days or a week if you notice that you feel hungry more or less often, you can change your mealtimes accordingly. Just make sure they are still at regular intervals, there are no “snacks,” and the times do not vary from day to day. Put your mealtimes on your daily calendar—they are as important as your other scheduled meetings and deadlines!
Eating at regular times will give you energy and support, make your day better and is an integral part of a healing foods diet!
Track Your Progress
For each week you will create your eating plan to help you track your progress. You may have an aversion to writing down what you are eating. It may seem to take too much time and have no real value. However, tracking your daily patterns shines a light of awareness into your life, which is a powerful force for change. One client, Susan, told me, “I now know exactly why my eczema flares up since I tracked it—it flares when I eat certain non-healing foods or go too long without eating. I didn’t want to change anything at first, but now I feel so much better when I eat according to Ayurvedic guidelines.” Review the following list of Healing Foods to Eat and Foods to Avoid. The more foods that heal that you eat from the first list, the more profound your results will be. You will find some delicious recipes in my book. Warm, cooked, healing foods are recommended—and I urge you to get together with a friend or partner and share meals and cooking!
What to Eat During Your Healing Foods Diet
Preparation: Stir-fried in soup, baked or steamed
+ Squash, summer and winter
+ Leafy greens
+ Sweet potatoes
+ Green beans
+ Green salad (20% of meal)
+ Bread: only pita, chapatis or whole wheat tortillas, made without yeast, baking soda or baking powder
+ Basmati rice
+ Cream of wheat
+ Whole wheat
Preparation: stir-fried in soup, baked
+ Chicken—white meat
+ Turkey—white meat
+ Fish—freshwater, like trout
+ Split mung beans
+ Red lentils
+ Green lentils
+ Brown lentils
+ No nut butters; minimal nuts and avoid peanuts, cashews, pistachios.
Sweet fruits only; cooked, baked is best for healing, 10% of meal
+ Ripe bananas
+ Sweet grapes
+ Sweet cherries
+ Fresh figs (not dried)
Spices With Food
+ Himalayan Rock Salt
+ Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
Healing foods to be eaten in moderation! Try to eliminate sugar if possible.
+ Honey (for Stables/Kapha)
+ Raw sugar (for Sensitives/Vata)
+ Molasses (for Passionates/Pitta)
+ Brown sugar (for Passionates/Pitta)
Only take dairy if it doesn’t create an allergy or congestion. Whole, fresh is the best food for healing; for less fat, add water.
+ Cow’s milk
+ Goat milk
+ Ghee (instead of butter)
+ Cottage cheese or non-aged cheeses (in moderation)
+ Ghee is the best healing oil if you can digest it.
Foods to Avoid During the Healing Diet Program
+ Includes beef, pork, veal, bacon, ham, lamb
+ No aged cheeses (some cottage cheese is ok)
Deep Fried Foods
+ French fries
+ Sautéed foods
+ Fried eggs
+ Yeasted foods (most breads)
+ Bakery goods—with sugar, yeast, baking powder, baking soda
+ Soy Sauce
+ Seitan, soy products
+ Frozen food
+ Ice cream, sorbet
+ Frozen dinners
+ Frozen dairy products
+ Frozen vegetables
+ Frozen fruit
Spicy, Pungent Foods
+ Raw or cooked onion (use leeks)
+ Red/green chilis
+ A bit. Use Himalayan Rock Salt or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos to taste.
+ Salads only 10-20% of meal; best is none
+ Avoid sour foods and citrus fruits
+ Oranges, mandarins
+ Sour berries, sour or unripe fruits
+ Dried fruits (in moderation, raisins and dates are ok)
+ Avoid gas producing beans
+ Dries out body
+ Rice cakes
+ Heavy, gas producing or acidic
+ Brussel Sprouts
+ Use healing oils like ghee, olive oil or sesame oil instead
+ Black, green, or white tea
+ Candy, chocolate, cakes, etc.
+ Excessive bitter leafy greens (chard)
The foods I recommend that you avoid on a healing diet tend to unbalance the doshas (body types). Reminder: the doshas are the processes which through digestion create every cell of our blueprint. The recommendations are based on the “six tastes” according to Ayurveda: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent.
In addition, items which tend to be addictive (as coffee, alcohol and sugar) and thereby unbalancing are also included in the Foods to Avoid list.
The Magic of Kitcheree
One recipe you will use a lot during your healing diet is Kitcheree. Kitcheree is called the “chicken soup of Ayurveda.” It is a perfect protein and easy to digest healing food; it is so easy on the digestion it is often served as a convalescent food.
Kitcheree consists of small, easy-to-digest healing foods like beans (split mung or red lentils), aged white basmati rice and vegetables.
Although your digestive power will vary depending on your blueprint (dosha type), you need strong hunger to digest the healing foods outlined in this article, especially if your goal is to eliminate excess weight.
If you’re not hungry, you need to turn up the digestive fire so the meal can be properly digested by using the following healing spices and condiments.
May need more salt and spice in their healing diet if not hungry. Take a small piece of fresh ginger (an amazing healing food in its own right!) the size of the smallest joint on your little finger, chop it, add drops of lemon juice and salt, and chew before your meal. Other healing digestive aids include: Cumin, Salty Lassi
May need a sweet taste with the meal, like apple sauce or sweet fruit chutney (at Indian stores) or cottage cheese. Other healing digestive aids include: Rosewater, Sweet Lassi; Fresh Ginger/Lime/Raw Sugar Appetizer
May have lower hunger than others and can take ginger as described for Sensitives. Other healing digestive aids include: Cumin, Salty Lassi
Healing Digestive Tea for All Body Types/Doshas: Equal parts of the following healing foods: Cumin, Coriander and Fennel powders. Steep one teaspoon in one cup of hot water; strain and sip when thirsty.
Healing Diet Do’s and Dont’s
1. What to do About Food Sensitivities
Each person’s digestion is different, and if you have an allergy or don’t feel right (feel heavy or bloated, for example) after eating a particular healing food, do not eat it this month, even if it is on the “what to eat” list. Move it to your “what to avoid” list. Since this diet tends to improve digestion, most of my clients have found that after being on the Healing Foods Diet for a month they could digest more of the foods they were allergic to before.
2. Best Times to Eat Healing Foods
Eat your healing foods meals every three hours (minimum) to every six hours (maximum) on a regular schedule to allow the previous meal to be digested and to not create excess hunger. Try to eat your last meal by 6 pm.
Body Type Guidelines:
Sensitive (Vata): eat every 3-4 hours
Passionate (Pitta): eat every 4-5 hours
Stable (Kapha): eat every 5-6 hours.
Do not eat between meals! No snacks—even if they are from the healing foods list! If you are hungry more often, regulate your meal times so you won’t be hungry in between meals.
3. Eating Environment for the Healing Diet
Eat your healing foods in peaceful surroundings: no television, reading, emotional talking or interruptions. If your mind and emotions are engaged in something other than eating, your digestion will suffer. This may be challenging at first, but after a few meals you’ll get accustomed to the change.
Sit quietly or say a food prayer before eating. This focuses the body/mind on the healing food and digestion.
4. A Few Other Guidelines on the Healing Diet
Eat until you are two-thirds filled, but not feeling “stuffed.” The stomach is approximately the size of two hands, little fingers together, opened to hold something. The ideal amount to eat, according to Ayurveda, is this amount, mostly liquid/soupy (low digestive fire/hunger) or mostly protein/oils/heavier foods (strong digestive fire/hunger).
The last meal should be taken at least two and a half hours before bed; the last liquid should be taken at least one hour before bed so that your meal is digested and you have peed before you go to sleep. This will help sound sleep.
Walk 100 paces after each meal. This helps to digest your healing food and assists with blood sugar issues.
5. Drinking Liquids
Ayurveda says we should eat when we are hungry and drink when we are thirsty. This is honoring the body’s natural rhythms. Too much or too little liquid has an unbalancing effect. Liquids should not be taken just before or after meals on a healing diet protocol; sipping hot liquid during meals if thirsty (usually when eating dry or salty food) will help digestion. Constantly drinking unbalances the Sensitive Blueprint in everyone, creating nervousness, anxiety and constant peeing.
6. Cooking Healing Foods
Warm cooked food is easier to digest than raw food or cold food, so prepare to either cook your meals at home or eat take-out or restaurant-cooked meals!
Think of how your grandparents in the old country or on the farm ate—three cooked meals a day, no snacks. It is important to honor your body’s rhythm and eat at regular times when your digestive “fire” is hot. Now that fast food chains like McDonald’s and even health food stores like Whole Foods make cooked foods available at all hours of the day, many people have lost their digestive rhythm! Eating when the digestive fire is not “hot” or ready is a prime cause of being overweight.
This healing diet does not include fast foods, sweets, chocolate or bakery snacks, excessive fruit or melons (sweets), or caffeine or alcohol. You can cut back on them if you are unwilling to give them up entirely at this time. Any reduction will increase your healthy balance! (See Tips for reducing unhealthy foods below.)
7. Cooking Made Easy
If you are busy, you can cook once a day for the whole day. You could cook at night, after dinner, preparing the next day’s lunch and dinner. Or it could be at breakfast, cooking that day’s lunch and dinner.
Ideally each meal is prepared freshly, however you can eat leftovers the next day, adding some new healing foods to the menu as well. You could make extra dinner and eat leftovers for lunch the next day.
Types of Foods to Avoid by Blueprint
The Healing Diet avoids foods that are hard to digest and foods that disturb all three blueprints. It focuses on easy to digest, balancing foods that heal. In addition to the general listing of foods to avoid, the chart below shows which types of otherwise healing foods should be avoided specific to your blueprint.
Sensitive Body Type Blueprint
Foods to avoid on a healing diet:
Cold, Raw, Dry, Astringent, Gas-producing, Pungent, Overly bitter, Stimulants like caffeine, Alcohol
They may cause:
Gas, Bloating, Pain, Mood or energy swings
Which may lead to:
Chronic pain, Arthritis, Memory loss, Arthritis, Excess anxiety, Fear, Panic attacks, PTSD
Passionate Body Type Blueprint
Foods to avoid on a healing diet:
Sour, aged, Fermented, Salty, Stimulants like caffeine, Alcohol, Fried, Excessive Oils like peanuts, Spicy/Pungent (Example: Spicy Curry)
They may cause:
Belching, Acid indigestion, Yellow skin
Which may lead to:
Inflammation, Skin Problems, Hot Flashes, Cardio-Vascular Problems, Indigestion, Hemorrhoid, Vision Problems, Excess Anger, Jealousy, Frustration, Cancer
Stable Body Type Blueprint
Foods to avoid on a healing diet:
Cold, Raw, Heavy, Sour, Salty, Sweet, Oily (Example: Ice Cream)
They may cause:
Sluggishness, Cold, Congestion, Lack of appetite
Which may lead to:
Lipomas, Colds, Pneumonia, Asthma, Depression, Sluggishness, Laziness, Tumors
Tips For Making Your Healing Diet a Success
If you can’t give up coffee, tea or caffeine, here are a few options short of total abstinence for a more moderate healing diet.
+ Don’t drink it on an empty stomach, take it only with food
+ Drink a half cup
+ Drink half decaf or all decaf
+ Drink it before noon only.
If you have to have an occasional alcoholic drink, here are a few options:
+ Drink white wine instead of red wine or hard liquor (red wine is considered more acidic)
+ Add water to the wine
+ Only drink it with the meal, not before or after
+ Drink less
Changing Eating and Food Habits
Our habits can be comforting rituals, like the chocolate bar in the middle of the afternoon, the cup of black tea when we first wake up, or the reward of an alcoholic drink after a hard day at work. In general, these “pick-me-ups” are addictive and you will not feel balanced as long as you are disturbing your natural rhythms with these stimulants, which are generally not part of any healing diet.
Try to substitute another ritual when undertaking a healing diet—one that is less toxic. For example, mint or chamomile tea instead of coffee, a small meal in the mid-afternoon when the energy is lagging instead of caffeine or sugar, or a cup of hot pomegranate and water drink when you get home from work.
This article on the healing foods diet is excerpted with permission from Know your Blueprint: The Ayurvedic Secret to Restoring Your Vitality and Passion In 30 Days by Cynthia Copple.
About The Author
Cynthia Copple is a nationally recognized Ayurvedic Master and Director of the Lotus Holistic Health Institute in Santa Cruz, California where she has helped thousands regain their health and rediscover their passion for life. As co-founder of the National Ayurvedic Medical Association and the Mount Madonna Institute College of Ayurveda, she has trained many Ayurvedic practitioners. Visit her websites: lotusayurveda.com and knowyourblueprint.com