This post was last updated on August 12, 2021 by Preethi Sukumaran
Our skin and hair’s health depends on what we eat. Some foods can nourish and heal us. Other foods can throw us off balance and aggravate our doshas. This post will explore foods that aggravate and increase Pitta dosha. This will help you reduce premature greying by avoiding these foods which aggravate Pitta dosha.
These food rules may seem slightly tough to follow in the beginning. But if followed, they can help balance imbalanced doshas, reduce pitta aggravation and improve health. Read on.
Premature greying is caused by Pitta aggravation
Premature greying is considered a condition of unchecked pitta aggravation in Ayurveda. When Pitta dosha in the body is sharply imbalanced, it increases heat and oiliness throughout the body.
In skin, unchecked Pitta dosha leads to skin oiliness, blackheads, whiteheads and skin clogging and breakouts.
Aggravated pitta dosha affects hair in a different way. It burns the hair and thins it down. This makes the scalp more visible and gives the impression of a receeding hair line. It also prematurely greys hair, stripping it of its natural colour.
So to reduce these hair and skin effects, we must control Pitta aggravation at source and influence it through a carefully chosen diet.
Ayurveda tells us that sour, spicy and salty foods increase Pitta dosha which in turn aggravates premature greying. So we can reduce premature greying by avoiding these foods with these tastes.
Sweet, bitter and astringent foods reduce and balance Pitta dosha . Eating more of these foods can help us balance and reduce aggravated Pitta Dosha, thus slowing down premature greying.
Traditional Indian cuisine and cooking methods
Indian cuisine liberally uses souring agents in food. Traditionally this was done to preserve food in the absence of refrigeration. Sour foods were eaten carefully, at the right time. For example, sour foods were eaten on a long journey, when there was no access to fresh cooked food. In South India, Puliyodharai (tamarind rice) is a good example of this.
Traditionally, Puliyodharai was made before a long journey, where the food needed to last for atleast 3 – 4 days without refrigeration.
Similarly, India has a long tradition of pickling. Pickling was done from ancient times to preserve seasonal fruits and vegetables. Pickles were also used judiciously to improve appetite and digestion in cold months, and give the body access to vegetables that were out of season. Being salty , sour and spicy, Pickles stimulate Pitta Dosha which is useful in rainy or cold season where appetite can be dull.
Traditional cooking always understood the idea of balance. We never overindulged in sour or salty tastes. Care was taken to provide a wide variety of tastes in each meal. Pickles and condiments were eaten in small quantities , in the right season, and were used as medicine. By staying in balance, our diet helped slow down aging and reduce premature greying and early wrinkles.
Food was always made at home. There was no concept of pre-packaged or outside food. so home picklers and papad makers used local, high quality spices to make these condiments. Potassium sorbate and synthetic preservatives were not used to flavour these condiments. Instead home makers used different kinds of salt and high quality cold pressed oils and clean hands to ensure long shelf life.
Modern changes to foods and cooking methods that upset dosha balance
The wise and holistic traditional methods of preservation and cooking have been completely overturned in today’s world. Pickling and condiment making is no longer a home made affair. Instead we buy mass manufactured, pre-packaged pickles, papad, from a super market . These mass manufactured condiments come loaded with preservatives, E-numbers and excessive salt, severely aggravating Pitta dosha. We no longer use pickles, chutneys and condiments as medicines. Instead we over-indulge in them purely for taste.
Our perceived lack of time has us looking for quick foods. Breakfast for many today is a pre-packaged instant cereal, instant oats, instant upma etc. The shelf life of these “foods” is sometimes 3 years. This food is not just nutrient dead. It is also immensely upsetting to the delicate dosha balance in your body.
Eating dead food loaded with chemicals puts a huge strain on the body and increases our toxin load.
With globalisation, we suddenly have access to foods that were never a part of our cuisine. So we have enthusiastically added vinegar, tempeh, olives and aged cheeses to our cuisine. The introduction of these alien foods severely upsets the dosha balance in our body. Most pre-packaged, shelf ready foods are very high in sodium preservatives, aggravating Pitta dosha. This aggravates premature greying.
Reduce Premature greying by avoiding these 5 foods :
We have seen that “amla” (sour), “lavana” (salty) and “teekshna” (spicy) tastes aggravate Pitta dosha. This in turn thins hair, rapidly changes its colour to a dull grey or white. So we can reduce premature greying by avoiding these foods which stimulate Pitta dosha excessively.
- Sour foods – tomato and tamarind based food, fermented foods, curd, etc
- Salty Foods – pickles, papad
- Spicy Foods – red and green chillies
- Sour Foreign foods – sauces, soy sauces, vinegar, cheese, olives, greek yoghurt, hummus, pesto
- Salty Commercial packaged foods – instant cereal / oats / upma
Why do we include foods that are considered healthy like idlis and foreign foods like hummus and vinegar? We will see the reasons why below.
1. Avoid Sour foods
Indian cooking, especially south Indian cooking loves sourness. Tamarind is almost universally used in preparations like Sambhar and Rasam. Additionally sour curds and buttermilk is often eaten with rice everyday or in other dishes like Morkuzhambu.
The unchecked use of Tamarind is not a healthy practice. This also goes against traditional food rules.
An excess amount of sour taste in food aggravates Pitta dosha, leading to premature greying and hair thinning. So , sour taste needs to be balanced in your cuisine. Depending upon level of pitta imbalance, we advise severe restriction of sour agents or limiting its consumption to 2 – 3 days a week.
Fermented foods are very healthy for us. But as they age, they become very high in sourness. Traditionally foods like idli and dosa were consumed only few times a week / fortnight. But today, due to easy availability of ready made batter, many of us eat these foods nearly every day.
Chaats are notoriously high in sour especially golgappas and dahi-based chaats. Originally chaat was invented in North India as a medicinal item to cure constipation. This makes sense if your diet is very high in meat and protein leading to severe constipation. This is also okay in small, occasional doses in the right season.
However, today all of us eat hotel made chaat. The puris are made with pre commercial maida which is clogging to the system. Oil is re-used many times making it unhealthy. Plus we eat it in high frequency and un seasonally. This much be kept in balance, again.
Krya recommendation for Sour foods :
Reduce premature greying by avoiding these foods which are very high in sour tastes by following these restrictions:
- Restrict amchur, kokum and tamarind based dishes to twice a week. On the other days, have non-sour dishes like Dal, Kootu, etc.
- Restrict the consumption of cooked curd based dishes. If making raita, do not eat more than once a week. Use diluted , churned, non sour curd for Raita.
- Restrict Fermented foods to twice a week. Ensure the batter is home made, and fresh (do not eat if batter is more than 2 days old)
- Avoid curd completely. You can have thin buttermilk (3 portions water: 1 curd) thrice a week, tempered with salt, roasted jeera and pepper ONLY if the curd is not sour. Avoid all sour buttermilk
- Avoid tomatoes as much as possible. You many use fresh lime twice a week instead.
2. Salty food:
Pitta dosha increases with salty food which in turn increases premature greying. Pickles, papads, and other condiments are naturally high in salty taste. If these products are bought from shops, the salt content is even higher.
Krya recommendation for salty foods :
Reduce premature greying by avoiding these foods which are very high in salty taste by following these restrictions:
- Avoid iodised , synthetic salt. Eat only rock salt or “Indhuppu”. Kala namak is to be had very very rarely as it aggravates Pitta dosha.
- Completely avoid all store bought pickles, sauces, and other condiments
- Fresh, non aged, home made pickles can be eaten occasionally in autumn, spring and more regularly in Winter. Avoid completely if possible in Summer.
- Preserved home made, aged pickles can be eaten infrequently if the rest of the meal is low in sour and spicy. For eg: a traditional combination of mung dal kitchdi with a small amount of pickle is okay, infrequently.
- Do not eat pickles with sour foods like idli, dosa, curd, buttermilk, sambhar, rasam, etc.
- Restrict papads to occasional consumption. Balance the rest of the meal to ensure overall low salt. Choose a well made, non commercial papad (organic, small scale), if possible.
3. Avoid Spicy food
Ayurveda says that the nature of pitta dosha is “Teekshana” or intense and sharp. Teekshana foods therefore aggravate pitta dosha because they are similar in nature to Pitta dosha. Many spices we eat are not only Teekshana but also foreign to India. Chillies for example, were introduced into India a scant 400 – 500 years ago. However, they have been studied and described in Ayurveda with a detailed study of their effects on our body.
Red and green chillies are considered much more Teekshana in Ayurveda compared to indigenous varieties of pepper. So when we use chilli powder in our cuisine, pitta dosha aggravates, increasing premature greying.
To bring aggravated pitta dosha to balance, we advise cutting down red and green chillies and all varieties of capsicum and bell peppers.
Krya recommendation for spicy food:
Reduce premature greying by avoiding these foods which are very high in spicy taste by following these restrictions:
- Avoid red and green chillies, capsicum as much as possible. As they are nightshades, they also interfere with many of the body’s natural functions.
- Learn to spice food instead with pepper, ginger, dhania and jeera.
- Pitta aggravated people can liberally use coriander seeds, and roasted jeera in their cooking. Coriander seeds balance pitta. Jeera warms without aggravating Pitta dosha. A small amount of roasted fenugreek seeds can also be used to supplement cooking. Fenugreek also stimulates Pitta dosha , but it can be used as long as other Pitta aggravating spices are avoided, in small quantities.
- Reduce mustard and mustard oil in your cooking. Yellow mustard is milder than black mustard and can be used infrequently.
- This is not the time to eat jalapenos and bhut jalokia.
4. Avoid Sour Foreign foods – sauces, soy sauces, vinegar, cheese, olives, greek yoghurt, hummus, pesto
With rapid globalisation, we have been introduced to many new cuisines and tastes. While this is great to understand different cultures, it can play havoc with the balance of doshas in our body.
When we import foods, we do not import the other things that surround food. Food comes with local traditions, historical changes and unique geographical conditions that contribute to the development of this cuisine. All of this help the natives of a particular geography adapt and live well in that environment with the help of that food.
Food culture also comes with ingredient availability. In India, Rajasthani cuisine is famous for the use of many local shoots, roots, due to the non availability of other vegetables and fruits. So yak cheese evolved in a region where the climate was cold, and no other dairy animal was present. These region specific foods often make most sense in their area of origin and travel poorly. When those of us living in hot, tropical conditions consume this kind of food, we upset our dosha balance.
Krya recommendation for sour foreign foods :
Reduce premature greying by avoiding these foods which are foreign to our bodies and have a sharp, sour taste by following these restrictions:
- Sharp aged cheeses aggravate pitta dosha. Avoid strongly.
- Reduce consumption of pickled vegetables like olives, jalapenos as much as possible. Synthetic, commercial vinegar is used for this pickling which is harmful for health. If using, use very infrequently and ensure the vegetable is soaked and rinsed many times before eating.
- Avoid indo-chinese food as much as possible. Among all cuisines , this upsets and aggravates Pitta dosha the most.
- Avoid eating packaged tahini and hummus which are high in salt and sour taste. Make your own dips instead.
- Avoid greek yoghurt: it is very high in fat, sourness and can also imbalance kapha dosha leading to breakouts and dandruff.
- Experiment with other cuisines in a very restrictive and balanced manner. Follow up experimentation with atleast 1 / 2 weeks of regular home made food to ensure the toxins accumulated do not build up
- If you have a choice, choose cuisines with tastes as close to Indian food as possible.
5. Avoid Salty commercial pre-packaged foods :
All packaged , ready to eat food is high in salt. This comes in the form of synthetic sodium preservatives and emulsifiers. Packaged sweetened foods like breakfast cereal, instant oats, are also similarly high in salty taste.
When we habitually eat these foods, our taste buds get adapted to a much higher degree of salt. So we unconsciously start using much higher amounts of salt in our food as well.
Krya recommendation for salty, commercial, pre-packaged foods:
Reduce premature greying by avoiding these foods which are very high in hidden salts by following these restrictions:
- Avoid / Restrict the following completely: Instant noodles, oats, upma, ready to eat foods
- Completely avoid powdered or ready to eat soups. They are NOT healthy and are NOT nutritious and are filled with toxic chemicals.
- Slowly phase out dependence on breakfast cereals and plain oats.
- Paneer is preferable over cheese . Home made Paneer is infinitely preferable over store bought Paneer. Eat within two days and do not eat sour, fermented Paneer. You can flavour it at home if needed without aggravating Sodium or premature greying.
“Ahaara” (food) has a very important role to play in health, and our external appearance. Hair and skin systems react very quickly to a badly planned diet and show up symptoms of dosha imbalance. In this post, we saw the connection between salt, spice and sour tastes and Pitta dosha. we also looked at 5 common types of foods that we all consume everyday, which are high in these tastes.
If you have the typical signs of aggravated pitta dosha like rapid premature greying, hair thinning, early stage female / male pattern baldness, your diet could be at fault. Making these simple changes to your diet can help bring your doshas back to balance, restore health and help you reduce premature greying.
If you have any questions on the above, please write to us.
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