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Impact Of Food Diversity On Health: Ayurveda Classification Of Food

The population around the globe is rapidly expanding and simultaneously more people are starving. With thousands of different kinds of food, there is an abundance to choose from not only in terms of what we consume but also how we consume it. Yet, there are only three plant-based foods that provide over half of our calories – rice, wheat, and maize.

Several studies have shown that dietary diversity may be beneficial for a healthy weight. Different foods and food groups are the best sources of various macro and micronutrients, and a diverse diet ensures nutrient adequacy. 1 

What is dietary diversity?

A diverse diet is one that contains all food groups like vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy products, meat, etc., that are essential for nutrient adequacy.

Dietary diversity is crucial to meet the daily requirements for energy and other essential vitamins and minerals, not just for those at risk of nutritional deficiencies, but also for the general population attempting to prevent health problems.

Food groups 

Ayurveda offers a lot of insights into food groups and mentions including different kinds of food into our everyday diet.

‘Nityam sarvarasabhyasaha swaswadhikyamrutavruthou’

Ayurveda scholar, Vagbhata mentions how important it is to cultivate the habit of consuming 6 tastes in our daily diet for sustainable health and consuming different tastes is possible when the food itself is diverse. 

The table below shows different food groups mentioned in Ayurveda

Shuka Dhanya

Group of cereals


All monocotyledons and energy giving food

Different varieties of rice, wheat, barley, millets Cereals and cereal products are an important source of energy, carbohydrate, protein, and fiber, as well as containing a range of micronutrients such as vitamin E, some of the B vitamins, magnesium, and zinc. 

Evidence suggests that regular consumption of cereals, specifically whole grains, may have a role in the prevention of chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, and colorectal cancer. 2

Shami Dhanya

Different varieties of legumes and pulses

Consists of green gram, black gram, horse gram, cowpea, bengal gram, sesame, lablab beans, pigeon peas, grass pea and many more Pulses provide protein, dietary fiber, and many vitamins and minerals. They also contain “phytochemicals” (plant chemicals), which may reduce the risk of certain types of cancer and other diseases.  

Like other plant-based foods, they contain no cholesterol and little fat or sodium. Pulses also provide iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and other minerals, which play a variety of roles in maintaining good health. 3

Shaka Varga

Different kinds of vegetables

Vegetables include Patra (Leafy vegetables), Pushpa (Flowering vegetables), Phala (Fruit vegetables), Nala (Stalk vegetables), Kanda (Tuber vegetables) and samsvedaja(Mushrooms) 4

Ayurveda mentions close to 332 classical vegetables. 

A diet rich in vegetables and fruits can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, prevent some types of cancer, lower risk of eye and digestive problems, and have a positive effect upon blood sugar, which can help keep appetite in check. 5
Phala Varga

Different kinds of fruits

Ayurveda classifies fruits on the basis of their taste, qualities and their nature of balancing the body humors and pacifying illness.

Some of the fruits are Draksha (grapes), Paravat (guava), Amra

(Mango), Jamuna(Java plum), Bibhitaka (Terminalia bellerica), 

Dadima (pomegranate), Vatada(Almond) and many more 6

The classical books mention 80+ varieties of fruits

People who eat more fruits and vegetables as part of an overall healthy diet are likely to have a reduced risk of some chronic diseases.

Most fruits are naturally low in fat, sodium, and calories. None have cholesterol. Fruits are sources of many essential nutrients that are under-consumed, including potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin C, and folate (folic acid). 7

Mamsa Varga

Different kinds of meat

The meat of animals is grouped according to their habitat with the intention of categorical therapeutic use. 

Common ones mentioned are meats like chicken, pork, fish and goat. 

Meat and poultry are great sources of protein. and other nutrients like iodine, iron, zinc, vitamins (especially B12), and essential fatty acids. Include meat and poultry every week as part of your balanced diet. 8
Harita Varga

Plants that can be used in salad form

Dry and wet ginger, tender radish, frog fruit, cumin, Caraway, fenugreek, 

Ginger, Garlic, Onion, Moringa leaves, Basil leaves, lemons, lemongrass, etc., 

The herbs are used both in their dry and wet form.

Harita Varga possesses different pharmacological properties based on which one can use these in different seasons and according to the digestive fire (Agni) in the body to maintain health in an individual.
Gorasa varga

Milk and dairy products

Different varieties of milk like cow milk, buffalo milk, goat milk, camel milk, and other dairy products like ghee, butter, buttermilk, etc.,  Keeps the muscles, skin, bones, nerves, teeth, and skin healthy. It also supports normal growth and development and normal functioning of the immune system. 10
Ikshu varga

Sugarcane and associated products


Honey and its varieties

Jaggery, sugar candy, sugar Carbohydrates fuel the body with energy but research shows that sugar can in fact do more harm than good and it is best to not add sugar at all or use it in moderation.

Honey is rich in antioxidants and promotes wound healing and has rich plant compounds called polyphenols. 

Kritanna Varga

Cooked food preparations

Ayurveda describes different kinds of food preparations like gruels of various kinds, roasted flours, different rice preparations, dishes with barley and pulses, juices and soups, vegetables and meat preparations, curd with sugar and various beverages in the form of panaka with fruits and fermented preparations of rice and vegetables.  In modern dietetics, the nature of food is analyzed by weighing the dominance of carbohydrates,

Proteins & Fats.  But Ayurveda weighs the properties of food on an individual basis

depending upon both the nature of the food

and the nature of digestive capability of the

a person who is going to  consume that food. 11

Aharayoni varga

Adjuvants of food

Aharayoni group consists of various kinds of cooking oils(sesame, mustard, castor, flaxseed oil, safflower oil etc.,)

Animal fats

Condiments, spices (like dry ginger, pepper, asafoetida, seeds of caraway, coriander, onion seeds, etc., 

Various kinds of salts

Saindhava (Rock Salt) 

Samudra(Sea Salt)

Vida (Bida Salt) 

Suvarcha (Sanchal Salt) 

Audbhida (Efflorescence Salt) 

Kala Lavana (Black Salt, ‘Kalabag’) Pamsuja (Earth Salt) 12

Aharayoni is a group of food adjuvants to be used for the preparation of diet or taken along with the principal diet like different oils and spices which possess tremendous potential attributed to the bioactive ingredients in them.

Spices, salt, and oil not only add flavor, taste, and color to the food but provide infinite health benefits to humans. 

There are 30,000 edible plant species worldwide, 25000 different phytochemicals 13, and numerous vitamins and minerals. Vegetables, fruits, and food preparations of ancient India as described in Ayurveda have tremendous anti-inflammatory, anti-ageing, and disease-fighting properties.

Each herb/plant or preparation has different properties and with them come different phytochemicals which can impact our body in a beneficial way which is why it is important to eat a diverse diet.

Think of how you can make the food on your plate diverse to stop falling into the trap of eating the same foods again.


  1. https://www.fantaproject.org/node/1199 
  2. Mckevith, Brigid. (2004). Nutritional aspects of cereals. Nutrition Bulletin. 29. 111 – 142. 10.1111/j.1467-3010.2004.00418.x. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/j.1467-3010.2004.00418.x
  3. https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/publications/food-nutrition/pulses-the-perfect-food-healthy-to-eat-healthy-to-grow-peas-lentils-chickpeas#section-1
  4.  Dr. Umakant N. Rabb. 2019. “Pharmacological activities of shaka Current Research, 11, (09), 7232-7239 http://www.journalcra.com/sites/default/files/issue-pdf/36736.pdf
  5. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/vegetables-and-fruits/#:~:text=A%20diet%20rich%20in%20vegetables,help%20keep%20appetite%20in%20check.
  6. Rabb, U. N. (2019). Pharmacological Activities Of Phala-Varga (Medicinal Fruits) – An Ayurvedic Review. European Journal of Medical and Health Sciences, 1(4). https://doi.org/10.24018/ejmed.2019.1.4.89 https://www.ejmed.org/index.php/ejmed/article/view/89/39 
  7. https://food.unl.edu/NEP/NEP%20Documents/Fruit%20Group.pdf 
  8. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/Meat-and-poultry 
  9. Dogra Akanksha & Jagota Ankush: Comparative Analysis of Harita Varga Dravya In Various Seasons And Diseases. International Ayurvedic Medical Journal {online} 2020 {cited November, 2020} Available from: http://www.iamj.in/posts/images/upload/5064_5072.pdf
  10. https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/dairy-benefits.html
  11. Garg, Rajendra & Mangal, Dr.Gopesh & Yadav, Minu. (2021). Pathya Aahara Kalpana: A Review. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/349172873_Pathya_Aahara_Kalpana_A_Review
  12. Mooss NS. Salt in ayurveda I. Anc Sci Life. 1987;6(4):217-237. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3331422/
  13. Shelef O, Weisberg PJ, Provenza FD. The Value of Native Plants and Local Production in an Era of Global Agriculture. Front Plant Sci. 2017;8:2069. Published 2017 Dec 5. doi:10.3389/fpls.2017.02069 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5723411/

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