Demystifying the Ayurvedic Diet

Demystifying the Ayurvedic Diet (October 9, 2016)

You are what you eat. We have all heard this saying, and though it isn’t literal (eating fat doesn’t make you fat, nor does eating French fries turn you into French fries); “The nutritional content of what we eat determines the composition of our cell membranes, bone marrow, blood, and hormones”. It is why we try to eat clean food vs. junk food—because our bodies are only as clean as the foods we feed them (Katz, 2010).

Think about the last time you ate a nice juicy piece of fruit. How did you feel afterwards? How about the last time you ate junk food?

Ayurveda, like other early systems of medicine, divides all matter into humors and affirms that disease is simply an imbalance of these humors. Imbalances can be corrected through diet. It was not the first system to recognize that food plays a very important part in our well-being. Much of Indian cooking is rooted in Ayurvedic principles, many that we can easily incorporate into our own approaches to eating (Vishal, 2016).

The Doshas and Gunas
What is Ayurveda? Ayurveda is an ancient unified body of philosophies(of medicine and food) from ancient times, that is a comprehensive system that is relevant even today. According to Ayurveda, all matter is made up of humors or Doshas that have specific properties or Gunas that need to be balanced for good health. The primary Doshas are Vata (air and space); Pitta (fire and water); and Kapha (earth and water)(Vishal, 2016). The Gunas are Tamas (the mode of ignorance); Rajas (the mode of passion); and Sattva (the mode of goodness) (Ayurveda.org, n.d.).

Tamasic items include meat, alcohol, tobacco, onions, garlic, fermented foods, such as vinegar, and stale left over food, contaminated or overripe substances. Overeating is also regarded as tamasic. Tamasic is the unhealthiest food of all (The Living Center, n.d.).

Rajasic foods include hot substances, such as sharp spices or strong herbs, stimulants, like coffee and tea, meat of animals and fish, eggs, salt and chocolate. Many of the ground foods are Rajasic. Eating in a hurry is also considered rajasic (The Living Center, n.d.).

Sattvic foods include sprouted whole grains, fresh fruit, land and sea vegetables, pure fruit juices, nut and seed milk and cheese, legumes, nuts, seeds, sprouted seeds, honey, and herb teas. Sattvic foods are those foods that do not agitate your stomach at all (The Living Center, n.d.).

The 6 tastes
The Gunas are associated with 6 tastes: sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter, and astringent.  No food is considered good or bad. Everything needs to be consumed in moderation and balance. Taste is emphasized not just the medicinal properties of food (Vishal, 2016).

Personalization
Ayurveda is very personal. It takes into account individual body types, and the different levels of elements present in each person. Foods with the opposite properties can be eaten to achieve balance. A person with more Kapha (earth and water) who is lethargic and heavy may do better by eating foods that are more pungent and bitter (foods that increase the fire element which counters the earth and water elements) Ayurveda does not say no to any food. Foods that may cause imbalance can be “balanced” by pairing it with certain foods or spices. (Vishal, 2016).

Season
Ayurveda emphasizes seasonality. Foods should be fresh made of seasonal ingredients because these foods contain what our bodies need to counter the disturbing elements of the season. Foods with a hot nature (pungent and sweet) should be consumed during the cold months to promote digestion; whereas foods that are deemed cooling are good for the summers (Vishal, 2016).

Summary

·      Eat foods that are in season and freshly cooked

·      Eat foods in a balanced quantity to suit your own personal constitution and temperament

·      Eat foods mindfully and pay attention not only to nutritional value, but taste as well

References:
AyurvedaDosha.org. (n.d.). The 3 grade “Gunas” in the Ayurvedic Diet. Retrieved from http://ayurvedadosha.org/ayurveda-diet/three-gunas#axzz4MbQuwm1z

Katz, D. (2010). Mom was right, You are what you eat. Retrieved from http://www.nbcnews.com/id/35350889/ns/health-diet_and_nutrition/t/mom-was-right-you-are-what-you-eat/#.V_pcNpMrJWM

Thelivingcenter.com. (n.d.). Peace Through a Sattvic Diet. Retrieved from http://www.thelivingcentre.com/cms/body/peace-through-a-sattvic-diet

Vishal, A. (2016). The Ayurvedic Diet to Improve Your Health and Well Being. Retrieved from http://food.ndtv.com/health/the-ayurvedic-diet-to-improve-your-health-and-well-being-1434740

William Adriance