Food and Diet in Ayurveda

International Integrative Educational Institute   



 

Food and Diet in Ayurveda

Ayurvedic foods

Ayurveda is the ancient holistic healing system of India, and one of the three longest practiced organized natural healing systems, along with Traditional Chinese Medicine and Western natural healing. The sister science of yoga, this extensive set of practices is a complete medical system.

In Ayurveda, diet is the first and most basic building block of good health, and can be an effective way to maintain health or treat disease, even when used alone. As the safest therapy, diet can be used by anyone as self-care. Of course, the results can manifest more slowly than more targeted methods, such as herbal medicine.

Improper diet is the main underlying physical factor that induces disease, according to Ayurveda, so, when we modify the diet, we also get at one of the underlying problems. Ayurveda primarily evaluates the diet based on the energetic qualities of the food, and its effect on the body’s overall physiology, not necessarily on the chemical nutrient content.

Digestion begins when you first begin to think of food. When your victuals are well selected, properly prepared and presented beautifully, your senses will start the digestive process and continue to aid assimilation. All of you—your body and your mind—are receptive. Flavors, aromas, colors, and textures make the experience of eating an agreeable and creative time that has health benefits long beyond the dinner table.

Ayurvedic practitioners like to keep the dining table dedicated to eating, so only your food should be in front of you. Tasting some light appetizers and absorbing some appetizing aromas 30 minutes before your meal will get the digestive juices flowing. Eat in a serene atmosphere so your boy can give its full attention to making you healthy.

We should eat when bodily wastes have been eliminated, the emotions are calm, the body energies are balanced, belching has no foul smell or taste, we are truly hungry, gas is moving downward, digestive fire is high, the sense organs are clear and the body feels light. After a proper size meal, the stomach should be half filled with food, one quarter filled with liquid and one quarter empty, says this ancient science.

For the best digestive experience and decisive metabolism, eat heavy, oily and sweet food, if it is served, at the beginning of the meal. Consume sour and salty tastes in the middle of the meal, and dry, light and bitter foods at the end of the meal.

Personalizing the Diet with Ayurveda

Each of us is unique. As different as our body type is, so, too, are our nutritional requirements. Ayurveda recognizes this, and emphasizes the correct diet for each individual.

To achieve balance, the diet for treating each person’s personal situation will have the characteristics that are opposite that of the energy that is dominating and causing the problem.

Taste represents a sensory way of determining the chemistry of food. In the daily diet, the tastes must be consumed in appropriate proportion. Each taste has a measure of potency, or intensity of metabolic effect. Sweet is the least potent taste. Everyone will eat the vast majority of the diet as sweet (neutral, bland) tastes, as those are the macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate, fat)—necessary for nutrition, but minimally impactful in metabolic action. Sour is the next most potent taste, although it should be consumed in much lower amounts than sweet. Sour is a great taste for vata, as it promotes digestion. Salty is next in power of action. In general, we will eat only small amounts of salty. Pungent, then bitter, and, finally, astringent are the three most potent tastes.

People with vata disorders (including constipation, insomnia and fatigue) should strive to concentrate on sweet, sour and salty tastes, the anabolic, building tastes. Salty is best for vata because it promotes moisture retention in the tissues, which tend to be dry in these people.

Individuals with pitta disorders (including inflammation, skin disorders and failing eyesight) should use mainly sweet, bitter, and astringent, the cooling tastes. Bitter is best for pitta because it is the most cooling.

Those with excess kapha in their bodies (including sinusitis, hypothyroid and depression) will primarily consume pungent, bitter and astringent, the catabolic, detoxifying tastes. Pungent is the best for kapha because it is warming and drying.

If you would like to learn more about using Ayurveda to maintain health and balance, please read this handout on Personalizing Your Lifestyle with Ayurveda or make an appointment with KP.

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