Ayurveda, the science of life, focuses on various modalities of health and wellness through proper diet, digestion and nutrition. The key to understanding food and nutrition for various body constitutions (prakriti) is an integral aspect of Ayurvedic cooking and eating. Nutrition plays a central role in Ayurvedic living. Ayurveda places special emphasis on "Ahara" (diet) and "Anna" (food) as a means to good life, health and wellness. Healthy and wholesome food nourishes the mind, body and soul.
Ayurveda asserts that although the digestive capacity of each person may be different, the quality and appropriate quantity of food are necessary for a healthy life. Food taken in proper quantity provides strength, vigour, good complexion and nurtures the health of the tissues. When we're balanced, we desire foods that are good for us. But if our mind, body, or spirit is out of sync, our connection to our body's inner intelligence goes awry.
The modern afflictions that affect our eating habits, like excessive consumption and fast-paced living, can be seen through the lens of the ancient science.
Ahara is one of the three pillars of life according to Ayurveda, the other two being sleep and regulated sexual life. Prescriptions of consumption, food qualities and intake based on the digestive ability of an individual, and the nature of food that is being consumed. Primary classification of food is based on its appropriateness to body and mental constitution based on the five elements and the tridosa theories.
Eating late in the evening when the body is ready for rest and not prepared for the heavy work of digestion. Eat a lighter, well-cooked meal at least three hours before bed, and try to be in bed around 10:00 p.m. or before.
Poor hydration. When the body is not hydrated, it cannot remove impurities from the lymph system properly. Blood production and flow may be negatively affected, possibly inhibiting our body’s ability to carry and maintain oxygen and nutrients.
Eating raw veggies or heavy meats that are harder to digest.
Having weak digestion, due to an imbalance, or due to stress in our lives.
Ayurveda identifies six major tastes we need in our diet every day—sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent. Each of these tastes has specific health-giving effects. By including all six, we will be most completely nourished and satisfied. When we consistently eat only a few of the tastes, it not only causes health problems but also triggers cravings for unhealthy foods. For instance, fast food contains mostly sweet, sour, and salty tastes. If we eat a steady diet of fast food, we can develop a craving for sweets of Ayurveda.
The six tastes also affect the doshas. Different foods cause specific doshas either to increase or decrease. The doshas increase and decrease on the principle of "like attracts like." If you have a predominance of vata, you will have the tendency to accumulate more vata. Foods that decrease a dosha are said to pacify that dosha, and foods that increase it aggravate it. Sweet, sour, and salty foods pacify vata. Sweet, pungent, and bitter foods decrease pitta. Pungent, bitter, and astringent foods pacify kapha.
Just as important as what we eat is how our body assimilates food. Food is the substance through which we bring nature's intelligence into our bodies. Ayurvedic texts liken the process of digestion to cooking over a flame. Digestive "fires," collectively called agni, "cook" food so that nutrients can be optimally utilized. When agni is strong, our body fully assimilates nutrients and eliminates what it doesn't need. Ultimately a fully functioning digestive system uses the food we eat to produce a biochemical called ojas, a fluid substance that nourishes the mind and body, maintains the balance of all bodily systems, and fills one's entire being with radiant bliss. If the digestive fire is weak, the incompletely digested portion of the meal forms a sticky, toxic substance called ama. The opposite of ojas, ama blocks the flow of the body's inner intelligence.
It settles in areas of the body that are out of balance, taking on many forms, such as calcium deposits in the joints, plaque in the arteries, and cysts and tumours. A coated tongue, bad breath, dullness of the senses, depression, and unclear thinking can indicate the presence of ama.
Excessive consumption of bitter, astringent and spicy tastes contribute to vata imbalance.
Vata pacifying with sweet, sour and salty tastes and warm, moist, easily digestible foods like: Boiled or steamed starchy vegetables (moderate broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini and leafy vegetables).
Eat at regular times, eat to less than full, practice relaxation, emphasise foods that are warm, soupy, heavy and oily, Ripe fruits, Warm milk (moderate dairy), Soupy grains: rice, wheat, Mild spices: cumin, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, fennel, coriander, salt, cloves, mustard, black pepper, Tea: camomile, fennel, ginger, liquorice, lemon are good.
Reduce foods that are cold, dry or hard, avoid yeast, refined sugars, coffee, tea, tobacco, drugs, poor-quality oils and extremely spicy foods.
Imbalance may result from excessive alcohol or hot, spicy, oily, fried, salty, fermented foods.
Pitta rebalancing with sweet, bitter and astringent tastes and cool, heavy foods including: include cooling aloe Vera juice daily, emphasise foods that are cool, refreshing and liquid (e.g. fresh fruits and vegetables).
Boiled, steamed, raw vegetables, Sweet fruits, Moderate amounts of dairy, Soupy grains: rice, wheat, barley, oats, Mild and cooling spices: coriander, cardamom, cloves, turmeric, cumin, curry leaves, mint, Tea: fennel, camomile, peppermint, spearmint, liquorice, red clover are good.
Avoid pungent foods, avoid alcohol, coffee, tea, yeast, chocolate, cheese, yogurt and meat, also avoid low-quality oils, which increase inflammation.
Excessive food consumption can contribute to kapha imbalance, and recommends a light, warm, low-fat diet of pungent, bitter and astringent tastes like:eat only when you are hungry and not between meals emphasise foods that are light, dry or warm, include ginger in your daily diet: take a pinch of fresh ginger root with a few drops of lemon juice before each meal reduce foods that are heavy, oily or cold.
Boiled, steamed, raw vegetables, Ripe fruits (except banana), Fat-free buttermilk (other dairy reduced), Grains: corn, millet, rye, oats, barley, wheat bran, Strong spices: pepper, paprika, salt, garlic, basil, cloves, allspice, fennel, mustard, turmeric, cumin, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, black pepper, Honey instead of sugar, Tea: cinnamon, fenugreek, peppermint, raspberry are good.
Avoid overeating, especially at night, do not eat raw or refrigerated foods, avoid yeast, salt, cheese, yoghurt, chocolate, refined sugars, flour, low-quality oils and meat.
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