While staying in India, I (Lydie) have been very interested to learn more about the Ayurveda nutrition. I am vegetarian and very cautious of what I eat. To find out a new form of medicine and healthy way of living got my attention. The book “Ayurvedic Nutrition” by Amma organisation, Dr Nibodhi and Gunavati, 2007, gives useful information and a good summary on how to have and/or maintain physical vitality. If you have, for example, digestive issues or repetitive sickness, this article and further reading on the Ayurveda science could help you to feel healthy, balanced and guide you to conscious eating. It is also possible to have ayurvedic massages with ayurvedic oils.. I have not explored it yet and will only focus on the food.
All the information below has been taken from the above mentioned book. It is a highlight of what I have read and cannot confirm if it is right or not as I am not a specialist. A qualified ayurvedic practitioner could tell you precisely which diet is appropriate for your body.
According to the book, the science of Ayurveda teaches the right diet for the foundation of health. It classifies the body into three constitutional types or doshas: Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
Your individual constitution
This a few examples on how the doshas are classified according to the below sections.
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Eating according to your Dosha Vata, Pitta or Kapha will bring your body into harmony. Remember these are general overall guidelines and should always consult a professional Ayurveda doctor for proper treatment. Dietary requirements will vary according to season, age, digestive capacity, location and climate. More importantly listen to your body and if necessary combine principles from all the different doshas. The doshas may be adjusted during the year according the season.
The above and below is a good starting point but is not complete. The lists intentionally do not include meat products and eggs that will be discussed in a later section.
- Vata-Pacifying Diet
Vata refers to the cold, windy and dry season. This is when the qualities of vata increase naturally. During this period, it is beneficial to take lots of warm food and drinks as well as heavier and oilier foods.
To avoid: dry, cold, raw food and drinks. To eat less pungent, bitter and astringent food. When the level of Vata is too high and not balanced, the following effects may appear: constipation, insomnia, fatigue, bloating, weakness in sensory perception, fear, mental anxiety, high levels of stress, immune-deficiency disorders.
Food group recommended for the Vata dosha:
– Beans: Mung beans, better cooked with digestive herbs
– Oils: All oils are good, sesame oil and ghee oil are best
– Vegetables: Cooked beets, carrots, asparagus, onions and sweet potatoes are excellent for balancing Vata. Celery, okra, zucchini, pumpkin, squak, green beans, mustard green and kale are also good options. Avoid also raw vegetables.
– Spices: Small quantities of black pepper, mustard seed, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, fennel, fenugreek, corianderar, turmercic, basil, parlsey, cilantro, oregano, thyme, saffron and cardamon are good when cooked into meals. Moderate the use of chillies and red pepper.
– Grains: Quinoa, basmati rice, oats and millet. Reduce intake of rye, barley and corn.
– Fruits: Sweet and sour fruits are good for vata. This includes oranges, avocados, grapes, peaches, melons, fresh figs, papayas, berries, cherries, mangoes, sweet pineapples, apples, pears, bananas, limes, lemons and grapefruits.
– Sweeteners: Raw can sugar, molasse, agave, jaggery, stevia and honey are best option.
– Nuts/seeds: All nuts and seed benefit Vata when taken in moderation.
– Dairy products: As long as there is not lactose intolerance, all raw/organic/non-homogenised dairy products are good. For ease of digestion, boil the milk and drink it warm.
- Pitta-Pacifying Diet
Pitta season is the hot and dry season. During this time, favor cold drinks and food. Eat food of sweet and bitter taste. Also include fresh, sweet fruits and vegetables that grow during the Pitta season.
To avoid: sour and salty tastes and food that are hot and dry. Also, yogurt, soy products, cheese, tomatoes, vinegars, hot spices greatly increase Pitta. When Pitta is to high and unbalanced, the following effects may appears: excessive hunger or thirst, burning sensation of skin, rashes, fever, inflammatory diseases, anger, impatience.
Food group recommended for the Pitta dosha:
– Beans: Adzuki and mung beans. All legumes are beneficial except lentils as they can increase Pitta.
– Oils: Butter, ghee, olive, sunflower and coconut oils are best. Reduce the use of almond, corn and sesame oils.
– Vegetables: Asparagus, cabbage, cucumber, peas, okra, zucchini, green beans, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, celery and green leafy vegetables. Raw salad are great for Pitta, especially in the summertime.
– Spices: Turmeric, coriander, cinnamon, fennel, mint and cardamom. Chilies and cayenne should be avoided.
– Grains: Barley, oats, white basmati rice. Brown rice, cornet millet should be taken occasionally.
– Fruits: Sweet and astringent fruits like grapes, coconuts, cherries, avocado, melons, mangoes, prunes, oranges, plums, apples, pears, cranberries and pineapples are good.
– Sweeteners: All natural sweeteners are good, but large quantities of honey should be avoided.
– Nuts/seeds: Nuts should be avoided completely.
– Dairy products: As long as there is not lactose intolerance, all raw/organic/non-homogenized dairy products are good. Reduce the use of cheese, yogurt, sour cream and cultured butter milk.
- Kapha-Pacifying Diet
Kapha season is the wet and rainy season. During this period, light and dry food is best with warm food and drinks. The food should be pungent, bitter and astringent in taste.
To avoid: sweet, salty and sour food as well as heavy, oily and cold food. The symptoms of a unbalanced kapha could be: loss of appetit, heaviness in the body, cold hands and feet, cough with mucous, excessive sleeping, dullness of mind, lack of concentration and lack of inspiration.
Food group recommended for the Kapha dosha:
– Beans: All types of beans benefits Kapha.
– Oils: Avoid large amount of any oil. Almond and sunflower oils are acceptable in small amount.
– Vegetables: Vegetables should be cooked and well spiced. All of them benefit Kapah except cucumbers, eggplant, squash, spinach, sweet potato and tomatoes.
– Spices: All spices are good, salt should be avoided though.
– Grains: The grains that are most suitable are barley, quinoa, amaranth, rye and corn. Wheat and rice should be avoided.
– Fruits: Cranberries, apricots, berries, apples and pomegranates are good as well as dried fruits. Very sweet or sour fruits such grapes, banana, figs, oranges, coconuts, pineapple, dates should be avoided.
– Sweeteners: Honey and stevia are appropriate. All the other sweeteners should be avoided.
– Nuts/seeds: Nuts should be minimized. Pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds and sun flower seeds should be taken in moderation.
– Dairy products: Raw/organic/non-homogenized goat’s milk is fine. Otherwise, Kapha individual should avoid dairy products as much as possible.
To encourage proper digestion and metabolism, it is best to keep food combination simple and not to mix to many at once. It could create indigestion, bloating, gas and uneasiness.
The Ayurveda principles are also mainly based on organic food as well as limiting wheat, sugar and dairy that can create allergies, intolerance and sensitivities.
Nowadays, we can see many shops or brands selling organic food. Is it very important? Or is it just a story of marketing? In my opinion, we should be careful in checking carefully where come from the organic food we buy. Nevertheless, Certified organic food has much higher nutritional content that non-organic food.
For many years, the traditional agriculture used methods and substances that respected nature’s rhythms. Now, the system has changed to chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides to have faster growing vegetables or fruits. It not only upsets the nature’s balance and damage soil but can lead us to a wide variety of health problems.
Choosing organic food is encouraging an agriculture that is respectful towards the nature, well-balanced plants, fertile soils and healthy food to be eaten.
It is specified in the mentioned book that many people nowadays have negative reaction to wheat. The symptoms can included headache, boated stomach, diarrhea, constipation, tiredness, depression, pains, nausea, cough, trouble gong to sleep or waking up and more. Some diseases could also come from wheat allergies such high blood pressure or immunize disorders.
Wheat can be highly nutritive if we can assimilate well in our body. It helps to build muscles tissue and gives energy for physical practices. However, if your body has any reaction to it, some alternatives are possible. There are now many breads, such as spelt and millet that are wheat-free or gluten-free. Spelt and rice noodles make a wonderful alternative. Also, the grains such as oats, quinoa are heart nutritive staples.
As referred, processed sugar affects our health in other ways, apart from causing intolerance reactions. It lacks significant nutritional value. In fact, to be able to digest and use white sugar, the body must use up its own vitamins, minerals and nutrients, especially potassium, magnesium, calcium and Vitamin B. It can then lead to intolerance with such symptoms: tiredness, mood swings, poor concentration, intestinal disturbances and headaches.
It exists however some alternatives to the traditional white sugar that are used in the ayurvedic tradition which are unprocessed can sugar, jaggery, stevia, fruits, sucanat, date sugar and honey.
Milk and Dairy products
Traditionally in Ayurveda, milk was considered as a complete and perfect food. It was used by the yogis daily to increase health. Unfortunately, nowadays, pure quality milk is not readily available. We used to have fresh milk given by cows treated with respect breathing fresh air and grazing on pure grass. Today, many dairy cows spend their lives locked in confined spaces, being pumped full or hormones and antibiotics so that they will grow bigger and produce more milk. (countries using this practice is not confirmed in the book).
This reflect a major lack of understanding as it can highly disturb the intestinal flora. Lactose intolerance creates similar conditions as wheat and sugar.
However, some alternatives are good for the digestion and the body such as almond milk, rice milk, oat milk or soy milk that taste even better that standard milk. (tested!) If skiping milk is not a solution for you, there is the hormone/antibiotic free cow, goat or sheep milk. It is recommended to boil it for a minute to sterilize it. Yogurt and cheese alternatives are also available.
Being vegetarian, I could never really find the right explanations to justify to people why I am vegetarian. The arguments presents in the book reflects very well why the vegetarianism is good for you and the planet. I am actually vegetarian for every single reasons below.
Scientific research is now proving a couple of statements that are for me undeniably right:
- The over-consumption of cholesterol and sutured fats in animal products leads to hear disease and numerous forms of cancer.
- Commercial animal products contain high level of herbicides and pesticides as well as chemicals, hormones and antibiotics. These poisons stay in the meat and enter directly into the body when consumed.
- The human intestinal tract is simply not suited for digesting meat! Humans have the long intestinal tract of an herbivore.
- How animals are fed, treated and killed has a huge impact on the quality of the meat. When an animal is killed, it releases fear hormones and other toxins into its body, which are later ingested and absorbed into the meat/eater’s body. In Ayurveda, to eat dead animals is completely void of prana (life force).
- 45 grams of proteines a day is enough according to recent studies. These proteines can be found in a variety of grains, lentils, nuts, vegetables and fruits. The Vitamins B12, available in the meat can be optained from eating seaweeds and soya as well.
- Environmentally, eating meat is not sustainable. According to the information complied by the US department of agriculture, more than 90 percent of all the grain produced in America goes to feed livestock. These are grains that can could be given to people. Also, to grow grains, it means to have lands available which impose sometimes deforestation! In addition to this, the entire cycle of producing meat takes 2,500 gallons of water (9,400 Liters) to produce a single pound of meat (500 grams).
Ayurveda states also that the salt, caffeine and all the refined, fatty, fried and fiber/less food can weaken the digestion and provide health disorders. As our bodies are often bombarded by toxins in this modern world, fasting once a day with water or tea, is an excellent way to remove them.
Eating with awareness is also a highlight of the Ayurveda sciences. We should always take time to quite our mind before eating. Eating food prepared with loving intention increases vitality. How much we eat and the times when we eat also have a huge impact upon our well-being.Our bodies are vehicles for transporting our souls. Just as we would not put gasoline mixed with dirt into our cars, we should consider what type of fuel we put into our soul’s vehicle. We have infinite potential to heal ourselves and the planet bu making some simple changes tour our dietary habits.
At the same time, we should be careful not to take our diets so seriously that we lose a sense of gratitude for whatever foods we receive. We are blessed if we have enough food to provide energy and nutrition to our body. Millions of people do not have this.
“Our task must be to fee ourselves, by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty. Nothing will benefit human health and increase our chances of survival for life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” Albert Einstein