National Nutrition Week 2021: Transforming your body through an Ayurvedic diet
Nutrition plays a huge role for an individual to lead a good healthy life. A suitable, well-balanced diet combined with regular physical activity is a basis of good health. According to a popular proverb, “When our diet is wrong, medicine is of no use; when our diet is correct, medicine may not be needed.”
Prana (Life force), Ojas (Vitality) and Vyadhi (Immunity) can be increased by a well-balanced diet. There are plenty of differences between an ayurvedic diet and other forms of diets. On the occasion of National Nutrition Week, seasoned Ayurvedic experts from The Art of Living’s Sri Sri Tattva Panchakarma explain what an Ayurvedic diet consists of, the benefits and how to switch to a clean high-sattva diet.
Not just food/liquids, Ayurveda also classifies breath and sensory perceptions, which can be managed with yoga, pranayama, meditation and lifestyle modifications as diet.
Harvard studies have shown that 8 weeks of meditation can alter the brain’s grey matter. Meditation reduces stress and lends clarity to sensory perceptions (a vital part of our diet), and mindfulness, which is a gift of meditation, helps you make better food choices.
Ayurvedic diets are individualized.
The same salad or kidney beans could be good for one person but can cause digestive problems for someone else. An individual’s state of balance depends on his Prakruti/Vikruti. Prakruti is the unique physio psychological constitution of a person that one is endowed with and Vikruti refers to the imbalances in one’s constitution. We can eat anything while being aware of our nature. According to Ayurveda, there are three fundamental bio energies that make matter- vata (air element), pitta (fire element) and kapha (earth). When these three doshas are in the right balance, we feel healthy, energized, fit and disease-free. But when these doshas move out of balance due to lifestyle reasons or seasonal factors or due to dosha-aggravating practices, then it has the potency for diseases, illnesses, aches and pains. For example, for a Pitta person, one shouldn’t overindulge in spicy food in order to avoid hyperacidity. For an imbalance, we need to pacify that Dosha with its opposite qualities. Hydration can help pacify imbalance of Vata. Some Pitta people turn hangry (angry when hungry) as everyone has a different level of Agni or digestive fire.
- Concept of ama: Ayurveda has always recognized the gut-brain connection. According to some theories, ailments are connected to Ama, or undigested food (as well as physiological or psychological toxins, like trauma)
- The Six Tastes or Shadrasa: The Six Tastes Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter, Pungent, Astrigent are the six main tastes we need in a meal. We should have all six tastes in every meal, to avoid nutritional deficiencies and stay healthy. Different Prakritis/Vikrutis need to favour certain tastes and avoid overdoing others. Sweet taste builds tissues, calms nerves and best source for this is whole grains, natural sugars, sweet fruits like banana, mangoes, dairy, pumpkins; best source for sour is amla, lemon, yoghurt, fermented foods and this helps in cleansing your tissues and increase mineral absorption; salty taste improves digestion, taste and lubricates tissues. Best source are salt, sea vegetables, black olives, dark leafy vegetables, spices like turmeric. Black tea will give a bitter taste and it helps in detoxifying and lightens tissues. Pungent taste stimulates digestion and metabolism and one can get that in garlic, onion, ginger and hot spices. The last is astringent taste. It absorbs water, dries fat and lightens tissues and the best source is legumes, greens, and pomegranates. Amla (Indian Gooseberry) has all the five tastes except salty. Sprinkle Himalayan Salt and this immune booster has all the six tastes.
- Taste for each dosha: For people with different doshas Vata, Pitta, Kapha dominating their prakrutis, different tastes are favorable. For a Vata person sweet, sour and salty taste works best. For Pitta it is sweet, bitter and astringent. Pungent, bitter and astringent are ideal for a person with predominance of Kapha dosha.
- Food and gunas: Ayurvedic expert says that anything that we eat has an impact, like Sattvic food gives one balance which we get from most fruits and vegetables, Rajasic food can make one restless or hyperactive. caffeine or pungent food, like onions and garlic are examples of Rajasic food. Tamasic food causes dullness, like pickled foods or leftovers. Foods are said to have subtle qualities of foods like Virya (heating and cooling potencies), Vipaka or the post-digestive effect, which explains why lime which is sour but turns sweet post-digestion.
- Ayurveda and fluids: Anupam, or what liquids to ingest and how, is detailed in Ayurveda. For example, pomegranate juice, coconut water is good for Pitta dosha, and warm ginger tea is good for Vata. It is considered best to drink 1-2 glasses of water on an empty stomach upon waking with lemon or honey whichever is suitable and sip some warm water (cold water dampens agni). One can avoid drinking water with meals or sip warm water or tea like ginger tea.
For a healthy body it is important that we follow some basic principles of nutrition like
- Have three regular meals (within about 45 minutes daily) as it is most important in enhancing health. The amount if food we eat should be limited to one Anjali or a measure of a cupped hand and not more.
- Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, global humanitarian master and founder of The Art of Living says, “We are part of nature and will go back to nature”. This explains why an apple is easier for us to assimilate than a bag of chips. It is advisable that food should be fresh and preferably ingested within 2-8 hours with minimum processing. However, Ayurveda recommends going easy on raw vegetables, especially over long periods.
- Warm, unctuous food with appropriate spices is considered easy to digest.
- Cook and eat in a calm state, chew at least 32 times, and don’t eat on-the-go or while watching television.
- Eat just enough, exercise more, and eat only after the previous meal is digested.
- Some foods are incompatible or Virudhahar like honey with hot water or milk with bananas, cherries.
- Fruits should be comsumed separately from one another. Satmiyam foods, or ‘foods that we are used to’ are easier to digest. For example, people are used to eating yoghurt at night in South India, but it’s contraindicated for others.
- Dinacharya and Ritucharya, or daily and seasonal rhythms, influence our diet. For instance, Agni is highest during lunch (Pitta time), when we can have a big meal. Similarly, during fall or Vata season, you should have Vata-pacifying foods.
(The opinions expressed are personal and do not necessarily endorse the views of Times Now)