Ayurvedic Diet: An Introduction to eating for your constitution
Ayurveda is the oldest continuously practiced medical system in the world. The term Ayurveda is derived from the Sanskrit words ayur (life) and veda (science or knowledge). Ayurveda also translates to knowledge of life. It is one of the oldest healthcare systems to originate in the Indian subcontinent. Ayurveda focuses on eating in a way that we can prevent diseases and promote longevity. An Ayurvedic diet and Ayurvedic cooking are intuitive ways to eat and nourish your body.
The Ayurvedic Cooking Philosophy
The ancient wisdom of Ayurveda emphasizes that various factors influence food: its biological properties, origin, environmental factors, seasons, preparation, as well as level of freshness. It also provides a logical explanation of how to balance food according to one’s dosha and physical needs. Depending on the season and an individual’s doshic imbalances, the proportion of the tastes are altered. For instance, Pitta is characterized by sour, pungent, and salty tastes. Ayurveda teaches us that like increases like. So, in the summer season (especially if you are a Pitta-dominant person), you will use more bitter, astringent, and sweet tastes in your cooking—the opposite tastes.
What kind of food is good for you?
Ayurveda takes into consideration the mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical aspects of an individual. So…the question is not whether the food is good for you, but whether the food is beneficial to you right now. For example, if you need grounding, Ayurveda recommends warmer, heavier meals for you versus if you need more movement or motivation. An Ayurvedic diet can be vegetarian or include animal protein depending on people’s needs.
What are the Ayurvedic tastes?
In Ayurvedic diet and cooking, a balanced dish combines elements of sweet, salty, sour, bitter, pungent, and astringent. In western nutrition, there are two main tastes: salty and sweet. Did you know that health issues can arise from an imbalanced palate? The three doshas of vata, pitta, and kapha are connected to the five elements of ether, air, fire, water, and earth. They can fluctuate over time and create imbalances. These doshas can be brought back into balance by certain tastes (remember the six Ayurvedic tastes I share above?) and get vitiated by other tastes. Voila!
What do you mean by cool or hot foods in an Ayurvedic diet?
Ayurveda tries to assess whether a particular food item has a cooling or a heating effect inside the body, which in turn has an impact on metabolism and digestion. It’s important to note that there is no direct correlation between the physical temperature of a particular food and its internal nature.
For example, if you are in a tropical country with seething temperatures, coconut (which has a cooling effect) will be beneficial for a Pitta dosha. However, even if you are Pitta dominant, when it’s minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit outside, coconut will do you more harm than good. You don’t want your body cooling when it’s cold outside, right? Isn’t the Ayurvedic diet fun?
Keep it simple
Don’t think preparing Ayurvedic meals must be complicated or challenging. One-dish meals (with dosha-balancing spices) can be brilliant. Ayurveda will remind you that cooking, and food should bring you joy! The cook’s mindset is key so bring love to the kitchen. The Ayurvedic diet isn’t limited to Indian cooking. Feel free to apply the science and philosophy to your favorite cuisines.
“When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. When diet is correct, medicine is of no need.”