Ayurvedic Diet – You are what you eat
In the Ayurvedic system good health always begins with good digestion and lays emphasis on healthy, fresh, tasty and easy to digest foods. According to Ayurveda an incorrect diet can be the cause of virtually every condition and disease. In fact food is considered as natural medicine and a balanced diet the main resource for good health. Only then comes the supportive system of herbs, treatments and medicine. This approach differs considerably from the usual Western medicine that mainly relies on chemical remedies to “make” our bodies well as if to force nature to do our bidding. People are getting increasingly aware that those “quick ﬁxes” might not be the best answer to their situations.
Individual diets for individual people
The foods you eat affect your Doshas and their balance in your body and what will suit one person may well affect others differently. A good point to start with is to stick to a diet that favours foods soothing your dominant Dosha. However you don’t have to eliminate anything from your menu, Ayurveda is not about ridiculous dietary regimes, but about guiding principles: Just try eating a bit more of the foods that balance your dominant Dosha (or any other one that is temporarily overstimulated) and a bit less of the foods that don’t. At no cost start to feverishly avoid them – this will only increase your appetite for those foods and suppress the natural cravings of your body for it knows best what it needs at any given time.
General guidelines for your diet
Food should be of good quality and pure, obtained from naturally grown products. Cooked food is considered as generally easier to digest than raw and should always be eaten in a calmly manner, not in a rush. Ayurveda promotes a diet with little meat or a vegetarian diet. Moreover, as foods closely connect with the Doshas, different sorts of food are required at different times, and should correlate to the time of the day, the season and your personal Dosha constellation; e.g. heavier food in winter and light choices in the evening. Spices also should be used in accordance with the time of the day (e.g. noon is dominated by Pitta) and your personal constitution. Ideal foods are considered “Tridoshic”, which means they keep a good balance of the three Doshas within themselves. For example Tumeric beneﬁts all Doshas, cleaning toxins from the blood and aiding digestion.
Ayurveda recognizes more qualities in food than just its nutritional value (proteins, fats, carbohydrates and the lot), but also other qualities like:
- vitamin contents
- stage and kind of processing
- balance within the Tridosha system
- the combination within it is consumed
- how easily and quickly it is digested
- and other abilities like binding other foods, strengthen, stimulate…
This results in a complex system that takes its time to master, but even some basic understanding of the Ayurvedic diet principles can help improving the one or other condition.
Overview over the Ayurvedic food categorisation system
To better understand ayurvedic food classiﬁcation, head over here:
Ayurvedic Eating Habits
Eat to 1/3 capacity of stomach, drink 1/3 and leave 1/3 for God.–Astanga Hradayam, 1:6
- favour warm freshly cooked or steamed foods (with the exception of fruits which are best eaten fresh and raw)
- avoid overcooking as well as under- or overspicing
- avoid microwaved and frozen food; its life force is damaged
- look for sattvic foods: fresh and organic ingredients (maybe even homegrown) and neither un- nor over ripe
- food should be left quite natural without additives, preservatives or artiﬁcial colors
- be aware of possible steroids, chemicals and preservatives in animal products and try avoiding them
Quantity & Time
- as a rule of thumb: the food you eat and liquids you drink for a meal should take up one-third of your stomach each and leave the last third for digestive processes; you should never feel bloated after eating
- eat only after your previous meal has been digested to avoid unwanted combinations (your getting hungry is a good indicator)
- daylight hours are best to take your main meals
- do some light activity like taking a walk after your meals
- eat according to the season, e.g. in general avoid cold, dry foods in winter and hot, pungent ones in summer; instead favourite the opposite for better balance but keep in mind your Dosha and go with intermediate choices if in doubt.
Vata: take smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day
Pitta: try to stick to 3 meals daily, make lunch the largest
Kapha: be carefull not to overeat but don’t skip meals
- stew and curry are usually easier to digest than individual vegetables cooked and eaten separately
- Some foods don’t go well together and may cause problems due to subtle toxins or the aggravation of on quality when combined in a meal. Such combinations are:
- vegetables, fruit and sour tastes together with milk
- ﬁsh and dairy
- equal amounts of ghee and honey
- Vata types should generally avoid combining foods while Pittas usually do best with combinations
Admittedly, this is a lot to digest at once (pun intended), so if your just starting with Ayurveda or Ayurvedic Diet, so why not read our Quick Step Guide how to get started with Ayurveda Diet?