As the world is progressing, our health is regressing. We think that due to advancement in the medical system, our quality of life has improved. But is it at all true?
Gone are the times when people used to live healthily for more than 100 years with meager medical resources. What was their secret? An Ayurvedic diet is definitely the right answer.
As Ayurveda puts it, ‘when the diet is wrong, medicine is of no use; when the diet is correct, medicine is of no need.’
After the advent of lifestyle diseases, we all have become conscious about the food we eat. It is crucial to turn to nature to fight off these chemical-induced illnesses.
On this line, Ayurveda guides us to adopt natural foods as per the needs of every individual’s body.
Ayurveda recommends eating only wholesome foods directly taken from nature, which quickly becomes homologous to the body tissues and keeps doshas in harmony. It gives you insights on the personalized diet for your body and mind.
Ayurvedic view on food
We all know that the modern concept of foods is explained in terms of fats, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and calories. But according to Ayurveda, all food articles are composed of three factors:
- The five elements of earth, water, fire, air, and water
- The six tastes – sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent
- The twenty attributes – heavy, dull, cold, wet, sticky, dense, soft, firm, subtle, clear, and their respective opposite qualities
Food comes from nature, as do we. Ayurveda states that for a body of us which is composed of five elements, the use of diet containing the same essential elements is essential for the nutrition.
The six tastes & twenty food qualities are also a subtler form of five elements and either increase or decrease doshas (biological energies that coordinate body functions).
Based on this composition, Ayurvedic texts during the classification of food articles have discussed in detail about the benefits and faults of several foods. Here, food articles are broadly divided into twelve categories:
- Legumes or beans
- Meats & fishes
- Salad greens
- Medicated wines
- Dairy products
- Sweeteners like honey, crystal sugar, jaggery, molasses
- Cooked food preparations
- Oils and spices
It is noteworthy that although Ayurveda acknowledges the food value of meat, it generally recommends a vegetarian diet. Ayurveda highly recommends meat in conditions of severe debility. Also, meat is beneficial only if eaten as soup.
Ayurvedic diet for the mind
Ayurveda explains to us how mental balance is vital in making us aware of our body, our food choices, and self-care.
Mind and body are intricately connected. Ayurveda helps us understand how foods affect our mental wellness by balancing these energies, ultimately bringing overall health.
Our mind controls our senses, and our mind is manifested by three gunas or energies or life forces. They are Sattva (tranquil energy), Rajas (active energy), & Tamas (inert energy).
Foods taken from nature also are driven by these three life-forces & hence, they are of three types:
Sattvic food makes the mind calm, content, and conscious awareness. It provides vitality, energy, and health to the body by balancing all three doshas (Vata, Pitta & Kapha).
Sattvic foods are fresh, organic, steamed or lightly cooked, natural in taste, unmodified and taken in moderate quantity.
Sattvic diet includes:
- Whole grains like wheat, unpolished rice, oats, quinoa, millets, corns, soybeans
- Most fresh lentils and beans
- Fresh sweet fruits, herbs, and vegetables
- Natural sweeteners like honey, jaggery, maple syrup
- Drinks like fresh milk, yogurt, buttermilk, or plain water
Though nutritious, Rajasic foods excite mind, body and cause emotions like anger, passion, greed, envy, selfishness thus causing restlessness and dissatisfaction. This leads to pain, grief, and sickness, especially pitta dosha associated diseases.
Rajasic foods are highly seasoned with spices, deep-fried, hot, salty, sour, dry, and taken in a hurry.
- Fish & meats such as salmon, trout, tuna, lamb, chicken, turkey, and eggs
- Salty, highly spiced foods, condiments such as mustard, ketchup
- Onions, garlic, radish
- Sour fruits & lemon
- Stimulating drinks like coffee, tea, coke, beer, wine
Tamasic diets are what we are eating nowadays. In the long run, it is highly detrimental to health. Such foods make the mind dull, ignorant, lazy, greedy and cause depressed impure thoughts. They provide very little nutrition and are difficult to digest.
Tamasic foods are stale, rotten, decomposed, reheated many times, undercooked, fermented, processed, pre-prepared like frozen and canned foods.
- Onion, garlic, mushrooms, overripe or unripe vegetables
- Rotten or under-ripe fruits
- Preserved meat products like beef, veal, hot dogs, sausages, bacon
- Pickles, deep-fried foods and foods preserved with salt, vinegar, chemical preservatives
- Alcoholic drinks
Now we have seen that the type of food we take has an effect on physical and mental factors, and both these factors affect each other. Thus, the saying what we eat is what we become stands true by Ayurvedic perspective.
Diet for each body types (Prakriti)
Prakriti is the nature of your body and mind, which is a reflection of prominent dosha and guna in your body.
By understanding your Prakriti, you can choose appropriate foods and drinks. As there is the prominence of one or two doshas in each body types, Ayurvedic diet is pre-requisite to balance them.
Diet for Vata constitution
- Take nutritious, strengthening diet which is mainly of sweet, sour, and salty taste
- Always eat fresh, warm, moist food with moderate spices
- Use grains like wheat, oats, and rice
- Green lentils, red lentils, and fresh green peas
- Eat lots of beets, carrots, cucumber, zucchini, white gourd, cilantro, spinach, mint. Avoid potatoes, eggplant, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, and cabbage
- Increase the use of milk, ghee, soymilk, homemade buttermilk, and yogurt. Avoid too much of ice creams & dry milk powders
- All fresh sweet fruits like plum, dates, figs, raisins, grapes, papaya, and mangoes are good. Avoid excess of citrus fruits and astringent fruits like pomegranate
- Among oils, sesame oil is the best for you
- Spices like cinnamon, cloves, cayenne, dry & fresh ginger, fenugreek seeds especially mustard seeds and asafoetida are very good in balancing vata dosha
- Avoid too much of fasting or dieting
Diet for Pitta constitution
- A diet mainly of sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes are good
- Prefer cooling foods and drinks especially in summers
- Stick to a vegetarian diet and avoid meats & fishes
- Take lots of fresh cooling juices & water. Avoid coffee, black teas, and alcohol
- Use grains like white rice, wheat, oats, and large millets. Avoid corn, small millets, and brown rice
- Include green lentils, red lentils and avoid horse gram, Bengal gram, dried green peas
- Eat lots of asparagus, snake gourd, pumpkin, cucumber, cauliflower, cabbage, lettuce, cilantro, spinach. Avoid eggplant, potato, tomatoes, and sour vegetables
- Ghee is excellent to pacify pitta. Take fresh milk, sweet yogurt, and buttermilk
- Eat all sweet fruits like banana, apples, strawberries, pomegranate, ripe grapes, and cooling fruits like watermelon. Stay away from sour, and citrus fruits
- Use groundnut oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil in moderate quantity. Avoid almond, safflower and sesame oil
- Use mild spices having a cooling, bitter taste like coriander seeds, cumin, fennel, saffron, mint, and turmeric in moderate quantity. Avoid hot, pungent spices like cloves, cayenne, dry ginger
- Avoid too much of pickles, bakery products, canned & instant foods, fried foods, red meat
Diet for kapha constitution
- Take a light diet mainly comprised of pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes
- Food should be warm, light, not too greasy, added with hot spices
- Avoid frequent eating, and occasional fasting is recommended
- Avoid frozen foods, ice creams, cold drinks, chilled water
- Use grains like millets, barley, oats, corns, six-month-old rice, and wheat
- Include green & red lentils, Bengal gram, and red grams. Avoid black gram, soy products, tofu
- Eat lightly cooked vegetables like beets, carrot, radish, cabbage, cauliflower, sprouts, baby corn, eggplant, drumstick are good. Avoid pumpkin, tomatoes, potatoes
- Milk of cow and goat are easy to digest. Buttermilk churned out of fat-free yogurt is beneficial. Consume ghee, cheese, butter, cold milk reasonably
- Use lots of dry fruits like almond, cashews, walnuts. Consume less banana, grapes, date, cooling fruits like watermelon
- Use sunflower oil and corn oil
- Increase the use of honey in your foods over other sweeteners
- Almost all hot, pungent spices like cayenne, black pepper, turmeric, mustard are very beneficial
Nowadays, single body types are very rare. Dual body types like vata-pitta, pitta-kapha, and vata-kapha are most found constitutions among humans. For such body types, follow a diet that is a combination of the two.
Nature provides us all the necessary nutrients to stay healthy. No synthetic foods and nutrient supplements can match the nutritional value of natural food resources.
Ayurveda advises taking diet as per climate, place and your Prakriti. Eat local foods as they have a unique quality to cope up with the climate and are more compatible with your body constitution.
Following an Ayurvedic diet requires self-control and lifestyle change, but it will surely lead you to great health and longevity.