Ayurveda is an ancient Indian system of medicine or life science with a history spanning about 5000 years. It follows a philosophy of prevention being better than treatment and advises on how to find balance in life – balance from within the body, mind and soul and balance with nature. It promotes a diet and lifestyle for harmony targeting our individual body type combination of energies or doshas – vata pitta and kapha. Dosha are the life forces that govern our bodies of which we each have a unique combination with one dosha usually being more dominant than the others.
Importance of a proper diet for your overall wellbeing
The beauty of ayurveda is that despite its ancient origins it is adaptable from its teachings on lifestyle choices, to movement and diet. We all know that a healthy and balanced diet is important for our overall wellbeing because it meets all the essential nutrients our bodies need to be healthy. It provides our bodies with the necessary energy to function at its best and fight disease to the best of its ability, it also helps reduce the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular problems while also helping us maintain an ideal body weight. A balanced diet also provides us with the necessary vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre, plant protein and antioxidants.
Ayurvedic principles about diet
Diet plays an important role in the concept of wellness and wellbeing in Ayurveda. It promotes eating seasonally with a focus on fresh and locally sourced food along with eating for your dosha type. This is important because according to ayurveda the different dosha types require different types of food in order to bring balance to the body and ignite the digestive fire or agni as it is referred to in ayurveda. ayurvedic practitioners generally recommend fresh plant based food rich in nutrients such as grains, nuts and seeds, herbs and spices and legumes. Those who are not vegan can include milk based foods such as yogurt and soft cheeses like paneer, but it is not essential.
Vata dosha – this consists of the air and ether elements and is by nature dry, light and cool and will benefit from foods that nurture these qualities. Balance can be found through consuming healthy fats such as ghee, olive oil, organic cream and avocados and hydrating foods such as soups and stews.
Kapha dosha – this consists of water and earth elements and is by nature cool heavy, oily and smooth and consuming foods that are light, warm and dry such as popcorn or beans is beneficial.
Pitta dosha – this consists of fire and water elements and is by nature sharp, hot, oily and light and eating cooling foods such as cilantro, cucumber and parsley is perfect for balance, as is astringent food such as pomegranate, green tea and legumes.
Ayurveda vs vegetarianism
An ayurvedic diet does not tell you to avoid animal products but the emphasis is on consuming fresh natural whole food such as herbs, spices, nuts and legumes to nourish your body with natural goodness. Originating from India, ayurveda does place emphasis on a vegetarian diet or plant based diets though it always advises for each individual to do what is best suited to their body types. A vegan diet can be followed under ayurveda because there are so many plant based foods that are rich in nutrients and super beneficial to the body.
Choosing the right food
When following an ayurveda based diet the emphasis is on eating nutritional foods such as chickpeas, legumes, spices and herbs, seasonal vegetables and fruits and soya to ensure that you get the necessary nutrients. A body that gets the proper nourishment will be able to better function and fight diseases.
It is best to either have an ayurvedic consultation or follow an ayurvedic nutrition course to find out about your body constitution and how to eat a diet that will be beneficial. Certain food types will be more beneficial based on your dosha type, and it is always good to have an idea which foods to eat and which to avoid. For instance vata people would do well to avoid among others raw apples, broccoli, dates, cabbage, corn, oats barely, cranberries and dried fruit in general. Kapha people should avoid bananas, grapefruit, zucchini, sweet potatoes, parsnips, yeasted bread, pancakes and soy beans to mention a few. Pitta people should avoid as much as possible eggplant, garlic, green chillies, muesli, rye, brown rice, soy meats, miso, frozen yogurt, sour cream, buttermilk and salted butter, to mention a few.
Food preparation is important because it impacts how our bodies absorb the goodness the plant based food has to offer. Ayurvedic physicians will be able to give you proper guidance on how to prepare food for a healthy ayurvedic diet using lots of spices and herbs to enhance the benefits and digestion and your metabolism. Herbs and spices also help cleanse ama or toxins from the body and avoid digestive disorders such as bloating and gas.
According to your dosha combination there will be situations where is will be better for you to eat raw food and other times when it is better to cook the food before consuming. Preparing food according to the ancient principles of ayurveda ensure they are good for digestion.
If you are a vegetarian or a vegan following an ayurvedic diet will help you consume food that will genuinely help your health and wellbeing. Follow an ayurvedic nutrition course UK to thoroughly understand the benefits and principles behind an ayurvedic diet so that you will be better equipped to prepare meals that nourish you completely. Research on ayurvedic medicine UK will be a good resource for you to follow as a guide on food types for doshas, how to prepare them, when to consume, eating seasonally and the benefits of including all six main tastes in each meal. Ayurveda is about being flexible and maintaining a lifestyle that keeps healthy mentally and physically so that you can avoid illnesses and live your best life.