Ayurvedic Food – Myths & Reality
What’s Stopping You From Trying Ayurveda?
by Amrita Ma Devi
We have realized that there is a misconception about Ayurvedic food – that it basically revolves around Indian cuisines and has limited recipes – but that’s not the case. Unlike the image you may have of Ayurveda as exotic and unfamiliar, the Ayurvedic diet is, in reality, much closer to the whole foods you consumed (possibly) while growing up. Think of the freshness and simplicity of cinnamon-spiced rice pudding, herbed vegetable soup with cornbread, cumin mashed parsnips, or even homemade lasagna. Really any dish you can think of can be made sātmya – that which is wholesome and agreeable to your nature. All foods can be modified into Ayurvedic versions of the dish to make it comforting, nourishing, oily, mashy and more digestible(with the use of spices & herb). These are the qualities that are suggested for yogi’s to eat to keep grounded and balanced. When adjusting food for your dosha and your needs to make a dish more harmonious, the use of particular spices & herbs help with the digestibility and marry the dish with other tastes to make it just right for you.
An Ayurvedic diet is about being conscious and aware of your needs so that you’re eating right for your nature’s characteristics. This is really important, as the effect of food differs from person to person. As the proverb says, “One man’s poison is another man’s nectar.” It is vital to know the effect your diet has on your body and mind, and how you may alter it, in order to extract maximum health benefits for yourself.
There is no single go-to Ayurvedic diet that we can recommend because, for creating a proper diet, you should have the full understanding of your bodily functions and your environment, and then create the most suitable plan based on those needs.
Ayurvedic diet differs for the various phases of life. There are more preferable Ayurvedic foods for children and young adults to help them grow strong. There are foods which can help you to conceive, foods preferable during pregnancy, and the postnatal phase. There are foods which are going to assist you while you have pranayama, meditate, and are in a process of awakening. There are diets suitable for senior people, for use during various seasons of the year, as well as geography-specific diets and those helpful during panchakarma – cleansing. And of course, there are Ayurvedic foods to address various ailments and health conditions, to help your body to heal organically without the need of any artificially synthesized product.
You must be aware of how your body works in order to shape the best diet for it, and Ayurveda can definitely help with this. If you would like more specific help with meal planning, lifestyle adaptations and suggested herbal formulas, you can book a session here.
A Deeper Dive into the World of Ayurveda
Ayurvedic food is therapeutic to your body. In general, all food is therapeutic. This means it can either heal us or become poisonous. There exists no food on earth which does not have Ayurvedic therapeutic properties, including coffee, alcohol and meat at the appropriate times.
When the topic of Ayurvedic food is brought up, people often focus only on vata, pitta, kapha doshas. In reality, Ayurveda is not limited to just vata, pitta, and kapha doshas. There is so much more to Ayurvedic food than what is brought into the limelight!
Ayurveda considers the post-digestive effect on the 7 dhatus (tissues), 40 main agnis (metabolism), 13 srotas (channels), 3 malas (byproducts), and on the sattvic (balance), rajasic (mobility), and tamasic (inertia) qualities of food. This is a holistic system of healing, and it integrates all the qualities of life!
Eating the Ayurvedic way is not limited to lists of vata, pitta, and kapha foods. There is more variation to one’s diet when we consider eating food for ojas, tejas, and prana which relate to the more subtle elements of each dosha.
Maximizing the Benefits of Ayurvedic Diet
Ayurvedic food isn’t different from a standard diet. It is, in fact, an upgraded, tasty, and easy to follow a guideline to have a healthy diet. Properly cooked Ayurvedic food should look good and smell appetizing. It helps clear up a clogged mind, so you have a healthy mental outlook.
These benefits are achieved by combining the 6 tastes in Ayurveda, through the principle of Ahara which, in Sanskrit, means – our regular diet or food. Ahara is basically one of the crucial pillars of Ayurveda. It is one of the basic principles that govern your good health, happiness, and harmony of life. Ahara is concerned with the diet and lifestyle of a body and is essentially preventive in nature.
By including these 6 tastes in our meals, we feel more content, and when we feel content, we experience fewer cravings and we act in favour of ourself.
The 6 crucial tastes are: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, astringent, and pungent. We suggest that you always remain aware of the feelings you have after the ingestion of food. To differentiate between the feeling of hot and cold after eating is important, as it will help you to shape the best diet for you to satisfy and balance your doshas.
For example, the pitta dosha is hot by nature. Thus, it is recommended that we eat cooler foods to maintain an equilibrium with our pitta dosha.
However, if we take a look at our vata dosha, we observe that it is cooler in nature, and so it is more favourable to ingest sour, sweet and salty foods to stimulate digestion and build the tissues of the body.
Our digestion of the food we eat also depends on our digestion fire, which is agni. If we have a hotter digestive fire (see my blog on digestive fire), then we need to intake cooler foods to bring more harmony into the digestion, and vice versa.
Your diet also affects your mind, as we said earlier. The hotter the food we eat, the more heated our mind and emotions. So we advise you to keep a check on the food you intake, depending on the functionality and being of your mind.
So, in Conclusion,
We can say that Ayurveda is a good way for you to attain mental and bodily peace, with proper observation of yourself and by acting upon it through the various Ayurvedic lifestyles and diets.
Ayurvedic principles are preventive in their nature and want to treat the root cause of any illness, avoiding the rise of disease. The specifically formulated diet and lifestyle requirements, in accordance with each individual’s constitution, prevent the forming of disease, so that there is no need for medical interference. That said, Ayurveda has harnessed and developed a highly sophisticated use of herbs for medicinal purposes. Illnesses caused by environmental stress, a buildup of toxins, and improper eating habits are seen as the main cause of disease. These can be diagnosed by feeling the pulse, examining the eyes, tongue, skin and stool by an Ayurvedic physician and even at home by yourself. However, the basic principles are very simple to learn. By including the Ayurvedic lifestyle into your day, you will see improvements in yourself, your relationships and your general wellbeing, as you embark on the road to self-care. By balancing the five tastes, adding medicinal herbs and spices to your diet, tuning into your body and connecting to nature, you can heal yourself on more than one level.
– Amrita Ma Devi, Mallorca, July 2020
HERE IS WHAT OTHERS SAY ABOUT THE COURSE:
I found the 6-week coaching incredibly fruitful in many ways. Although I was familiar with Ayurvedic principles and knew some recipes, by the end of the course I felt I was much more in tune with my body, and with the knowledge gained during the weeks. I was able to make healthier choices for myself and for my family. In the small and intimate weekly group meetings you can ask any questions and bring dilemmas out into the open – Amrita’s deep knowledge of Ayurveda and her unique insight gathered from years of embodying the principles really sheds light on the issues that we all tend to face along the path. There is a good mixture of lessons, Q&A’s, and weekly assignments which make the course really enjoyable and motivating. There were many things which I discovered about myself whilst doing the weekly activities – another valuable gift which I feel so grateful for. I’d like to give heartfelt thanks to Amrita‘s wisdom, warmth and support during this process and would recommend this coaching to all without any reservation. For those who desire to live in harmony with nature and experience true health in the mind, body and spirit, this course is a wonderful way to start the journey and beyond!
~ Jae, charity co-founder, London, UK
Image credits: Emma Fenton photography, at a day-long workshop with Amrita Ma Devi at Osa Major, Mallorca, June 27th, 2020