What is Ayurvedic Nutrition And How Do I Know If It’s Right For Me?
Ayurveda is one of the oldest medical sciences in the world (according to the Vedic texts, it is considered the oldest), and as such, it is rich in lifestyle advice on how to heal the body and mind in natural ways. Although known as holistic medicine, it actually encompasses more areas of life than just medical science.
The word Ayurveda translates to Ayus – life and Veda – knowledge, meaning the Knowledge (or Science) of life. As The Science of Life, Ayurveda covers much more than medicine or healing itself, but as the name suggests, it offers advice in all areas of life. It gives us knowledge about healthy and happy living, including how to balance the style and rhythm of life, sleep, exercise, nutrition, even relationships, emotions, and mental state. The best way to start practicing Ayurveda in your life is to visit an Ayurveda practitioner, therapist, or doctor, who will do a consultation and offer a diagnosis. During the examination, you can expect to be asked various questions about your lifestyle, habits, bodily functions, and even ways of thinking. Some questions are intimate and surprising to beginners and may seem completely unrelated to your health or other problems. The reason for this is that Ayurveda considers every aspect of our lives as a potential impact on our health and a reason for balance or imbalance. This science teaches us that our being is actually made up of five layers (bodies or kosha), namely physical, energetic, mental, emotional, and spiritual.
However, if you do not have regular access to a certified Ayurvedic practitioner, you can definitely apply this science on your own in your life. One of the most appealing features of this practice is its accessibility and easy application.
Although it has been actively practiced for over 5,000 years in the Indian subcontinent, in the last few decades it has become popular in the West as well. One of the most interesting aspects of Ayurveda is nutrition, as many consider it the best and simplest way to apply this ancient wisdom in daily life.
The wise proverb of the Greek philosopher and ‘father of modern medicine’, Hippocrates, says: “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food ”. Ayurveda puts this saying into practical application.
Not only do lifestyle, our way of thinking, diet, and fitness affect our overall health, according to Ayurveda we need to take responsibility for our health and support the body in the best possible way to live as naturally as possible. A key to healing, and maintaining health, can be found in the kitchen, and as such, it is one of the main aspects of applying Ayurveda in our life. After all, we put different substances in the body on a daily basis, between 2 and (to be honest) 10 times a day, so of course, these substances have a direct impact on our well-being. It is important to note, in Ayurveda, anything other than plain water is considered a substance for the body. Just like car fuel, we are advised to put only the best information into our bodies.
What separates the Ayurvedic diet from all other nutrition fads and diets?
First and foremost, Ayurvedic nutrition and diet is not a fad, nor is it based on “new scientific theories,” speculation, or temporary ideologies; quite the opposite, it is the result of thousand-year-old teachings. The basis of Ayurvedic philosophy is that we are part of nature, and in order to be healthy, we need to come back to nature. Everything around us, everything in the universe, and on planet Earth is made up of five basic elements (pancha maha bhuta) and in the same way, our body is made up of the same elements. To be in balance, we need to become aware of these elements around us and within us, and create a healthy relationship between them. These elements are Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether.
In addition to the nature around us, we also have a unique bodily nature, which is, among other things, the result of the influence of the elements. Although we all have all five elements in the body, they are arranged in a specific way that forms our disposition or dosha. The five elements form the three doshas: Vata (ether + air), Pitta (fire + water) and Kapha (water + earth). We have all three in the body and mind, and they perform certain roles, affect the organs and anatomy, and are an integral part of our health and proper performance of bodily functions.
Ayurvedic diet is based on elements and doshas, in the simplest terms, we balance the excess and deficiency of elements and doshas in the body through nutrition.
How do I apply the principles of Ayurvedic nutrition in my life?
The Ayurvedic dosha diet teaches us to first find out what our dosha or unique nature is, and then follow the tips for our dosha. It has been mentioned before that you can go to an Ayurvedic practitioner for an examination, and they will determine your dosha and give you advice based on your current condition and needs. However, you can start by completing the dosha test yourself. After completing the test, you will learn the basics of your dosha and receive tips for your body composition. Certain foods and spices will balance your dosha, and so are advised to be used in your daily diet.
Ayurveda also gives nutritional advice regardless of dosha, health, problems, and needs, which anyone can apply in everyday life.
Here are the basic tips and principles of the Ayurvedic diet:
- Eat food that’s grown locally, and is currently in season
- Eat as fresh as possible
- Avoid heavily processed and artificial foods, such as artificial sweeteners, flavor enhancers, foods that are full of preservatives, and the like.
- Prepare as many meals as you can yourself, or eat homemade, instead of from restaurants and shops
- Eat the biggest meal when the sun is strongest (lunch as close to noon as possible), because then the fire of digestion is strongest
- Avoid foods that give you allergies and similar symptoms
- Eat foods that are easy to digest, and avoid foods that give you wind, heartburn, and similar symptoms
- Reduce animal products and heavy meat products (Ayurveda is mainly vegetarian)
- Start using spices and herbs, but don’t overdo them (turmeric and ginger are incredibly healthy and advised more or less to everyone)
- Eat the rainbow – fruits and vegetables of various colors will be rich in many vitamins and minerals
- At the same time, avoid too many ingredients, and do not confuse or saturate the body with too much information at once
- Listen and react to hunger and thirst
- Find a balance between excessive food enjoyment and insufficient nourishment of the body and senses
- Eat in a quiet environment, without distractions, chew food well, and enjoy your meal
- Listen to your body and digestion, and the signals they give you
In summary, how do I know if the Ayurvedic diet is for me?
Since Ayurveda is the science of nature and returning to nature, and respecting our uniqueness, as such it is recommended to everyone. It may take time at first to get used to the changes and learn the basic principles and philosophy, but in general, Ayurveda is simple and relatively easy to apply in everyday life. One of the greatest blessings of the Ayurvedic diet and lifestyle is that it teaches us how to listen to our body, how to respect it, and create a balance and connection between body, mind, and spirit – a practice we, as a society, have unfortunately forgotten. When we apply these principles in life, we can create a healthy relationship with ourselves and an easy and smooth path to a healthy life in all fields.
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