When it comes to nutrition, the field is constantly changing and evolving, which leads to feelings of frustrating confusions. One day we hear fat is bad the next day, fat is good, one day kale is the super-food and the next, seaweed is the holy grail. We are overwhelmed with so many theories but one thing is clear: saying no to carbonated drinks, processed foods, trans-fats, and refined sugar.
Ayurvedic wisdom and Ayurvedic nutrition have been around for 5000 years, and we are now seeing more and more attention from the West and the medical world on its principles and effectiveness in prevention and healing. Ayurvedic knowledge is becoming increasingly widespread and many
wellness centers are offering Ayurvedic consultations and Ayurvedic nutrition as a pathway to wellness. We are finally discovering that prevention is the key to a healthy future and vibrant living. Ayurveda teaches us that what we eat, how we eat, why we eat, when we eat and what we digest are all equally important for long healthy life.
Ayurveda does not include the concept of calories, or vitamins or minerals or nutrients but relies more on natural products and balance. Fresh seasonal food, easily digestible food, foods that are in harmony with our body constitution, and balance in quantity leads to a healthy body and mind. It relies more on the deeper quality of food or Gunas of food, the body constitution or Doshas and how food is prepared.
The guidelines are very simple but deep in its impact on the body:
Freshly cooked food: not frozen, canned, bottled or left-over
Cooked not raw or cold
Nicely spiced (see list below)
Moist not dry
Regionally grown. (Wherever you live check what that environment gives.)
Eating mindfully by feeling the food, looking at it and appreciating it
Know your body. Listening to your body and being aware of the impact of the food will give you guidelines of when, what, how much to eat.
Determine a staple food that is mild, easy to digest and satisfying. These are usually grains, beans and roots. These foods are nourishing and easy to digest. These should make up 2/3 of what you eat, the remaining 1/3 can be a selection of veggies, meats, fruits and dairy.
Rice and wheat are fundamentals for a long healthy life. White rice is easier to digest then brown rice. Minimize highly refined flour like pastries, bread, crackers, cereals, pastas. Good choices are: Barley, buckwheat, millet wild rice and quinoa.
Legumes in general produce gas and dryness, hence Vata will increase so eating them in winter in moderation is advisable. Among the legumes Mung beans are the easiest to digest and the fastest to cook and Adzuki, lentils, fava, black beans, black-eyed peas are also okay to eat.
The vegetable that takes the longest to grow is considered the most nutritive.The good choices are: Sweet potatoes, yam, yucca, lotus, beets, parsnips, asparagus, cabbage, eggplant, yucca, yam and okra. Raw leafy vegetables should be consumed in small quantities but steamed and lightly sautéed greens are great.
Ayurvedically speaking, meat is not recommended. If you MUST have meat, then make it just ¼ of your plate. Goat or wild meats are better choices.You can also replace meat with tofu or tempeh for protein.
5. Spices and seasonings:
Spices are paramount in Ayurvedic cooking as spices increase your ability to digest, absorb nutrients and assimilate food. Most spices are best sautéed or roasted to release flavor and nutritional values. The most recommended are cumin, turmeric, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, thyme, ginger, fennel, sage, nutmeg, saffron and paprika. ()
6.Ghee and other oils:
Ghee is the only fat that helps digestion. All other oils will heat your body and increase pitta. They are also very difficult to digest. The following are ok to use in moderation: Sesame oil, coconut oil, peanut oil and little olive oil.
In Ayurveda the only dairy consumed (if any) should be un-homogenized, organic and un-pasteurized. Always heat the milk before drinking it and always drink milk alone not in combination with food. You can add cinnamon, cardamom or nutmeg to help digestion.
In general Ayurveda limits the consumption of sweeteners except for honey and maple, which are less refined.
We are very accustomed to having our fruits after a meal as a healthy dessert. Ayurveda does not advise that, as it’s difficult on your digestive system. If you eat a fruit, it’s better to consume it alone (2 hours before or after a meal) meals and preferably cooked or baked.
It is better to avoid drinking ice water or ice drinks with or without a meal. Drinks should be room temperature or warm.
These are few guidelines to living a vibrant, nourishing Ayurvedic lifestyle. Stay tuned for more suggestions.