Ayurveda is a scientific art to live a healthy life. It is based on old knowledge that has been passed on from generation to generation and has a deep attachment to the Indian culture. According to Ayurveda, every individual has unique needs for balance, but there are some universal principles that one can apply to become more balanced. A balanced body automatically feels the need for healthier food, and the result is a healthier body and automatic weight loss.
Here are some of the basic principles that the Ayurvedic diet is built upon. These principles will help you balance your body and is very easy to apply in order to gain better health.
Each meal should be a feast for all your senses. Ayurveda recommends that your food should be rich in different colors, flavors, aromas and textures. This will automatically start your appetite. You will enjoy your food more and it will even improve your digestion.
Each meal should include fresh, local, in-season whole foods.The Ayurvedic diet consists of fresh food. Frozen, canned, refined or processed foods should be avoided since it is lacking vital life-energy and will do more harm than good to your body. For the same reason, choose foods that are grown or produced locally and foods that are in season. The most healthful diet consists of whole foods, eaten in as natural a state as possible. The only exception should be when removing a peel or cooking in order to help increase digestibility and assimilation for certain types of constitutions.
Each meal should include Sattvic food that is uplifting and stabilizing. Sattvic is a group of food products that have an uplifting yet stabilizing influence on the mind, heart, senses and spirit. By including Sattvic food at every meal you will become more balanced in your mind and with your emotions. Example of Sattvic foods are: rice, fresh seasonal vegetables and leafy greens, fresh sweet fruits, mung beans, nuts, almonds, honey and water. As mentioned above, the food should be fresh and freshly prepared. Organic foods are recommended for both their purity and vitality. Leftovers are not recommended.
Eat a wide variety of foods to gain health in a longer perspective. According to Ayurveda, it’s unhealthy to eat the same dishes several times a week. Even if the dishes are healthy, you need to rotate the menus and have a variety of many different healthy dishes. In the long run your body needs the variety of nutrients. If you strictly follow a diet, for example low-carb diet or no-fat diet or juice-diet, you don’t get a balanced diet that is healthy in a longer perspective. Any diet that is exclusive is incomplete in its nutritive value and ability to balance all aspect of the body. Therefore, try new foods, explore new recipes and rotate the menus.
Each meal should include spices and herbs to help the digestion. Spices and herbs have the ability to enhance digestion. Use the spices and herbs before, during and after the meal. Take a bit of fresh ginger and lemon 30 minutes before a main meal to kick-start the digestion. Then, include some cooked spices in your meal. For example, put spices in some olive oil or ghee (clarified butter) and pour the mixture over cooked foods. Or try to use some fresh herbs in your cooking, such as cilantro or mint and add them at the end of the cooking process, just before serving. After the meal, chew some fennel seeds. This will help the digestion and you will also get a fresh breath naturally.
Each meal should include the six tastes: bitter, pungent, astringent, salty, sweet and sour. The Ayurvedic Diet emphasizes on the importance of including the six tastes at every meal (bitter, pungent, astringent, salty, sweet and sour). Each taste has a balancing ability. In many western countries we add too little of the bitter, pungent and astringent taste and add too much of the salty, sweet and sour into our food, and as a result we become imbalanced. We need to have a balanced mix of all the six tastes. Here is the reason why.
Foods with bitter taste help to increase the intellect, help relieve mucus, pus and watery accumulations. Bitter foods are also said to have germicidal, anti bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Its detoxifying effect is most beneficial, especially in autumn and winter. Adding more of the bitter taste in the diet is recommended when there is headache, dizziness, loss of muscular strength or reduction of stamina. Try and add some raw endive in your salad to get more of the bitter taste. Turmeric and coriander (cilantro) also have a bitter taste as well as gentian, dandelion, aloe vera and goldenseal.
Foods with pungent taste stimulate appetite and improve digestion and give mental clarity. Pungent foods help disorders such as obesity, sluggish digestion and excess water in the body. This taste in foods improves circulation, purifies the blood and cleanses the body. Foods with pungent taste are onion, radish, chili, ginger, garlic, asafoetida, cayenne pepper, black pepper and mustard.
Foods with astringent taste can help stopping diarrhea and bleeding. Astringent foods reduce the sweating and have a cooling effect. Foods with astringent taste are broccoli, cabbage, cilantro, banana, cranberries, pomegranate, myrrh, goldenseal, turmeric, okra, beans, mace, parsley, saffron, basil and alum.
Each meal should include foods that are warm, cool, dry, liquid, heavy and light. A balanced main meal should, according to the Ayurvedic Diet, contain all the different qualities: warm, cool, dry, liquid, heavy and light. The proportions of each quality can be varied depending on the season of the year and on your personal needs for balance.
For example, if it’s summer or if your personal need for balance is to reduce the heat in your body, you would want to reduce the consumption of salt, oil and spices, all of which are “heating” to the body and eat more of the cool foods like salads and ice cream instead. On the other hand, if it’s winter, or if your personal need for balance is to increase the heat in your body, you could eat more of the hot spicy food, warm soups and oatmeal.
The need to add more of the hot or warm qualities into the meal is not the only qualities to consider according to the Ayurvedic Diet. There are also the dry, liquid, heavy and light qualities to take into account. For example, in order to stay balanced one person might need to eat more of the dry foods while another person might eat more liquid food. Or, one person might need to eat more of the heavy food, while another person might need to eat more light food etc.
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