What Is the Ayurvedic Diet?
Ayurveda is one of the world’s oldest medical practices. Developed in India thousands of years ago, it remains one of their traditional holistic healing systems. In the United States, it is recognized as complementary and alternative medicine, or CAM. Unlike other “diets” it is not intended for weight loss but for better health and balance of the body and the mind. Here is what you need to know about the Ayurvedic Diet:
According to The Chopra Center, Ayurveda maintains that each person has a unique mind-body constitution known as a “Dosha.” A dosha is a force or energy that impacts how the body works. They are a combination of the five elements – earth, fire, water, air and ether. There are three doshas – Pitta, Vata and Kapha. Everyone has a mix of these three doshas, but one is typically stronger or the dominant dosha. The doshas are dynamic in the sense that they are ever changing in response to our day-to-day stress, weather, health conditions, etc. Therefore, they can come out of balance, which is believed to cause adverse health conditions and contribute to bad habits. Determining the most dominant dosha can be done through online questionnaires or consultation with an Ayurvedic practitioner. Then one can plan how to eat for their dosha.
Eating for Your Dosha
For the Vata doshas, warm (temperature and spiciness) and well-cooked foods with healthy fats are recommended while raw, crunchy and carbonated foods and beverages may not digest as well. Kaphas are recommended to have high fiber diets with plenty of spices and to limit high-calorie, heavy foods with a lot of oils or sugars. Pittas do better with cooling foods that have high water content (cucumbers, melons, peppermint) and should avoid acidic, hot foods.
6 Tastes or Rasas
Ayurveda recognizes six tastes – sweet, sour, bitter, astringent, salty and pungent – all derived from the five elements and having a different impact on each dosha. The tastes are believed to have an impact on the body’s ability to function properly. The Ayurvedic diet recommends incorporating all six tastes in every meal to help the body function properly and repair imbalances. It may sound like a challenge to incorporate six different tastes at each meal. Luckily, there are many Ayurvedic cookbooks and recipes to provide ideas.
Eating Principles – How, When and What
The Ayurvedic Diet includes other “rules” to promote health and energy through the diet. Some of these rules align with the principles of intuitive eating, such as eating mindfully without distractions and slowing down to enjoy meals. It also calls for listening to hunger and fullness cues and stopping at the point of feeling satisfied, not stuffed. Other rules include eating whole, fresh foods, having the largest meal at lunch, limiting or avoiding snacks but incorporating herbal teas between meals, and not eating three hours before bed.
What Does Science Say?
Like most CAMs, there are not many scientific studies or clinical trials for Ayurvedic Medicine in Western Journals. There is also no significant regulation of Ayurvedic practice in the US. When thinking about trying any new diet or treatment modality it is important to consult your physician before making any changes. Regarding the specific food recommendations based on the doshas, it is of course important that individuals keep in mind their own preferences, food sensitivities, allergies and/or any drug-nutrient interactions they may have. However, principles of Ayurvedic medicine such as understanding the importance of the mind-body connection, mindfulness and intuitive eating are beneficial for all.