Wednesday, February 11, 2015

How to personalize your ayurvedic diet.

One of the fascinating aspects of Ayurveda is that it considers you not only as a part of the universe but also as a unique individual with special requirements. Your age, your activities and mostly your dosha (constitution) determine the type of lifestyle, herbs and health program best suited for you. Your food is your medicine or your fatal poison. Your awareness of the energetics of your food makes a profound impact on your well-being.

Eating according to your constitution can prevent many diseases and makes for consistent and prolonged energy levels.  Let’s now review your uniqueness. Let’s personalize your nutrition with Ayurveda to learn the basic principles of food selection.

According to Ayurveda, everything in nature is composed of the five elements. Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether (Space) which are always changing and interacting. Any change in one element affects all the other elements. Each person is a unique combination of these five elements.

 Vatta dosha is a combination of air (wind) and ether (space). If we are contemplating the qualities of Vatta dosha we find that wind and ether have the qualities of being mobile, cold, dry, rough and light. To compensate for this the Vatta types need to apply the principle of “opposite” to their diet. So foods that are warm, moist and heavy are best for them.

The delicate Vatta constitution really benefits by cooked warm meals and avoiding cold drinks and light meals. For example, in my experience, detoxifying Vatta with “cold raw food” is really a crime. It can be done for one day, but more than this makes Vatta dosha really suffer.  With Vatta, it is preferable to put emphasis on sweet fruits, cooked vegetables, cooked grains (oatmeal), mild warm spices (basil), nuts, natural sweeteners and warm milk products in moderation. Spices like ginger, cumin, fennel, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon and ajwan are good for digestion.

On the other hand Vatta dosha should avoid dry fruits, dry grains like rice cakes, raw vegetables, beans in general, the cabbage family or any food that forms gas.  Vatta dosha’s primary need is to take care of the colon.

When we contemplate the qualities of Pitta dosha we find that it is wet, hot (pungent) and light. It is then preferable for Pitta to prefer food that is cold, dry and heavy. If you think that the pitta constitution’s internal atmosphere is already hot, we don’t want to abuse food with energetic heat, like using ginger, peppers and garlic. Instead it is wiser to choose foods such as pomegranates, mints, aloe and turmeric to cool the system.

 I have a Pitta dosha and one cup of mint tea can make a big different in my digestion and in the way I conduct myself. Now, Ayurveda doesn’t suggest taking cold drinks out of the fridge. The cold that we are referring to means energetic cooling like watermelon, mint or aloe vera gel. The best strategy for Pitta dosha is to eat mild, bland food, served cool, raw and with less oil. Pitta needs to eat 3 meals a day in a calm atmosphere.

When we are selecting a menu for Pitta we need to think of sweet fruits, sweet and bitter vegetables, beans in general, natural sweeteners like maple syrup, mild chesses and sweet and cooling drinks like coconut water. The worst thing we can do to Pitta dosha is to abuse it with sour fruits, pungent vegetables like onions, nuts, hot spices, oils and fermented milk products like yogurt.

Earth and water are the heavier elements; they form the Kapha dosha which is heavy, cold and wet. If you have a Kapha dosha or want to balance your Kapha dosha, it is wise to select foods that are light, dry and warm. You are one of the lucky people who can eat chilies with crackers. Light salads, ginger and other warming spices are very welcome in your diet. Prepare you menu with grace. Your mind may want to give you a lot of food to feel satisfied; however, Kapha dosha really benefits from eating less and by reducing fat and calories.

Occasional fasting with light soup or even water is beneficial for Kapha dosha. The consumption of food should be less and with less frequency. Choose the larger meal when you are hungry, usually at the middle of the day. Kapha dosha should select foods that are dry and astringent like apples and raisins. Raw food, dry grains, hot spices, cooked beans with warming spices and spicy herbal teas like ginger are best. On the other hand, Kapha dosha should avoid the temptations of heavy foods like cakes, sweet fruits, nuts, milk products and oils.

Simple tips to balance each dosha and the correct selection of food brings balance and happiness to mind, body and spirit.

How do I know?

You may be thinking now how to determine the energetic chemistry of food. Well, taste represents a sensory way of determining the energetic value of the food.
In daily food the tastes must be consumed in appropriate proportions. Each taste has a measurement of potency, or intensity of metabolic effect. For example sweet is the least potent taste, sour is the next potent taste and then the salty taste.

Vatta dosha should strive to concentrate first on the salty taste, second on the sour taste and lastly on the sweet taste. (I am not talking about sugar, but grains and other sweet fruits.)

Pitta should prefer first the sweet taste, second the bitter taste, and then the astringent taste. Bitter is best for pitta since it is the most cooling.

Kapha dosha will primarily consume pungent, bitter and lastly the astringent taste–the catabolic detoxifying taste. Pungent is best for Kapha since it is warming and drying.

The doshas can go out of balance easily, so apply these principals to treat the present condition you are in NOW.

Now lets contemplate one more thing to personalize your ayurvedic diet: consumption of vegetarian foods and meat.

Vegetarian meal:
4 parts grain
1 part beans
1 part milk products
1 part vegetables or fruit
1 part liquid drink.

Meat meals:
3 parts grains
1 part fruit and vegetables
1 part meat, eggs or milk products
1 part liquid drink.

The food you eat will act in your body accordingly to the energetic properties. Also, keep in mind that the amount of food that you eat, how it is prepared and its weight, moisture and temperature are also to be considered. You can evaluate these qualities for any food and for any food program. Overall, start by knowing your body’s needs and supply the proper program until you find the proper health results. For more details on selection of food visit the shopping list for each dosha.

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