Ayurvedic diet forms an integral and important part of Ayurvedic therapy. Along with Ayurvedic medicines and therapy, Ayurvedic diet has been given immense importance in treatment. Ayurvedic diet nourishes the body, restores balances of tridoshas or constitutional type and is very essential for maintaining health. According to science of Ayurveda, the right Ayurvedic diet forms the foundation of healing.
According to Ayurveda, every food has its own taste (Rasa), a heating or cooling energy (Virya) and a post digestive effect (Vipaka). Two or more foods with different tastes, energy and post digestive effect are combined digestive Agni can become overloaded and lead to the production of toxins. If these foods are taken separately, they may stimulate Agni, be digested more quickly and even helps to burn toxins.
Incompatible foods if combined together can produce indigestion, fermentation, putrefaction and gas formation. E.g. eating bananas with milk can reduce Agni, milk and melons are incompatible because milk is laxative and melon is diuretic, and raw and cooked foods should not be eaten together.
Tips for compatible food combinations:
- Use different quantities of each food in a combination.
- Adding spices and herbs to help make foods compatible e.g. addition of cooling coriander in very spicy food.
- Use of antidotes such as cardamom in coffee or ghee and black pepper with potatoes helps in alleviating the negative effects.
- If foods with different and aggravating effects such as a mixture of vegetables, the foods tend to learn how to get along. Addition of appropriate spices and herbs also helps in making the food compatible.
Pancha karma is used in Ayurveda to cleanse the body of all types of undesirable toxins. Ayurveda cleanses the body by themselves by prescribing Ayurvedic diet. Detoxifying diets have several benefits. Detoxifying diets help in removing environmental and dietary toxins from our bodies. Ayurvedic detox diets lay stress on decreasing the intake of potentially harmful chemicals and increasing the intake of foods that aid the body in cleansing the toxins.
The various steps to be followed in an Ayurvedic diet are:
- Avoid foods such as packaged, canned and frozen foods, foods grown with chemicals, pesticides and fertilizers and foods with chemical additives.
- Favor light, warm and cooked vegetarian foods.
- Freshly made flatbreads (chapattis) freshly made soups and dals, organic vegetables cooked with spices and whole grains are ideal for Ayurvedic detoxifying diet.
- Cooked prunes, figs, apples, pears, pineapple, papaya, cooked leafy greens, sprouts and cabbage should be included in the diet.
- Drink plenty of hot water or detoxifying tea through the day to flush out toxins from the body through urine.
Concept of Agni in Ayurvedic diet
Agni (or the digestive fire) is the most important factor in Ayurvedic diet. A strong and healthy Agni is the recipe for good digestion of all the food types. A weakened Agni cannot digest food properly and also cause the production of toxins. Light and warm food is good for strong Agni. Fresh ginger tea is also helpful for digestive fire, or Agni.
Importance of six tastes in Ayurvedic diet
Ayurvedic classifies six tastes in Ayurveda and these should be incorporated in your diet. The six tastes are:
- Sweet: Sugar, honey, rice, milk etc.
- Sour: Lemons, cheese, curd, vinegar etc.
- Salty: Salt (any salty food)
- Pungent: Peppers, ginger, any hot spice
- Bitter: Leafy greens, lettuce, turmeric
- Astringent: Pomegranate, beans , lentils
According to Ayurvedic diet tip, sweet gets digested first in the body and hence contrary to the popular belief, dessert should not be eaten at the last of the diet, while salad is perfect to be taken at the end of the diet. Inclusion of all six tastes in your diet is a good step towards a healthy diet.
Diet according to dosha
Ayurveda has divided body types into three doshas; Vata, Kapha, and Pitta.
Vata dosha: The qualities of Vata dosha are cold, dry, light, hard and rough. The foods that pacify aggravated Vata dosha are those that are warm, moist, heavy, soft, oily and foods with a sweet, sour and salty taste. Foods included here are ghee, soft dairy products, wheat, rice, corn, bananas, and spicy foods.
A person with Vata type constitution favor foods like hot cereal with ghee, hearty soups, vegetables, whole cooked grains and chapattis.
Vegetables like asparagus, beet, carrot, cucumber, green beans, okra, onion, garlic, radish and sweet potato; fruits like bananas, coconut, dates, mangoes, melons, peach; and grains like oats, wheat and cereals are included in this type of dosha.
Kapha dosha: The qualities of Kapha dosha are cold, heavy and liquid. The foods pacifying aggravated Kapha dosha are foods which are hot, dry and sharp. Foods with pungent, astringent or bitter tastes are good here.
Food examples include puffed cereals such as puffed rice or corn; small astringent grains such as millet, amaranth and quinoa; light bitter vegetables such as leafy greens. Spices like ginger, turmeric and chili are good for Kapha people.
Vegetables such as cucumbers, pumpkins, sweet potato, tomato, tori and ghiya; fruits such as apples, pears, apricots, pomegranate, dried fruits such as figs, apricots, prunes and raisins; lentils and legumes such as tofu and kidney beans; and spices such as ginger, turmeric and chilies are included in foods for Kapha people.
Pitta dosha: The qualities of Pitta dosha are hot, sharp, oily and light. The foods pacifying aggravated Pitta dosha are cool, dry and heavy with a mild, naturally sweet, bitter or astringent taste.
Foods included in this type of dosha are milk, rice, beans, steamed vegetables, fruits and mild spices like cumin, coriander and cilantro.
Most of the vegetables and fruits are included in this type of Pitta dosha people and grains like barley, wheat, oats, and parboiled rice are beneficial for Pitta people.