Tastefully Mixing the Past and the Present: Ayurvedic Food Therapy

Ayurveda is an ancient Indian philosophy that has been practiced for over 5000 years. The knowledge about food and health that the Indians had in 3000 BC is amazingly similar to what we know and understand today. In essence, the Ayurvedic ideology has held true, and understanding it better will be the key to a healthier and longer life for each of us. Ayurvedic theory asserts that building a healthy metabolic system, attaining good digestion, and proper excretion leads to vitality.[1]

Within the concepts of the Ayurvedic belief, food is actually considered to be medicine for the body. The effect that various fruits, vegetables, meats, grains and oils have on our digestive system and circulatory systems can be considered medicinal. In addition, many spices and their combinations together in the food will react with our digestive system and either make us healthier or make us sick. It’s very important to understand that what may be good for one person may not be good for someone else.

The ideology is that each of us, when we are born, has within us our own individualized constitution, or prakuti. Our prakuti is unique because it is determined by many factors surrounding the date, time and place of our birth. The practice of Ayurveda is dedicated to the foundation of being “in balance”. [2] Whenever we become sick or suffer from mental ailments, our prakuti is out of balance. Food has always been the best treatment for our illnesses, and it is only by learning what is good for us can we help our bodies stay strong and rejuvenated.

Samkhya is the base philosophy on which Ayurveda stands. Samkhya describes how the universe is made up of five elements, which are earth, wind, fire, water and space (ether). [3] In Ayurveda, though, unlike Samkhya, there are 20 fundamental qualities inherent in all substances.[4] As we are all made of elements, it is only natural that the elements show themselves in our bodies as controlling doshas. Everyone has three doshas in their body and our health is based on the balance of the doshas.

More specifically, the doshas are divided into kapha, which is made of the earth and water elements, pitta, which is fire and water, and vata – air and ether. Kapha is considered to be heavy, damp, unchanging and cold. Those who have an unbalance kapha are sure to have diabetes, asthma, obesity and high cholesterol. Pitta represents oily and hot qualities and people who have ulcers, chronic fatigue, gout and other gastro problems have a pitta imbalance. Vata is divined from ether and air which are mobile and cold; because air is easily aggravated it can be the cause of constipation, arthritis and flatulence.

When one of the doshas is apparently dominant in someone, the person’s body and temperament will reflect certain attributes. People who are mainly vata are lighter in body frame and are susceptible to flatulence and constipation. People having a dominant pitta will usually have good digestion along with strong appetites; unfortunately they have a weakness for hyperacidity. Kapha persons are usually large-boned and have issues with obesity and congestive disorders.

The balance of the doshas is done through diet, and because there is usually one or two doshas that are more dominant than the other(s), we have to understand what our particular dominant doshas are. If we unbalance our doshas then our digestion will suffer, causing toxins to remain in our body. The Ayurvedic diet is prepared for a person’s particular needs or it can be cooked in such a way as to balance all of the doshas. This method of preparation is called tridosha.

The spices that are used in preparing Ayurvedic dishes are commonly used in meals all over the world. It is the proper blend of the spices that make the difference between even the regular Indian cuisine and an Ayurvedic meal. Many of the wonderful spices have been used in Indian and Ayurvedic holistic treatments because of their healing qualities. Modern day science has supported the incredible health benefits of spices such as turmeric, cardamom, ginger, coriander and fenugreek.

In today’s modern world of supermarkets and frozen foods, it’s not surprising that some of our ill-health may be contributed to using less-than-quality foods, including herbs and vegetables that are picked early and sold days after being harvested. One of the ideals in the keeping our doshas in balance is to eat organic foods whenever possible. Locally grown fruits and vegetables are the best because they are in season and also available much sooner after picking.

In the same way that the right combinations of food and spices can be very good for our digestion and to maintain healthy body functions, an incorrect concoction can cause indigestion or increase toxins in our body. There are just some food combinations that don’t mix well together in our stomachs, and learning the right meld of foods versus the incorrect combination is part of the Ayurvedic teachings.

Foods that are considered heavy, like meat and whole grains, do not mix well with light foods, like fruits. The difference in digestive factors – heavy food takes longer to digest than light foods- can make all the difference in how your body uses the nutrients. So here again we see the importance of balance in the Ayurvedic diet, and how the choices we make when we eat will affect our energy and well-being.

Once we learn the basic truths behind the Ayurveda philosophies, then we can really take control of our life and make good changes in our diet, as well as in our lifestyle. The right combination of foods and spices that will balance our doshas will also give us vital energy and a healthy mind. Not only can the benefits of an Ayurvedic diet allow our bodies to heal from the damage we have done to them in the past, but it will also provide them exceptional future health.

References:
[1]  Chopra 2003, p. 76
[2]  Wujastyk, p. XVIII
[3]  Chopra 2003, p. 75
[4]  Chopra 2003, p. 76

Author: Dr Maulik Vyas

I am a holistic Doctor with 10 yr of experience in medical/health and wellness industry. Also, I am a professional content writer with 1000s of articles published across the web. I'm available for content writing, natural treatment consultancy, business ideas about healthcare/wellness industry. I am the proprietor of company named Mouls Incorporation.

Comments

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  2. Emma Devi says:

    Hello Dr Maulik Vyas,

    Thank you for your article. I have a question what about in a vegetarian diet mixing legumes with salad for example is that a good combination or are legumes heavy and salad light?

    Best wishes to you

    Emma Devi

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