Contrary to what you might think, eating an Ayurvedic diet doesn’t mean eating only legumes, rice and vegetables. Basic Ayurveda diet principles can be applied to any cuisine, be it Mediterranean, Asian, European, or whichever one you prefer. The most important principle in the Ayurvedic Diet is that your food is fresh (without pesticides, additives and other chemicals), seasonal, and as often as possible local. Fresh doesn’t, however, mean raw. The best are freshly cooked, whole meals. How to eat healthy Go to your local farmers’ market once a week and buy what everybody seems to be selling (often the cheapest), because that is exactly what is in season (of course winter in Midwest is a different story, but this is when well preserved food becomes handy).
When you want to know how to eat healthy, this is a great start. Cook more with fresh produce and start playing with some basic Ayurvedic spices, such as turmeric, ginger, cumin and coriander. No matter what you cook, you can almost always add these spices to your dish. Not only are those excellent flavor and digestion enhancers, but they also have many medicinal properties.
The Importance of Six Tastes in Ayurvedic Diet
Ayurveda recognizes six tastes and it’s quite important to have all of these 6 tastes in your diet every day. The six tastes are:
- Sweet – sugar, honey, rice, pasta, milk, etc.
- Sour – lemons, hard cheese, yogurt, vinegar, etc.
- Salty – salt, any salty food
- Pungent – chili peppers, cayenne, ginger, any hot spice
- Bitter – leafy greens, turmeric, lettuce, etc.
- Astringent – pomegranate, beans, lentils, etc.
These six tastes are listed in the order they are digested in your body. Sweet gets digested first, that’s why it’s not a good idea to have a dessert at the end of the meal, which is typical in our culture, but rather at the beginning (how is that for an Ayurvedic diet tip!). Salad, on the other hand, is perfect at the end of the meal. Ayurveda Diet has a very holistic-medicine-point of view on diet.
Ayurvedic meal with all 6 tastes included Including all six tastes in your diet contributes to feeling satisfied at the end of a meal. Cravings are often caused by not having all of the six tastes in your daily diet. Many people often omit the bitter and astringent tastes (don’t be one of them!). When you have something bitter or astringent at the end of a meal, it actually reduces your desire for sweets. Including all 6 tastes is a great way to incorporate Ayurvedic diet into your lifestyle and at the same time improve your health (not to mention a great way to shed off some pounds-effortlessly).
Concept of Agni in Ayurveda Diet
Agni, which translates as Fire (in our case Digestive Fire), is by many Ayurvedic physicians and practitioners, regarded as THE most important concept in Ayurvedic diet. When your Agni is healthy and strong, you can digest whatever you eat. On the other hand, when your digestive fire is weakened, you cannot digest the food you take and your body produces toxins. To balance your agni, follow the Healthy Eating Habits and try to eat lightly. Kichari is a great choice. You can also include a fresh ginger tea in your diet (just cut about 1/4 inch of fresh ginger, peel it and grate it; cover with hot water and let sit for 5 minutes; sip throughout the day).
First of all there is nothing that kills the digestive fire (agni) faster than an ice cold water on an empty stomach. Keep the Tastes & Qualities of Food always in mind when you want to know how to eat out. Just by knowing which tastes & qualities are balancing for your Ayurveda Body Type, will help you to make the right decisions.
For example, for Vata, warm soup is a better choice than an ice cold salad (Vata gets balanced with warm quality and aggravated with cold). When eating out, stay away from raw, cold foods and focus on well cooked, warm dishes. On the other hand, if you have a predominant Pitta dosha, you will do much better with raw food and often salad bars, as well as vegetarian dishes, are great option for you. Stay away from deep fried, garlicky and tomato dishes (anything hot/spicy aggravates Pitta).
If Kapha is your dominant dosha, you will do best with light choices, lightly steamed/cooked veggies, as well as light vegetarian dishes, are a great choice for you. Stay away from dishes that are heavy/oily, with lots of cheese, sour cream and that are fried. The 10 Best Foods to Eat for you, depend on your constitution so knowing your Ayurveda Body Type will help you figure out which are the healthy foods to eat.
10 Best Foods to Eat for Vata
Vata benefits from heavy, oily, and warm food (these qualities are SUPER important, more than the individual food items).
1) Clarified butter or butter (you can add it to anything you eat)
2) Fresh ginger (best pungent spice; I know not exactly a ‘food’, but it’s really one of my tops for Vata; can be added to food or made into fresh ginger tea)
3) Warm milk (preferably with a pinch of powdered ginger and cardamom)
4) Cream of rice or wheat (with some ghee, ginger and cardamom; are you starting to see the point)
5) Warm soups and long-cooked stews (preferably with some root vegetables, such as beets and carrots)
6) Almonds (the best would be rinsed with boiling water to remove the skin & slightly roasted in ghee)
7) Sweet fruit, like dates, figs, and red grapes (try to eat any fruit room temperature; if the fruit is dried, soak it first)
8) Root vegetables, like carrots, red beets, and sweet potatoes (cooked and spiced)
9) Kichari (also with ghee, fresh ginger and root veggies)
10) Chicken broth
10 Best Foods to Eat for Pitta
Pitta benefits from heavy, cold, and dry food.
1) Clarified butter (clarified butter has a special quality – even though it’s oily it decreases Pitta)
2) Milk (with a pinch of cardamom)
3) Sunflower seeds
4) Steamed broccoli
5) Lassi (½ cup plain good quality yogurt + ½ cup water with a pinch of cumin)
7) Salads and other leafy greens
8) Cold cereal, such as oats
9) Kichari (with cumin, coriander and fresh cilantro)
10) Lentils and other legumes
10 Best Foods to Eat for Kapha
Kapha benefits from dry, light, and hot food.
1) Hot water with fresh ginger, honey, and lemon (I know it’s not food, but Kapha in general does better with less food and this drink can be used as food substitute)
2) Warm buckwheat, rye or millet
3) Kichari (make it quite spicy; with fresh ginger, pepper, and chili)
4) Astringent fruit, such as pomegranate, apricot or persimmon
5) Leafy greens, such as dandelion, kale and beet greens
6) Artichoke, cauliflower and green beans
8) Soy milk
9) Lentils and other legumes
10) Steamed brussel sprouts
Daily Routines to Improve Your Health
Ayurveda reminds us about something that our ancestors did without thinking naturally, that is to follow the rhythms of nature. When the sun goes down, time to go to bed, when the sun rises, time to get up, etc. But most of us, with the use of electricity, microwaves, fast food restaurants open 24 hrs a day, TV and the internet, lost touch with these natural rhythms. Within the body there is a natural rhythm that governs our natural urges. Our natural urges are food, sex, and sleep. These are referred to as the three pillars of life. They can also be seen as digestion, creativity, and rest. While we all have unique rhythms based on our constitution, our basic rhythms need to be in harmony with nature for our more subtle unique rhythms to manifest.
Through improper training, we have lost touch with our natural basic rhythms, and as a result, our more subtle unique rhythms. Artificial rhythms created by our society, and our own desires to overindulge in our urges, have led to this loss. The first step toward getting back in touch with these rhythms is to create a routine. Slowly will our subtle unique rhythms emerge. Ayurveda provides us with a map to our natural basic rhythms. Through these daily routines, we can begin to bring balance to the doshas (vata, pitta, kapha) and re-create a life of health and happiness.
15 Daily Routines
- Get up with the sunrise (or as close to the sunrise as possible) to give the body a chance to harmonize with the rhythms of the sun. Sunrise varies according to the seasons, rising earlier in the summer and later in winter, but on average vata people should get up around 6 AM, pitta people around 5:30 AM, and kapha around 4:30 AM.
- Drink a glass of warm water. This will clean the digestive tract and encourage the regular morning bowel movement.
- Evacuate the bowels and bladder, if you can (without forcing!)
- Brush your teeth at least in the morning and before going to bed (after meals is also beneficial if possible).
- Scrape your tongue daily (only AM), back to front 5-10 times to stimulate the digestive system and aide the removal of toxins (ama).
- Massage the body with oil that is balanced for your constitution (in general sesame is good for vata, coconut for pitta, and corn for kapha; kaphas don’t need much oil and can skip this step). Leave the oil on for at least 20 minutes.
- Meditate and practice the constitutionally correct Yoga Poses. If possible, practice meditation and yoga for a half an hour each in the morning before eating breakfast.
- Shower or bathe.
- Eat your breakfast (never skip breakfast; even the name suggests that it’s the ‘the break of the fast’ and therefore very important).
- Take a short (½ hr) walk after breakfast, if possible. Walking after meals stimulates digestion.
- Eat your lunch, which should be the biggest meal of the day, between 12-1PM. Take a short walk afterward (can be only about 1,000 steps).
- Eat dinner before the sun goes down, which is later in the summer and earlier in winter. In general by 7PM is a good habit. Another short walk after your meal is beneficial (1,000 steps or more).
- Floss once per day (best at night) to prevent gum disease. Ayurvedic gum powders can be massaged into the gums as well.
- Go to bed between 9:30-10:30 PM to insure adequate rest. Do not eat, read or watch TV in bed.
- Once a week, clean out your nasal passages with slightly salted water using a cup or a neti pot (should be as salty as your tears; general guideline is ½ tsp salt per ½ cup water). Then place a drop of oil (can be the same as your body oil) in each nostril with the tip of the little finger. This maximizes the absorption of Prana, the life force.
You can vary from the above order to accommodate your preferences. For instance, it’s often more practical to perform an oil massage in the evening. Don’t feel overwhelmed, the most important first step is to start a daily routine if you don’t already have one. The next step would be to have regular meals (about the same time every day). The next would be to go to bed around 10PM. So if you read the list and it seems like way too much, take a deep breath and incorporate one thing at a time. Remember that even a small step in the right direction is a step in the right direction.