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Food As Medicine
Ayurveda is very clear, as was Hippocrates...that food is our medicine. According to Ayurveda, ALL good health starts with diet and digestion.
Accordingly, one of the most important things we can do for our health every day of the year is to eat wisely.
This wisdom is found not just in what we eat, but also how and when we eat, and how we prepare our foods. In Ayurveda, our connection to food becomes a holistic act that truly looks to food as a gift and respects it as life encapsulated.
Food is considered a powerful medicine. In fact, there is asloka(writings of the ancient texts of ayurveda) that says “food is medicine when consumed properly.” If we eat foods uniquely suited to our physiology, and follow asattvic(life-supporting) routine that enhances digestion, our bodies will reap the benefits and we will find that our days will be happier, healthier and filled with vigor and vitality — for the rest of our lives.
Here are our some of our Ayurvedic Dietary Suggestions:
Eat Naturally - As Close to Source as Possible
Did you know that close to three-quarters of the products sold by grocery stores in North America contain genetically-modified ingredients, or synthetic (non-food) ingredients? Many of the chemicals and pesticides used in GMO foods have been linked to numerous health issues.
Processed foods, genetically-modified foods, and foods to which artificial preservatives or other synthetic chemicals have been added are no longer alive with the intelligence of nature. According to Ayurveda, our human physiology is a reflection of the laws of the universe, and the more in tune our lives are with nature, the healthier we are likely to be. Our bodies possess the natural intelligence to process the foods that are closest to nature, such as fresh whole grains and organically-grown fruits and vegetables. This makes sense when we consider that we have evolved as a species over millions of years eating whole, natural foods. It is just in the last few hundred years that artificial ingredients and toxic pesticides have been introduced into the food chain. It is no wonder that the incidence of cancer has exploded in the last few centuries. Whenever possible, choose organic, unprocessed foods.
Recognize your Bio-Individuality
Every year there are new fad diets that come along with extensive media hype promoting certain foods or a new diet. Just keeping up with it is oftentimes exhausting. But you don't have to. According to Ayurveda, it is not possible that there be a one-size-fits-all diet for a human race that is so unique, diverse and has different needs. What works for a million other people may not be right for us, as each of us is a unique being. This is the beauty of Ayurveda — it recognizes our uniqueness and gives us a knowledge and perspective that is empowering; that allows us to manage our own health in a very personalized manner. Ayurveda's understanding of the Doshas (constitutions) helps us to recognize which foods are good for us, in what quantity and why. If you are interested in understanding more about your Dosha, look here. And, for specific details on the diet most aligned for you, take a look at the food guidelines here suggested by Dr. Vasant Lad.
Choose Fruits and Vegetables
Eat loads of fruits and vegetables, not only for their nutritional value, but also because they are good natural internal cleansers. The specific food guidelines found above for Vata, Pitta and Kapha can help us pick a variety of fruits and vegetables suited to our physiology and the season. Vegetables do not necessarily have to be just separate dishes. Add them to grains, mix them with beans, toss them in stews and soups — there's always room for your favorite veggies in every dish. Start your day with stewed apples or pears. Eat a handful of berries or an apple for your mid-afternoon snack. For a variety of Ayurvedic recipes, continue to visit our blog where we will continue to post recipes!
Ayurveda prefers bioavailable foods. What do we mean by bioavailable? Cooking your veggies gently rather than eating them raw helps them to be more easily digestible. Although raw veggies “may” contain more vitamins and nutrients, they can be harder for our bodies to metabolize and digest. Think of a piece of broccoli. If it is raw, how long does it take for our digestive enzymes (digestive fire) to penetrate completely to its core and break it down? Now imagine a cooked piece of broccoli. Whether steamed or sautéed, in either case, room has been created in its cellular structure for our enzymes to penetrate and much more quickly digest it. With the exception of predominantly Kapha types, most individuals will not respond well to eating primarily uncooked veggies. If you love eating salads, try eating your raw veggies at lunch, giving your body plenty of time to digest your food. During the early afternoon hours when the sun is highest in the sky, our digestive agni is working at its maximum potency. And as the sun goes down, so does our agni. So to burn our largest meal of the day, we eat it at lunch — we add it to our strong digestive fire at noon.
Spices not only add flavor and aroma; they also bring therapeutic value to any meal. Spices help boost natural immunity, and most of them can rev up our digestion so our bodies are able to absorb and assimilate the nutrients from the foods we eat! If you are new to the world of spices and aren't quite sure what to choose, try one of our ready-to-use spice mixes.
According to Ayurveda, each meal should contain all six Rasa (tastes): sweet, sour, salty, bitter, astringent, and pungent. The dominance of the flavors will be based on our predominant dosha makeup. For example, a Vata-predominant person will favor heavier meals with sweet, sour and salty tastes. A Kapha-predominant person may favor more pungent and astringent meals, and a Pitta-predominant person more sweet and bitter flavors. Remember, having all six tastes in our meals means that the spice is present, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that we may overtly taste each flavor. So, spice up your life!
Cleanse from the inside out
The build-up of ama — digestive toxins resulting from improper digestion — is, according to Ayurveda, the root cause of most disorders. That’s worth repeating: The build-up of ama is the root cause of most disorders. Improper digestion can be the result of a few habits:
Eating late in the evening when the body is ready for rest and not prepared for the heavy work of digestion. Eat a lighter, well-cooked meal at least three hours before bed, and try to be in bed around 10:00 p.m. or before.
Eating leftovers, heavy meats or processed foods that are harder to digest.
Excessive stress in our lives, due to an imbalanced lifestyle.
Poor hydration. When the body is not hydrated, it cannot remove impurities from the lymph system properly. Blood production and flow may be negatively affected, possibly inhibiting our body’s ability to carry and maintain oxygen and nutrients where they are needed.
Completing a cleanse during every change of seasons, to detox and rid the body of ama, is recommended for optimal health. We offer a Kind Cleanse to assist you in this process. Detoxing is particularly recommended in the early spring, because that is the time nature starts the annual cycle of regeneration as well. During cleansing, we can eat light, yet nourishing foods such as mung bean soup or kitchari, and drink lots of warm water through the day. Sip our cleanse & clarify tea. Fresh, sweet juicy fruits are excellent cleansers. Take our Liver Scrub Potion & Triphala for a gentle full-body detox, and support the body in purifying with dry brushing and other dinacharyapractices.
Drink to your health!
When possible avoid caffeine and alcohol and carbonated soft drinks, and switch to life-giving, vitality-boosting beverages. RASA offers a whole host of SuperDrinks that will feed body, heart and mind. Start with water, that most basic yet most overlooked drink — drinking lots of warm water through the day helps to rehydrate our system and flush toxins out of the body. Drinking out of a Copper Water Bottle is also known for its cleansing and healing properties. Avoid drinking ice-cold water, especially before, during and after meals. If you have a lot of Pitta to balance, drink it cool; otherwise, room-temperature or warm water is best. When we drink ice-cold water, it slows blood flow in the region of the stomach and slows the action of digestive enzymes. Blood flow and digestive enzymes are directly responsible for strong digestion, and anything we can do to support blood flow and enzyme action will help our digestion.
Ayurvedic teas or drinks suited to our physiology, formulated to correct a specific imbalance, can assist in bringing our bodies into balance. Our Ayurvedic Coffee comes with antioxidant power as well as a rich coffee-like flavor that you will love as a healthy substitute. We have a wide range of therapeutic Herbal Teas that not only offer comfort any time of the day or night, but more importantly, they are specifically formulated according to the ancient records of Ayurveda and have the balancing effect described for each one. And, for restful sleep and cold winter days, you might try our most popular superdrink - Golden Mylk.
Cultivate Conscious Eating
Our busy lifestyles can lead us to eat on the go, eat while working, skip meals or eat fast foods. However, Ayurveda holds the belief that how we eat is as important as what we eat, and that conscious eating practices can add years to our lives. This healthy Ayurvedic routine includes: eating three regular meals at about the same time each day; making lunch the main meal of the day (heavy dinners can tax digestion and disrupt sleep); and cooking and eating fresh food that is made with love. Leftovers are considered less sattvic (pure) than fresh foods, and when convenient to do so, are best avoided.
Additionally, giving gratitude for the food we are eating and taking a silent moment before eating can bring much more awareness to the taste, our sense of fullness and the needs of our body. It is also important to not engage in heated discussion during meals, to eat quietly and take some minutes for digestion after the meal to sit and rest.
Eat for your soul
Balanced health goes beyond physical wellness to well-being in mind, spirit, emotions and senses as well. The food we eat can nourish our mind, body and emotions, not just our body.
Cooking and eating in a harmonious atmosphere turns food into nectar. A pleasant, tidy, cheerful environment and the nurturing company of friends or family will actually make mealtimes more nourishing. The energetics of the food are influenced by our state of consciousness when we cook and eat, so be aware that you are not only consuming the physical food, but the energy of the moment.
Experiment with what you eat!
Eating the same dishes several times a week? Does your grocery list have the same items on it each time? Break out of that rut and experiment with new foods and flavors! Resolve to try at least one new dish a week. Bringing inspiration to your plate will bring inspiration to your life from the inside, out. Eating from the entire rainbow of foods is essential to receiving all the necessary vitamins, nutrients and minerals.
If you have a favorite vegetable or grain you like to eat often, try preparing it differently (sauté, steam, boil, roast, or bake), or combine it with other grains, vegetables or herbs for variety.
Eat with All 5 Senses!
Did you know that, according to Ayurveda, we digest through all five senses? Let yourself receive the food you eat, but also the life you live, through all five senses. This practice will bring increased presence to the nourishment of each moment, will improve digestion and will lead to healthier, happier lives for all.
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