Some days it seems you can’t walk two feet without being accosted by the latest diet.
The Paleo diet.
The coconut oil diet.
More gluten-free diets than you can wrap your brain around.
All claiming to hold the key to longevity.
Do you ever stop and think, “Most of these fad diets aren’t even as old as MySpace.”
Longevity, my asana.
If you’re like me and intrigued by things that stand the test of time, Ayurveda may have popped up on your wellness radar.
What is an Ayurvedic Diet?
Ayurveda, or the “science of life” in Sanskrit, is an ancient system of medicine that originated in India thousands of years ago.
That’s right, thousands.
Far from being a one-size-fits-all dietary regimen, Ayurveda is a practice of holistically examining and treating every aspect of the patient’s life.
It’s about continually evaluating your health and well-being throughout every season of your life, and understanding that no two individuals are exactly the same.
The main principles of Ayurveda revolve around something many yogis are familiar with: the mind-body connection.
The body and mind are inexorably connected and are each able to heal the other.
Ayurvedic medicine also places a great deal of importance on the function of the digestive system as a means of fueling, healing, and regulating the energy of the body-mind system.
For that reason, an Ayurvedic diet will advise you to consume food that fuels your digestive power in the most efficient and effective way possible.
(Read: It’s about how, when, and where you eat and digest.. Not just what you eat.)
But how does an Ayurvedic doctor choose those magical combinations of food?
Here’s a hint:
They don’t simply pull them out of a hat.
Benefits of Ayurveda
1. Find Natural Cures to Disease
For thousands of years, Ayurvedic principles have offered natural remedies to a wide range of diseases, from intestinal disorders such as ulcerative colitis and indigestion to immune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and sarcoidosis.
Ayurvedic treatments are also commonly used to treat hormonal conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS treatment can help ease symptoms such as weight gain and treat the spread of ovarian cysts.
When people adopt the balanced diet and positive eating habits of an Ayurvedic treatment, they can both treat and prevent potentially lethal inflammatory heart disease and liver disease, prolonging life and promoting well-being.
2. Simplify Your Diet, Simplify Your Life
One of the most alluring things about the Ayurveda diet, for many, is the basic life-promoting science behind Ayurvedic principles.
Sometimes called the sattvic diet in yoga, an Ayurvedic lifestyle aims to infuse your life with peace, calm, and happiness at every turn. This means letting go of unhealthy obsession with particular fad diets and getting back to basic qualities.
(Yes, that means you can throw your Plant-Based Keto Toxins Grapefruit South Beach Teatox Paleo Diet Cookbook out the window. Finally.)
In Ayurvedic cooking, the aim is to prepare your food with love, so that you ingest that love and share it with everyone and everything around you.
So stop, slow down, look around, see what fruits and vegetables are in season, grind up some herbs, and enjoy the taste journey. It doesn’t mean that you have to totally change your diet. You can still have fajita veggies, as long as you cook according to your dosha. (More on that later!)
3. Ayurveda Feels and Tastes Amazing
A critical component of the Ayurvedic medicinal system is Ayurveda massage. Ayurvedic massage therapy is a daily practice of promoting blood circulation, easing pain and tension in muscles, and stimulating internal organs.
But it also feels insanely good.
Add herbal oil massage into your daily routine by figuring out which ayurvedic oil suits your dosha for relaxation. Then make it a habit to lather up your muscles each evening after a warm bath or shower. It’s easy to give yourself a soothing face massage or hit destressing pressure points with a 10-minute foot massage.
Ayurvedic medicine also features some incredible Ayurveda recipes – some that most people wouldn’t recognize as part of the Ayurveda diet!
I’m talking about turmeric tea, or golden milk, and it’s both delicious and easy as pie, but with a whole lotta medicinal properties.
Perfect for Vata types, as well as Pitta and Kapha this natural anti-inflammatory drink boasts heaps of health benefits including reduced inflammation, improved digestion, and better sleep.
Mix up this simple turmeric tea recipe before bed to enjoy after your Ayurvedic self-massage. Yesssss.
In a small saucepan, whisk a cup of nut milk with a half tsp. of organic turmeric powder, a quarter tsp. of freshly ground black pepper and blend with fresh ginger.
Bring to a boil for a couple minutes then turn off the heat and add a half tsp. ghee or coconut oil. You can whisk in up to a tablespoon of maple syrup, honey, or coconut sugar to the mixture, and add nutmeg and vanilla to taste.
Enjoy your delicious drink and revitalized health!
The Three Ayurveda Dosha Types
According to Ayurveda, all of Nature (including your very lovely human body seated in front of a screen reading this article) is comprised of and governed by five elemental energies:
- Space (akasha)
- Air (vayu)
- Fire (tejas)
- Water (jala)
- Earth (prithvi)
All humans are wonderfully unique and are therefore composed of various combinations of these energies in different amounts.
The three main blends of these elemental energies are known as the three doshas.
The three doshas, or mind-body types, are:
- Vata (dominated by air energy)
- Pitta (dominated by fire energy)
- Kapha (dominated by earth and water energy)
The first step in adopting an Ayurvedic diet and lifestyle for your health is to determine your dosha type.
You can do this simply by taking an online dosha type quiz to get the Ayurvedic lifestyle ball rolling, but keep in mind that no online quiz can compare to the wisdom of an Ayurvedic doctor.
If you find that your body and characteristics strongly resemble more than one dosha type, that’s totally normal. Many people are dominant in two or more doshas meaning you can be Vata Pitta or even tridoshic if you have indications of all three types.
(Think: well-grounded, lush, fertile, heavy, and lethargic.)
Kapha types are dominated by Earth and Water energies. They tend to have rich oily skin and hair, a thicker or more substantial build, and large, radiant eyes. They will typically sleep abundantly and have regular digestion, but can struggle with symptoms of fluid retention, seasonal allergies, and weight gain.
The emotional qualities of a Kapha are often nurturing, kind, and loving, but can become overly rooted and reluctant to change.
The season associated with Kapha is the cold, wet, and rainy season, which is why the general guidelines for a Kapha type seeking to avoid an imbalance are to combat the heaviness of Kapha with and diet and lifestyle that is light and bright.
Consider waking up early in the morning, ignoring the urge to sleep in, and getting your morning started with some endurance-building movement.
Avoid becoming stuck in a rut: add stimulation to your life by trying flavorful new foods, exciting new activities, and meeting diverse people.
You can prevent congestion in your respiratory system by avoiding dairy products and using a neti pot daily with warm water and other natural remedies to clear the build-up of mucus.
It is important for Kapha types to strive to keep their homes and workspaces clean and clear of clutter and surround themselves with bright, warm colors such as orange.
You may be thinking, “okay that’s great, but where’s the diet part?” Remember that Ayurvedic treatments are about more than prescribing a balanced diet for weight loss.
In fact, you will be hard-pressed to find a more holistic system of eating habits, health, and imbalance management.
Kaphas are advised to eat plant-based foods that are light, warm, with bitter, pungent, and astringent tastes. Think of a colorful plate of fruits and vegetables such as apples, pomegranates, apricots, leafy greens, cucumbers, asparagus, chickpeas, celery, black beans, and cranberries.
Include abundant pungent herbs and spices such as cayenne pepper, mustard seed, and ginger, and enjoy a cup of hot ginger tea at mealtimes to spark and enliven your taste buds.
A Kapha type will be imbalanced by eating large quantities of salt, sugar, fatty nuts, seeds, and oils, red meat, or by eating large portions before bedtime.
(Think: light, frazzled, dry, quick, flighty)
Those with a Vata dosha (air-dominant) are likely to have dry skin and hair, chilly hands and feet, smaller builds, and struggles with sleep and digestion. They experience their energy in erratic bursts, and can find their creative process punctuated by sudden spells of fatigue. Their emotional state can change quite rapidly, sometimes causing anxiety and insomnia. A Vata has a wonderful sense of adventure and finds it easy-peasy to be flexible.
The general guideline for Vata types?
Keep your sh*t together.
In other words, make choices that bring stability, support, and calmness to your life. Adopt a routine for sleep and mealtimes to nurture yourself and offer consistent nourishment. Keep yourself warm and employ the richness of oils in your daily routine, whether it’s by massaging almond oil into your skin, scooping coconut oil or cow ghee into your morning turmeric latte, or diffusing a warming clove essential oil into your home to relax.
Take care not to overwork yourself or overexert yourself when exercising by keeping an eye on your body type. Use weight loss as a self-indication that you are doing too much and need to slow down and back off.
Food-wise, load up on healthy fats, juicy fruits, cooked veggies, well-sourced dairy products, nuts, mung beans in dahl, and basmati rice.
To keep your digestive system a movin’, avoid raw veggies, dried fruits (sorry, that includes Medjool dates!), and big servings of beans. (Unless they are mung beans all dahled up in a steamy pot of ghee-rich stew)
(Think: intense, hot, sharp-witted, penetrating, driven)
These fire-dominant humans burn bright and fast. They have warm, sometimes reddish skin and hair, a medium or muscular build, rapid digestion, and a strong appetite for food, sex, and life. Their intensity in all areas of life make them go-getters, decision-makers, and strong public speakers. However when left unchecked, their fire can consume anything in its path: bulldozing the opinions and feelings of others, and responding to adversity with a fury and a short temper.
By now, you may be able to foresee what an Ayurvedic practitioner might advise for a Pitta dosha seeking balance.
Call the fire department and cool that fire down.
Balance out your innate drive by taking time to relax, laugh, and nourish yourself. Long walks in nature, contemplative baths in moonlight, and spending time near water are good ideas.
To keep your strong digestion from overheating your mind and body, choose cooling foods such as cucumbers, cow ghee, olive oil, coconut oil, basmati rice, sweet fruits such as grapes and melons, and soothing herbs and spices such as coriander, cardamom, fennel seeds.
Avoid sour, pungent, and salty flavors in each meal for optimal health and well-being.
For example, pass on the spicy foods, over-the-top onions, garlic, and tomatoes, and sour dairy products such as yoghurt and cheese.
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