Ayurvedic Medicine is the mother of all natural medicine. It is over 5000 years old wisdom that is cognized by enlightened beings who understood how human body works and how life works. Food has been used to heal, to prevent disease and to promote good health and longevity. There is no system of medicine that I know of that understands that in an all inclusive way. Ayurveda provides that bigger umbrella of deeper understanding that we can use to assess all different kinds of food, diets and its nutritional and medicinal effects on our physical and our mental/emotional health. Ayurveda ‘s nutritional health system is highly sophisticated yet it can be made as simple as possible so we can use this ancient science and wisdom in a practical way without having to understand everything.
Simplicity is very important in a world that grows noisier every minute. That indeed is the ultimate sophistication to use a complex system to simplify it enough for practical use. We can use some basic concepts to understand the bigger picture of food and nutrition and its effect on the body.
Food conveys life energy or prana to the body. It is not the same as calories. Calories can give the body “fuel’ to burn, but not the vitality and luster. When we eat food that has sufficient calories but is devoid of the energy, we might miscalibrate our feedback system. When energy is lacking in the food, the body can signal to continue eating even when sufficient calories have already been consumed. Junk food is a perfect example of this concept. We always want to reach for more. It isn’t just because it is stimulating our taste buds, but the energy or the prana in the food is missing so we continue to eat.
Food conveys its qualities to the body. Light food will lighten the body and heavy food will make the body feel heavy. That is simple, right! Salad vs chocolate cake. Dry food can dry or dehydrate the body, like popcorn that is why you may feel thirsty. Cold foods can feel cooling to the body, but repeatedly consuming them will cool the digestion. Spicy food can inflame the body.
Different tastes have different digestive and post digestive effects on the body. A balanced meal includes 6 different tastes. These tastes are: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, astringent and bitter. Different tastes stimulate the different enzymes to be secreted to digest those tastes. That allows the digestive system to work in its full capacity and moreover, satisfies the body’s need for all tastes and curve the cravings. The taste that is over consumed is sweet and under consumed is bitter. That may be one of the contributing factors for overconsumption of caffeine and alcohol -as they provide the bitter taste. We can add the bitter greens to get the bitter taste in our meals instead. Different tastes have different effect on the body. Overconsumption of sweet taste is inflaming. Bitter taste cools the body.
We are what we digest! One of the pillars of health in Ayurveda is strong digestion and its one of the forte’s of Ayurvedic medicine as it is the seat of health and disease. Ayurvedic medicine has countless ways to power up the digestion, by using herbs, spices, combinations of meals, understanding the timing of the meals, the consciousness of the cook and the quality of the environment where food is being consumed all have an effect on the digestion. Digestion is not just limited to the food we eat, what can we digest the life experiences or do we push them into the subconscious where it effects our habits, health. Ask yourself how it feels after the consume something, gas, bloating, indigestion, constipation, sleep, mood etc. Ayurveda uses spices, herbs as medicine to build strong digestion and to make the food not only aromatic and rich in taste but easy to digest, process and assimilate in the body.
The holistic approach of Ayurveda understands the whole picture. Every thing affects everything else. Food effects our emotions, hence the need for sugar when one is feel low and down. Emotions effect our ability to digest the food and the experiences. Eating is sacred and a celebration of life. There is no guilt associated with cooking for oneself and taking the time to eat. It is a necessarily activity much like sleep. Food must be enjoyed and it must appeal to all the senses in order for it to convey the maximum health benefits. If Potato chip or chocolate cake is your thing, have some once in a while and enjoy it without worry or guilt. The worry factor will turn the food into poison and it is that feeling that compels us to keep eating as we are now trying for that bad feeling to go away but can’t and the cycle turns downward.
You can try this. Eat spicy food when you are angry and intense, it will make you more angry and intense. So you want to opt for something little calming, and soothing food.
When there is so much information, we naturally seek for it to be simplified. So, when we find a food item that is good and agrees with us, consuming it more does not make it better. Type of food, what tastes to include or exclude, how to eat according to your constitution and imbalance, how to eat according to seasons, all that requires that we become more conscious of the effect of food on our body, and emotionality and psychology. Although simplified, the Ayurvedic nutrition is sophisticated and asks that we know when and how to adjust.