“Because we cannot scrub our inner body we need to learn a few skills to help cleanse our tissues, organs, and mind. This is the art of Ayurveda.” ―
Ayurveda, a science (some may disagree) has been around for thousands of years but it’s the mystery around it that scares some, while encourages some others to explore it further. Having grown up in India, I was a little bit more familiar with the ‘key words’ of this science and a few ‘dos and don’ts’ that apply to it. Fast forward a few years and suddenly, I am so much more fascinated, just like a lot of others, who are looking for answers that they haven’t been able to get in conventional medicine. Like everything, it’s got some core rules. Read on:
The basic principles of applying Ayurveda
‘According to Ayurveda, doshas are the energy patterns that flow around our bodies, governing our thinking and behaviour. There are three primary doshas – vata, pitta and kapha, and we are all born with all three of them. But it’s the dominance of one or two of these doshas that defines who we are’, explain the ‘Pukka’ people.
Now, these doshas can either be in balance or not and when they are out of sync, is when various problems surface. So, a look at what these doshas are:
Do remember, that your predominant dosha does keep changing based on your lifestyle and environment. Advice by experts is to keep checking your predominant from from time to time. Click on this link to learn about your dominant doshas aka your body type.
Now, armed with the knowledge of your body type and the importance of doshas in your daily life, we will focus on Ayurvedic food as that is what will help hugely to maintain the doshas in your body.
Ayurvedic food: The basic principles
As each person’s body constitution is unique, so are their food requirements. ‘One man’s food is another man’s poison’ is truly relevant here. However, there are a few basic ground rules that Ayurveda suggests we stick to and they are:
- Eat freshly cooked foods
- Eat food at room temperature, preferably
- Eat your biggest meal of the day at lunch time, when the ‘Agni’, aka your digestive power is most efficient
- Ensure that each meal contains all six flavours: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, astringent, and pungent
- Avoid drinking cold water with your meal
- Throughout the day, drink lots of warm water, or simply water that’s at room temperature
- Do not follow your meal with a fruit or a dessert
- Eat mindfully, with all your senses
- and most importantly, don’t be a slave to meal times. Eat only when you are hungry
I found this article on healthy eating using Ayurvedic principles to be brilliant. Do give it a read. When someone mentions the word ‘Ayurvedic meal’, the first image that comes to mind is that of the humble ‘Khichdi’. It’s one of the first meals given to a toddler and also to the elderly. It’s soothing, packed with goodness and easy to digest. ‘Khichdi’ recipes in Indian homes varies largely, based on the local lentils and spices available in the region. But essentially, every ‘khichdi’ will include rice, lentils, ghee and a couple of spices like cumin seeds and turmeric. Mine looks like this:
“Khichdi’ is one of the foods that I believe is good for all the three doshas. But do remember, that neither is a food ‘bad’ or superior than the other. This is because different foods suit different body types. While millet aka ragi may work for me (good for reducing Kapha), it may not suit you. But, these millet biscuits are great (to be consumed in moderation, of course!) and so simple to make: millet flour, wheat flour, jaggery, a little ghee and milk. Lots of versions of these available but mine look like these:
Of course, there is a lot more to Ayurveda than this. You would think that Kerala, being the home of Ayurveda would only be home to ‘balanced’ dishes but the reality isn’t this. I suppose it’s the 80:20 balance that the science encourages us to maintain. Foods need to be eaten based on the prevalent seasons and the environment (as some are cooling while others create heat within). Hence, foods that aren’t ‘perfect’ for a specific dosha can be enjoyed with their complementary counterpart, to keep the balance.
Also eating with hands is recommended for maximum sensory experience. Do note the portion sizes; not massive portion sizes unlike what is seen in restaurants today.
‘Idli’ for instance, made out of fermented rice will work nicely with coconut chutney but won’t be balanced if served with ‘sambhar’ (a lentil dish). Also, ‘idli’, because of its sour nature will be easily digested in the cooler months and is not particularly suited to be had in the hot months.
Food combinations are so crucial to the understanding of this science and the two ‘lethal ones’ that I often heard my family telling each other to refrain from were:
- Milk and bananas
- Sour fruits and natural yoghurt
We had written about this science a few years back too. Explore the science of Ayurveda and see if it can fit into your lifestyle; Be Notjustashopper!