Ayurvedic nutrition let your food be your medicine
==== ====For more information please go to:http://maximus.herbalhub.com.au==== ====It is ironic how something as obvious as nutrition has become overlooked in the modern healthcare system, and how in the name of convenience our fast paced society has given way to fastfoods, microwaves, quick fix medicines, and eating on the run. Fortunately, there is a growingfocus in the important role that nutrition plays in maintaining good health. In Ayurveda, Indiasancient science of life, health and longevity, food plays a prominent role in promoting health and istherefore considered medicine.Dating back over five thousand years, Ayurveda is still a highly respected form of health care inIndia today. According to this holistic system, everyone has a unique constitution or prakruti--anindividual combination of physical, mental and emotional characteristics determined by manyfactors surrounding the time of conception and birth. Disturbance of this balance due to emotionaland physical stress, trauma, improper food combination and choices, as well as seasonal andweather changes may lead to imbalance and eventually to disease. If we understand how suchfactors affect us we can take appropriate actions to minimize their effect and eliminate the causesof imbalance. In this sense, the path toward health is always individual. There is no singleapproach that is right for everyone, whether it relates to diet, lifestyle, exercise or the use ofmedicinal herbs.According to Samkhya, the philosophical foundation of Ayurveda, creation expresses itself throughthe five elements--ether or space, air, fire, water and earth. These elements manifest in the bodyas the three governing principles or humors called doshas: vata, pitta and kapha. Everyone has allthree of these doshas to varying degrees, although one and sometimes two tend to bepredominant and the other(s) secondary. In balance, the doshas promote the normal functions ofthe body and maintain overall health. Out of balance, they create mental, emotional and physicalailments.Vata is the subtle energy associated with movement and is made up of the air and ether. Bynature it has dry, light, mobile and cold qualities. When aggravated, it can cause flatulence,constipation, tremors, spasms, asthma, rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, as well many neurologicalproblems.Pitta represents the fire and water elements of the body. It has mainly hot sharp and oily qualities.Pitta disorders include hyperacidity, ulcers, skin eruptions, chronic fatigue, Crohns disease, colitis,gout and numerous inflammatory disorders.Kapha is made up of earth and water, and is associated with heavy, cold, damp and staticqualities. Out of balance, kapha can cause obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes, edema, asthma,tumors and a variety of congestive problems.
Aggravation of the doshas can affect the digestion and can create toxins, or ama from poorlydigested food. As ama accumulates in the tissues and channels of the body it slowly but surelyaffects the flow of prana (vital energy), immunity (ojas) and the cellular metabolism (tejas),eventually resulting in disease.From an Ayurvedic perspective, one of the main keys to maintaining optimal health as well as tosupport the healing process is to help the body eliminate toxins and to reestablish constitutionalbalance. To achieve this, Ayurveda emphasizes the importance of proper nutrition through properfood choices, food combining and cooking methods, as well as herbal nutrition, all based on thespecific needs of the individual and any current imbalance of the doshas.Ayurvedic nutrition is a vast topic that takes into account the individual constitution, the medicinalvalue of culinary spices, the theory of shad rasa (or six tastes, which should all be present for ameal to be balanced), and more. As I mentioned before, in Ayurveda food is considered medicine.Likewise, herbs are also used for their nutritional and nourishing qualities, or to counteract anydoshic imbalance and toxin formation as a result of poor digestion.For optimum nutrition, care should be taken to insure that food be organic, fresh and wheneverpossible locally grown. In Ayurveda food, drinks, and spices are categorized according to theirtaste (sweet, salty, sour, bitter, pungent and astringent), the energetic effect they have on thedoshas, as well as their post-digestive effect on the tissues. This is why when choosing foods it isimportant to understand our original constitution so as to eat foods that have the opposite qualitiesto those that are already predominant in the constitution. Furthermore, understanding the currentstate of the doshas is also crucial for making the right food choices.Vata types tend to more deficient by nature and have light body frames, variable digestion andoften have a tendency towards gas and constipation. Therefore, they do best eating warm,nourishing, unctuous and primarily cooked foods, and should avoid dried, cold, frozen and excessintake of raw foods. Also, they should avoid pinto, garbanzo or black beans, which are hard todigest and tend to increase intestinal gas. Vata is balanced by sweet, sour and salty tasting foods.Pitta types tend to have strong appetites and good digestion, but have a tendency towardhyperacidity and inflammatory disorders. So they should avoid eating greasy, hot spicy, salty andfermented foods, as well as sour and acidic fruits. Pitta is balanced by bitter, sweet and astringenttastes.Kapha types are large framed with a tendency toward weight gain, obesity, sluggish digestion,lethargy and congestive disorders. They do best on a light, reducing diet low in carbohydrates andavoiding dairy, cold food and drinks, poor quality oils and sweet treats. Kapha is decreased withpungent, bitter and astringent tastes.Before talking about the use of spices in Ayurvedic cooking I should point out that althoughAyurvedic food is traditionally Indian cuisine, it is not by any means limited to it. Also, by the sametoken, not all Indian food is Ayurvedic. In fact, Indian restaurant food is often overly spicy anddrenched in poor quality cooking oils. What makes food truly Ayurvedic is the fact that it isselected and cooked according to the specific needs of the individual, or that it is balanced for alldoshas.
Many of the spices used in Ayurvedic cooking such as turmeric, ginger, cumin, fenugreek,coriander and cardamom, amongst others, are also medicinal herbs used in Ayurvedic herbology.Cooking daily with those spices can greatly enhance digestion, absorption and assimilation offood, improve ones appetite and elimination, nourish the internal organs and prevent doshicimbalance. Spices also provide a harmonious blend of the six tastes. Taste is medicinal and is thefirst form of nourishment. A meal containing a balanced blend of the six tastes, aside from beingmore appealing to the tongue, is also more digestible at a deep cellular level.Modern research is now validating the benefits of many of the herbs and spices used in Ayurvediccooking. Turmeric for instance, is highly effective in the treatment of type two diabetes, skindiseases, infections and hepatic and inflammatory disorders. Cumin, coriander, fennel, nutmegand cardamom are extremely helpful in the treatment of a wide variety of digestive complaints, asis ginger for the treatment of respiratory congestion, fevers and colds. There are literallythousands of medicinal uses to such spices. Even today in much of rural India the wisest doctorsare often the mothers and grandmothers who know the uses of their "kitchen pharmacies."Another vital aspect of Ayurvedic nutrition is proper food combining. In Ayurveda not all foods arecompatible. Certain foods when eaten of cooked together can disturb the normal function of thedigestive fire and promote the accumulation of ama (toxins) in the body. Various factors, such asthe tastes, qualities, and energies of certain foods, as well as how long they take to digest, affecthow well certain foods will combine. Heavy foods such whole grains, dairy, meats and starchesdont combine well with light foods such as fruit, which digest quicker. Another example, whensour and acidic fruits are combined with milk, which is sweet and cooling, this causes the milk tocurdle and become heavy in the intestines. Ayurveda places great emphasis on the art of foodcombining.Ayurveda encourages us to take responsibility for our health as much as possible by makingappropriate changes in diet and lifestyle. What we eat and how we live on a daily basis can be ourstrongest allies in restoring and maintaining health. All other therapeutic measures will be stronglysupported by this daily effort.Along with a balanced diet, incorporating other healthy habits into a daily routine can preventimbalance at its very root. A lifestyle that integrates regular eating and sleeping habits will bringdiscipline and help maintain the harmony of the doshas, thus promoting overall good health. AnAyurvedic clinician can provide dietary and lifestyle guidelines, as well as herbal nutrition, morespecific to the individual constitution, doshic imbalance and situation of each person.Vishnu Dass, NTS, LMT, CAyu, is an Ayurvedic practitioner and educator and the Director of BlueLotus Ayurveda - Natural Health & Rejuvenation - an Ayurvedic clinic in Asheville, NC, that offersholistic health care, panchakarma (for deep detox and rejuvenation), rejuvenating therapies, dietand lifestyle counseling, yoga and yoga therapy, therapeutic massage & bodywork, workshops,and more. For more information, articles and products, visit: http://www.bluelotusayurveda.comand http://ayurvedayogashop.com
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