I would like to wrap up the past few educational pieces with some more food for thought.
More than calories, Ayurveda pays attention to the qualities in the food – Hot or cold, heavy or light, moist or dry, etc…because qualities make all the difference. For example, a glass of water has “0” calories, but the qualities in the water make all the difference. A glass of ice-cold water may worsen allergies, weaken digestion, hamper circulation and may cause you to lose your voice. On the other hand, a glass of warm water, which has same calories, has exactly the opposite effect – it will reduce congestion, strengthen metabolism, improve circulation and clear the voice. If it is too hot, a glass of cool water will be very refreshing, but in cold winters, go for a warm glass of water.
Ayurveda uses the same philosophy when it comes to creating a balancing diet plan for you. If you are Vata predominant, because you may be thin/slender with dry skin and always feeling cold – warm, moist and heavy foods like soups, stews, oatmeal and warm herbal teas will be ideal for you. If you are well built, with moist skin complaining about weight gain, congestion and swelling then light, warm and dry foods such as toasts, grilled veggies, baked foods and broiled fish will be your soul food. If you are medium built, organized, with warm, ruddy complexion then bitter veggies, cooling fruits and a staying away from spicy foods are the right choices for you. It is not what but who is eating that makes all the difference. Ayurvedic nutrition revolves around the individual.
Ayurveda is the only science focusing on combining the six tastes in each meal to make it tasty, delicious, balanced and medicinal. Sweet taste helps to build tissues in the body while sour taste restores acid base balance. Salty is responsible for maintaining mineral balance and pungent improves digestion and strengthens digestive enzymes. Astringent stops bleeding and gives tone to the body. Bitter works as a natural antibiotic, antiseptic and it purifies the body. Adding the six tastes into your meal is the right way to make food medicinal, delicious and low in calories. The right touches of sweet, sour, salty, pungent, astringent and bitter help to make food Prakriti specific. e. g. Vatas should avoid eating bitter greens, because it aggravates Vata, but Pittas thrive on those greens, because it cools down the heat. Ginger, garlic, jalapenos and chilies make Kaphas happy by reducing congestion and helping to lose weight, but give Pittas ulcers or irritability. Sweet potatoes will make Vatas feel grounded, but may make Kaphas lethargic. Do you see the difference? The same food makes one person happy and another sad. This is why it’s important to eat according to your Prakriti.
Ayurveda keeps a close eye on digestion. “You are what you eat and what you digest”. For example, you may go to a gourmet restaurant, but if your digestion is weak, the gourmet food will be nothing but a poison. So your job is to keep that pilot light (Agni) around your naval (your digestive enzymes) hot and strong.
In summation, begin to look at food in a different way. Understanding and knowing what you put into your body will make it that much easier to detect when something is out of balance…before it’s too late and disease sets in. See food as the qualities it inherently posses and you will be on the path to a healthy digestion and balanced life. If you don’t believe me, well try it for yourself!