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Dieting is the most popular approach to eating healthy and managing weight. Different diets have different approaches and rules for what to eat, what to avoid, and how much to eat. But there’s one diet that focuses largely on how to eat, what to eat, and works with physical as well as mental health. That’s the magic of the Ayurvedic diet. If you are looking for a holistic approach to your regular eating habits, we have gathered everything you need to know about the Ayurvedic diet to guide you in healthy eating. Let’s have a look.
What is Ayurveda?
Before setting your diet plan you need a basic idea of what Ayurveda is. Originated in India around 5000 years ago, Ayurveda is an ancient medical system that combines both ‘life’ and ‘knowledge’. It is a holistic approach that promotes a healthy balance between the physical body and mind.
Focal Areas in Ayurvedic Diet
According to Ayurveda, there are three energies that govern human body functions. These energies are Vata, Pitta, and Kapha and they are collectively known as doshas. Every single person is a composition of a unique combination of these energies and they play a key role in determining Ayurvedic body type. Ayurveda suggests that energy creates the necessary movements to supply the nutrients and fluid to the cells, assists in metabolism, and maintains cell structures to keep one both mentally and physically healthy.
- Vata (Space and Air) is related to the body movements that control blood flow and air in the lungs. People with predominant Vata energy are active, own an enthusiastic and creative mind, small frame physic but an irregular digestive system.
- Pitta (Fire and Water) predominant people are intelligent, carry impactful ideas and have moderate physical health. They can be short-tempered when the pitta energy is imbalanced. But other than that they have a strong metabolism, healthy digestive system, and good appetite.
- Kapha (Earth and Water) represents the healthy structure of the body, cells, and tissues. They are strong, calm, forgiving, and carry endurance. They have a large body structure, well-developed muscles, and slow metabolism.
According to Ayurveda, the capacity of your body to digest and absorb food is known as Agni. The idea of Agni is related to sunrise and sunset. It suggests that eating heavy food after sunset makes it difficult for digestion. It is important to balance the digestive power to avoid cramps, bloating, and other digestive disorders.
According to the Agni cycle, have a nutritious meal between 10 am to 2 am for better digestion. Make your lunch the heaviest meal of the day as Agni is at its strongest during this time. You should always have your dinner before 8 pm and keep it light to avoid indigestion. It is also suggested to avoid cold drinks and foods during meals to work in favour of Agni.
Undigested foods release toxins which in Ayurveda are known as Ama. Ama causes any chronic diseases and it can be really harmful to your entire body. Ama is generally caused by eating heavy dinners or having your dinner late, eating raw, hard to digest foods, red meat, critical dehydration, and excessive stress.
It is advisable to eat light, nutritious, healthy foods, more fruits, veggies, and drink enough water to get rid of Ama.
Guideline for Ayurvedic Diet
Incorrect eating habits have a lot to do with a weak digestive system and indigestion. Our body requires a particular environment and time to take all the nutrients in. This diet focuses on preventing a lot of digestion problems just by correcting your eating habits.
1. Put Your Body Through Healthy Fasting
Our stomach goes through an expansion when it’s full and there’s a contraction when it’s empty. This cycle is really important for our stomach to keep a healthy digestion system. Let your body fast between dinner and breakfast in order to provide it with a chance to rest and complete the cycle.
2. Maintain the Balance of Solid and Liquid
In Ayurvedic practice, it is believed that one should only fill 1/3 of their stomach with solid food and keep another 1/3 for fluids. The rest of the 1/3 part is to be left blank to allow the stomach for contractions. Never stuff and overload your stomach with excessive foods.
3. Include More Natural Foods
Avoid processed foods and foods containing chemicals in the diet. Genetically modified foods are also strictly prohibited in this diet as they are responsible for several allergies, autoimmune disorders, and gut problems. Choose organic foods, whole grains, fruits, veggies and never forget to drink lots of water.
4. Incorporate Food Variation
This particular diet encourages food variations to keep both your appetite and taste buds satisfied. Use different veggies, fruits, or pulse and whole grains to try new recipes from time to time.
5. Weekly Plan the Meal Chart
Plan your meals weekly to stay motivated to continue the diet. Plan your meals, shop, make yourself tasty meals, and change the ingredients in next week. You can try new recipes once a week to give your taste buds a change.
6. Change Your Food Habits Slowly
You may have been skipping meals amid work pressures, reaching for processed foods, or eating late and go to bed instantly with tiredness. But, it’s time you change these habits slowly but efficiently. Avoid leftovers, try fresh foods, fruits, and veggies, have your food on time, try to have three meals a day to get the full benefits of an Ayurvedic diet.
Ayurvedic Diet Foods
Keep three simple rules in mind while trying your hands on foods for this diet:
- The foods should be easy to cook and digest according to your digestion power.
- It should always balance the doshas of the body for a healthy physical and mental state.
- The foods should enhance digestive fire to cleanse your body from toxins.
There are a number of foods that follow these three rules and the great Acharya Charak recommended these foods to incorporate into the diet. Rice, Green gram or Moong dal, crystallized sea salt, gooseberry, jowar, boiled water, milk, ghee, honey, and meat of land animals found in plains or forests. These foods are encouraged to have throughout the year and people can have these in all kinds of health conditions. All of these foods are easily very easily digested even by people with weak digestive health.
- Sweet fruits like apricots, bananas, peaches, cherries, mangoes, pears, pomegranate, plums, etc.
- Vegetables like asparagus, fennel, peas, sweet potatoes, potatoes, celery, eggplant, green beans, garlic, beets, cucumbers, artichoke, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, zucchini, lettuce, peas, etc are highly recommended.
- For grains, they can have cooked oats, rice, wheat, quinoa, durum flour, amaranth, couscous, buckwheat, barley, etc.
- From legumes, the meal should contain mung, urad or pigeon-peas, red and brown lentils, lima beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, peas, soy, barley, etc.
- They can have daily products including butter, buttermilk, cow milk, cottage cheese, ghee, etc.
- A wide variety of proteins from beef, buffalo, rabbit, venison, duck, chicken (dark or white according to health needs) and turkey to freshwater fish, sardines, shrimp, salmon, tuna, etc.
- Nuts are seeds including soaked almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, peanuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds are suitable for the diet.
Foods to Avoid
You must avoid processed foods, deep-fried foods, dried meats and vegetables, lotus roots, harsh acidic foods like vinegar, sauce, and foods containing too much salt. In this diet, you also have to avoid non-vegetarian meal plan for an entire week. The ancient medical practice considers it to be very harmful to people who have weak digestive health, poor metabolism, and low strength.
The Ideal Meal for Ayurvedic Diet: 6 Rasa
Ideally, a complete meal suitable for the Ayurvedic diet provides 6 types of tastes which are known as Rasa. The 6 Rasas, namely Madhura (sweet), Amla (sour), Lavan (salty), Tikta (bitter), Katu (pungent), and Kashaya (astringent) benefit the body psychologically. For instance, while madhura provides a wholesome satisfaction at the end of a meal, tikta can open your taste buds for distinctive flavours at the very beginning of the meal.
While this is often misunderstood that one needs to have different dishes for each different taste, you can just incorporate the 6 rasas in one single dish.
Advantages of Ayurvedic Diet
1. Ensures Good Digestive Health
It mainly focuses on maintaining good digestive health by providing nutrition to healthy gut bacteria, avoiding the general habits responsible for common digestive disorders, and including more and more fresh foods in your diet plan. Hence, it works in favor of better metabolism.
2. Boosts Immunity Power
A healthy digestive system promotes a better immune system and this diet teaches you everything you need for better digestion. It helps you in choosing foods especially suitable for your dosha and enables your body to fight chronic diseases more efficiently.
3. Supports Mental Health
The light food intake recommended helps in reducing anger, greed, and improves your ability in stress management. The psychological problems are often triggered by poor health, unhealthy eating habits and the Ayurvedic diet solves these issues with suitable foods, eating habits as per your needs.
Drawbacks of Ayurvedic Diet
- The diet does not essentially advise you on how much carbs or calories to consume on a daily basis. There are no such specific guidelines and you need to take a decision on how your body reacts to different foods.
- According to Ayurvedic practice, there are no foods considered completely off-limits. There’s no strict set of rules and no food is tagged as completely good or bad. It’s kind of your choice to make your own food choices as per your underlying health conditions.
This diet may not show quick results like other popular diet plans. But it is definitely one of the perfect solutions to stay fit and eat healthy in a long run. It does not restrict you to certain foods and focuses a lot on making you familiar with healthy habits. It is a holistic approach that looks after your overall health to make you more efficient and happy.