Updated: Oct 1
In this blog which is a part of series of blogs on diet and weight management, Meena Puri , Ayurvedic Practitioner explains how food has been used to heal, to prevent disease and to promote good health and longevity. 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. We can use some basic concepts to understand the bigger picture of food and nutrition and its effect on the body. This will help us in eating healthy and thus maintaining a healthy weight.
1. Energy: 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 is just because it is stimulating our taste buds, but the energy or the 'prana' in the food
is missing so we continue to eat.
2. Quality: 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.
3. Tastes: 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 curb the cravings.
The taste that is over consumed is sweet and the taste that is under consumed is bitter. The taste that is missing in the modern diet is the bitter taste and that may be one of the contributing factors for over consumption 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 effects on the body. Over consumption of sweet taste is inflaming. Bitter taste cools the body.
4. Digestibility: We are what we digest! One of the pillars of health in Ayurveda is strong digestion. Ayurvedic literature is filled with ways to power up the digestion, by using herbs, spices, combinations of meals and 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, but also can we digest the life experiences or do we push them into the subconscious where it effects our health. Pay attention to your emotions during the meal and notice the effect on digestion. For example if you had negative emotions while having the meal you may notice discomfort or indigestion. It is a good idea to tune in to how you feel after a meal so you can adjust your diet accordingly. 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.
5. Emotionality : 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 feeling low and down. Emotions effect our ability to digest the food and our 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 necessary 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.
If you eat spicy food when you are angry and intense, it will make you angrier and more intense. So, you want to opt for calming and soothing food.
6. Consciousness: 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.
When we understand these Ayurvedic Principles and use food as medicine, we can attain a Healthy Weight as a by-product.
About the contributor : Meena Puri is the founder of Ayurvedic Healing Center LLC and brings over 35 years of Yoga and Ayurveda experience to her practice. She comes from a lineage of Ayurvedic Doctors and is the author of #1 Best Seller “Healing Your Relationship with Food: The Ayurveda Answer”
About the Blog Editor - Dr Sujal Panchal, MD is a pediatrician practicing in Riverview, MI
Disclaimer - This blog is for informational purposes only. For any specific treatment questions please contact your Healthcare Provider.