Eating is, in a way, a participation in the creative process of nature. The food we eat helps by providing material for building new cells for the skin, stomach lining etc. The mode of eating is also of importance. For instance, eating too quickly could lead to indigestion or overeating which makes us vulnerable to various diseases.
Ayurveda believes that every individual has his or her own need for balance and that the food we eat should actually help in maintaining a body balance, and in increasing body immunity. Ayurvedic physicians usually design individual diet to people based on their age, gender, the weather, place of residing, and the individual body types. However, the general principles for an ayurvedic diet are as follows:
- Including all six tastes at every main meal. The six tastes include sweet, salt, bitter, astringent, sour and pungent.
- Foods should be chosen by balancing one’s physical attributes
- Foods chosen should be Sattvic
- The diet should include fresh, seasonal, whole, nutritious foods
- Menus should be rotated and a variety of foods can be tried.
- Herbs and spices should essentially be a part of regular diet
An ayurvedic diet also categorizes food into light, heavy, warm and dry depending on various body types (doshas). Though, the general principle is to include foods belonging to all these categories in the main meal, one can vary the proportions based on individual constitution.
While warm foods that are unctuous, liquid and heavy are recommended for Vata types, dry, cool and heavy foods are suggested for Pitta types and dry, light and warm foods are recommended for kapha constitution individuals. However, this can be further modified depending on the weather conditions. For example in winter when vata dosha tends to increase, almost everyone, irrespective of body types, can include whole milk, nourishing dhals, Paneer, cheese, and warm soups in the diet. Similary in summer eating more soothing and cool foods helps in balancing the Pitta dosha.
Ayurveda strongly recommends use of spices and herbs as a part of regular diet, as they stimulate absorption, digestion and assimilation and can be taken prior to, or during or after a meal. They are also believed to cleanse toxins from the body. Spices can be sautÃ©ed in olive oil and poured over cooked foods, or can be simmered with grains and beans as they cook. Fresh herbs such as mint, cilantro etc can be added directly while serving.