Whilst the basic elements of a healthy balanced diet regime comprising fibre-dense grains, fresh fruit, vegetables and nuts remain the same, an ayurvedic diet also outlines the specific foods which must be included or avoided as per the existing doshas in an individual. Such a personalised diet with a holistic approach ensures optimum health and vitality.
Ayurvedic Diet Principles
As per ayurvedic classification, our body’s metabolism is governed by three doshas or characteristic body humours which determine our physiology, temperament and risk to diseases. It is believed that the Panch Tatva i.e. jal, vayu, agni, aakash and prithvi make up our body and the way they work in our body is described as doshas, namely Vaata, Pitta and Kapha . Each dosha constitutes a combination of any two Tatva or elements and the two most predominant dosha decide the ‘Prakruti’ of an individual. This unique doshic thumbprint must be maintained and any imbalance or ‘vikriti’ in the dosha levels results in ailments. An ayurvedic practitioner analyses the individual’s prakruti, dosha tendencies, degree of ama (or toxins) and the strength of digestive fire before designing a customised ayurvedic diet.
Certain basic principles of an ayurvedic diet regime are:
A meal must include the six rasas or flavours like sweet (madhur), salty( lavana), sour (amla), pungent (tikha), bitter ( katu) and astringent (kasahaya). Each flavour or taste enjoys a unique impact on different doshas. Vaata is pacified by sweet, sour and salty foods; kapha by bitter, pungent and astringent foods and pitta by sweet, pungent and astringent foods. But it is not as simple as a formula! For instance, eating more of vaata pacifying foods by a vaata person may aggravate his kapha dosha and again create imbalance. So moderation is the key.
3 Types of Diet
Based on the basic quality of a diet and its impact on the mind and temperament, the ayurvedic diet can be -
i) Sattvic Diet- This is the purest of all diets and aids in nourishing the body and maintaining a peaceful state of mind. Sattvic foods get `digested easily’ and aid in building immunity and improving strength. It consists of foods that are fresh and closest to their natural forms. Sattvic foods include whole grain cereals, fresh fruit and vegetables, pure fruit juices, cow’s milk, ghee, legumes, nuts, seeds, sprouted seeds, honey, and herb teas.
ii) Rajasic Diet (diet based on animal proteins, rich and spicy foods) - Rajasic foods are fresh but `heavy’ to digest. Those who indulge in heavy physical activity should eat this type of food.
iii) Tamasic Diet (includes fermented foods, refined foods made from maida, deep fried, spicy and salty processed foods). These foods perpetuate laziness and an intolerant temperament.
Ayurvedic Diet Plan
Food is considered as the ‘prana’, the life force carrier, and is judged by prana’s quality and how it affects the conscious self. An ultimate ayurvedic diet must follow these guidelines.
- Organic foods are recommended for their vitality and purity and eating leftovers is strongly discouraged.
- Include lightly spiced and stir fried vegetables such as beets, gourds, spinach, cabbage, broccoli, carrots, and sweet potatoes.
- Whole and fresh fruit like apples, apricots, bananas, berries, dates, grapes, melons, lemons, mangoes, oranges, peaches and plums must be consumed every day.
- Milk, buttermilk, fresh homemade cottage cheese (paneer), and curd are recommended.
- Consume healthy seeds such as flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, sesame seeds, and their oils. Easy to digest legume choices are yellow gram (moong and chana dal), soybean, sprouts and lentils.
- Pure honey and jaggery must replace white sugar as a sweetener and whole grains must be preferred over refined grains like maida and maida products.
- Avoid overcooked, undercooked, burnt, unripe, over-ripe, putrefied or stale foods completely. It often takes discipline and consistent effort to adopt an ayurvedic diet but the peace of mind, strength and immunity attained surely makes it worthwhile.