Most health issues arise from the quality and quantity of the food consumed.
Food is therefore the first important tool, from a material point of view, for the health of our body.
Knowing which foods to consume and how to associate them with each other and choose foods according to the constitutional characteristics is essential for maintaining an excellent state of health.
Ayurvedic diet benefits :
In Ayurveda, good health can be maintained by supporting and replenishing vital tissues (dhatu) when they need it, by means of an appropriate diet and regimen or by cleaning and removing any obstacles to purify the functioning of the system.
Ayurveda cuisine is based on cereals, legumes, vegetables and fruit, enriched by the use of spices according to the needs of each type of constitution.
The aromas, in fact, are never combined by chance, but according to their particular properties: digestive, toning, disinfectant, therapeutic.
Ayurvedic lifestyle :
Ayurveda teaches that every individual has the power to heal himself. In this way it offers everyone the opportunity to recover health through an understanding of their body and its needs.
Ayurveda teaches that food, once assimilated, is transformed during the metabolic process in seven successive stages, becoming in the order: Rasa (lymph), Rakta (blood), Mamsa (meat), Meda (fat), Asthi ( bones), Majja (bone marrow), shukra (reproductive cells).
Lymph is the nourishment of the glands that make up our endocrine system, so depending on the quality of the food we introduce, our glands will receive more or less adequate nourishment.
As we know the secretions of our glands determine our emotions and in the long term our personality, so if our glands receive the right nourishment, they will secrete positive hormones that will put our mind in a state of serenity and peace.
Furthermore, our physical body is continuously maintained and regenerated by food, so our physical health is also determined by the diet we lead.
Also Read : Principles of Ayurveda Cooking
Food can be divided into three categories:
- Sattvic (sentient) food that is good for both mind and body.
- Rajasic food (mutative or active) which can be beneficial for the body but not for the mind.
- Tamasic (static inert) food which is harmful to both body and mind.
- Fruit, dried fruit
- Vegetables, algae
- Legumes and cereals
- Rice, bread dough
- Milk and dairy products
- Light spices
- Seeds, salt
- Sugar, honey
- Tea of herbs, herbal teas
- Homeopathic remedies and natural products.
- Strong spices
- Black coffee and tea
- Carbonated drinks
- Allopathic medicines
- Meat, fish and derivatives of the latter
- Eggs, garlic, onions
- Alcohol, tobacco, drugs
- Spicy cheeses
- Foods that are not fresh or decaying
Rajasic food can become sattvic in those places where the temperature drops below freezing, while sattvic food becomes tamasic if ingested incorrectly or in excessive quantities.
A certain diet or specific drug will not be effective if they are taken reluctantly by the individual … They will only be effective when the person feels that by taking them they will be able to maintain their usual health or get rid of the disease they suffer from. (Susruta-Charaka)
Some tips for healthy eating and living:
- Food should always be fresh and of the best possible quality, tasty and pleasing to the eye. Food prepared by a calm and serene cook in pleasant surroundings will have the best influence
- Eat in a serene and joyful mood while always sitting comfortably. During meals, do not work, read or watch television and avoid eating if you are agitated. Avoid talking while chewing and try to be regular at meal times as well.
- Avoid eating between meals until the previous meal has been digested.
- Avoid drinking during meals as liquid drinks dilute gastric juices making digestion more strenuous.
- Do not eat too many different types of food in the same meal to avoid strain on digestion.
- For a balanced diet, include all six flavors (sweet, salty, bitter, sour, astringent, pungent) in the meal by using spices. According to the individual constitution or the season of the year, specific recommendations of Ayurvedic doctors can be considered.
- Check that the right nostril is open during and after a meal as it is linked to physical activity and metabolism. After lunch, sit quietly or lie on your left side for a few minutes to keep the right nostril open. After dinner, a short walk outdoors is preferable.
- Frozen foods and drinks should be avoided because digestion is a hot action. Introducing cold foods inhibits the digestion phase.
- Limit raw food to a minimum, cooked food (preferably well cooked) is much easier to digest.
- The diet should be set by an expert in Ayurvedic Medicine (vaidya) according to the individual constitution and the time of year.
Also Read : Ayurvedic Daily Regimen
What to do to balance Vata:
- Stay warm
- Choose foods and spices that bring heat (see later in the text)
- Avoid extreme cold and cold, icy foods or drinks
- Minimize your ration of raw foods, especially raw apples and those belonging to the cabbage family
- Moderate consumption of most legumes, with a few key exceptions (black lentils and mung beans)
- Be sure your food is warm, moist and well lubricated. Soups, hot drinks, and rice with a little oil or butter are some examples
- Accentuate sweet, sour and salty tastes in your food choices
- Maintain a regular routine
- Create an environment that is as safe, calm and peaceful as possible
What to do to balance Pitta:
- Stay cool
- Avoid excess heat, steam and humidity
- Avoid excess oils, fried foods, caffeine, salt, alcohol, red meats, and hot spices
- Increase the use of fresh fruits and vegetables
- Appreciate a lot of milk, fresh cheeses such as wholemeal ricotta
- Increase the sweet, bitter and astringent tastes in your food choices
- Staying in the fresh air a lot
- Have faith in your feelings and express them in a way that will help you and those around you
What to do to balance Kapha:
- Get enough physical activity every day
- Keep fat intake to a minimum, including fried foods
- Avoid frozen foods, sweets and excess amounts of bread
- Choose foods that are hot, light and dry
- Do not drink more than 4 cups of fluids per day
- Accentuate pungent, bitter and astringent tastes in your food and herbal choices
- Consume fresh vegetables, herbs and spices
- Get enough complex carbohydrates to support you and maintain adequate energy absorption
- Allow for as much excitement, challenges and changes in your life as possible
Rasa, Vipaka, Virya, Prabhava, Guna
Flavor, effects, special action, quality of food and drink
Rasa , the six flavors
According to Ayurveda there are six rasas or flavors:
Santarpak : flavors that increase body mass
- sweet or sour madhura or amla
- salty or lavana
Aptarpak : flavors that decrease body mass
- spicy or katu
- amaro or tikta
- astringent or kasaya
The different combination of the 5 elements in everything that exists in the universe gives rise to the different flavors. Flavors are the tangible expression of this different combination, what we eat provides the body with the 5 elements and flavors are the reference for understanding which elements we are supplying to the body.
Awareness of prakriti and the correct use of the flavors of food and drink allows you to maintain the correct balance of doshas, agni, dhatu and mala.
The six rasas contain all 5 elements, but some are present in higher quantities:
- Madhura , sweet prevalence of water and earth
- Amla acid prevalence of earth and fire
- Lavana , salty prevalence of water and fire
- Katu , spicy prevalence of fire and air
- Tikta , bitter prevalence of air and space
- Kasaya , astringent prevalence of earth and air
Effect on Doshas
An increase or imbalance in a dosha can be caused by the excessive use of a flavor, but if flavors that counteract this action are included in the diet, it will not cause the dosha to aggravate . For example, the sour taste increases pitta but if you mix in the bitter taste which instead relieves pitta , there will be no increase in pitta dosha which will remain balanced. Hence the importance of a right mix of flavors.
Vata: increased or unbalanced with spicy , bitter and astringent flavors , diminished or balanced with sweet , sour and salty flavors .
Pitta : increased or unbalanced by the spicy , sour and salty flavors , decreased or balanced by the sweet , bitter and astringent flavors
Kapha : increased or unbalanced by sweet , sour and salty flavors , decreased or balanced by spicy , bitter and astringent flavors .
Karma, the action of flavors
Madhura, sweet (rice, wheat, banana) prevalence of water and earth
Nature of madhura: reduces pitta, vata, promotes the elimination of toxins.
It is pleasant for the sense organs. Promotes tissue formation and gives strength and healthy appearance, is beneficial for skin and hair. It is vitalizing, greasy, cold and heavy.
If in excess or used alone: produces kapha disorders, in particular increases kapha causing obesity, increased fluids. An excess of madhura causes a tendency to oversleep, heaviness, loss of desire for food, decreased appetite, the mouth and throat lose the sense of taste. You may have difficulty breathing, mucus formation, fever with tremors. Other consequences of excess madhura are hard intestines (with little mobility), persistent sweet sensation in the mouth, nausea and vomiting up to loss of consciousness. The voice weakens, You may have swelling of the legs (water retention). Finally, other effects are pharyngitis, conjunctivitis, disorders of the bladder, arteries and throat.
Amla, acid (lemon, orange, tomato) prevalence of earth and fire
Nature of amla: enhances the flavor of food, stimulates agni (digestive fire), promotes body mass and gives energy. Awakens the mind and forms the sense organs, promotes strength. It reduces vata by being made of fire and earth. It is beneficial for the heart, stimulates the production of saliva, gives moisture to food and the body. Helps digestion. It gives satisfaction. It is light, greasy, warm.
If in excess or used alone: causes excessive sensitivity of the teeth, thirst. The eyes tend to stay closed. Aggravates pitta, has a harmful effect on the blood, gives the muscles a burning sensation.
Amla also creates body mass (because it contains earth as madhura-sweet). If there is a wound, the excess acid causes swelling in that area of the body to increase. It has the nature of fire, so it suppurates wounds, burns. It creates a burning sensation in the chest (heart and stomach).
Lavana, salty prevalence of water and fire
Nature of lavana: promotes digestion, moistens and makes humid. It can be defined as an “aperitif” in the sense that it stimulates the production of digestive enzymes in the stomach. It increases the “liquidity”, it makes the liquid flow out. For this reason it has expectorant and draining qualities. It breaks down solid things, so it’s a laxative. Create space and soften solid things. For example: in order to have an expectorant effect, you need to create space, soften the mucus and make it more fluid to be able to expel it. It removes the stiffness of the joints and decreases the firmness, if there is stiffness in the lumbar area, it can be massaged with a bag that contains various substances including salt, it is rubbed and thus relief is obtained.
It reduces all other rasa and covers all other flavors. Increase salivation.
It decreases vata, reduces kapha (makes it more liquid), clears the channels (srota) and softens all parts of the body. It gives food flavor, is greasy, hot and moderately heavy.
If in excess or used alone: increases pitta and disturbs the blood. Creates thirst, loss of consciousness, laceration of tissues, cracking of the skin (but not dryness). Increases the poisonous effect of toxins. It can cause tooth loss, damages sexual potency, kidneys, annoys the sense organs, creates wrinkles, gray hair, baldness, causes internal bleeding, gastritis, gout, eczema, alopecia.
Katu, spicy prevalence of fire and air
Cleans the mouth, stimulates digestion and facilitates the absorption of food. Causes discharge from the nose and eyes; clears the sensory organs; relieves the fecal residues of the colon. It makes you sweat; removes obstructions from channels. Relieves itching on the skin. It gives flavor to food. Relieves skin disorders (with or without itching). It is beneficial for wounds and aids in healing. It has an antibiotic-like effect (kills microorganisms with direct action). It makes the muscles “dry”, that is, it reduces and tones them, removing the fat. It gives firmness, density and tone to the muscle. Opens channels. Peaceful kapha. It is light, warm and rough.
If taken in the right measure, it gives tone, firmness and cleanses the sexual organs that work better
. The lack of katu gives a tendency to expand (fattening).
If in excess or used alone: damages sexual potency, gives mental confusion, depression, excessive thinness, fainting, feeling of darkness. It gives dizziness and dizziness. You may have a sore throat, body heat, loss of strength and increased thirst.
It produces vata disorders, especially in the feet, hands, back and hips (pain, burning, tension, tremors).
It reduces kapha, and increases vata and pitta.
Tikta, bitter prevalence of air and space
It is an antivenin, antitoxin, while salty increases the toxicity of toxins, bitterness decreases it.
Anthelmintic (kills worms). Relieves the burning sensation and the feeling of fainting. Relieves skin diseases, gives firmness to muscles and skin. It is antipyretic. It is an “aperitif” (like lavana, salty) and digestive. Purify breast milk. It has reducing qualities, absorbs moisture and fat, reduces muscles, marrow and lymph. Reduces the formation of pus, urine, feces, sweat.
Decreases pitta and kapha and increases vata. It is dry (opposite of oily), cold and light.
If in excess or used alone: it dries and reduces all tissues, dehydrates them. Determines lack of greasiness in the canals. It creates weakness, takes away strength and produces excessive thinness, mental confusion, dizziness, dry mouth. By determining an excess of vata, disturbances related to vata are observed.
Kasaya, astringent (kiwi, unripe persimmon) prevalence of earth and air
It has astringent, pacifying qualities, tends to reunify, has the quality of compressing. For example, it controls diarrhea, in the presence of fractures the astringent taste facilitates bone formation. It has the quality of healing wounds, it is absorbent, it reduces any release of liquids from the body. It reduces and consumes body fluids.
Kapha decreases, pitta decreases. Reduces rakta (blood), reduces all body fluids.
It is dry, cold, heavy.
If in excess: it dries and dries the mouth, causes heart pain, flatulence in the abdomen, gas formation during digestion, increases the air in the belly that is not expelled from the intestine. The voice does not come out clear. The skin of the face takes on a dark veil. It causes impotence. Creates constipation, reduces urine and feces. Creates roughness, thinness, thirst, joint stiffness.
Causes aggravation of vata, Causes paralysis, pain, spasms, convulsions.
Vipaka , post digestive effect or flavor
The taste perceived in the mouth by chewing a food or a herb can change after digestion, this post digestive flavor cannot be perceived by the tongue but it is possible to deduce its effect from what happens in the physiology, this effect is brought back to that normally exercised. from flavors, for this vipaka is defined as flavor. The flavors with digestion undergo a biotransformation and change into vipaka, from 6 rasas to 3 vipakas.
- Madhura vipaka, sweet : sweet and salty flavored substanceshave sweet vipaka . The effect is to increase kapha , they help to eliminate feces and urine, they increase the reproductive fluids, they have a heavy quality.
- Amla vipaka, acid : acid -tasting substanceshave acid vipaka . They increase pitta , help eliminate feces and urine, reduce reproductive fluids, have light quality.
- Katu vipaka , spicy : the spicy , bitter and astringent substances have spicy vipaka . They increase vata , retain feces and urine, reduce reproductive fluids, have light quality.
Virya, and nergy In
the process of extracting energy from food, the 3 vipakas change into virya, the active part of the food, energy or potency.
While vipaka is formed in the stomach and intestines, the transformation of vipaka into virya occurs at the cellular level, virya is the subtle energy extracted from food.
Virya can be of two types:
- Ushna virya , hot
- Sita virya , cold
Madhura vipaka, sweet, turns into sita virya, cold
Amla and katu vipaka, sour and spicy, turns into ushna virya, hot.
Substances with hot ushna virya produce a warming effect in the body, while substances with cold shita virya have a cooling effect.
Prabhava , particular
action There are substances which have a particular action of an unknown, incomprehensible and unthinkable nature. It is possible that two substances having rasa, virya and vipakaidentical have completely different actions, there are sweet foods with warm and not cold energy, foods with a cold nature that have reducing and non-expansive effects. For example: mint is spicy, but it has cold energy and not hot. Long pepper has a spicy taste and therefore ushna (hot) nature but does not have a reducing effect, it increases the mass of the tissues. The pomegranate has: seeds of an acidic taste, but vipaka is sweet and therefore has a cold and not hot action like acidic things.The basil which has heating energy has a cooling effect, in fact it is used in case of fever. Some herbs, when taken with different carrier substances ( anupan ), have a different action. For example, the seeds of Plantago psyllium ( isabgol) taken with yogurt help stop diarrhea, when taken with hot water they counteract constipation. This particular action which does not fall within the parameters of the effects of flavor, energy or the post digestive effect is called prabhava . The explanation for this effect is unknown.
Gunas , qualities of substances
Food, drinks and medicinal plants have 20 possible gunas , qualities, which are grouped into 10 pairs of opposites, one group has a reducing effect and its opposite increases.