Ayurveda is a holistic healing system that dates back thousands of years. There are many overlaps between functional nutrition and Ayurveda. More importance is placed on disease prevention along with optimal appetite and digestion. According to this ancient practice, imbalances in appetite and digestive capacity will throw everything else off, which can then lead to disturbances in immunity, metabolism, accumulation of excess body fat, toxins and other inflammatory conditions. Below is an introduction to the some of the basic tenets of Ayurveda and how we can apply them to our own wellness philosophy and approach to total health.
Food is prepared with love and joy
This touches on the importance of mindful eating. Savoring the time it takes to prepare good meals for ourselves and loved ones leads to a greater appreciation for our food. We then get more pleasure from eating with each bite. When we take more time to eat mindfully we eat more slowly and allow our food to be digested more effectively and nutrients are absorbed more efficiently. Much emphasis is placed on flavor and should appeal to all of our senses. Liberal use of spices and herbs are also utilized to not just enhance flavor but support various imbalances.
We are all unique and need personalized interventions for optimal balance
No general guidelines here. What will be recommended in an Ayurvedic approach depends on your body type and that is determined by an extremely detailed assessment which indicates what your Dosha is. Doshas are the types of energy that are expressed through our physical appearance, personality, how we move, metabolize food, what chronic diseases we may be susceptible to and so many other things that make up our unique self. The objective is not just to find symptoms and treat them. The whole person is taken into account – beliefs, behaviors, health history, etc.. Sound familiar? While more targeted medicinal treatments might be used for different conditions, food is also used as medicine along with botanicals and other lifestyle therapies such as yoga and meditation.
Embrace seasonal eating
The thought behind this belief is that eating foods that have opposite qualities of the environment will help counteract the negative effects of each individual season. Enjoy what nature already provides for you in your local surroundings. This usually means having cool fresh berries, raw salads and lighter fare in the warmer seasons and warm, cooked, heartier comfort food in the colder months. While it is not possible for most of us to subsist on ONLY local food year round, we can still make an effort to include more food grown in our community to support farmers closer to home and contribute to more sustainable food systems. Besides, eating the same foods year round is boring and gets us into ruts.
Practice mindfulness of our internal and external environment
Be aware of what you put into your body. Your body is your temple, so nourish it with real food instead of polluting it with processed chemicals and additives. Creating an external environment that is nurturing and supports our physical and emotional health is also encouraged.
A healthy diet isn’t just about WHAT we eat
How MUCH we eat, WHEN we eat, and HOW it is prepared should also be considered. Instead of focusing on a single food look at overall eating patterns. Meals should have enough time in between to allow for adequate digestion. Eating the largest meal of the day for lunch is also recommended since it is believed that this is when our digestive system is running at its highest capacity. It also allows for more time to metabolize a heavier meal the rest of the day.
Regardless of where you come from or how you identify yourself spiritually, these are timeless concepts we can all live by in the modern world for a healthy mindset, wider outlook, and appreciation and awareness for our food and environment– which leads to so many other things that enlighten us and improve ourselves physically and emotionally.