The Essence of Ayurvedic Nutrition
Ayruvedic mastermind Christina Mauracher explains the philosophy that underpins Ayurvedic nutrition and how Holistic Ayurveda helps us to integrate its principles into our western way of life.
Ayurveda distinguishes six flavours – sweet, sour, salty, pungent (spicy), astringent and bitter – which are generated by a food’s dominant element and that have aggravating or pacifying effects on the person, depending on their dominant Dosha. An Ayurvedic diet boosts your Ojas – or essence of vitality – which strengthens the body’s defences and vital functions. Metabolism and digestion are also important for a strong Ojas. This is where the Panchakarma and Rasayana treatment programmes can be extremely helpful.
Ayurveda accepts meat as food and even recommends it as therapy for people who need physical and mental stamina, or who are convalescing after prolonged illness. The guidelines are that you should choose quality over quantity, paying attention to welfare standards. Fish and poultry are preferable.
Carbohydrates, which are central to the Ayurvedic diet, are converted into sugars as soon as you start to chew. These sugars are polysaccharides, which consist of several complex sugar chains and, together with amino acids and fats, are vital to all physical functions and many mental functions. However, refined sugar and white flour are not part of this group, so you should avoid them and opt instead for whole carbohydrates such as wholegrain flour.
We are each born with different constitutions or Doshas. The individuality of the Doshas is determined by the elements. Vata, for instance, is dominated by the element of air, while fire dominates Pitta and Kapha is controlled by water.
According to Ayurvedic teachings, good health requires the Doshas to be in balance. This equilibrium is affected by our diet and lifestyle, and the foods we eat are also each dominated by the elements. Sweet foods (carbohydrates) are associated with the elements of earth and water, sour foods with the elements of fire and earth, and so on.
A balanced, Dosha-appropriate meal should therefore contain opposing elements. Broccoli soup, for example, is bitter, astringent and sweet. Adding spices make it hot and salty.
The first step is to get to grips with basic Ayurvedic principles and implement them at every level of our lives, including nutrition, ensuring that everything we do works with our constitutional type. When you live in line with Ayurveda principles, health and happiness can be achieved through lifestyle and nutrition. It’s up to us to make the right decisions. Our intuition tells us what is good for us and what is not, and it is up to us whether we choose to ignore or heed our inner voice. To change our eating habits, we first need to arrive at this insight before embarking on a thorough study of nutrition.
We again refer to Ojas, the primal life force. By aligning our diet along Ayurvedic principles, we can attain the best possible Ojas. The results are enhanced zest for life, improved sex drive, and deep emotional and psychological contentment. A balanced intake of the six tastes brings about positive feelings, while an unbalanced intake has a negative effect on body and mind.
|At least 2l||water or vegetable stock|
|1 tbsp each||coriander, cumin, turmeric and black pepper|
nimble, quick, light, cold, subtle, rough, dry, not viscous
Vata is life force itself and, so, is the most powerful of the bioenergies. Vata is located in the bladder, the large intestine, the legs, the head, the chest, the throat, the stomach, the navel, the heart and the circulatory system. When Vata is out of balance, disorders are quick to follow. It controls the processes of movement, emotions, nourishment (eating, drinking and breathing), retention and elimination, preservation of bodily tissues as well as sensual and mental activity.
hot, spicy, sour, penetrating, light, mildly oily, piercing/sharp
Pitta, located in the lower third of the stomach, the duodenum, the navel, the blood, the eye, the skin, the liver, the heart, the head and the spleen, is mostly determined by the element of fire. Pitta regulates the metabolism and controls the digestive system, body temperature, skin pigmentation and the intellect. A person’s emotional expression and presence are also regulated by Pitta.
heavy, greasy, slow, robust, smooth, firm, sluggish, gross
Kapha ensures cohesion and stability in the body. The seat of Kapha is in the head, the chest, the stomach, the tongue, the mouth and in the joints. It is responsible for growth and regeneration, for strength, stability, body weight, the skin’s radiance and the body’s ‘lubrication’.