The Ayurvedic Approach to Eating Natural Foods

Date Posted:1 March 2012 

Ayurveda, India's ancient science of life, dates back to over five thousand years and still holds as true today as it did when it was developed by sages known as Rishis. The Rishis were masters at observation and meditation, and they used those skills to develop a philosophy of life and healing based on the five basic elements found within the universe – air, earth, ether or space, fire, and water. The five elements and their different combinations create the three doshas – Kapha, Pitta, and Vata. Each person consists of a constitution, or dosha. They may be predominately one dosha or have a constitution exhibiting multiple doshas.

By knowing and understanding your dosha, you release important knowledge regarding how to prevent disease, how to best purify and cleanse your body, how to promote healing within your body, how to exercise, how to cook your food, and which foods to eat. Unlike conventional approaches to nutrition, the Ayurvedic science does not recommend just one type of diet for all people. Although this type of diet focuses on eating natural foods, it is unique and customized depending on your individual makeup.

The main goal of an Ayurvedic diet is to nourish the seven dhatus, or body tissues, which include sexual fluids, bone and marrow, fat, muscle, flesh, blood, and lymph. When each of the tissues is fed and nourished properly, it forms the next in succession. When one system is out of balance, it is like a domino effect and will affect all systems.

Food plays a dominant role in Ayurveda. It is not used solely to feed the body, but it is also used to maintain balance within the doshas, as a means of healing, and a way to nourish the mind and soul as well. Food can affect your feelings and your conscious thoughts; it can create a feeling of bliss or anger depending on how you prepare the food and which foods you eat.

According to Ayurveda, one of the main ways to support the healing process and maintain balance is through reestablishing constitutional balance and eliminating toxins. In order to achieve this, Ayurveda emphasizes the necessity of herbal nutrition, eating natural foods, proper food choices, food combinations, cooking methods, and the time of day when each meal is eaten, according to the dosha type of the individual.

Ayurvedic foods should be organic, grown as locally as possible, and free of harmful chemicals, preservatives, pesticides, and unnatural ingredients. While eating natural foods is important, it is also essential to eat natural foods that are right for your dosha type. Nutrition from an Ayurvedic approach takes many things into account, such as shad rasa, or the six tastes, the medicinal value of certain foods, spices and herbs, and the effect of each on the doshas.

According to Ayurveda, foods are categorized into three categories – Sattvic, Rajasic, and Tamasic. Each category of food has a different effect on the mind and on the body.

Sattvic

Sattva is defined by goodness and purity, and its foods are those that are pure, wholesome, and clean. The Sattvic diet emphasizes eating natural foods that give life, energy, and cultivate self-determination. Examples of foods that promote Sattva are fresh vegetables and fruits, fresh fruit juices, salads, red rice, fresh cow's milk, herbal teas, honey, nuts, spices, ghee, and meals cooked fresh at home.

Rajasic

Rajasic foods are fresh, but heavy, such as eggs, chicken, meat and fish, hot spices, and vegetables like onions and garlic. Rajasic foods are nutritious and should be cooked fresh in a calming environment. Rajas induces action and energy. Other foods that promote rajas include basmati rice, sour cream and other fermented foods, pickles, and vinegar.

Tamasic

A tamasic diet leads to stagnation, lethargy, and ultimately denigration of an individual's health. Individuals who consume too many tamasic foods have mood swings, outbursts, unhealthy desires, insecurities, anxiety, depression, and are unable to find the balance within their lives. Tamasic foods include alcohol, foods prepared with a microwave, not fresh foods, drugs, caffeine, too much white sugar and white flour, and greasy or fried foods.

Ayurvedic foods and the approach to nutrition is more than just eating natural foods, it is a lifestyle approach from the foods you choose to how they are prepared and how they affect your individual constitution.