Chef Emilie explains the basic components of the Indian holistic medicine system known as ayurveda, and the way in which a balanced diet can promote harmony in both the mind and body.
What Is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda is an ancient Indian holistic approach to medicine. This form of medicine is about intelligence and awareness. It operates on the belief that health and happiness are nourished and sustained by proper food and attitude. Physical, mental, and emotional health are all significantly affected by the foods we choose to consume and the diets we maintain. Natural foods prepared with love and awareness cultivate health in both the body and mind. Foods with toxins place a strain on your organs that work to remove those toxins. And since your body is connected to your mind, it is also placed under stress to digest and remove toxins, affecting your emotional state. Ayurveda teaches that the right diet is the foundation of health.
What Are Doshas?
Ayurveda categorizes the body into three doshas, or constitutions: vata, pitta and kapha. Each of these constitutions connects to the elemental forces that influence nature and human beings. The universe is made up of five elements: space, wind, fire, water and earth. They interact together to make the doshas. Vata refers to wind and ether. Pitta connects to fire and water. Kapha embodies water and earth. It is simple to determine your dosha by seeing an Ayurvedic practitioner (or even taking a few quizzes online). Once you determine your dosha, you can start to learn how to balance it!
How Do I Balance My Dosha?
Ayurveda diets are personalized, based on an individual’s constitution. This constitution is also subject to shifting with the seasons; so, even if you establish a regular Ayurvedic diet, it will change from season to season as you are affected by different elements. When choosing which foods are harmonizing, it is useful to consider the following: your constitution, the season, weather, time of day, quality of the food, and attitudes at the time of hunger.
12 Guiding Principles to eating Ayurvedically :
1. Ayurveda honors Mother Earth and respects all of her creatures. As such, an Ayurveda diet does not include meat products or eggs. Some ayurvedic diets permit fish. As for eggs, if your eggs are not fertilized and the hens are treated well, then they are permitted.
2. Eat in a harmonious and happy environment! This means in a space (physical or emotional or both!) that brings you joy.
3. Do not eat when you are emotionally upset. Anger, frustration, sadness or other negative emotional states impact your ability to enjoy and digest food. If you’re not in a good emotional state, try taking a few deep breaths before eating, and thinking of your happy place! Visualisations are powerful tools for changing your mental state.
4. Always eat sitting down, so your body is relaxed and ready for digestion.
5. Check in with your hunger level before eating. Ask yourself, on a scale of 1-5 where 1 is very hungry and 5 is not hungry, where do you fall? This practice cultivates a sense of awareness before you dive into your meal. Eat to meet your hunger level, taking time to chew well and savor.
6. Eat until about ¾ full (the most challenging one!) This takes practice. Try eating until you feel almost full, but like you could still eat a little more. Then wait 20 minutes and see how you feel. It takes 20 minutes for our stomachs to realize that it’s filling up and send that message to the brain. If you’re still hungry 20 minutes after you’ve eaten most of your meal, then have a bit more.
7. Drink small amounts of warm liquids when eating. Liquids should not be cold! Cold liquids stop digestion.
8. Choose to eat primarily cooked foods rather than uncooked foods. Some raw food is fine, but the main portion of your meal should be cooked.
9. Take five minutes after the meal to rest. This could involve sitting at the table and contemplating the food you’ve just enjoyed and relaxing for a bit.
10. Eat your main meal at midday. Our bodies digest best between the hours of 12-2pm.
11. Do not eat until the previous meal has been digested. Usually about 3-4 hours depending on your metabolism.
12. Last but not least: enjoy what you eat! Take a second to think about all the hands that the food you’re about to eat has passed through, and all the effort that it took for that food to grow. Eat in appreciation of this effort, being grateful for each seed that sprouted into something edible, each ray of light, drop of rain, and human hand that went into bringing you your meal. You are blessed!
Here are some of Chef Emilie’s favorite recipes:
Note: PLEASE consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet or medications. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only, and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.