Ayurveda recognizes that a vast majority of diseases are caused and/or exacerbated by improper digestion and metabolism. Despite the fact that food is life-sustaining, many of us see cooking and eating as a chore. We choose dining out over lovingly preparing nutritious meals at home. Our understanding and relationship with food has been reduced to comfort, calories, and convenience.
For some, food is a comfort and solace, a way to derive pleasure and keep out the pain. Others, treat food as something to be shunned, controlled, or simply ignored.
These reactions, though initially an effective coping mechanism can, if perpetuated, become an unconscious habit that may eventually lead to discomfort and dis-ease. In the Ayurvedic system of nutrition, the person is considered first. Individuals are classified according to three body types or doshas Vata, Pitta, Kapha. Your body type in turn determines how your body functions.
For example, Vata types, usually don't have any routines around food and eating. They tend to eat on the go and develop irregular digestive fire and a tendency towards dryness and constipation. They can become so excited by what they are doing, or engrossed with the task at hand that time simply slips away. When they do eat, they often resort to sugary or caffeinated foods or a large quantity of food, quickly. The sugar gives a short burst of energy, only to be followed by a slump, often accompanied by bloating and gas.
Balance can be achieved by eating four to six small meals per day. All food and drinks should be consumed hot, especially in colder months. Avoid foods which are low-fat, raw, dry (crackers, chips) or cold (salads, frozen, iced drinks). Rather they should choose hot cereals, warm drinks, soups, stir-fry’s, cooked root vegetables, greens, fish, meat, poultry and oils like olive or coconut. They would experience physical, mental, and emotional benefits from sitting down, thoroughly chewing their food and making eating more of a practice than a mindless activity, race, or something to do while multitasking.
Pitta types have a very strong digestive fire. They get hungry and they get hot! They love routines around food and like to eat on a set schedule. Never separate a pitta from their food. Due to the fire element, their metabolism is high and they like to eat large quantities of food. It is essential for Pittas to eat regular meals and snacks. When they are out of balance they are usually attracted to hot spicy foods which can result in hyperacidity and loose stools. Rather Pitta’ should choose from cooling foods such as dairy, grains, legumes, juicy fruits and plenty of green vegetables. They should avoid, spicy, rich, fried, excessively oily or processed foods. Pitta’s can eat small amounts of red meat and sea food. Chicken and turkey are wise choices. The Pitta constitution can easily tolerate small amounts of cold drinks especially in summer.
Kapha types have a low digestive fire and slow metabolism. They can go for long periods of time without food and maintain a steady emotional set point. If they eat heavy, rich foods, they feel nauseas, heavy and sleepy. Kaphas can easily forgo breakfast, instead choosing spicy tea made with fresh ginger, honey, and lemon. Lunch should be the largest meal and dinner something small such as soup or a salad. Good food choices are spicy, hot foods such as Mexican and Indian, especially in winter. Cooked food is best. They should enjoy green vegetables and cooked grains, such as quinoa and barley, legumes, (lentils, mung beans etc.), and small amounts of meat. Avoid rich, creamy, sugary foods and try to eat smaller portions.
I’ll bet this all sounds pretty reasonable, like something you intuitively knew. As the old saying goes, “If we act wisely and choose real food, health and vitality prevails.”
And who doesn’t want that?!