Nutrition in Ayurveda

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Ayurveda, the ancient holistic system of medicine originating in India, places great emphasis on nutrition as a vital component of overall health and well-being. Ayurvedic nutrition focuses on the principle of balance and harmony, recognizing that food can nourish the body, mind, and spirit. With its deep-rooted wisdom and individualized approach, Ayurveda offers a unique perspective on nutrition that can promote optimal health and vitality. In this article, we will survey the fundamental principles of Ayurvedic nutrition and its relevance in today’s world.

Benefits of Ayurvedic Nutrition

Ayurvedic nutrition offers numerous benefits beyond mere sustenance. By following Ayurvedic dietary principles, individuals can experience improved digestion, increased energy levels, enhanced mental clarity, and overall well-being.

  1. Digestive Health: Ayurvedic nutrition promotes strong digestion, which is considered the cornerstone of good health. Through mindful eating, proper food combinations, and adopting specific cooking methods, Ayurveda aims to optimize digestion and nutrient absorption.
  1. Personalized Approach: Ayurveda acknowledges that each person is unique and requires an individualized approach to nutrition. By understanding one’s dosha and imbalances, Ayurvedic practitioners can recommend specific foods and dietary adjustments that address specific health concerns.
  1. Optimal Energy Levels: Ayurveda believes that food is not just a source of calories but also a means to nourish the body and generate vital energy (prana). By consuming fresh, seasonal, and whole foods, individuals can maximize their energy levels and experience increased vitality.
  1. Emotional and Mental Well-being: Ayurveda recognizes the mind-body connection and the impact of food on mental and emotional states. Certain foods can promote clarity, calmness, and emotional stability, while others may lead to restlessness or lethargy. Ayurvedic nutrition encourages the consumption of sattvic foods—pure, fresh, and balanced—to support emotional and mental well-being.
  1. Disease Prevention and Management: Ayurveda emphasizes the preventive aspect of healthcare. A balanced diet and lifestyle prevent diseases and maintain optimal health. Ayurvedic nutrition, tailored to individual constitutions, helps nourish the immune system, decrease inflammation, and support overall resilience.

Practical Tips for Ayurvedic Eating

Incorporating Ayurvedic nutrition principles into your daily life can be a transformative experience. Here are a few practical tips to get started:

  1. Know Your Dosha: Discover your dominant dosha (Vata, Pitta, or Kapha) by consulting an Ayurvedic practitioner or using online resources. Understanding your dosha will guide you in making appropriate dietary choices.
  2. Choose Fresh and Whole Foods: Opt for fresh, seasonal, and organic foods whenever possible. Avoid processed and canned foods, as they can disrupt the body’s natural balance.
  3. Mindful Eating: Practice mindful eating by savoring each bite and chewing your food thoroughly. Eating in a relaxed environment and avoiding distractions can enhance digestion and promote satisfaction.
  4. Cook with Ayurvedic Spices: Incorporate Ayurvedic spices like turmeric, cumin, coriander, ginger, and cinnamon into your cooking. These spices not only enhance flavor but also offer numerous health benefits.
  5. Follow Seasonal Eating: Adapt your diet to the changing seasons. Consume cooling foods in the summer, warming foods in the winter, and lighter foods during spring and autumn.
  6. Food Combining: Pay attention to food combinations for optimal digestion. For example, avoid consuming dairy products with fruits or mixing proteins with carbohydrates in the same meal.

The Doshas

The Foundation of Ayurvedic Nutrition: According to Ayurveda, each individual possesses a special combination of three biological energies or doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. These doshas govern various aspects of our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Understanding our dominant dosha(s) allows us to make informed dietary choices that support balance and harmony.

Vata: Individuals with a dominant Vata dosha tend to be creative, energetic, and enthusiastic. Warm, nourishing foods such as cooked grains, soups, and steamed vegetables are recommended to balance Vata. Healthy fats like ghee and sesame oil provide grounding and stability.

Pitta: Pitta dosha is associated with ambition, sharp intellect, and strong digestion. Pitta individuals benefit from cooling, hydrating foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Spicy, oily, or fried foods should be consumed in moderation to avoid excess heat.

Kapha: Kapha dosha embodies stability, strength, and endurance. Light and warming foods like legumes, spices, and bitter greens are recommended to balance Kapha. Reducing the intake of heavy, sweet, and oily foods can help maintain optimal Kapha balance.

The Six Tastes: A Balanced Approach (Word Count: 345) Ayurveda categorizes foods into six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, spicy, bitter, and astringent. Each taste has a distinct effect on the doshas and our overall well-being. A balanced meal should ideally include all six tastes in appropriate proportions.

Sweet: Promotes strength, nourishment, and calmness. Examples include grains, milk, dates, and sweet fruits like bananas.

Sour: Enhances digestion and stimulates appetite. Examples include citrus fruits, yogurt, vinegar, and fermented foods.

Salty: Improves hydration and promotes proper electrolyte balance. Examples include sea salt, seaweed, and salty cheeses.

Pungent: Stimulates digestion, circulation, and metabolism. Examples include chili peppers, ginger, garlic, and black pepper.

Bitter: Cleanses and detoxifies the body while improving digestion. Examples include leafy greens, turmeric, fenugreek, and bitter melon.

Astringent: Promotes absorption and toning of tissues. Examples include legumes, lentils, pomegranate, and green tea.

Food Combinations and Timing (Word Count: 312) Ayurveda emphasizes the importance of proper food combinations and timing for optimal digestion and assimilation of nutrients. Incompatible food combinations, such as mixing milk with sour fruits or combining milk and fish, can lead to digestive disturbances and the formation of toxins in the body. Eating in a calm and relaxed environment, without distractions, supports mindful eating and aids digestion.

Additionally, Ayurveda recognizes the significance of eating under the body’s natural rhythms. Consuming a light breakfast, a substantial lunch when digestion is strongest, and a lighter dinner allows the body to process and absorb nutrients effectively.

Digestive Fire – Agni

Agni, often called digestive fire, is essential for proper digestion and metabolism. Ayurveda emphasizes maintaining balanced agni for overall health. To strengthen agni, spices such as ginger, cumin, coriander, and fennel can be added to meals. Regular physical activity and avoiding overeating or eating heavy meals late at night support healthy agni.

Ayurvedic nutrition offers a holistic and personalized approach to nourishing the body, mind, and spirit. We can optimize our well-being by understanding our unique dosha constitution, incorporating the six tastes, respecting food combinations and timing, and supporting healthy agni. Ayurveda reminds us that food is not just fuel for the body but an essential component of our overall vitality. Embracing the wisdom of Ayurvedic nutrition can empower us to make conscious choices that support long-lasting health and harmony.

Here we discuss this with Jessica DeGore, an Ayurveda counselor, to get her thoughts on this topic.

All About Compatible & Incompatible Foods in Ayurveda

NourishDoc: Hello, everyone. Well, almost Friday now. Do we all know what kinds of foods can be incompatible? Well, Ayurveda has that answered, and that’s what we will discuss today with Jessica. Jessica is an Ayurveda counselor, yoga therapist, and massage therapist joining me live in Costa Rica. Welcome and namaste. Thank you so much, Jessica.

Ayurveda Counsellor Jessica: Namaste, thank you so much for having me. Yes, so incompatible food combining is something that I think is a really important topic. I also think it’s a topic people resist because many incompatible combinations are very yummy and tasty. So, it often breaks people’s hearts to hear these combinations, especially in certain cuisines like French cuisine or Italian; they often use many of these incompatible combinations.

So, when we say incompatible, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t taste good on the tongue, but what is happening is that the post-digestive effect it isn’t allowing our body to absorb and assimilate the nutrients that we’re taking in. So, for example, I find that one of the main incompatible foods that people combine is a fruit with other food. So, even if we were to try to take the fruit out of our main meals and use it just as a snack or a meal of its own, that would be a big help for our digestive system.

So, For example, lots of times people like to put fruit on their salads or fruits, salsas on their fish or chicken, or even fruit smoothies that are mixed with greens, even fruit and vegetables can be a bad combination, even fruit and nuts. So, for example, fruit and nut bars or granola, all those things. So, one exception to the rule is dates. Dates can be combined with nuts and things like that. So, if you want to add a bit of sweetness to your oatmeal.

For example, you can chop up dates. Instead of putting fresh blueberries on it. So, one of the largest red flags is when clients say, ” Yeah, I have for breakfast, I have such a healthy breakfast of yogurt, fruit, and granola, right? That’s one of the common-place healthy breakfasts that people have. Now, if you were to have the yogurt and granola, it would be fine, the fruit on its own, or even the fruit before you have the yogurt in granola.

So, that’s another thing you can do. Fruit is the main reason we can’t combine fruit with other foods because fruit digests quickly. Even if we have slow digestion, most of us have digested the fruit within 45 minutes, and it’s about to leave the stomach and go down into the rest of the GI tract. So, let’s say we have our fruit in Costa Rica; we have rice and beans for breakfast. So, let’s say you have your rice, beans, and fruit.

Well, then, it sits in the stomach, and the fruit will digest first, and then, it has to sit there and wait for the rice and beans to digest, which may take over an hour. So, in that window where the fruit is digested, it ferments with the stomach’s heat. It starts to ferment and create gases, and it may create bloating, and it just becomes what they say in undigestible wine. So then that sits there, and some people may not notice. It’s especially if they have strong digestive.

However, that will probably start happening for those with digestive weakness or a tendency to bloating, gas, and indigestion. So, then, that fermentation goes through the whole GI tract, and our body can’t absorb all of the nutrients of those rice and beans or that fruit’s nutrients. So if we were to eat those foods separately, we would be getting the full bioavailability of the nutrients we would assimilate it well, and when we’re eating it all together combined at one time, what happens is it becomes unprocessed, undigested food, which then turns into what we call alma or toxins.

So, then, those toxins will seep into the gut and the bloodstream and start creating other illnesses and diseases within the body, and it all starts a lot of our health; one of the main principles in Ayurveda is that our health begins in the gut. So, if our Agni or our digestive fire is weak, and we’re having a buildup of alma, that’s one of the main causes of disease. So, considering this is important, especially if we have digestive problems, as I said.

However, even if we don’t, even if we’re eating these things and not feeling the effects, we still consider it because that is building up within our system. So, one thing I often challenge my clients to do is to give it a try, try it out for themselves, try to separate the fruit from the rest of their food for ideally three weeks or a month to really give their body a break and then start introducing it back in and then, you may see the difference, right?

Because also what happens is our bodies get used to something. So, especially since we’ve grown up always having, let’s say, apples and cheese, which is a common thing, then your body just gets used to it. But that doesn’t mean it’s good for you either, right? So, once we, especially, separate these habits of our life and then we start bringing them back in, we can notice the differences and, interestingly enough, even fruits between themselves, you have to be careful about what we combine.

So, in Ayurveda, we have the Shad Rasa, the theory of the sixth taste. So, we’ve got sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent. Even between the taste, we must be careful about what we combine. So, one of the main ones is sweet with sour. So, if you think of banana, which we think on the tongue generally tastes pretty sweet but has a post-digestive effect.

So, we have what’s called the rasa, the taste on the tongue, and then we have the vipaka, which is the post-digestive taste. So, that becomes sour, and then, if we blend it with milk, a banana, or a milkshake which lots of American people have grown up drinking, that sweetness and the sourness of the banana caused a really bad effect in the post-digestive effect. So then that can start causing later in life things like arthritis and skin conditions and all that.

So it’s a simple, seemingly pretty healthy combination. People often put yogurt in with their smoothies or, as I said, even vegetables in with their fruit, so we must be careful about that. One thing we can think of is melons; they must be left alone. So there’s a saying that’s called eat melon alone or leave it alone, and one way I like to enjoy melon is just chopping it in half. Take out the seeds and eat half of the melon as a snack or meal. another red flag is these fruit salads. Right?

We may have mangoes in there. melon, we also have berries, grapes, and oranges, which all become a lot for the body to digest. Generally, we say we should have three or four fruits, which is more than enough at once. So, fruit and food, if we are going to take anything away from this talk, give that a try to separate the two. So, what I like to do is have, like I said, fruit as a snack or fruit like a pre-breakfast, if you’re we’re coming into spring and summer in the northern climate, so maybe some raw fruit will be okay.

However, especially in the fall and winter, something that’s great is cooked apple or pear where you would chop up an apple or a pear, put it with a little bit of water in a saute pan with two cloves and then just cook it for about a minute and then, eat that and that’s your pre-breakfast before you would have something more substantial about half an hour 45 minutes later. Same thing, it’s very popular to have fruit as dessert, right? Yummy passion fruit pie, so just try to wait about an hour after dinner to have that fruit dessert, 45 minutes to an hour.

It is a good reason if you want to have some chocolate dessert instead. You can have that right after dinner. Nice excuse for some chocolate. But it was funny because I always asked my teachers when I was in school. Okay, so what about like nuts and raisins? Well, that’s fruit and fruit, like anything; if you doubt if you’re asking, what about this combination? If it’s fruit and food, probably it’s not going to be okay. So, one exception to the rule, too, is that we can use spices.

So, suppose you’re going to create, for example, a baked oatmeal or something where you want to put some fruit in it. In that case, you could use ginger, cinnamon, clove, and cardamom, those digestive-enhancing spices that will help digest that incompatible food combination. Suppose you ever do overeat or have an incompatible food combination. In that case, you can have some digestive tea to balance it out. There will be some remedies you can use.

However, we want to avoid those circumstances as much as possible another common incompatible food combination is cheese with beans or eggs, especially in Latin America. They often combine beans and cheese in Europe, Canada, and the US; I think that eggs and cheese are a great combination. cheese and meat like any dairy and meat, so whether it’s fish and yogurt or a cheeseburger, that is a not ideal food combination, and if we’re talking about veg or non-veg diet. We want to avoid putting too many proteins altogether.

So, the bacon on the cheeseburger or even just having what we call, let’s say, like a Buddha bowl where maybe you have your quinoa. Then, you have some tofu, and then you have some edamame beans. Then, you’ve got some nuts, seeds, and chickpeas on there as well, and at the end of the day, that’s a lot of different proteins altogether. So, that can also be very hard to break down and digest.

We are just trying to think of the most common ones we want to avoid because we can get into the nitty-gritty and even try to avoid having too many proteins and carbs together, especially regarding non-vegetarian proteins with carbs. We want to try and have non-vegetarian protein with vegetables. Regarding vegetarian proteins, we want to ensure that we have a whole grains with the beans.

So, for example, moong beans and rice create a complete amino acid profile together where if we’re to have mung beans on their own, it doesn’t have to be in the same meal, but for sure, within the same day. So, let’s say you have some mung bean soup for breakfast, and then later at night, you were to have some rice with your veggies and dal, right?

o, as long as you have some rice and beans within the same day, but if you look at any of these ancient cultures, especially the cultures in the blue zones, which I’m actually in one of the blue zones here, in the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica, where there are lots of people living over a hundred. These cultures always have the bean and rice combination.

So, I think it’s becoming increasingly popular to avoid carbohydrates to a certain extent. However, I don’t think it’s always necessary. I think it’s just what are we combining the carbon carbohydrates with, right? So, it is key to have them at the right time with the right combination.

NourishDoc: All right, there are a lot of interesting things. We never thought banana shakes could do all kinds of things in our stomachs, right? We are also used to drinking banana shakes, and that’s considered healthy according to anybody, right? Western diet, or any diet for that matter.

Okay, this is a quick ten-minute session that we bring daily. We will follow up on this topic in the workshop, which we will release as a subscription-based model between April and May. So, stay tuned and keep supporting us. Thank you so much. Namaste, and thank you, Jessica.


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