Ayurveda – A Personalized Guide to Good Health and Nutrition
by Stacey Tress
Part 2 to previous article, Increase Your Prana with a Vegetarian Diet, in Nov/Dec ’16 issue.
To some people health is the absence of disease. Others, however, consider health to be a dynamic, vital state of optimal function. True health is freedom from disease plus energy, joyfulness, and profound vitality. Proper exercise, dietary practices, and meditation can create the balance that results in brilliant health. This article will go over the traditional natural healing system of India—Ayurveda.
The science of ayurveda, like the science of yoga, was inspired and developed by the great masters and seers of ancient India. The origins of ayurveda and yoga have common roots and play a highly complementary role in spiritual evolution and the maintenance of physical well-being and vitality. Ayurveda is perhaps the oldest science of life, a system of diet, healing, and health maintenance that is deeply spiritual in origin. It is not confined to the healing of disease in a superficial treatment of symptoms, but instead it evaluates the complete body-mind of the individual.
Ayurveda sees medicine and diet as complementary rather than separate. No one can expect to retain vitality, recover from disease, or succeed in the practice of yoga without the appropriate knowledge of the powerful effect diet has on physical health, mental clarity, and spiritual progress. This holistic approach to health allows you to become a balanced, vital, happy person with the least amount of effort.
Indian cooking is based upon the therapeutic principles of the ancient ayurvedic science of life. Indian cooking uses many spices from cardamom to cayenne—and these spices with freshly cooked foods could even alleviate addictions to stimulants such as coffee and sugar!
According to this ancient practice, foods have therapeutic properties which are defined largely by the energetics of taste or rasa. As part of the science of yoga, it teaches us to primarily eat sattivc food. Sattivc food is defined as food that is vegetarian, fresh, cooked in the appropriate manner, and not overly spiced or oily.
Ayurvedic Body Types—Discovering Your Constitution
The three ayurvedic body types, or doshas, are vata, pitta, and kapha. Each dosha has a unique set of characteristics. There are several ways to determine your body type, but the more convenient way for many would be to take an Ayurvedic Quiz, as even this will provide tremendous insight into your principal dosha. Many books on ayurveda offer this quiz including (you can source online; try this quiz: www.doctoroz.com/quiz/ayurvedic-body-type-find-your-dosha, borrow a book from the library—see below list, or come see me for a personalized consult):
The Ayurvedic Cookbook by Amadea Morningstar
Textbook of Ayurveda by Vasant Lad
Perfect Health by Deepak Chopra
Most people are a combination of two doshas, but one typically dominates. Once you have determined your dosha, read up on some recommendations for each constitution.
The Kapha Dosha
Kapha is typically the largest of the body types. Physically, they have wide hips/shoulders, thick wavy hair, and good physical stamina. Mentally, kapha types tend to be slow to learn, but they have great memories. Emotionally, they tend to be very loyal, stable, and reliable—they are often referred to as the “rocks” in a relationship.
Out of balance, kapha individuals have a tendency toward sinus congestion, poor circulation, and sluggish digestion that can lead to obesity.
To Balance Kapha:
1) Get plenty of physical activity everyday
2) Keep your consumption of fat to a minimum, including fried foods
3) Avoid iced foods and drinks, sweets, and excessive amounts of bread
4) Choose foods which are warm, light, and dry
5) Drink no more than four cups of fluid per day
6) Emphasize pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes in your food and herb choices
7) Luxuriate in fresh vegetables, herbs, and spices
8) Get enough complex carbs to sustain you and maintain an adequate energy intake
9) Allow excitement, challenge, and change into your life as much as possible.
The Pitta Dosha
Pitta individuals are typically of medium build. Physically, they have good muscle tone, have a tendency to always feel warm, have premature graying hair or balding, have reddish complexions, enjoy high energy levels, and have really strong digestion—they can eat almost anything. Mentally, they are extremely intelligent, focused, ambitious people. Emotionally, they are passionate about life, have a tendency to be perfectionists, and become easily irritated.
Out of balance, pitta types can experience excessive anger, suffer from inflammatory conditions (such as headaches and rashes), encounter digestive problems (such as acid reflux and ulcers), and become over-stressed workaholics.
To Balance Pitta:
1) Keep cool
2) Avoid excess heat, steam, and humidity
3) Avoid excess oils, fried foods, caffeine, salt, alcohol, red meat, and hot spices
4) Emphasize fresh fruits and vegetables
5) Enjoy ample amounts of milk, cottage cheese, and whole grains
6) Emphasize sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes in your food choices
7) Get plenty of fresh air
8) Trust your feelings and express them in ways that support you and those around you.
The Vata Dosha
The third dosha, vata, tends to be the most slender of the three body types. Vata people can actually find it difficult to gain weight. Physically, vata individuals are thin with prominent bony structures, tend to be cold all the time, have dry skin and hair, and have little muscle tone. Mentally, they learn fast and forget fast, enjoy change, and are very creative. Emotionally, these types are excitable, enthusiastic, but can become easily anxious.
Out of balance, vata individuals can have poor digestion with lots of bloating and constipation. They can have dry nasal passages and easily catch colds during the fall and winter. They can also easily develop insomnia and fatigue.
To Balance Vata:
1) Keep warm
2) Choose warming foods and spices
3) Avoid extreme cold, and cold or frozen foods and drinks
4) Minimize your intake of raw foods, especially raw apples and members of the cabbage family
5) Take it easy on most beans, with these exceptions: black lentils and mung beans
6) Make sure your food is warm, moist, and well lubricated. Soup, hot drinks, and rice with a little oil or butter in it are some examples
7) Emphasize sweet, sour, and salty tastes in your food choices
8) Keep to a regular routine
9) Create a safe, calm, and secure environment around you.
Summary with Meal Plan:
As you learn about the tastes, you will see that sweet, sour, and salty are most supportive to vata, whereas pungent, bitter, and astringent are those most enhancing to kapha. Sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes will be most helpful in balancing pitta. In working with digestion, pungent, sour, and salty tastes will most enhance digestion and assimilation, while sweet, bitter and astringent will mildly inhibit them. There are exceptions to these guidelines—and yet, this is exactly the way taste can be used to heal an imbalance in your constitution ayurvedically. In many ways, tastes are used in Ayurveda the way colours are used in painting. They can be used alone for one effect, or mixed together to create another result.
|Planning Balanced Meals Easily
|5–6 servings whole grain
||4–5 servings whole grains
||3–4 servings whole grains
|1–2 servings high quality protein
||1–1 ½ servings high quality protein
||2 servings high quality protein
|2–3 servings fresh cooked vegetables
||3–4 servings fresh cooked vegetables
||4–5 servings fresh cooked vegetables
|1 serving fresh fruit or more
||1–1 ½ servings fresh fruit or more
||1 serving fresh fruit
|What does this mean? An example:
|2/3 cup oatmeal with ghee and sweetener
||2/3 cup oatmeal with maple syrup
||Fresh fruit (berries, apricots, etc.)
|Dal, 1 cup
||Dal, 1 cup
||Dal, 1 cup
|Basmati rice, 2/3 cup
||Basmati rice, 2/3 cup
||Basmati rice or barley, 2/3 cup
|Steamed asparagus ½ cup
||Steamed asparagus ½ to 1 cup
||Steamed asparagus 1 cup
||Coriander chutney or dry ginger
||Fresh Fruit or sunflower seeds
|Tridoshic vegetable curry
||1 cup Tridoshic vegetable curry
||1 cup Tridoshic vegetable curry 2/3 cup
|Rice or bulgur 2/3 cup
||Rice or bulgur 2/3 cup
||Millet or barley 2/3 cup
||1 rye chappati
|Lemon pickle or umeboshi plum
|Late night snack: (optional)
|Hot milk with ginger
||Piece of fresh fruit
Tridoshic Vegetable Curry
Recipe from The Ayurvedic Cookbook by Amadea Morningstar
Appropriate for all doshas (vata, pitta, kapha)
Prep time 1 hour
1 cup fresh green peas (frozen can be used if necessary)
1 cup carrots, diced
1 cup potatoes, diced
2 cups string beans or asparagus, cut in 1-inch pieces
2 tbps sunflower oil or ghee
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp sea salt
1-1/2 cups water
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 cup yogurt
Heat oil or ghee in large heavy skillet. Add mustard and cumin seeds. When the mustard seeds pop, add turmeric. Then add all the vegetables and the water. (If using frozen peas, do not add until rest of vegetables are nearly done). Cook covered until the vegetables become tender, about 15–20 minutes. Then add yogurt and the rest of the ingredients, stirring well. Simmer uncovered on low heat another 15–20 minutes.
Serve over rice or another grain.
Coming Up—Seedy Saturday!
If you are an avid gardener, like myself, you are already dreaming of spring. I love to grow my own food but am not exceptional at saving my own seed. Support local producers of non-GMO seed (like seeds for carrots, peas, beans, cumin, coriander as in above recipe) by attending local upcoming Seedy Saturday events across Canada, starting in February through March. Two dates that I know of are Saturday, March 4 in Regina and Saturday, March 11 here in Yorkton. Contact me if you would like more information or visit www.seed.ca for a complete list of events.
Take Charge of Your Health—Healing with Yogatherapy and Nutrition by Christopher S. Kilham
The Ayurvedic Cookbook by Amadea Morningstar with Urmila Desai
Stacey Tress, a Holistic Nutritional Therapist (HNT) and Young Living Essential Oil Distributor (#2282633), lives in Yorkton, SK with her husband and two daughters. She is the owner of Garden Therapy Yorkton which offers fermentation workshops, permaculture design work, organically-grown produce, and more! She also offers essential oil support and carries a wide variety of Young Living Essential Oils and products for sale. To learn more, call 306-641-4239, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, www.gardentherapyyorkton.ca, or on facebook “Garden Therapy Yorkton.” Also, see the display ad on page 11 of the 22.5 January/February issue of the WHOLifE Journal.