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huffpost – Eating as a way of life: what we can learn from Ayurveda

When it comes to health goals, the New Year marks a reset point for many of us. After months of food stress, pandemic cooking, and staying indoors, many of us have ignored our bodies. Although we cannot control a lot of external stress, we can strengthen our immune system and our mind to better cope with the challenges that lie ahead. One of the ways we can do this is by harnessing the knowledge that our ancestors have used for thousands of years.

Ayurveda is a traditional Hindu system of medicine that is pseudoscientific in both theory and practice. It is native to the Indian subcontinent and its purpose is to heal, boost immunity, and maintain the quality and longevity of life. Rooted in the belief that poor digestion is the cause of 90% of illnesses, Ayurveda uses diet, lifestyle, and stress management techniques to promote health. A sister science of yoga, Ayurveda was originally written in Sanskrit shlokas (poems) and transmitted through gurus. Today, it is accessible through wellness centers and health professionals who specialize in it.

Eastern and Western sciences agree that we must listen to our bodies and pay attention to signs of discomfort or imbalance, but Ayurveda is not a permitted practice in the United States. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, “Ayurvedic practitioners in India undergo state-recognized institutional training. Currently, Ayurvedic practitioners are not licensed in the United States and there is no national standard for Ayurvedic training or certification. However, Ayurvedic schools have been approved as educational institutions in some states.

Angela Merwin, Registered Dietitian, advises clients before starting any new diet program. “There is no one diet that is right for everyone. Most diets have some truth in them, but they’re usually too restrictive to be sustainable. But she says some of the principles of Ayurveda, such as eating according to the body constitution, can be helpful.

It is best to consult an experienced Ayurvedic practitioner and your doctor for a personalized health plan before starting any new regimen. But here is just a start of what we can learn from the principles of the Ayurvedic diet.

The basic principles of Ayurveda

“The first and most important thing to know about Ayurveda is that it is not a one-size-fits-all solution,” said Kimberly Rossi, Director of Business Development and Wellness at Art of Living Retreat Center and Shankara Ayurveda Wellness in Boone, North Carolina. She explains that according to Ayurvedic beliefs, each individual has a different constitution, based on five elements: space, air, fire, water and earth. The interaction of each of these elements manifests itself in three types of energies or doshas, to know vata, kapha and pitta (yYou can take a basic dosha quiz to find out your predominant energy).

The three doshas – vata, pitta and kapha – are Ayurvedic symbols of the types of body constitution, designed with the elements of ether, air, fire, water and earth.

The main goal of an Ayurvedic diet is to keep the digestive fire at the optimum temperature to regulate vitality, energy, enthusiasm, hormones, spirit and chronic disease, and to bring the body back into balance. To do this, Ayurveda suggests that you eat according to your age, dosha, health, season and location.

Foods that give “ life force ”

In ayurveda, sattvic, or pure food, means eating foods that are considered to have higher frequencies and are full of life force. So it’s no surprise that Ayurvedic food is based (but not limited to) on plant-based, natural, organic, and seasonal ingredients. Ghee (clarified butter), vegetables, fruits, spices, herbs, legumes and grains are consumed in their original form. Dairy products are limited depending on the body constitution of an individual. Refined sugar, caffeine and alcohol are avoided.

Water is an important part of the Ayurvedic diet, acting as a current that keeps things moving and flushes toxins out of the body. Ayurveda recommends drinking half of your body weight in ounces of water every day and consuming about one cup every hour in summer and half a cup per hour in winter. Avoid drinking large amounts of water before, during or after a meal.

Drinking ice water is not considered good for the digestive system, according to Ayurveda. You should only sip hot water in winter and room temperature water in summer.

Ayurvedic cooking practices

Ayurvedic cuisine uses six flavors – sweet, sour, salty, bitter, hot, and sour. “If you include all of these items in at least one of your meals each day, you won’t have any desire to eat,” said Sujata Shah, Ayurvedic practitioner and program supervisor at the Art of Living Retreat Center. Shah teaches how to eat, when to eat, and what foods to combine for each body type.

Herbs and spices are considered to be full of "life force" in ayurveda.

Herbs and spices are considered to be full of “life force” in Ayurveda.

Most of the dishes in Ayurvedic cuisine are stir-fried, roasted or steamed. Vegetables, plant proteins, and complex carbohydrates (like rice, bread, and quinoa) are used to create digestive fire-lighting staples, like beet ginger soups, red lentil stew, and stews. protein pancakes.

Ayurveda also places importance on cooking fresh food every day. “When you freeze and reheat food in the microwave, essential nutrients are lost,” Shah said. “Even if you’re short on time, invest in an Instant Pot and have at least one hot meal a day.”

Next, it is important to use spices and herbs to season your dishes and incorporate the six flavor profiles. Spices play a big role in flavoring foods and are believed to have medicinal benefits as well. Buy good quality, fresh and organic spices such as turmeric, black pepper, cinnamon, fennel, cumin and cilantro.

It is also important to cook with ghee, a healthy fat rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

Shawn Stevenson, author of the book ”Eat smarter, “And podcast host”The Health Show model», Also certifies that ghee and spices are superfoods. He doesn’t recommend limiting food choices, however, as long as you choose the best quality ingredients. “For optimal health, we need a wide variety of nutrients and shouldn’t be eating the same things all the time,” said Stevenson, who has practiced and taught different types of food science. According to Stevenson’s research, each person’s unique genetic makeup allows them to absorb certain foods while others cannot. This again speaks to the “no one size fits all” theory of diet and nutrition.

The importance of timing of meals in Ayurveda

Eating three meals a day without snacks in between gives the body plenty of time to rest and recharge. According to Ayurveda, a hot breakfast should be taken between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m., and a nourishing lunch between 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. “At lunchtime, our digestive fire is at its peak, so we must give it the most. fuel, ”Rossi said. She says allow at least 20 minutes to sit down and slowly chew your food, rather than a packed lunch.

A light supper must be taken no later than 7 p.m. Rossi says it’s okay to indulge in a weekend meal, an occasional treat, or an alcoholic drink. While you will feel the positive effects of Ayurveda the more you practice it, you don’t have to be regimental about it. Most Ayurvedic practitioners say that if you observe it even four days a week a week, you will notice positive changes in your health.

Stevenson shares a similar stance when it comes to timing meals. He recommends fasting for at least 12 hours (for example, 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.) to allow the body to channel its resources towards rejuvenation rather than digestion, although he is not strict about eating. three square meals a day. The 12-hour-a-day fast is basically intermittent fasting, the potential benefits of which include weight loss, increased muscle mass, and increased energy levels.

“We have to do what is in our own best interests. For some people, dinner is the main meal, and that’s okay too, ”he says.

Where to start

“Most diet frameworks give people specific guidelines, but don’t teach the fundamentals that show the multifaceted dynamic effects of food beyond weight loss,” Stevenson said. “It’s important to look at food more holistically because it controls your metabolism, memory, sleep, and so many other aspects of your life.”

To get a taste of recipes that follow Ayurvedic principles, Shah shared two of the favorites below.

Beet and Ginger Soup

  • 2 medium beets, cubed
  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 quarter of fresh ginger root
  • 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

Boil the beets and ginger root until tender, about 30 minutes. Let cool. Pour the contents of the soup into a blender and add the oil, fennel, salt and pepper. Blend until smooth. Serve hot.

Spice drink Immunity

  • 1 teaspoon of organic turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon of fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger or ginger powder
  • 2-3 cloves of cloves (or 1/3 teaspoon of ground cloves)
  • 1/3 teaspoon black pepper or 2-3 peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cardamom seeds (or ground cardamom)
  • 4 cups of filtered / purified water
  • 1 teaspoon of organic honey

Place all ingredients except honey in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over low heat. Cook, about 15 minutes, until well combined. Let cool to warm, add honey and drink twice a day.

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