The ancient wisdom of nature ... Ayurveda, part 2

How to eat to build prana (life-force) with a deeper understand of dosha (true-nature)

Food really is medicine and it's so beautifully complex and so subtly minute in it's proportions. I have an under-active thyroid and when I think of how a tiny little tablet affects everything from my mood to digestion to skin to concentration and more, it's no wonder ancient healers turned to spices, herbs, essential oils, and food as primary vehicles through which we could heal.

Let's review quickly the difference between Prakruti and Vikruti

Prakruti: original constitutional type that you were born with and remains the same throughout your life. While we all have a mix of all three doshas, most of us usually have one or two doshas that dominate.

Vikruti: a snap shot of your current state of health, typically reflecting a temporary dosha imbalance or disease state and changes with circumstances and lifestyle choices.

If you have found the process of determining your dosha difficult, remember that physically, you could have one more present dosha and another mentally. Many have a Pitta body and Kapha mind. It's not encouraging separation but rather understanding more deeply the various aspects of ourselves. Note: you may want to take the dosha questionnaire after a few months of implementing lifestyle changes to more accurately read your natural dosha.

Optimal nutrition

There are 6 tastes

  • Sweet—The taste of energy. Examples: grains, dairy, breads, pasta, starchy vegies, fruits, nuts, oils, sugar, honey, animal products.

  • Sour—The taste of acid. Examples: citrus fruits, sour fruits, tomatoes, yogurt, cheese, pickles, vinegar, alcohol

  • Salty—The taste of the ocean. Examples: salt, seafood, sauces, meat

  • Pungent—The taste of digestive fire. Examples: hot peppers, ginger, salsa, radishes, mustard, cloves, thyme, basil

  • Bitter—the taste of concentrated nutritional information. Examples: green and yellow vegies, green leaf vegies, turmeric, aloe vera

  • Astringent—the taste of concentrated nutrition. Examples: beans, legumes, lentils, pomegranates, cranberries, tea, dark greens.

We can tap into the health benefits within our food to help balance our doshas. One theory to remember is that “like increases and like”. Opposites will help to decrease any imbalance, so when attempting to balance your dosha, choose foods that promote the opposite state.

For example, if you are Kapha imbalanced with symptoms like lethargy in your body and mind accompanied by a lack of motivation or inspiration, you’ll want to choose foods that are bitter, pungent and astringent in taste as they increase metabolism, naturally cleanse digestion, and assist in reducing body mass.

If you are Vata imbalanced with symptoms like headaches, stress, or anxiety, you will want to eat foods that are sweet, sour and salty because they are heavy and grounding.

If you are Pitta imbalanced with symptoms of anger or skin-breakouts, you will want to avoid pitta inducing foods (spicy/pungent, salty and sour) and instead choose pitta pacifying foods, mainly sweet, bitter, and astringent to help cool the system. Being a pitta, I'm drawn to salty and spicy foods when I'm stressed, in particular, but feel MUCH better when I choose cooling options like cucumber, melons, and papaya for sweetness and a home-made cumin-cardamom-fennel (CCF) tea to cool pitta and support digestion.

Although we want to focus our diet on foods that help to balance our dosha, we still want to include all six tastes in as many meals as possible to heal through the senses.

Shades of the Rainbow

The color of foods is reflective of different health-enhancing constituents called phyto-nutrients. Selecting foods with a variety of colors, ensures that we’re receiving the full spectrum of nutrition that our food can provide.

Many of us in the western world rely on ready-made comfort foods and out of habit, our repertoire can deteriorate to a few foods per day instead of the wide variety of food choices available to us.

Here is a list of the different shades of foods we should consider when designing meals:

Red: beets, strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, red chard, radishes.

Orange: carrots, oranges, tangerines, cantaloupe, orange peppers.

Yellow: bananas, millet, peaches, lemons, corn.

Green: leafy greens, broccoli, peas, zucchini, lettuce, asparagus.

Blue: blueberries, blue corn, blue potatoes.