Ayurveda is the oldest Medical system of world having history of 5000 years old states that poor nutrition is the main cause of disease. This system uses food to heal and prevent illness. It offers programs to rejuvenate the body through diet and nutrition. Ayurvedic Nutrition is part of the time-honoured system of Ayurveda which considers diet and nutrition to be the most important factor in preventing disease and promoting health. Ayurvedic Nutrition offers the possibility to reestablish harmony in the body and with the body and its environment. Ayurveda nutritional approach is individual oriented. It believes no one diet is suitable for all as every individual is unique in his/her body constitution (dosha).
In Ayurvedic nutrition there are six different tastes and six major qualities. The tastes and qualities with attributes similar to those of a dosha increase that dosha, while tastes and qualities dissimilar to the characteristics of a dosha decrease that dosha. The six tastes and the six major food qualities, and their effect on the different doshas, are listed below:
The unique elemental compositions within each of the Six Tastes possess special healing properties.
- Sweet (Earth and Water elements) nourishes body tissues and enhances the mood. table sugar, honey, rice, pasta, milk, cream, butter, wheat and bread. The sweet taste increases kapha, but decreases pitta and vata.
- Salty (Water and Fire elements) assures proper vital mineral balance in the body. any food to which salt has been added. The salty taste increases kapha and pitta, but decreases vata.
- Sour (Earth and Fire elements) improves digestion and cultivates essential acid/base balance. Eg. lemons, limes, vinegar, yogurt, cheese, and plums. The sour taste increases kapha and pitta, but decreases vata.
- Pungent (Fire and Air elements) improves metabolism and reduces congestion. beans, lentils, cabbage, apples and pears. The astringent tast decreases kapha and pitta, but increases vata.
- Astringent (Air and Earth elements) tones up the muscles and body
- Bitter (Air and Ether elements) de-toxifies the body and strengthens the immune system. spinach, romaine lettuce, endive, chicory, chard, kale, and tonic water. The bitter taste decreases both kapha and pitta, but increases vata.
Quality concept of Food
- Heavy: Heavy foods include bread, pasta, cheese, and yogurt. The heavy quality decreases vata and pitta, but increases kapha.
- Light: Light foods include millet, buckwheat, rye, barley, corn, spinach, lettuce, pears and apples. The light quality decreases kapha, but increases vata and pitta.
- Oily: Oily foods include dairy products, meat, fatty foods, and cooking oils. The oily quality decreases vata and pitta, but increases kapha.
- Dry: Dry foods include beans, potatoes, barley, and corn. The dry quality decreases kapha, but increases vata and pitta.
- Hot: The hot quality describes hot beverages and warm, cooked foods. The hot quality decreases vata and kapha, but increases pitta.
- Cold: The cold quality describes cold beverages and raw foods. The cold quality decreases pitta, but increases kapha and vata.
Ayurvedic theory of nutrition favors the use of vegetables, spices, whole grains and fruits, as they are energy-boosters. Vegetables are very important for their vitamins, minerals, roughage and freshness. Dark leafy green vegetables are specially recommended in ayurvedic diet as they contain minerals that no other vegetable contain. Fruits are also high in vitamins and nutrients, provide instant energy, and termed as power foods.
Another fundamental aspect of Ayurvedic nutrition is proper food combining or food compatibility. In Ayurveda, not all foods are compatible, there are certain foods when eaten together can disturb the normal functioning of the digestive fire and promote the accumulation of ama (toxins) in the body. Various factors, such as the tastes, qualities, properties, basic nature of food, energies of certain foods, as well as how long they take to digest, affect the compatibility of foods.
Unlike modern nutritional systems Ayurveda has always had an individualized approach to nutrition. However, this ancient system needs to be adapted to the modern lifestyle the cultures using it. Ayurvedic nutrition is not an endless repetition of curry dishes. In fact, there is no such thing as an “Ayurvedic food” there is only a methodology of structuring diets according to your individual metabolic functions.