How you can have a balanced diet, according to Ayurveda
According to Ayurvedic principles, good health begins with good food. In the ancient texts, ahara or food is considered one of the trayopasthamba - three pillars of good health, along with nidra (sleep) and brahmacharya (abstinence). Even among these, food is accorded the place of mahabhaishajyam or the greatest medicine, as appropriate food contributes significantly to maintaining good health.
Health and the Doshas
So, how do we go about maintaining good health? The answer is, by balancing out the doshas. Vata, pitta and kapha are the three doshas or basic physiological functions that govern the health of the body. Vata is responsible for movement, pitta for metabolism or transformation, and kapha for anabolism. The healthy body is one in which all three are in equilibrium.
Tastes and doshas
Different ingredients and foods contribute to increasing or decreasing the doshas differently.
Vata increases with katu (pungent), tikta (bitter), and kashaya (astringent) ingredients, and reduces with madhura (sweet), amla (sour) and lavana (salty) ingredients.
Pitta increases with katu (pungent), amla (sour) and lavana (salty) ingredients, and is decreased by madhura (sweet), tikta (bitter) and kashaya (astringent) ingredients.
Kapha is increased by madhura (sweet), amla (sour) and lavana (salty) ingredients, and is decreased by katu (pungent), tikta (bitter), and kashaya (astringent) ingredients.
A healthy diet requires a balance of all six tastes, though in different proportions depending on the prakruti or constitution of each person and other factors. A vata dominant person’s diet should lean towards more sweet, salty and sour tastes, a pitta dominant person should consume more of sweet, bitter and astringent ingredients, and a kapha dominant person should eat more pungent, bitter and astringent foods.
What you can eat as balance diet food
Of course, building and maintaining a diet specific to doshas is not always easy, and even the Ayurvedic texts recognise this. Hence, they specify certain staples called nityasevaniya ahara, which are congenial to all prakrutis and can be eaten on a daily basis.
These include –
• shasthika shali (rice)
• godhuma (wheat)
• yava (barley)
• jangala mamsa (lean meats)
• saindhava lavana (sendha namak or rock salt)
• madhu (honey)
• amla (Indian gooseberry)
• go ghrita (ghee from cow’s milk)
• paya (milk)
• patola (snake gourd)
• draksha (raisins)
• dadima (pomegranate)
One of the most straightforward ways to balance out the doshas through food is by modifying our diet of congenial staples (going for balance diet food) using a variety of spices and ingredients.
Thus, a staple meal could consist of rice or roti with dal, sambhar or rasam, and one or two vegetables on the side.
In a spicy dish, adding some jaggery helps balance out vata and pitta.
Tempering a dal with ghee, asafoetida and jeera helps balance vata and pitta.
For the vegetable dishes, spices such as coriander seed powder, pepper and jeera and different oil mediums can be used to balance out the doshas in ways specific to each vegetable.
In a sweet dish, adding turmeric or pepper helps balance out the kapha.
A healthy diet need not be complicated and stressful. Incorporating a variety of tastes and finding the right balance of flavours in simple and flavourful home food is often the best way to manage the doshas and eat our way to good health.
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