Ayurveda Tips for Holiday Eating

In the United States, the Thanksgiving holiday (the last Thursday of November) marks the beginning of six weeks holiday festivities, family feasts and seasonal treats. The ancient Indian health science of Ayurveda offers helpful tips on how to navigate holiday season without gaining weight or over-eating.

Winter cravings

The increasingly colder days of fall bring with them an increase in Vata dosha — the subtle energy in the body that governs movement. When Vata dosha predominates, there is an increase in dry, rough and cool qualities in the body. This dryness can disturb various tissues and organs. Many people notice dry skin and lips during the winter months. Dryness can also occur in the colon or large intestine, leading to constipation. Simultaneously you may find that you develop cravings for heavy, sweet and unctuous foods. This is simply your body’s attempt to balance the increase in Vata by increasing Kapha. Unfortunately, these heavier foods can also lead to poor digestion and to an accumulation of toxins over the winter, which could lead to allergies in the spring.

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Holiday Eating Tips

The following tips can help you navigate the holiday festivities, pacifying Vata dosha while avoiding the weight-gain often brought on by Kapha-increasing foods.

  1. At the start of the holiday season, consult an Ayurvedic expert to see if you have any nutritional deficiencies or imbalances. If these are left untended, you may find yourself at the mercy of cravings and compulsive eating.
  2. When you first arrive at a gathering, request a cup of hot water. This will help to pacify Vata and also help you avoid mindless eating. In addition, people often mistake thirst for hunger. If you are well hydrated, you will feel less compulsion to eat. Drinking plain hot water throughout the day is a simple Ayurvedic secret for improved health.
  3. Always sit down at a table to eat. Don’t eat if you are standing or moving.
  4. Whenever you eat, give eating your full attention. Enjoy your food — even if you are eating something “naughty”. Eating mindlessly does not allow you to properly taste, experience, or digest your food. As a result, even if you are full, you will feel unsatisfied and want to eat more later. Don’t multli-task at meal times.
  5. Learn about the six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent. Each taste satisfies a different need. Missing one or more of the tastes can result in cravings. Try to have all six tastes at each meal. If this sounds daunting, there are spice combinations (churnas) made specifically for this.
  6. Favor warm, cooked foods. If you want to indulge in heavier foods, do so at mid-day, when your digestive “fire” is stronger. Try to keep evening meals light, favoring soups and cooked vegetables.
  7. Try to take small portions. Ideally you should feel refreshed and energized after eating, not dull. Over-eating compromises digestion. When you overeat, even though you ingest more than you need, your body actually assimilates less. This can result in nutritional deficiencies, perpetuating cravings and the habit of overeating.

Eating with full attention and enjoyment improves digestion. It settles and strengthens your entire system. This can have far-reaching health benefits seemingly unrelated to nutrition.

If you find that you have over-indulged during the holidays, consider enjoying traditional Ayurvedic detoxification treatments, called Panchakarma in January or February. The soothing oils used in the treatments help detoxify body fat and the recommended diet before, during and after treatment is the perfect way to get back into healthy eating habits. Scheduling Panchakarma treatments in January can reset your physiology for the rest of the year and help eliminate the effects of holiday indulgences.

Learn more about Ayurveda treatments for weight loss and detoxification at The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa:

www.theraj.com

Ayurveda for Effective Weight Loss

There are many factors involved in becoming overweight and in deciding what is the most effective means of reversing that condition.

Your Appropriate Weight

Ayurveda recognizes that there are different healthy weights and builds for different people. By genetic nature, some people will have heavier builds than others. Heavy-built individuals are still healthy at weights that might be considered unhealthy for individuals with a genetically lighter constitution.

During an Ayurvedic consultation one of the first steps is to use the technique of pulse assessment to determine a person’s “body type”. This understanding of body type is important as too often the ideal body size image portrayed by the media and advertising is not natural or even healthy for a particular individual.

Root Imbalances at the Basis of Overweight Conditions

There can be many factors creating the overweight condition, and it is important to determine which ones are predominant in each individual. For example, people often assume that weight gain is created by an imbalance in Kapha. In fact, many times the underlying imbalance is that of either Vata or Pitta. It is important to identify these underlying factors in order to begin a successful program to create balance.

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Proper Diet

Dietary knowledge is a foundation of the Ayurveda approach. Knowing your body type and level of balance and imbalance helps provide an understanding of which foods to favor and avoid. In general, “avoid” foods are foods that are hard to digest, clogging to the physiology and heavy in nature. As a general rule, those looking to lose weight should favor foods that are easy to digest, help cleanse the physiology, strengthen digestion and balance metabolism.

Creating Strong Digestion

Our ability to digest food is as important as what we eat. Incompletely digested foods create toxins and impurities that are eventually absorbed, travel throughout the physiology, and localize in the tissues, disrupting their function. This process is at the basis of a wide variety of complications in the overweight condition.

Preventing Toxic Build-Up

It is one thing for extra tissue and structure to accomulate in the body. When the accumulation includes damaging toxins, the serious effects of being overweight begin. According to Ayurveda, almost every major disease condition, from arthritis to allergies to cardiovascular disease, is caused by the buildup of toxins in the tissues and by blockages in circulation.

This is why an Ayurvedic weight loss program will include purification treatments as well as dietary and herbal recommendations and life-style changes.

Panchakarma Detoxification and Rejuvenation Therapy

The most powerful treatments for removing toxins and opening the channels of circulation are the traditional detoxification treatments of Ayurveda, Panchakarma. The daily combination of Ayurveda massage, heat and internal cleansing therapies provide a deeply powerful cleansing for the entire body.

Stress Management

Many individuals experience that improper eating habits and craings are worsened by heightened stress, anxiety and mental fatigue. It is common to find that accumulated stress and mental imbalance drive the eating behavior at the basis of overweight conditions.

Learning the Transcendental Mediation technique provides a simple and effective tool to remove the mental and stress components of the overweight condition

Proper Lifestyle and Daily Routine

One of the most important factors for balancing digestion and keeping our natural cleansing processes strong is to have a lifestyle that does not disturb natural bodily rhythms. When we eat, sleep and exercise in constantly fluctuation patterns, the body loses its natural balancing cycles and can not digest, cleanse or heal itself as effectively. Therefore, regularity in our daily routine can be extremely important in maintaining a healthy, balance physiology.

For more information on consultation, panchakarma treatments or The Raj Weight Loss Program, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Center:

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Making Sleep Count

According to Ayurveda, a large percentage of our health can be won or lost in how we live our day-to-day life. It is our patterns of eating, sleeping, exercise and what we do daily to rejuvenate ourselves that can determine whether we stay healthy throughout our lifetime.

Ayurveda recognizes the importance of our relationship with the universe around us: if we live in accord with the laws of nature that structure our environment, we can keep our mind/body system functioning efficiently with the least amount of wear and tear.

One key element in living in tune with our environment is when we go to bed and when we get up in the morning. There is a saying, “The day begins the night before.” Only by going to be early in the evening can the next day’s activity be fully in accord with the rhythms of nature.

When we are in bed by 10 P.M. we gain the deepest level of healing and rejuvenation from our sleep. This is because during the 4 hours before 10 P.M., kapha dosha is increasing in nature. This enlivens the qualities of heaviness and dullness in our mind and body and allows us to fall asleep more quickly and to experience deeper, less interrupted sleep.

sleeping_woman-at-a-hotelAfter 10 P.M., pitta dosha starts to become enlivened. Pitta is involved in metabolic cleaning. The body needs to be inactive at this time so that the physiology can focus its intelligence and energy on metabolic cleansing and rejuvenation. When we stay up past 10 P.M., many people experience a “second wind”. Instead of being directed internally, pitta creates an increase in energy, creativity and, too often, hunger. This accounts for the infamous scourge of midnight snacking. While many busy adults feel that they are grabbing valuable “me” time in the late hours of the night, they are, in fact, robbing themselves of a valuable opportunity to heal and rejuvenate. In the long run, night owls may find themselves with deep-seated imbalances and ill health.

Ayurveda recommends that one wake up before 6 A.M. Since it is ideal not to be startled awake by alarms, the best way to spontaneously get up early—and feel rested— is to go to bed early.

The period before 6 A.M. is the time when all of nature is waking up. At this time vata dosha is most lively in the environment. Starting the day during vata time means our mind will experience more of the qualities of balanced vata throughout the day— increased energy, clarity, intelligence and alertness.

The longer we sleep past 6 A.M. the more we are asleep while kapha is dominating the environment. If we sleep in until 7:30, for example, we are lying dull and dormant for 1 and 1/2 hours of kapha time and we will wake up imbibed with those same qualities.

This simple adjustment in routine can make a huge impact on our health. If you are in need of extra “me” time, better to go to bed on time and wake up an hour earlier in the morning.

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Ayurveda Approach to Overeating or Binging

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According to Ayurveda, compulsive overeating or binging comes from cravings. An ideal weight loss program addresses imbalances in one’s physiology and in one’s diet that may be at the root of cravings and binge behaviors. Cravings can arise from imbalances in our body or from actual nutritional deficiencies. It is better not to try to suppress cravings, because they will only return with increased intensity. Instead, in order to eliminate cravings we need to learn to identify what our body really wants, and then thoroughly satisfy that need.

Ideally the first step in dealing with food cravings or binging would be to consult with an Ayurveda expert (or with your doctor) to make sure that your nutritional needs are being addressed. If you are a vegetarian, are you getting all the necessary amino acids? Vitamin B12? Remember that absorption of B12 can diminish with age. Even if you are eating animal products, if you are over 60 you might want to get your B12 levels checked. If you are not a vegetarian, are you getting enough fruits and vegetables? Keep a log of what you are eating at breakfast, lunch and dinner in order to objectively assess whether or not your diet is balanced and healthy.

If you are eating a balance diet, the second question is, are you absorbing the needed nutrients from your meals? Proper digestion is the key to transforming your food into all the essential elements your body needs to function properly. (See Raj Blog post “Digestion, Digestion, Digestion“)

The third question is, are you getting all 6 tastes (sweet, sour, salty, astringent, pungent and bitter) in your meals? Not only does eating all 6 tastes ensure that all the major food groups and nutrients are represented, it also gives us the feeling of satisfaction. As we eat, our taste buds send messages to our brain letting it know that we have taken in the energy and nutrients that we need. The six tastes are the codes that inform our brain of our meal’s nutritional content. If we take foods that correspond to each of these tastes throughout the day, our meals will provide us with a wide assortment of health-promoting nutrients. If we do not take in the proper nutrients, our brain sends us hunger signals.

The average American diet is short on astringent, pungent and bitter tastes. If our brain does not get the signal from our taste buds that all the important nutritional content has been consumed, the brain will continue to send signals telling us to eat more. Due to longstanding habits, our intellect may misinterpret these signals. A lack of bitter taste, for example, may lead to the consumption of chocolate or coffee, when, in fact, the body is craving the bitter taste of spinach. If we are alert to having all six tastes in our meals we are much less likely to find ourselves searching through our cupboards for “something more” an hour after dinner. (See Raj Blog post “Creating Balance Through Taste

When you feel the desire to eat, ask yourself if you are truly hungry. Notice the sensations in your body. Do you feel hunger or something else? If you are indeed hungry, eat. If you are not sure, try the following:

  1. Notice any physical sensations that come up. Where are they coming from? Do you feel some tension or discomfort? When you feel a sensation, your mind will naturally be drawn to the area of the body that is feeling uncomfortable. This is nature’s way of facilitating the healing process. Because attention by itself has healing power, it brings wholeness to the area. With a few minutes you may find that the discomfort completely subsides.
  2. Drink some plain warm water to see if that settles your system. Also, make a habit of drinking water throughout the day. People often mistake thirst for hunger.
  3. Schedule a consultation with an Ayurveda expert.

For information on consultations with an Ayurveda expert, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa:

www.theraj.com

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Ayurveda Tips for Holiday Eating

images-2Here are a few guidelines for everyone during the holidays, whether you have a tendency to overeat or just want to maintain a healthy digestion.

  1. Sit at a table when you eat or drink.
  2. Don’t do anything else while you eat. This includes watching TV, listening to music, reading or discussing business. Eating mindlessly does not allow you to properly taste and digest your food. You are more apt to feel unsatisfied and want to eat more, even though you are full.
  3. Avoid eating heavy meals in the evening when our digestion is naturally weaker. Try to schedule heavy holiday meals at lunchtime and favor light nutritious foods such as vegetable soups or steamed vegetables and couscous in the evening.
  4. Include all six tastes in each meal—sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter and astringent. Each taste satisfies a different need. Missing one or more can result in cravings.
  5. Perk up your digestion with a slice of fresh ginger sprinkled with a bit of salt and lemon before your meal. This helps get the digestive fires stimulated and ready for the job of breaking down your food to their essential nutrients in a form that can be easily absorbed and utilized by the body.
  6. Do not overeat. According to Ayurveda, ideal digestion takes place when your stomach is no more than three-fourths full, which for most people measures about two cupped handfuls of food. If you still feel hungry, eat a little more. You should feel refreshed and energized after eating, not dull. Remember that overeating impairs digestion. When you eat more than you need, your body actually assimilates less. This can result in nutritional cravings and a habit of overeating. This can also result in being more susceptible to colds and flues. This is because a weak digestion results in the accumulation of undigested food or ama in the physiology. This can weaken the immune system, making it easier for viruses and bacteria to attack. If we can put attention on keeping our digestion strong, we can reduce or avoid the accumulation of toxins, and thereby throw off any bugs more easily. If you are interested in weight loss, maintaining strong digestion is essential.
  7. Avoid cold drinks and beverages. Avoid cold, raw or frozen foods.
  8. Sip warm water throughout the day to help cleanse the body. As soon as you arrive at a holiday festivity, ask for a cup of hot water or herbal tea. This will help you to avoid snacking.

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Fight Obesity with….Broccoli? (Spinach and carrots and broccoli, oh my!)

Broccoli666A new study from the universities of Texas and Southern California revealed that spinach, broccoli and carrots seem to have a super power: merely eating 2 fist-full portions of leafy greens and certain vegetables with beta-carotene (like carrots) per day helped reduce body fat, lower the risk of liver disease, type 2 diabetes and other diseases.

The study targeted childhood obesity and its related health concerns. Even though the children in the study failed to eat the entire recommended daily allowance of nutritious vegetables, as stipulated by the US Department of Agriculture, the improvements to their health were still significant. This highlighted the fact that it was not the quantity of vegetables that provided the benefits as much as the kind of vegetable that was eaten.

The study found that even adding small amounts of green leafy vegetables and carrots—about quarter of a cup per day— led to improved insulin levels and a reduction in bad fats in the body.

“Bad fat’ refers to visceral fat, body fat that is stored within the abdominal cavity and is therefore stored around a number of important internal organs such as the liver, pancreas and intestines.

Visceral fat is also referred to as “active fat” because it can negatively affect how our hormones function. Bad fat can send the wrong signals to our brain about when and how much to eat. Storing higher amounts of visceral fat is associated with increased risks of a number of health problems including type 2 diabetes. For this reason, weight loss is an important health consideration.

Researchers in the study concluded that it is the type of vegetable that matters, noting that starchier vegetables, such as corn and potatoes, did not give the same positive effects.

Health-promoting cruciferous vegetables:

Arugula, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, daikon radish, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, radish, rutabaga, turnip, watercress.

Health-promoting vegetables with beta-carotene:

Carrots, dark green leafy vegetables, cos or romaine lettuce, broccoli

It is important (especially at this time of year for those in colder climates) to point out that Ayurveda recommends cooking vegetables rather than eating vegetables raw. Eating raw vegetables can aggravate vata. While many worry that cooking vegetables will eliminate many vitamins and minerals, cooking helps us digest our food without expanding huge amounts of energy. Unless you have super digestive powers, you will actually end up getting more nutrients out of your food if you steam your vegetables until they are fork friendly.

In fact, cooked carrots, spinach, asparagus, cabbage, peppers, brussels sprouts and many other vegetables actually supply more antioxidants, such as carotenoids and ferulic acid, to the body than they do when raw. Another study, published in 2002 showed that cooking carrots increases their level of beta-carotene.

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Fasting and Ayurveda

pea soupOne of the most popular diet plans in the news today involves intermittent fasting. Interest in the approach was sparked by a BBC2 documentary called “Eat, Fast and Live Longer”. Since its initial airing in 2012, books on fasting have popped up on bestseller lists in Europe and the US. The basic idea is that a lower caloric intake leads to a longer and healthier life.

Intrigued by the concept, I started investigating Ayurveda’s view on the wisdom of such an approach. As with most aspects of Ayurveda, the answer depends on who is asking the question, because according to Ayurveda, every individual is unique.

For certain body types, fasting can increase lightness, improve appetite and revitalize digestion. During a fast, the body uses energy that is normally spent processing food to eliminate impurities and repair the system. In this way, fasting helps clear the srotas (channels or pathways of the body) and improve resistance to disease. (These same mechanics are behind the specially designed diet that one receives while going through Panchakarma, the detoxification programs of Ayurveda.)

According to Ayurveda those with Kapha constitutions often benefit from taking a “liquid day” one day a week. This helps increase energy and well being for Kapha types who tend to have heavier builds, slower digestion and weaker appetites. (It is good to note that Ayurveda does not recommend prolonged fasts, even for those with Kapha physiologies.)

Although most people feel better if the skip one evening meal a week, for those with Vata or Pitta constitutions, fasting could actually decrease well-being. Someone with a Vata body type, for example, will tend to be lighter, more easily excitable and quicker. For them fasting might aggravate insomnia, anxiety or other symptoms of Vata imbalance.

Similarly, the strong appetites of Pitta types may cause irritability or other symptoms of Pitta imbalance during a fast. Because even people with Kapha constitutions could have Pitta or Vata imbalances, it is recommended that you consult with an Ayurvedic expert before deciding to follow an intermittent fasting diet.

Can you reduce caloric intake without fasting? Ayurveda has, in fact, always recommended the light intake of food. Traditionally it is said that at each meal one should eat only the amount of food that can fit in your cupped hands. In order to promote ideal digestion, at the end of a meal half your stomach should be filled with solid food, a quarter with liquids and a quarter should be left empty in order to give enough room for the stomach acids and enzymes to do their job. This means leaving the table satisfied, but not full.

According to Ayurveda, over-eating leads to an accumulation of ama. Ama is the debris of partially digested matter. When allowed to accumulate in the body, this turns into a sludge of toxic metabolic waste-products which blocks circulation through the tiny channels of the body and thus becomes a breeding ground for disorders. Ama also interferes with the proper absorption of food and can lead to a constant craving for food, even after you’ve just eaten.

For many people, fasting offers an opportunity to give the digestive system a rest. This helps to revitalize and re-ignite the digestive fire, thereby improving overall health. It also gives a chance for the body’s internal “fire” to burn up existing toxins, or ama. Check with an Ayurvedic expert and find out if this approach is right for your body type. If Vata or Pitta imbalances prohibit fasting, an intermediate plan can be worked out to accomplish a lower calorie approach without aggravating imbalances and creating health problems.

For more information on consultations with an Ayurveda expert, visit the website for The Raj, Ayurveda Health Spa:
www.theraj.com

 

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Support Brain and Heart Health With Ayurveda

While most people now understand that cholesterol is not uniformly “bad”, not everyone knows that cholesterol, a fatty acid produced in the liver, is actually essential to many bodily functions. Without cholesterol the body could not build cell membranes or synthesize vitamin D, or hormones.

Western medicine teaches us that cholesterol is available in two forms: high-density cholesterol (HDL) (“good” cholesterol) and low-density cholesterol (LDL) (“bad” cholesterol).

LDL (Bad) Cholesterol

LDL cholesterol is considered the “bad” cholesterol because it contributes to plaque, a thick, hard deposit that can clog arteries and make them less flexible.

HDL (Good) Cholesterol

HDL cholesterol is considered “good” cholesterol because it helps remove LDL cholesterol from the arteries. It is believed that HDL acts as a scavenger, carrying LDL cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, where it is broken down and eliminated from the body.

From the Ayurveda perspective, cholesterol is only “bad” when it is out of balance. It is “good” when it is balanced, supporting and lubricating the body’s numerous circulatory channels, known as the shrotas. There are many kinds of shrotas. There are micro-shrotas, which carry nutrients to the cells and waste from the cells. There are larger shrotas, such as the arteries and veins, which carry blood to and from the heart. And there are delicate shrotas that lead to our brain.

For our physiology to be healthy and functioning well, all of these shrotas must be flexible and elastic. When in balance, cholesterol plays an important role in lubricating and maintaining our shrotas.

“Good” cholesterol becomes “bad” cholesterol when we have large amounts of ama in our system. Ama is the sticky waste product of poor digestion, absorption and metabolism. It accumulates as a toxin in the fat tissues. Ama thatis present for a very long time and is not cleansed from the system begins to spread throughout the body, and blocks the important channels of circulation, nourishment and detoxification.

For years, high levels of “good” cholesterol and low levels of “bad” cholesterol has been linked to a healthy heart. In December of 2013, a study was released linking high levels of “good” cholesterol and low levels of “bad” cholesterol to good brain health as well. It was established that high “bad” cholesterol levels were linked to brain deposits that cause Alzheimer’s. A healthy ratio of good vs. bad cholesterol was associated with lower levels of the plaque in the brain. An unhealthy ratio was associated with higher levels of plaque. The findings were independent of age or presence of specific a specific gene that has been linked to some forms of Alzheimer’s.

Natural Ways to Lower Cholesterol: Diet and Purification

Diet

To lower “bad” cholesterol Ayurveda recommends a two-pronged approach: Improve digestion and follow a Kapha-balancing diet to enhance fat metabolism.

A Kapha-pacifying diet favors bitter, astringent and pungent foods. Astringent foods include dried beans such as lentils, split mung dhal, and garbanzo beans. Astringent tastes also include many vegetables, such as the cruciferous family (brussels’ sprouts, food52_06-12-12-5121broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower) and fruits such as apples and pears. Bitter foods include greens such as spinach, chard, kale and mustard greens. The Kapha-pacifying grains include barely, quinoa, amaranth and oats (whole oats, not processed oats.) Avoid sweet tastes, including rice, wheat, pasta, breads, and sweet milk products. Avoid sour foods such as sour fruit (lemons), yogurt, cheese, tomatoes, vinegar, salad dressings, ketchup, mustard and pickles. Oddly enough, while it is recommended to avoid yogurt, digestive lassi, made of yogurt and water, turns out to be good for balancing cholesterol. Avoid sweet lassi and mango lassi and opt for the digestive lassi. Favor warm foods cooked with small amounts of ghee or olive oil.

Purification

Detoxification is a natural body process to reduce ama. Our natural ability to detox, however, can become compromised when our system becomes overloaded from stress, poor diet and environmental toxins. So what can we do to support the body’s natural process of detoxification? Panchakarma, the traditional purification treatments of Ayurveda, help remove ama from deep within the tissue beds. Cleansing and detoxifying the body also helps build up our natural digestive fire, which itself naturally burns ama from the body.

For more information on Panchakarma, the traditional purification and detoxification treatments of Ayurveda, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa and Treatment Center:

www.theraj.com

 

 

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Choosing the Ideal Ayurveda Diet for Weight Loss

1342968_12234562_picGiven all the information on doshas and imbalances, on the six tastes, and on various food qualities, how do we ultimately decide what food is best for us? While it is true that a person with a particular mind/body balance is most likely to over-accumulate the dosha that predominates, this is not always the case.

Due to our modern lifestyle, filled with so much sensory stimulation, computers, travel, stress, multi-tasking and irregular sleep habits, a large percentage of people end up with some kind of Vata imbalance. So while it is true that a Vata dominated type will most likely develop Vata imbalances, Pitta and Kapha types can also  find themselves with Vata imbalances.

Those trying to lose weight often assume that they should avoid Kapha-type foods. But in fact it could easily be that an underlying Vata or Pitta imbalance is causing poor digestion, triggering food cravings and comfort eating, thus leading to weight gain. Eating light salads, raw vegetables and other light, cold foods (and in some cases spicy foods) would only serve to aggravate these imbalances and work against weight loss. In creating an Ayurveda weight loss program or any other kind of targeted health regime, it is recommended to see an expert in Ayurveda pulse assessment before committing to a particular diet.

It is important to defer, initially, to an intellectual understanding of recommended foods. Suppose you are craving chocolate. The taste of chocolate is both bitter and sweet. When we get cravings it usually means our body requires the nutrients naturally provided by foods with those tastes (especially the bitter taste which tends to go missing in our western diet). Rice and spinach provide sweet and bitter tastes and are probably the kinds of foods that what the body is actually looking for. But the mind turns that craving for sweet and bitter into a craving for chocolate. Bad habits can create “false” desires. Sometimes retraining the mind/body is necessary before we can trust our instincts to lead us to the proper diet. Once we develop truly natural eating habits, the body itself becomes the best Ayurvedic authority.

There are two different approaches to diet: balancing and purifying.  A balancing diet includes all six tastes but favors more of those that will help pacify the one or two doshas that are out of balance. A purifying diet targets the build-up of ama in the system. Ama is the end product of poorly digested food. It is said to be at the basis of the vast majority of illnesses and disorders. Because ama contributes to the early stages of so many diseases, reducing ama and enhancing digestion is a critical part of the Ayurvedic understanding of balanced health. Next week we’ll look at an ama-reducing diet and how we can promote ideal digestion.

To find information about Ayurveda Consultations, visit the website for The Raj, Ayurveda Health Spa and Treatment Center:

http://theraj.com/ayurveda/ayurvedic-diet.php

 

 

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Creating Balance Through Taste

One of the most basic principles in Ayurveda is that all of the six tastes should be included in every meal. This helps to assure that the food we are eating gives us complete nutrition, that our diet is balancing all three doshas, and that our food gives us a sense of satisfaction. Eating all six tastes has also been said to stimulate the proper sequence of the digestive process.

If you repeatedly omit some of the six tastes you may develop food cravings or find yourself searching the cupboards for “something more”. This can lead to weight gain or binging. The simple step of making sure you have included all of the tastes can help to overcome unnatural eating habits, often leading to easy and natural weight loss.

The six tastes are: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, astringent (dry and puckering) and pungent (spicy).  If you have one or more doshas that are out of balance or that tend to go out of balance you will want to include greater quantities of certain tastes in order to balance your individual constitution. Different combinations of tastes bring different doshas into balance.  For instance, vata dosha is balanced by increased amounts of salty, sour and sweet tastes. Pitta is reduced by bitter, sweet and astringent tastes. And kapha is balance by pungent, bitter and astringent tastes.

Next week we’ll look at the six tastes and their connection with the five “mahabhutas”—the primordial elements of creation (earth, water, fire, air and space). This week we will review the six tastes one by one:

The Six Tastes

Sweet foods include: Sugar, rice, milk, cream, butter, ghee and wheat products.

Sweet foods, because they are cold and heavy, increase kapha. If eaten in excess they can cause weight gain, a dull or sleepy mind, and congestion. Vata types benefit from sweet foods because sweet adds steadiness and physical energy. Sweet can also help pacify pitta because it cools the body.

Sour foods include: Lemons, cheese, yogurt, tomatoes, grapes, oranges, berries and other sour fruits.

Sour foods enhance digestion and increase thirst. Excessive thirst is a pitta characteristic, but because sour foods trigger the desire for more water, they can also make your body heavier (more kapha). Too much sour food can create sharp, acidic problems such as ulcers, blood chemistry imbalances, acne and rashes, and heartburn. Vata types benefit from eating sour food because it stimulated digestion.

Salty foods include: Salt, soy sauce, seaweed, and kelp

Salt is hot and spicy, increasing Pitta in the body. It also attaches itself to water molecules, making tissues heavier—a kapha function. Too much salt can lead to pitta disorders, such as inflammation, acne and overeating. Kapha disorders, such as becoming overweight, are also aggravated by too much salt. Salt is a good taste for balancing vata b because it stimulates and steadies digestion.Foods_(cropped)

Bitter foods include: Bitter greens (endive, chicory, mustard greens, parsley, sprouts), leafy greens (kale, spinach, chard), brussels sprouts, zucchini, celery, sprouts, beets and grapefruit.

Because of their light, cool, dry quality, too much bitter foods can put vata out of balance, diminishing the appetite and causing weight loss, headaches, unsteadiness, dry skin and weakness. Like sweet tastes, bitter foods cool the body and are therefore pitta pacifying.

Astringent foods include: Beans, lentils, dal, pomegranates, apples, pears, broccoli, asparagus, green beans, grains such as rye, buckwheat and quinoa, turmeric, marjoram and tea and coffee.

Astringent foods are dry and cooling. For vata types, astringent food can cause constipation or gas. Like bitter, this taste is effective in pacifying pitta and kapha.

Pungent foods include: Cayenne, chili peppers, radishes, ginger, anis, onions, horseradish and spicy foods.

Pungent foods are hot and spicy. For kapha imbalances, pungent foods are ideal for heating up your body and clearing congestion. Too much spicy food can cause excessive thirst, irritation, or anger in pitta types or in anyone during hot weather.

One simple option is to use “churnas”, special spice mixtures that are formulated to include all six tastes. However this shortcut has its drawbacks. Getting the bitter taste from spices is not going to give your the same exposure to the health-creating vitamins, minerals, and cancer-fighting components contained in foods such as brussel’s sprouts and kale.

A consultation with a Vedic expert can help you determine which tastes should predominate in your meals in order to provide optimum balance. For more information on  consultations at The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa and Treatment Center, visit

www.theraj.com

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