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.

www.theraj.com

( Picture of a nicely set dinner table. Source: Google Advance Image Search.
Creative Commons. The image is used under the terms of Googles Creative Commons rules:http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en. This photograph and credit do not constitute an endorsement of this blog or products mentioned.)

Ayurveda #1 Health Tip: Digestion, Digestion, Digestion!

Once again, I am writing about digestion. The reason this topic comes up over and over again is because, according to Ayurveda, it is vital to maintaining good health. If you aren’t digesting your food properly, 1) you aren’t getting needed nutrients and 2) you are creating toxins, or ama, as a result of partially digested food.

Lets look at these consequences a bit more closely:

1) Remember that even the best diet will not provide proper nutrition if our digestion is not doing its job. Not getting needed nutrients out of your food can result in a lack of strength, fatigue, slower problem solving ability and muscle response time, hypertension and more.

Poor nutrition can also set off a vicious cycle of poor eating habits. When the body is not getting what it needs to function properly, it gets “cravings”. It is easy for the intellect to mistakenly interpret these cravings and turn to a “quick fix”. Feeling lethargic, many opt for caffeine or sugar or carbohydrates (or a combination of all three.) These foods fail to give the body what it really needs, are difficult to digest and lead to more cravings.

2) Ayurveda believes that most disease and disorders stem from blockages to the free flow in intelligence in the body. When impurities build up in the various channels of the body (blood vessels, lymph circulation, cellular pores, etc),

These areas become cut off from biological intelligence and can become weak or diseased.

Improving Digestion with Ayurveda

So let’s get down to basics. How to restart a sluggish digestion?

Breakfast:

Digestion is no as strong early in the morning, so breakfast should be light and according to hunger. Avoid meat or eggs. Favor cooked cereal, fruit and fresh juice.Korean_abalone_porridge-Jeonbokjuk-02

Remember if you are taking milk not to combine it with anything other than sweet tastes (like cereal). Milk should be boiled. If you are eating fruit, do not have milk, even in coffee.

Lunch:

This should be your main meal of the day because digestion is strongest at mid-day.

Lunch should be a warm, cooked meal containing all six tastes. Ideally you should have at least a half hour for lunch, including 10 to 15 minutes to sit quietly after you are finished eating. This will allow the digestive process to get well under way.

 Dinner:

The later dinner is served, the lighter you should eat. Avoid heavy foods like cheese, yogurt, meats, oils and fried foods. If you like these foods, these should be eaten at lunch when digestion is stronger.

 Other General Principles:

Eat according to your hunger levels. Do not eat if you are not hungry.

Eat in a settled environment. Business lunches, eating in front of the TV and eating while walking or driving (or standing up) can disturb our digestive process.

Sip hot water during the meal. This enlivens digestion and helps the food be better digested and absorbed. Never drink cold beverages (or iced foods) either during the meal or right after a meal.

Chew your food well. Digestion starts in the mouth.

Avoid heated honey. Read your labels carefully and only buy unheated honey. Do not use honey in baking or add to beverages that are too hot to sip comfortably.

Eat freshly prepared foods. Avoid packaged foods and leftovers. Cooked food is easier to digest than raw.

Foods that are especially nourishing (and are quickly converted into ojas) include boiled milk, ghee (clarified butter), ripe fruits, freshly made fruit juices, almonds (pre-soaked in water — be sure to throw out the water), and dates.

Visit an Ayurvedic expert and find out what your body needs. Vata, pitta and kapha types may receive different recommendations on creating a healthy and strong digestive fire. They will also take into consideration any imbalances that you have. If you have a pitta imbalance, for example, you might be encouraged to avoid ginger and other heating spices. Remember that, unlike Western medicine, Ayurveda always looks at the whole. Your digestive problems may simply be one symptom of a larger imbalance.

Next week we’ll look at Panchakarma, the ulitmate approach to restarting digestion, getting rid of years of accumulated ama and restoring balance to the body.

For more information on Ayurveda consultations and Panchakarma treatments, go to The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

www.theraj.com

Ayurveda: How Food’s Taste and Qualities Affect Balanced Health

Last week we looked at the Ayurveda principle of including all six tastes in every meal in order to assure balanced nutrition — and balanced doshas. This week we will explore the building blocks of both the doshas and the six tastes: the five “mahabhutas” or primordial elements of creation. These elements are earth (prithivi), water (jala), fire (tejas), air (vayu) and space (akasha). These elements combine in different ways to make up the three doshas and the six tastes.

Doshas

Vata is a combination of space (akasha) and air (vayu).

Pitta is a combination of fire (tejas) and, in lesser amounts, water (jala)

Kapha is a combination of earth (prithivi) and water (jala)

Tastes

Sweet is dominated by earth and water (prithivi and jala)

Sour is dominated by earth and fire (prithivi and tejas)

Salty is dominated by water and fire (jala and tejas)

Pungent is dominated by air and fire (vayu and tejas)

Bitter is dominated by air and space (vayu and akasha)

Astringent is dominated by air and earth (vayu and prithivi)

How the Tastes Affect the Doshas

Sweet, sour and salty tastes increase kapha and decrease vata

Pungent, bitter and astringent tastes decrease kapha and increase vata

Pungent, sour and salty tastes increase pitta

Sweet, bitter and astringent tastes decrease pitta.

As an example, we can see how vata, being made of the combination of air and space, would be aggravated by the bitter taste, which is dominated by air and space, as well as by the pungent and astringent tastes, which both contain the element of air. Qualities are increased by similar qualities and reduced by their opposites.

There are also additional pairs of food properties that can affect the balance of our doshas. These pairs are: heavy and light, cold and hot, and oily and dry.

Heavy and Light:

Heavy foods increase kapha and reduce vata

Light foods increase vata and reduce kapha

Cold and Hot

Cold foods increase kapha and vata and reduce pitta

Hot foods increase pitta and reduce vata and kapha

Oily and Dry

Oily foods increase kapha and reduce vata

Dry foods increase vata and reduce kapha

Not only do these qualities affect the doshas, they can also be natural signals regarding the nutritional value of the food. For example, heavier foods are harder to digest than lighter foods. If a person has a low digestive capacity, that person should take care to favor lighter foods. In the same way that a large log can snuff out a fire, too much heavy food can overload even a normal digestive system. This will result in the creation of ama, or impurties in the body. Common heavy foods include meat and oil and fatty foods.

Next week we will look into improving digestion, avoiding ama, and look at the difference between balancing and purifying diets. Ideally an Ayurveda consultation with an expert in pulse assessment will allow you to pinpoint the tastes and qualities of food that are best suited to balance your doshas and to enhance your digestion.

Find more information at The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa and Treatment Center:

www.theraj.com

Ayurveda Approach to Holiday Eating

Thanksgiving opens the flood gates to six weeks of family feasts and holiday treats. The ancient Indian health science of Ayurveda offers helpful tips on how to make your way though the holidays 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 the dry, rough and cool qualities in the body.  This dryness can disturb various tissues and organs. Many people notice dry skin and lips. 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 result allergies in the spring.

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 will help you avoid mindless eating. Additionally, 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 while you are doing something else 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.

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 during the 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 treatment diet is the perfect way to get back into healthy eating habits.

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

http://www.theraj.com