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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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

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

(Photo of vegetables. 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.)