How to Eat: An Ayurvedic Perspective

In my brief years as an Ayurvedic practitioner, I have noticed that it’s quite common for people to eat based off of current food fads without really considering if it’s appropriate for them, specifically. This arises from a combination of stellar marketing, science, and pseudoscience. Somewhere, though, we seemed to have lost a basic wisdom of how to eat.

As the conscious eating trend continues, the food confusion seems to grow.  People genuinely want to eat healthily and that’s wonderful, but the latest trends and science don’t always take into account a person’s unique constitution. This is where I have found Ayurveda to be particularly helpful.

Food Dilemma

Here’s a real-life example: having smoothies every day, year round. The typical smoothie generally contains a combination of dairy, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and oils. I’ve frequently asked people how they feel after such a meal, the response is usually something along the lines of heavy, lethargic, weighed down, or “okay.” From an Ayurvedic perspective, smoothies are problematic for a few reasons: they’re heavy, cold, and often contain poor food combinations. This ultimately leads to an impaired digestion.

I also find that people are so stressed about eating right that it generally makes them either binge eat, dislike their food, eat very little, or eat too much of one kind of thing (i.e. smoothies are good for me, so I’ll have one every day). This often is where I begin with people: How to de-stress eating and make it simple.

Ayurveda offers many suggestions for how to eat properly. I have often found considering this one thing is often a good place to start: how did your grandmother or great-grandmother eat? Was she pounding cold smoothies with ten different ingredients, every day or was she was making delicious, warm, homemade made stews (or something along those lines) and my all time favorite breakfast, freshly made pancakes and maple syrup? 😋

I often ask my clients how they ate when they grew up. Sometimes it’s all McDonalds and TV dinners and other times it’s freshly made dinners. If it’s freshly made dinners, I try to find the types of meals that they are familiar with that won’t increase any current aggravations further and have them start there and report back.

What food is right for me?

There is a concept in Ayurveda known as satmyaSatmya is often defined as “that which is healthy for the individual when used regularly.” One way to orient toward this concept is to think about how your family has eaten over generations.

One of the biggest misconceptions about Ayurveda is that eating Ayurvedically means eating kitchari or dal and rice and Indian spices. This is not the case. Eating what is satmya is Ayurvedic.

What generations of your family have thrived on for 50 to 100+ years is likely more supportive of your constitution then suddenly deciding you must only eat “Ayurvedically” and then switching to a diet of kitchari.

The Basics for Eating Ayurvedically

If you’re not working with an Ayurvedic practitioner and want to start eating Ayurvedically, give these few points a try and see how you feel.

Caraka, one of the main codifiers of Ayurveda, gives us a few rules to follow when eating. Whether you’re a seasoned Ayurveda pro or a total beginner, these basics are the basis for how to eat the Ayurvedic way.

  1. Food Should Be Warm: “warm food is delicious, it gets digested quickly, it stimulates the digestive fire, helps with the downward movement of vāta (i.e. bowel movements, etc.) and reduces mucus (i.e. kapha).”1. Warm food is essentially pre-cooked. Allowing the body to work less to process it.
  2. Food Should Be Unctuous: “unctuous food is delicious after intake and continues to stimulate the digestive fire, it gets digested quickly, increases downward movement of vāta. It nourishes the body and sense perceptions and promotes strength and complexion.”2. Warm, unctuous food allows the food to be digested better and help it move through the system better. The unctuousness helps to build the tissues of the body, which in turn nourish the sense organs.
  3. Eat the Proper Quantity: ah, our old friend (from the last blog post). “When food is taken in the proper quantity it doesn’t aggravate the doṣas. It is easily digested and passed out of the body after digestion.”3.
  4. Eat Only After the Previous Meal Is Digested: “…if one eats before [the] earlier meal is digested, [it] mix[es] with undigested food [of the previous meal and] will vitiate all the dosha quickly. [W]hen one eats after the previous meal is well digested, the dosha do not get [aggravated], agni is stimulated, appetite is increased…[and] eructation is [clear]…there are natural urges to pass bodily wastes and there is no obstruction to their passage, and the eaten food enhances one’s life….”4. Has my previous meal been digested, is the key question to ask. Here are some basic signs: within three hours of your last meal, you should experience the following: clear burps (no food taste), feeling light and at ease, an appearance of hunger and thirst.

It is my hope that as you read through these tips, you’ll start to feel more empowered to eat in a way that feels more intuitive and feels healthy to you, all fads aside.

If you’re still confused or have more questions, I recommend seeking out an Ayurvedic professional in order to get a clearer picture of what might be the right diet for you based on your constitution, season, time of life, digestive capacity, etc. 

To your health and happiness,

Sada

NO information on this site should be used to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease or condition.

  1. Sharma, R. K., & Dash, B. Agniveśa’s Caraka Saṃhitā: Text with English Translation & Critical Exposition Based on (Cakrapāṇi Datta’s Āyurveda Dīpikā). Varanasi: Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series Office; Reprint Edition. 2016. Ca. Vi. 1/25.1.
  2. Ibid. 25.2
  3. Ibid. 25.3
  4. carakasamhitaonline.com, http://www.carakasamhitaonline.com/mediawiki-1.28.2/index.php?title=Rasa_Vimana

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