Ayurveda is an ancient Indian system of health that emphasizes highly on the importance of proper diet and nutrition in maintaining good health and preventing disease. One great principle of Ayurveda is that we should only eat until we are about 80% full leaving the other 20% empty. This allows our body to have some breathing space to properly digest and absorb the nutrients from our food.
In terms of what to eat, it’s no news that Ayurveda emphasizes the importance of eating fresh, whole foods that are in season and locally grown. These foods are believed to be the most nourishing and highest in prana (subtle life force energy) for our bodies giving us sattvic (pure and balanced) energy. Additionally, Ayurveda suggests that we aim to eat a complete and balanced diet that includes all six tastes as mentioned in the ancient science: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent.
To balance your diet according to Ayurveda, you should also take into consideration your unique constitution or body type, also called as doshas- vata, pitta, kapha. Each dosha has different dietary requirements and recommendations. For example, vata types may do well with warm, grounding foods, while pitta types may benefit from cooling foods.
Ayurveda emphasizes the importance of recognizing the body’s requirements by understanding its qualities (gunas) and eating in a way that supports our unique needs. Eating to the limit of 80% full and including the variety of 6 tastes in our diets can help to keep us in good health, physically and mentally. Additionally, understanding your body type and incorporating appropriate foods in your diet to make up for the lack of certain gunas or qualities can help to balance your doshas and maintain optimal health and energy levels.
Suggested meal size in Ayurveda is based on your own hand size, when both palms are cupped and placed together it shows the size of your stomach. The amount of food that fits into your palms (or as mentioned 80% of this space) is the correct amount of food for your stomach.
The 6 tastes
The six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent are recognized as follows.
Sweet taste is found in foods such as grains, fruits, and dairy products. It is believed to nourish and pacify the body and mind. Sour taste is found in foods such as citrus fruits, yogurt, and fermented foods. It is believed to stimulate digestion and increase appetite.
Salty taste is found in foods such as, you guessed it, salt, as well as in seafood and soy sauce. It is believed to stimulate digestion, increase thirst and taste sensation. Pungent taste is found in foods such as chilli peppers, ginger, and garlic. It is believed to stimulate digestion and clear congestion.
Bitter taste is found in foods such as leafy greens, turmeric, and bitter gourd. It is believed to detoxify the body and improve digestion. Astringent taste is found in foods such as beans, lentils, and some fruits. It is believed to dry up excess moisture in the body and tighten and tone tissues.
Incorporating all six tastes in our daily meals can help to balance the doshas and keep us in good shape.
Ayurveda views the universe and the human body as being made up of five elements: space, air, fire, water, and earth. These elements combine to form three bioenergies or doshas, known as Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
Vata dosha, made up of space and air, governs movement and circulation in the body. Imbalance in Vata can lead to symptoms such as anxiety, constipation and dry skin.
Pitta dosha, made up of fire and water, governs metabolism and digestion in the body. Imbalance in Pitta can lead to symptoms such as inflammation, acne and acidity.
Kapha dosha, made up of water and earth, governs growth and structure in the body. Imbalance in Kapha can lead to symptoms such as weight gain, sinus congestion and lethargy.
Ayurveda teaches us that each individual has a unique combination of these doshas, and this combination determines one's physical and mental characteristics and tendencies. By understanding your unique dosha combination, you can make lifestyle and dietary choices that will help to bring balance to your body and mind, promoting overall health and well-being.
View Food Charts for Each Dosha (& its associated tastes)