It’s a common refrain: one size does not fit all. And when it comes to what you put on your plate, this is especially true. Insert Ayurveda - a holistic way of eating that’s tailored to the needs of each specific body type.
It’s been practised in India for at least 5,000 years, but in Australia, it’s still relatively unknown. That’s why we’ve enlisted British-Indian foodie and Ayurveda expert Anjum Anand to dish all the deets.
What is the Ayurvedic diet?
Ayurveda is an ancient Indian science on how to be healthy. It’s an amazing, complex science which encompasses food, yoga, meditation and many other practices on how to be well. The Ayurvedic diet specifically would be how to eat for health. Ayurvedic doctors believe food can be poison or food can be medicine, it all depends on what you eat, how much of it and how well you digest it.
What are the three Ayurvedic body types?
Vata is the air body type or air dosha. Pitta is the fire body type and Kapha is the earth body type (and a little water).
How do they influence our connection to food?
Ayurveda believes we have all of the elements in us, and the one that is your dosha means that you have more of that than any of the others. The same goes for food. Food has all the elements in it too, and we use food to balance out our own doshas. For example, Pita is the fire body type, so they should try to incorporate food that is quite cooling, to balance the heat that is in their body. This can be fresh fruit, coconut milk or water, salads and other cold foods. They should probably avoid foods that would increase the heat in their body, such as chillies, too much red meat and too much alcohol. All body types, in their natural state, are balanced and healthy, we only become unbalanced and unhealthy if we eat the wrong foods or live the wrong lifestyle, by incorporating too much of the same element that is our dosha.
What happens if our doshas become unbalanced?
Keeping it really simple, every dosha is associated with common illnesses and when you are in an unbalanced state for a long period of time it manifests in different illnesses or conditions. For example, Vata people might get arthritis or osteoporosis. Kapha people might have a higher tendency towards type 2 diabetes, and those of the Pitta dosha might have skin and liver related issues.
What factors affect this?
What you eat, your general lifestyle, and mental health I.e. levels of stress. Even where you live, in terms of weather conditions, and what stage you are in life all affect your balance. From a baby to an adult is considered the Kapha life stage, where you’re literally gaining mass i.e. earth. The second stage is Pitta, when you’re an adult and in the working world, and literally, that fire in your belly will help drive you forward. The last stage is the Vata stage, where everything gets drier. And becomes evident in the wrinkling of our skin.
Does the time of day we eat play a part?
Ayurvedic doctors believe that your digestion is strongest in the middle of the day, so lunch should be your biggest meal. You should eat dinner early, so you have time to digest before you lie down. You’re encouraged to only eat when you’re hungry, and to only eat as much as you can fit in two cupped hands. The frame of mind you eat in too is almost as important as anything else. For proper digestion, you should be calm and focused on your food, and don’t drink water with your meals.
What are the Ayurvedic dietary dos and donts?
There are quite a few, for example, don’t mix fruit with food. Don’t eat two types of protein in the same meal as it’s quite hard to digest. Don’t drink water with meals, as it dilutes your stomach acids. Always try to eat at regular times every day.
Are there any Ayurvedic foods in particular that can help fight illness?
There’s no such thing as an Ayurvedic food. All natural food though will do something good for you. And it’s the role of Ayurveda, to help you understand the best foods for you. Spices, chillies, ginger and garlic are considered particularly good for preventing and fighting colds and other simple issues.
This article originally appeared on womenshealth.com.au