In the Western world, we have a strictly chemical approach to the world of nutrition. While this approach is certainly useful in many ways, it can't be considered a holistic nutritional science because it doesn't fully address the energetic and conscious influence of the foods we consume. Ayurvedic nutrition, on the other hand, fully acknowledges the energetic and chemical attributes of food and medicine. By combining both chemical and energetic knowledge of food, Ayurvedic nutrition can help us develop good health and vitality.
Basics of Ayurvedic Nutrition
To someone unfamiliar with Ayurveda, some of the terminologies might seem a bit strange. Instead of dealing with specific vitamins and minerals, or counting calories, Ayurveda deals with broader terms that relate to the qualities and energetics of food, medicine, and the human constitution. Here are some foundations of Ayurveda:
The Doshas, or ConstitutionsIn Ayurveda, it is said that there are three primary constitutions, known as doshas. The diet plan that you develop will depend largely on your particular dosha, as you will want to eat foods that nourish and bring balance to your dosha. The three main doshas are:
- Vata. The vata dosha is characterized by light, cool, and dry characteristics. Vata people are generally thin, energetic, and creative.
- Pitta. The pitta dosha is characterized by hot, firey, and passionate characteristics. Pittas are often energetic, determined, and compassionate with a keen intellect.
- Kapha. The kapha dosha is characterized by dense, cool, earthy characteristics. Kapha people are generally denser, more relaxed, stable, and kind.
The ElementsThe Ayurvedics believe that everything is made up of some interaction of the four basic elements. The combination of elements dictates the thing's characteristics.
- Earth - heavy, slow, dense, and cool.
- Air - light, fast-moving, and cool.
- Water - fluid, cool, and wet.
- Fire - hot, unstable, and dry.
- Ether - a non-physical element. Etheric qualities are generally observed by the absence of other elements (i.e. ether is cool because it lacks the heat of fire).
As such, our seasons are dictated by the elements. For example, fall typically relates to air and ether, making it associated with the Vata dosha. This means its typically beneficial to eat Vata-pacifying meals during the fall.
The Vital ForcesIn Ayurveda, there are three vital forces that contribute to the health and vitality of a human being. In short, these are:
- Prana. Prana is the basic fundamental life force, which we receive from three sources: the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the sun. Ayurveda, as a science, is designed to maximize the amount of prana that we can absorb by stimulating our agni. Agni refers to the body's digestive fire or our ability to metabolize food and medicine. The stronger our agni, the more life force we can assimilate.
- Ojas. Ojas refers to the 'heartiness' or vitality of the body. Those with strong ojas are resilient to illness, have more energy, and tend to live longer.
- Tejas. If agni is the digestive fire, then tejas reflects the interaction of that fire on our bodily systems - in other words, tejas represents the metabolism and the energetic interactions of our cells and organs. With a strong tejas, our body and the systems within it are able to function effectively.
To embrace Ayurvedic nutrition, it's important to understand each of these factors and be mindful of how they influence our meals. Understanding the basic forces, elements, and constitutions can help you develop a powerful Ayurvedic nutrition plan that will help you achieve optimal wellness.
Written by Nigel Ford