Let Food Be Your Medicine!
Author: Guest Blogger

This post is authored by Dr. Jay Apte – renowned Ayurvedic physician and expert.  Dr. Apte is the founder of the Ayurveda Institute of America, AyurFoods and Herbal Care (one of the first companies to develop, manufacture and market genuine Ayurvedic food supplements in the United States).  She has also established a Health & Nature Wellness Center (in Northern California) and started schools in Houston, TX, Foster City, CA and Los Angeles, CA.  Dr. Apte is a past president of the CAAM and is on the NAMA board of directors.

Tap into Ayurveda and see how your food can be your medicine!

Many diet fads (such as low/no fat diet, Atkin’s Diet, South Beach Diet, etc., come and go, but an Ayurvedic Prakriti (Body Constitution) – specific diet will always stay and be the right answer for your health and wellness.

Ayurveda looks at the qualities in the foods rather than counting the calories.  For example, foods loaded with cheese, cream and sugar are “heavy” in nature, while popcorn and dry toast are considered “light.”  Salad greens are “cold” while ginger, garlic, a glass of wine or salts are “hot” in potency.  A stew is moist and baked chicken is dry.  Which foods are right?  Everything is right or wrong, depending on your prakriti (Body Constitution).

The key is to balance your predominant dosha/s (qualities which make up your prakriti) with the right qualities of foods.  If your body constitution is Kapha-predominant (heavy and cold in nature), then light and warm foods are your answer.  Some slices of toast and a glass of ginger tea is a perfect breakfast choice.  A grilled vegetable or chicken sandwiches as lunch and then rice, dhal soup and baked veggies as dinner will help to alleviate allergies, colds and congestive headaches.  You will start to lose weight and feel more energetic.

If your personality is hot and angry (Pitha-predominant), cool foods will be your right choice.  That means more leafy greens and sweet fruits, mild spices and low salt.   Salads, grains, fruits and vegetables with mild spices such as cumin, coriander, fennel, cardamom, basil or mint or cilantro will help you keep balance and keep heart burn, acid reflux, skin problems and irritability at bay.

If you are like a busy bee – constantly buzzing around, feeling restless and listless and dry all over, with symptoms such as dry skin, dry lips, constipation, etc. (Vata-predominant), warm and moist foods will be your soul food.  A bowl of oatmeal cereal will be an ideal breakfast, and a bowl of hot soup and stew or gumbo is a good lunch.  Dinner can be rice and dal soup and steamed veggies.  Such moist and warm foods will balance the dry, light and cold qualities of Vata and also help prevent and treat anxiety, worry, constipation and aches and pains in the body.

Ayurveda also recommends other rituals about eating:

1.  Eat freshly prepared, home cooked foods.  Fresh foods are rich in Prana – the life energy.  Pranic foods are healing.  When you cook, you put in your positive energy – making the food Sattvic.  Sattva is clarity, purity, light.  Sattvic foods heal the Body and lighten the Mind.

2.  Eat seasonal vegetables and fruits.  Mother Nature provides right qualities in fruits and vegetables in the right season.  Cool salad greens are in abundance during hot summers.  Heavy and sweet squashes and pumpkins make their appearance in bitter cold winters.  Make a trip to the farmer’s market to buy your seasonal fruits and veggies.

3.  Eat three meals a day and zip your lips in between.  Fruit is OK in between, but not a bag of chips or cookies.  It takes 5-6 hours to digest food.  Small, frequent meals cause indigestion, which may produce a toxin called AmaAma becomes the cause of many diseases.

4.  Pay attention to your digestive fire:  Agni.   Agni digests the food.  If it is weak, the food stays undigested.  If it is too strong, it burns the food.  Your tongue is the mirror image of your digestive system.  Watch your tongue in the mirror every morning.  If it looks pink, you have a good digestive fire.  If it has thick white coating, your agni may be low.  You may have to pay better attention to foods you eat.

5.  Eat mindfully and with proper frame of mind.  Savor the food and enjoy the taste and texture.  Eat in a happy mood.  If you are angry while eating, you are swallowing the anger.  If sad, you are ingesting the sadness.  So eat with the proper frame of Mind.

6.  Feed somebody before you eat.  Share your food with the person who is with you.  If you are alone, feed your pet, water the house plant or throw a few bird seeds in your backyard.  It is like feeding the other Soul.

7.  Bless your food before eating.  The grains, the veggies and/or the animals are offering their life to become your food.  Respect them.  Also think about the hunger in the world.  Do not waste the food.

8.  Chew each bite 32 times.  Why?  Because you have 32 teeth.  Chewing improves digestion and absorption and does not spike the blood sugar too high too quickly.

In conclusion, eating is more than filling a bag.  It is the ritual for your health.  Know your doshas and create balance with the right foods.  Ayurvedic text has rightfully described the importance of food in the following verse:

 “If you are eating right foods, why do you need medicine?  If you are not, what is medicine going to do?”

© 2010 Dr. Jay Apte

(image by NCTFN)



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