Ayurvedic food is structured around the principles of a medical system that developed over 3,000 years ago. What does ancient Indian medicine have to teach us about our diet, and should we all adapt to Ayurvedic eating?April 28, 2022 5:19 pm August 18, 2021 4:49 pm
What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda is a traditional system of medicine which hails originally from India. Much like Traditional Chinese Medicine, it first appeared thousands of years ago, yet still has ardent followers in the modern day.
Some historians date Ayurvedic medicine back to the 2nd century BC.(1) That means it was just getting going around the time that Hannibal crossed the alps (complete with retinue of African war elephants).(2)
Ayurveda encompasses an entire lifestyle, beyond simply adopting a certain diet. It divides people by body type, and once you know yours you can follow the relevant advice about eating and self-care.
Astoundingly, given that it first appeared thousands of years ago, Ayurveda is still extremely popular today. In 2017, a survey conducted by PWC found that 77% of Indian households use Ayurvedic products.(3)
It’s also attracting plenty of attention in the West, with around 240,000 Americans using Ayurvedic medicine of some kind.(4)
Why is Ayurvedic food becoming popular again?
While everyone will have their own individual reasons for turning to an Ayurvedic way of eating, there are definitely certain trends.
Firstly, the wellness industry has boomed in recent years. According to the Global Wellness Institute, in 2017/18 its value rested at $4.5 trillion.(5) Demand for products and services which help us to feel our best has never been higher, perhaps due to the strains of modern life.
While we may not be technically ‘ill’ – we don’t have a specific disease – we feel there’s something missing. We don’t feel at our best physically and emotionally, and we’re looking for answers.
Writing in Forbes, Scott Nelson (himself a founder of a light therapy company) suggested that people are more becoming interested in wellness for a few key reasons.
Firstly, we’re living in an ageing population, and a society in which stress and burnout are incredibly common. Next, we have more information than ever before, so are better placed to take accountability for our own health. And thirdly, we’re not as satisfied with Western treatment options as we once were.(5)
That leaves many of us searching for alternative ways of thinking about our health, which is where traditional systems such as Ayurveda and TCM come in.
What are the main principles of Ayurvedic eating?
In the early days of medical thinking, different systems developed around the world. One was our Western notion of medicine, which depended heavily on the study of anatomy and disease.
Another was Ayurveda, which looks at the body as a whole system.
Ayurvedic eating aims to keep that system in balance by choosing the right types of food.
What’s more, an Ayurvedic diet doesn’t look the same for everyone. Rather, your recommended diet is based on your Ayurvedic body type.
The three doshas
In Ayurvedic thinking, there are three life energies, or ‘doshas’. They are in every human being, but they also make up all other beings in the universe, including plants, animals, minerals and even the seasons of the year.(6)
Because of this, we humans are not distinct from the natural world, but simply another element within it.
Each of us has a slightly different balance of each dosha, and knowing which is your dominant dosha is essential for figuring out which foods you should eat. Your makeup of doshas is called your Pakriti, and it remains unchanged throughout your life.(6)
The aim is always to keep your doshas in balance. Eating the wrong sort of foods can throw them off, leading to problems down the line for your health.
Which is my dominant dosha?
The three doshas are called Pitta, Vata and Kapha, and they are made up of the Ayurvedic elements (air, ether, fire, earth and water).
They each have associated qualities, so if you’d like to figure out which is your dominant dosha, ask yourself which of these descriptions sounds most like you.(8)
Vata: Made up of a combination of air and ether, this dosha belongs to you if you have a delicate build and fine hair. You’re generally cheerful, chatty, and creative, while your moods and decisions can change on a moment’s notice.
Pitta: Your dosha is made of fire and water. You have a medium, muscular build and a warm nature, but your temper can turn fiery if you’re crossed! You’re not afraid to be a leader and you’re comfortable speaking your mind.
Kapha: Made of earth and water, the kappa dosha is yours if you have a solid frame and a calm disposition. You’re easy-going, thoughtful and loving.
If it seems to you like you’re a blend of more than one dosha, it’s because it is also possible to have two dominant doshas!
So, now you have a feel for your dominant dosha, let’s look at what you should be eating.
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