Ayurveda is a 5,000-year-old Vedic system of natural healing that has its origins in India. It is considered to be the sister science of yoga and its name loosely translates to the ‘meaning of life and knowledge’. Through this holistic care system, individuals identify what types of food, colors, aromas, sounds and touch will create an optimal state of harmony in their mind, body and soul. Individual’s health needs are defined by their body type which is categorized within the three forces called doshas. The doshas reflect the three main governing principles of nature – vata (air), pitta (fire) and kapha (earth-water). Each person is a unique combination of these three forces. Curious as to what your dosha is? Take the Chopra Center Dosha Quiz HERE.
Recently, I attended a Perfect Health workshop at the Chopra Center in Carlsbad, Ca. The workshop centered around Ayurvedic nutrition, specifically the 6 Tastes of Life. In Ayurveda, they approach food as medicine and encourage people to pay careful attention to the way food is absorbed and digested. The goal is to create a greater awareness of our relationship with food, so we can prevent illnesses and achieve optimal physical health. To fully understand the 6 Tastes of Life, one must first become familiar with the fundamentals of Ayurvedic nutrition.
Agni is our digestive power. It is responsible for regulating metabolism through digestion and absorption. Our Agni transforms the food and nutrients we consume into energy. When our Agni is optimized, it is known as Ojas or strong energy. When our Agni is weak, it is known as Ama or toxic. Signs of Ojas include a healthy glow, plenty of energy, a pink tongue, and overall centered feeling. When we experience Ama, we are fatigued, have bad breathe, generalized pain, and it can be difficult to manifest our intentions. The goal is to consume foods that nourish and balance us so we experience the purist expression of metabolism and we produce Ojas. There are many ways to keep your Agni in alignment including eating colorful foods, reducing consumption of acidic foods, and chewing your food slowly.
But perhaps the easiest way to follow Ayurvedic nutrition principles is to practice the 6 Tastes of Life. By combining these 6 tastes into every meal, you will be able to achieve balance and variety, feel satiated and create Ojas. Each taste represents an element and helps to balance all of the doshas.
Sweet (Earth & Water) – Energy Sources. These are proteins, carbohydrates and fats. This is the most nutritive element.
Eat organic meats, healthy fats, and whole grains. Add food sources such as organic poultry, oatmeal, quinoa, and ghee. Ghee is clarified butter that is super healthy. It supports the immune system and helps cleanse the body. I like Farm to Gold Ghee.
Sour (Earth & Fire) – Organic acids. These promote appetite and digestion.
Eat citrus, sour milk products, and fermented items. Add food sources such as lemons, yogurt, cheese, vinegar, and pickles. Try starting your day with warm water and lemon. It is an alkalizing combination that aids in digestion.
Salty (Water & Fire)- Mineral Salts. These promote digestion.
Eat seafoods and salts. Add food sources like shrimp, fish, sea vegetables, and varieties of salt. I love the salt options at Salty Wahine.
Pungent (Fire & Air)- Spicy and aromatic. These are detoxifying.
Eat herbs, spices, and vegetables. Add peppers, ginger, celery, radish, cumin, and any other herbs you love. You can roast fennel seeds and chew on them to enhance digestion. Keep them in a cool, dry place in your kitchen so you can access them any time.
Bitter (Air & Space) – Alkaloids. They are anti-inflammatory.
Eat raw vegetables. Add green and yellow vegetables, leafy greens, aloe vera, and dark chocolate! An average American diet does not consume enough of the bitter food elements, so a conscious effort needs to be made. Try adding a kale- fruit juice to your daily diet, so you can be sure you diet is rich in bitters. Sesame seeds area also a great source and you can sprinkle on almost anything.
Astringent (Air & Earth) – Tannins and fiber. These promote healing.
Eat whole legumes and fiber-dense foods. Add beans, alfalfa, chickpeas, lentils, pomegranate, tea, and hallelujah – red wine! When I had lunch at the Chopra Center they served us a delicious Kitchari, a traditional Ayurveda dish that is created with all 6 tastes. Here is a version created by my friend Monica B for the 2017 March BuddhiBox. Each month, your BuddhiBox comes with a healthy recipe. Just a little bonus we add to support our subscriber’s holistic wellness. Try it out and let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Ayurvedic health is about creating awareness and encouraging individuals in taking a proactive approach to preventing illnesses through healthy nutrition practices. This is just one arm of Ayurveda. Like any healing modality, there are many layers and it is important to note that each body is unique. So before starting any new diet or practice, make sure you do some research. If you would like to learn more about the Perfect Health program and Ayurvedic nutrition visit the Chopra Center web site HERE. I highly recommend this program. I spent just 1 day at the center and left with a wealth of information. They have health certification programs, yoga trainings, and one-day wellness sessions. And, they also have an incredible spa with a variety of Ayurvedic treatments. Remember your health is your wealth, so treat your body with the respect, love, and nourishment it deserves. Namaste.