Good nutrition and what you put into your body is the foundation for good health. “Food is Medicine” as Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine said almost 2500 years ago. It was his belief that eating wholesome food is the basis for good health.
Being healthy means putting the right fuel into your body and having your internal engine run smoothly. Every meal that you consume influences the way that you feel one way or another so the more nutritious foods you choose, the healthier you will be. Whole foods act as medicine to heal and protect your body and give the immune system a break from dealing with toxins, preservatives, additives and chemicals that are included in so many of today’s processed foods.
In its purest form, food is medicine for the body, and can help you fight diseases, inflammation, and more.
Food is nature’s medicine – without any side effects. Of course, there are other factors that add up to good health, such as good sleep, managing stress, and exercise, but diet is the foundation upon which you can build and is something you can usually control.
Healthy food is an important part of your life and there are plenty of ideas and concepts swirling around about what is good for you. Ayurveda, the ancient medical system of India, honors real food and a healthy diet as a vital contribution towards sustaining good health. The following recommendations are influenced by Ayurvedic concepts to help introduce you to a world where it’s possible to feel healthy and happy on a daily basis thanks to the healing foods you eat.
1. Eat Naturally Intelligent Foods
The more we take into our body food closest to its original form, the more we can access nature’s intelligence and turn it into the medicine we need for healthful living.
According to Ayurveda, foods that are raw, fresh, locally sourced, and organic contain high amounts of prana, or vital life force, which animates all living beings. When you eat high pranic foods, you take in some of the natural healing intelligence of that food. The more you explore plant-based nutrition and eating healthy, the more you will discover the thread always leads back to eating a diet that is full of whole foods or foods that look close to how they grew in nature.
A place to start with is being conscious of your choices. Be adventurous and try a vegetable you’ve never heard of. There are packaged foods that can be nutritious as well and are helpful when you don’t have time to cook. Just be sure to do your research. Seek out whole grains as much as possible, and avoid white flour and sugars. You should be familiar with the ingredients listed on a package. The fewer the number of ingredients, the better. Keep it simple.
- Choose fruits and vegetables that are in season.
- Support local growers (visit your farmers market).
- Plant a garden.
2. Eat Foods According to Your Dosha Type
A popular Ayurvedic expression states, “If digestion is strong, we can turn poison into nectar, but if digestion is weak, we can turn nectar into poison. A key concept in Ayurveda is the ability to extract proper energy and information from the foods we eat and convert it into biological intelligence. This is the foundation of good health and is referred to as agni or digestive fire. When you are unable to digest properly, food gets stuck or moves through you without any healing benefit. If you are going to try to change your diet for the better, be sure you are able to digest the foods properly.
The heart of Ayurveda is the concept of three dynamic principles governing the body, mind, and consciousness. These principles are called doshas (Vata, Pitta, Kapha), and you have a combination of these doshas in your makeup. Understanding your expression of the doshas is the clue or map to discovering foods and a lifestyle that will balance you. This is the reason why the raw foods your friend eats may not work for you, perhaps causing gas and bloating instead. You may need to do a bit of experimenting to see what works for you.
Try This: Take this quiz to learn your dosha type.
3. Seek Out Medicinal Foods
The best way to think about foods is that all whole foods are superfoods. Be sure to include variety in your diet in order to partake in all of Mother Nature’s healing gifts. The following is a list of a few foods considered in Ayurveda to be especially sattvic, or pure and life-giving.
- Ginger (fresh or dried into powder): Excellent digestive aid with numerous health benefits including helping to reduce inflammation
- Turmeric: Powerful medicinal spice that helps to balance the whole person, physically and mentally. Anti-inflammatory benefits.
- Legumes: Highly nutritious and versatile. Good source of antioxidants. Try soaking, sprouting, or using spices to enhance digestibility.
- Raw nuts, seeds, oils: Full of nutrients, antioxidants, and help promote a healthy cardiovascular system. Soaking nuts and seeds overnight will enhance digestibility. Oils lubricate the digestive tract, improving digestion.
- Honey: An excellent alternative to sugar, honey boosts immunity and increases energy. Avoid cooking with honey as heat decreases the nutritional benefits and may cause deleterious effects.
Notice the benefits tend to focus on enhancing digestion, which is what you want. When your digestion is strong you can literally and metaphorically properly metabolize food and experiences. Use these foods as suggestions to help you build a diet that works for you.
Try This: Select one fresh, whole food item to try for one week. Do some research on its benefits and discover meals and recipes for including the food in your diet. Notice if you feel any differences mentally or physically after eating this food.
4. Cultivate Mindful Eating Habits
In addition to paying attention to what you consume, it’s also important to note that how you eat also affects food’s medicinal effects. Have you ever tried eating after a heated discussion? It’s not the most pleasant experience. It takes a lot of energy for the mind and body to calm down—low on your body’s priority list is eating and digesting food. This is why it’s important to be conscious of the environment you are in and take steps to create a settled space during mealtime.
Understandably, your life is busy and it’s not always possible to focus on mindful, relaxed eating, but knowing that it might be helpful is a step in the right direction. A visit to a country like Italy will soon have you appreciating the pure enjoyment of eating good food and the community it encourages. Humans have naturally gathered over food for centuries. Food does more than provide you with fuel—it also offers opportunities to connect with loved ones and appreciate what you have. This is powerful medicine.
- Name three things you are grateful for before eating.
- Take time to enjoy and savor the foods you eat.
5. Become an Expert on You
Just because something is known for providing certain benefits doesn’t necessarily mean it will do the same for you. You are unique and it’s essential to be patient and flexible when on this journey. As a result, it’s important to get to know yourself and rely on your gut when it comes to determining what you need.
Consider doing a cleanse to help you recognize your baseline—your place of true balance. You will know when you have reached this place because your digestion will be strong, your energy will increase, creativity will flow, and you will experience more joy, and other benefits. There are many cleansing programs available and depending on your doshic constitution, some will be better for you than others.
Try This: Keep a food journal and be sure to note how you feel (mentally and physically) after you eat.
Ayurveda places great importance on cleansing, especially with the changing of the seasons. It’s a time to reset and allow your body and mind to integrate and function from a higher state of being rather than coasting along through life.
This is where my role as a health coach comes handy, so don’t hesitate to contact me for a consultation!
It is from a place of balance that you will make better food choices.
* Source : Chopra Center’s Mind-Body Medical Group