The secret of Ayurvedic cooking

We are built of and constantly renewed by what we take in. In all ancient traditions, nutrition is considered essential to build and maintain the body. Within Ayurveda, therefore, we look at nutrition as the building blocks of a healthy physical, mental and spiritual body rather than just an addition of calories or a taste experience.

What you eat and how you eat is one of the most important pillars in the Ayurveda. Your diet can bring you back into balance when you are out of balance and even prevent the development of disease. And when a disease does manifest itself, having a diet that is in line with your needs will help tremendously in recovery. It’s even said that medicines are of no use if the diet isn’t right. In this blog, I will provide 6 Ayurvedic guidelines for responsible eating.      

In Ayurveda, we are concerned with how the food you take in can be digested: does the food suit your body? Can it become part of your body?

After all, food is only useful if it can be digested and assimilated. In this way, the particles can be used to build a healthy body – for the long term. Good nutrition is not just about the content of the diet, but rather how it interacts with the body.

“Even the nectar of immortality is a poison if the body can’t digest it.”

DR. ROBERT SVOBODA

Tailoring your diet to your specific needs is the key to vibrant health and a long, energetic life. When your doshas are balanced and your digestive fire is working properly, you can enjoy almost any meal served. When you are in balance, you can eat according to the seasons and tune into the cycles of nature. When you experience an imbalance, Ayurveda gives you the wisdom and tools to bring you back into balance. It places the primary responsibility for your health on the most important person in your life: you! Through your food choices, a corresponding lifestyle and sometimes additional herbal supplements or treatments, you are able to restore balance.

6 guidelines for a good meal

Let me tell you the secret to Ayurvedic cooking. It doesn’t exist! The truth is, you can make every meal Ayurvedic. There are a few important things to keep in mind. Ayurveda places importance on food being fresh, unprocessed, local, seasonal and organic. Less emphasis is placed on the value of calories, carbohydrates, proteins and other macro- and micronutrients. Here are 6 guidelines for a good meal!

1. Eat fresh

Eat your food as fresh as possible, with as little time between harvest and consumption as possible. This ensures that it contains Prana, the source of all life. In Ayurveda, every meal is preferably cooked fresh, in order to get maximum Prana. Of course, this isn’t always as easy if we don’t want to spend our entire lives in the kitchen, but having some simple recipes helps. And if you have leftovers, eat them as soon as possible and try not to keep them for more than 24 hours.

2. Eat unprocessed & organic

You don’t want to burden your system with unnatural, chemical toxins. Organic foods provide more energy than non-organic foods and have fewer adverse substances in itself. If you don’t have organic food available, peel fruits and vegetables whenever possible. Because organic food is usually more expensive than non-organic, you can also mix wisely. Buy the foods known to contain the most toxins organically, and those with generally the least toxins from a regular source. You can find out more on this if you search for Dirty boxes and Clean 15. Unprocessed foods naturally have more life force and fewer useless substances than processed foods.

3. Eat seasonal & local

Because Ayurvedic living means being part of the rhythms of nature. Nature is wise and you will often see that seasonal harvest has exactly the qualities that your body needs at that time. Eating locally is considered important because of your digestive enzymes. By nature, your enzymes are equipped to break down local food, but may not immediately know how to deal with foreign, unfamiliar food. You may have noticed this when you travel to a place with different foods. Your stomach and intestines may then have a little more difficulty digesting. There is a concept called Satmya, which can be translated as compatibility between food and your body tissues. This can also mean that you are well able to digest substances that you’ve eaten since childhood, while they cause a lot of discomfort for someone else. Think of dairy products, legumes and certain food combinations.

4. Eat home-cooked meals

Homemade food is always best because you know exactly where the food comes from and how and with what attitude the food is prepared. Be sure to cook with a calm mind and a contented spirit to convey that energy into the food.

5. Use spices & herbs

Spices and herbs are widely used to make food more digestible and for the energetic effect they have on your body. Spices can greatly increase, balance or disrupt your digestive fire, which is why you can use them according to your needs at any given time.

6. Use the 6 flavors in your diet

Ayurveda recognizes 6 flavors: Sweet, Sour, Salty,  Spicy, Bitter and Astringent. We are made of the 5 elements and we also need these 5 elements to continually build and renew our bodies. This means you’ll want to have all the elements in your meals. The elements are found in the 6 flavors that Ayurveda distinguishes. Having the 6 flavors in your daily diet, in the right amounts, supports all the functions of the gastrointestinal tract. Ideally, your meals have all 6 flavors to support all your tissues and the digestive process. The body in its solid structure, however, is more Kapha. Kapha is earth and water, which means that to support your body structure, the main ingredient of your meals should be of the sweet (neutral) taste. Generally, the largest part of the meal consists of the sweet taste, then smaller parts of sour foods, a smaller portion of salty foods, etc. and a minimal portion of astringent foods. However, if you want to balance an unbalanced dosha, or if your Agni isn’t optimal or if there is an illness, you can adjust your diet and focus more on one of the flavors.

I always encourage a light-hearted approach to Ayurveda. Strict rules or dogmatic approaches never really serve you. Work with what you know, what suits you and with the tools you have at hand. Avoiding stress is the very best thing you can do for your health!  Happy spring!

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