Ayurvedic philosophies have been around for over 5000 years. That being said, many people in the Western World have never heard of them. So if you’re sitting there thinking, “Ayur-what”? Don’t worry. Here’s everything you need to know.
Ayurveda is the ancient, holistic medical system of India. It literally translates to “The Science of Life.” And while there are many components to Ayurveda, it’s premised on the belief that there are three mind-body types—otherwise known as doshas—that hold the key to achieving optimum health. While we can have elements of each dosha, and our balance between the three can change over time, we tend to dominate in one. Only by subscribing to the diet and behaviours best fit for our dosha can we achieve balance between the mind, body and soul.
Someone who has experienced this first hand is wholefood chef and author of Love Life & Gluten Free, Angie Cowen.
“Unknowingly, I began following the [Ayurvedic] principles when I first got sick in 2003. When my immune system crashed and the nine rounds of antibiotics failed to work, I turned to my body to tell me what it needed. I noticed that my health was better when I was more connected to what I was eating. That by eating certain foods, I felt lethargic and others, more energised. That I digested better when I had good solid sleep. That by practising yoga instead of flogging myself at the gym, my health flourished. That I felt more alive when getting my food fresh from the market. I learnt through my journey to health that everybody is different and we all need to learn for ourselves what ultimately works for us.
I went to study Ayurveda in 2013 and couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It was as if everything I had learnt for myself already existed as an ancient philosophy. And so, my journey and love for [Ayurveda] continued. [From eating this way, I have] more energy, a quicker recovery from illness, reduced inflammation (meaning a healthier weight range for me), and a happier mind and body.”
But you don’t need to be ill to benefit from following an Ayurvedic way of eating. Angie says the changes are profound for all individuals, as you will be eating exactly what your body requires not only to heal but also to thrive.
So, what does it mean to follow an Ayurvedic diet?
“Eating an Ayurvedic way means your meals are full of seasonal produce, contain all six flavours, have a range of different textures and are as colourful as the rainbow. [It’s a] way of eating that will leave the individual more satisfied and nourished while eating less food than they otherwise might have required.
Another principle is only eating when you’re hungry and not having too large a portion. (Struggle with that? Read our tips on portion control and stopping when you’re full). By only eating when you’re hungry and by not eating too much, it gives the body a chance to effectively break down the food ensuring the nutrients are absorbed more efficiently, resulting in more energy.”
Along with the core principles, following an Ayurvedic diet involves eating according to the particular dosha, or doshas, that you align with. To find out your dosha, Angie says there are many online websites (like this quiz) that can help you but she recommends working with a professional Ayurvedic practitioner if you are interested in transforming your health. (Editor’s Note: She saw Dr Rama Prasad).
Vata body types are typically slender and may even find it difficult to gain weight. An imbalance for a Vata can manifest as poor digestion with lots of bloating and constipation. It is recommended that individuals who align with this body type nourish themselves with warm, cooked foods like soups and stews, rice and dahls, cooked cereals like porridge, cooked vegetables, nuts and hot milk. They can benefit from avoiding dry, crunchy foods, carbonated beverages and cold or raw vegetables. Also, Ghee is proven to be particularly good for Vata people.
Pitta individuals tend to have a medium build and good digestion. That being said, as the fiery type, they can be prone to inflammation so they should avoid things that only ignite that fire like hot spices, alcohol, coffee, vinegar and acidic foods such as citrus and tomatoes. They could also do with limiting salt. Instead, they should eat naturally sweet foods like juicy fruits such as mangoes and melons as well as cooling, raw vegetables with a high water content, like cucumbers kale and lettuce.
As the largest of the body types, Kapha individuals tend to be prone to weight gain and sluggish digestion. As a result, they should reduce oil/fats, sweets and salt and instead focus on cooking with lots of spices and eating lighter foods like fruits and vegetables, particularly those high in fibre.
Following an Ayurvedic diet doesn’t have to be restrictive. It’s about nourishing the body, mind and soul. Angie proves this with her newly released, insanely delicious packet mixes. Available for pancakes, muffins and brownies, they’re all gluten-, dairy- and nut-free, making them anti-inflammatory. Plus, for every packet sold, one meal is given to those in need through OzHarvest.