Food is medicine. Don't forget that.
Ayurveda is a 5,000-year-old holistic science and lifestyle tradition rooted in India. Ancient though it may be, it has many valuable health principles that can still be applied to modern-day living. A big part of this wellness practice is focused on preventing imbalances in the body through nutrition and smart eating habits that support healthy digestion. In essence, what you eat affects how your digestive system works and only when that is balanced will you be able to properly absorb nutrients and avert disease in all its forms.
“Eating for good digestion prevents accumulation of toxins, which we don't need more of, and it is the place where food transforms to energy for all of our bodily systems, including mental clarity, luster of the skin, radiance in the eyes, strength, vitality, hormonal balance, weight management, freedom from inflammation and pain, joy and prevention of disease, and it promotes longevity,” says Gedalia Genin, Ayurvedic Health Specialist at Atlanta Center for Holistic and Integrative Science.
If you’re trying to start a healthier routine (that you can actually continue for a change!), consider incorporating these 10 basic food principles of Ayurveda into your lifestyle. You CAN do it.
1. Opposites Attract
Listen to your body and mind, and, in general, remember the opposites attracts rule to level out through food. Are you hot, angry or inflamed? Then choose cooling foods and spices, such as cucumber, fennel, melon and mint, and drinks, such as coconut water. Are you cold, dry or depressed? Then pick warming foods and spices, such as cinnamon, cardamom, oatmeal and vegetable soups, and drinks, such as chai tea.
2. Get Whole
Eat a diet focused on fresh, whole foods, with an emphasis on organic vegetables and fruits. When possible, stay away from dry, raw vegetables because these can be difficult to digest, and favor cooked veggies instead. Of course, if it’s between a French fry and a raw piece of broccoli, use your common sense. That brings us to…
3. Fried Foods Fry Your Gut
Steer clear of fried, processed, additive-laden and frozen foods. They can really mess with your digestive system.
4. Come On, Get Happy
Everything you consume has energy. So, if you do eat animal proteins, feed yourself the most positive energy you can find in the form of grass-fed beef (happy cows), wild-caught salmon (happy fish) and cage-free eggs (happy chickens)—you get the picture.
5. Mini Daily Detox
Do this easy morning detox: Drink a cup of warm water with lemon before you eat or drink anything (including that cup of Joe) in the morning. It’s a nice way to flush toxins and jumpstart the digestive system every day.
6. Eat On the Regular
Three meals at routine times of the day, such as breakfast around 7 a.m., lunch at 12 to 1 p.m. and dinner at 6 to 7:30 p.m., is ideal. Also, go slowly so you don’t overeat—you should feel satisfied, but not bloated or heavy. And snack only if you're hungry...not just 'cause...to give your digestive system a chance to work through the previous meal.
7. Ice = Not So Nice
Stop drinking iced bevvies. Ice in drinks is an all-American habit, but not one to necessarily be proud of since it slows digestion. If you’re not feeling overheated, keep your beverages ice-free.
8. It's Tea Time!
Sip hot herbal tea, anytime. Herbal teas have many healing benefits. Feeling anxious or irritable? Sip a calming lavender or chamomile tea. Feeling sluggish or have indigestion? Pour a cup of ginger tea. Or simply enjoy one just ’cause.
9. Calories, Shmalories
Quit your counting of calories. What?! You heard me. In Ayurveda, it’s not all about the calories. When you follow the principles above, you’ll reap serious health rewards, feel great and simply won’t need to.
10. Lead with Kindness
Be kind to YOU. If you opted to indulge in that mouth-watering doughnut yesterday, don’t beat yourself up about it! There’s nothing worse than adding guilt to your guilty pleasure (an anxious mind also can disrupt your tummy). So, savor every morsel, smile and then get back on your 10 basic-food-principles-of-Ayurveda horse.
Curious what are absolute must-buys in the organic food department and which fruits and veggies you can get away with non-organic? Get your "Dirty Dozen" and "Clean Fifteen" lists here.