What is an Ayurvedic Diet?

Updated: Sep 10, 2020

An Ayurvedic diet is as much about what you eat, as it is about how you eat. Let's take a look at this.

Ayurveda can be a bit meticulous when it comes to diet advice; there can be a rule or guideline for everything. BUT it mostly encourages you to listen to your own body to become your own healer. Familiarize yourself with the sensations and feelings of your body to learn what it needs.

An Ayurvedic diet is as much about what you eat, as it is about how you eat.

Let's look at what an Ayurvedic diet looks like.


Eat in Accordance with the Seasons


Having access to pretty much any food from around the world at any time in the year might feel like a true luxury, but it actually keeps us out of touch with what is in season now. We no longer eat what is in season. Instead we enjoy any food in any season. We eat salads and smoothies in the winter because we are told by pop-diet culture that this is healthy and we avoid potatoes in the winter because of the belief that they will make us fat. We can forget to look at what nature is growing locally and what our bodies are craving, but we trust "experts" to tell us what we should eat.


Why is Ayurveda encouraging us to eat in accordance with the seasons?

Well, there are several good reasons. The nutritional density in seasonal local foods is higher, because it has been growing in its correct season and no ripening agents have been used to speed up the process. This also makes the food tastier: think of eating a tomato in peak summer season versus in the winter, right? Because no ripening agents have been used or any other chemicals needed to speed up the growing process, the produce is more natural and less manipulated with toxins which we cannot digest. Also it is better for our environment to not haul a zucchini from the other side of the world (fuel, transport, labour) and to support local farmers in their business. Lastly, seasonal foods are usually cheaper because of the savings on the aforementioned costs of fuel, transportation, etc. There are many good reasons to eat seasonally!


Ayurveda advocates that your body is naturally tuned into its environment and thrives best when it lives according to nature's rhythms. It naturally craves fresh fruits in the summer and mashed potatoes in the winter. When we get back in touch with this, we experience this is true.

Eat Locally Grown Foods


When you eat seasonally, it is much easier to eat foods that are grown locally. The easiest way to ensure you are eating local produce is to buy it directly from your local farmer at the farmers market. This sometimes takes some research and asking around, because even at farmers markets unfortunately not everyone is honest about where their produce comes from.


Eating Easy to Digest Foods


Ayurveda often states that most disease originates in the gut. Meaning that your diet has a big influence on your health. Keeping you gut in good health often equals overall good health. Your migraines or back pains could very well have their origins in your gut. Or what about anxiety or other mental health issues? Eating easy to digest foods means they are less taxing on your digestive system and make your digestion and elimination regular. They don't sit in your stomach for hours and give you gas, bloating or constipation. Easy to digest foods are cooked, warm, fibrous and vitamin and mineral rich. This is in opposition to foods that are harder to digest: cold, raw, processed, packaged, old (leftovers), high in sugar etc. Meat and dairy are considered harder to digest, so eating these in moderation is advised. In Ayurveda we want to keep your digestive fire (agni) high, so you digest, absorb and assimilate your foods well in order to stay healthy overall. Learning more about Ayurveda will slowly give you a better sense of what easy to digest foods are. As you get a sense of what is easy to digest for you, you'll get more in tune with what foods your body loves and which it doesn't.


Six Tastes


Did you know tastes have an effect on your digestion? I never knew this until I started learning about Ayurveda. There are six tastes in Ayurveda: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, pungent and astringent. Each taste has its own function in the digestive process. Leaving one or more tastes out of your diet for a long time can cause problems.


Not surprisingly sweet and salty (and sour) are seen as "building" foods in Ayurveda, which we consume in high volumes in the West. We are overfed and undernourished, since our foods do not hold the nutrition that we need. In Ayurveda we would say: "It lacks in important tastes." Adding more bitter and astringent tastes to your diet will add detoxifying properties opposite of "building" and will give more balance. Lots of green leafy veggies are bitter in nature and beans, pomegranate and apples are astringent. Astringent foods give a puckering feeling in the mouth.




How Do You Eat? Three Things to Look At.


This might even be a much more interesting question, especially if you feel you already have a healthy diet. How you eat might be equally important to what you eat. Let's look at two important factors.


Routine


Ayurveda's number one advice you hear often is to follow a routine. In this case, routine in eating. Eat your meals at the same time every day. The simple reason is that when you do the same things every day, your nervous system gets a chance to relax. And couldn't we all use a bit of nervous system relaxation! Your body will start to anticipate this routine and all bodily functions can operate appropriately.