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Ayurveda

The word Ayurveda is derived from 2 words- ayur (life) and veda (science / knowledge). The basic principle of Ayurveda is the balance of 3 doshas- Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Changes in climate, diet and life style can disturb the balance of the three doshas, which in turn may lead to an unhealthy body and mind. Since we cannot change climate, to keep a balance of all three doshas, we can adopt a healthy life style and a good balanced diet. Though we may not be able to follow everything according to what is prescribed in Ayurveda books, we can adapt certain changes in the ingredients used, method of cooking, medium of cooking, eating certain dishes, avoiding certain dishes etc. to attain a more healthy body and mind. This is what we are striving to achieve through the Ayurvedic part in this site.

Ayurveda's goal is to set an exemplary life through Sathya (truth), Dharma(duty), Shanti(peace), Prema(love) and Ahimsa(non violence). Ayurveda is not just a treatment, but a style of life, which is healthy

5 elements or Panchbhutas

Nature is made up of 5 elements or panch mahabhutas. They are Prithvi: Earth, Jala: Water,Vayu: Air, Agni: Fire and Akasha: Ether or vaccum. It must be noted that though the English translation of these words are related to certain objects of common knowledge and experience like say fire, in actual this does not mean that Agni represents actual fire. But it only means that it is related to heat energy. Even a puja thali represents all these 5 elements--Jala in the form of Holy water is present in the thali (pooja plate). Fire is present in the form of the lamp. Air is the smoke that comes from the incense stick that is burned. Chandan or sandalwood paste is placed in the puja thali as representing earth and sound (ringing of bell) is also present to symbolize akasha or Ether.

According to Ayurveda, these 5 elements are present in our body in the form of 3 entities known as Doshas. These doshas are Vata (ether and air), Pitta (fire and water) and Kapha(water and earth). We need all three doshas in our body for proper functioning.

The proportion of Doshas in our body is influenced by the following factors:-

  • 1) Age
  • 2) Part of the day
  • 3) Weather
  • 4) Diet
  • 5) Life style
  • 6) Stress
Age Part of the day Weather
0 -16 years--kapha Early morning--kapha Cold and dry winter-vata
16-45 years-Pitta Mid afternoon--Pitta Hot and humid summer- Pitta
Above 45 years--vata Late evening--Vata Spring--kapha

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Six tastes of Ayurveda

In Ayurveda, there are six tastes or Rasas: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent. Ayurveda recommends including each of the tastes in every meal. These tastes play an important role in maintaining the equilibrium of the tridoshas (vata, pitta, kapha). Traditional Kerala festival lunch-Sadya, is a perfect example of the six tastes.

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Sweet (decreases Vata and Pitta, increases Kapha)

The sweet taste comprises of water and earth, and is good for balancing vata and pitta. Of the six tastes, sweet is known to be the most nourishing. When eaten in moderation, it gives long life, strength, and healthy bodily fluids and tissues. If you are trying to gain weight, sweet is the taste to emphasize. It's heavy, oily, and moist. But at the same time it slows down digestion.

The sweet taste is prominent in foods such as wheat, rice, milk, cereals, dates, pumpkins, ghee, jaggery/ palm sugar, sugar, carrot, almost all fruits except citrus fruits, asparagus etc.

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Sour (decreases Vata, increases Pitta and Kapha)

The sour taste consists of water and fire. It stimulates appetite and saliva production, and is balancing in its light, heating, and oily properties. The sour taste awakens the thoughts and emotions, and can improve appetite, digestion, and elimination. It needs to be eaten in moderation because if you eat it in excess, it can quickly lead to aggression in the body

Some sour foods are lemon, vinegar, pickled and fermented foods, tamarind, Garcinia indica and buttermilk and yoghurt

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Salty (decreases Vata, increases Pitta and Kapha)

The salty taste consists of earth and fire. It's best for Vata because of its grounding and hydrating nature. Its heat may aggravate Pitta and Kapha. It also adds taste to foods, stimulates digestion, helps electrolyte balance, cleanses tissues and increases absorption of minerals. However, too much salt can have a negative impact on blood and skin.

Examples of salty foods are, sea salt, black olives in brine, Himalayan salt, rock salt, and processed foods etc. Processed foods are not a recommended source of salt.

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Pungent (increases Vata and Pitta, decreases Kapha)

Fire and air make up the pungent taste. Pungent food is the hottest of all the rasas, and therefore stimulates digestion, improves appetite, clears sinuses, stimulates blood circulation, and heightens the senses. Pungent food may help you think quickly and clearly, and understand complicated matters more easily. Too much pungent food, however, can make you overly critical. Pungent foods will aggravate Pitta quickly and balance Kapha. Vata handles pungent tastes best when they are combined with sour, sweet, or salty foods.

Pungent food are hot peppers/ chillies, ginger, onion, shallot, garlic, mustard, and asafoetida.

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Bitter (increases Vata, decreases Pitta and Kapha)

Bitter taste consists of air and space. It's considered the coolest and lightest of all the tastes. Because of its cool qualities, it detoxifies, thus removing waste/toxins from the body. Bitter foods also help mental purification by freeing you from passions and emotions. It's best for Pitta, good for Kapha, and least beneficial for Vata.

Some of the bitter foods are turmeric, bitter gourd, pok choy, Indian gooseberry etc.

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Astringent (increases Vata, decreases Pitta and Kapha)

The astringent taste is made up of air and earth. Most of the beans,legumes, cumin, fenugreek, unripe banana, drumstick etc. are astringent and can be slightly constipative. So these should eaten in moderation. Pitta benefits most from astringent taste's coolness, and its dry, light attributes balance Kapha. Like bitter food, astringent food will help in strengthening the mind.

Doshas Recommended tastes Tastes to be reduced in diet
Vata Sweet / Sour / Salty Bitter / Spicy(pungent) / Astringent
Pitta Sweet / Bitter / Astringent Sour / Salty / Spicy(pungent)
Kapha Bitter / Spicy(pungent) / Astringent Sweet / Sour / Salty

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16 good manners to follow while eating:-

  • 1) Eat only when you are really hungry. If you are selective while eating, you are not really hungry. In real hunger, you will eat whatever is available to you.
  • 2) Eat only after the previous meal is properly digested.
  • 3) Do not eat when emotionally disturbed.
  • 4) Do not over eat or under eat.
  • 5) Do not drink color iced drinks before or after meal, as it will reduce your agni or fire. Reduced agni reduces digestion.
  • 6) Never eat in front of TV. You will not know when you are full. Also you will not relish food, which will again disturb digestion.
  • 7) Do not eat incompatible food (virudh ahar)- eg. Fish and dairy.
  • 8) Avoid food that does not satisfy your mind.
  • 9) Do not eat old food. It does not have energy/prana.
  • 10) Eat to satisfy all the 5 sense organs-eyes (seeing the food, visual appeal), ears (sound of chewing), nose (smell of food), tongue (taste), hands (touching the food).
  • 11) Respect and love your food.
  • 12) Start your meal with sweetness and end with astringent taste. Include all the 4 tastes in between.
  • 13) Try to use spices or fresh herbs that your body type really requires.
  • 14) Be aware of the climate, your age and time of intake while you eat.
  • 15) Drink small sips of water in between your meals.
  • 16) Half of your stomach should be filled with solid food, 1/4 part water/ fluids and 1/4 part should be left empty.
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