by Shreelata Suresh
“You are what you eat.” Right, but only 50% right, according to the ancient healing tradition of Ayurveda. The combination of what you eat and what your body does with what you eat is what actually shapes health and well-being.
According to Ayurveda, you are unique, and your dietary needs are unique too, determined by your body constitution, age, the season, your environment and your needs for balance at any given time. But there are some diet and digestion principles that are universally applicable. Here we present five that you can begin any time – the quick and-simple way to incorporate the Ayurvedic way of eating into your daily diet. Once you start seeing results, you can delve more deeply into doshas – Ayurvedic body types – and tailor a diet and digestion routine that’ best for you.
1. Add some Zest to Your Life with Lemon!
Add the freshly squeezed juice of half a lemon to a large cup of really warm water and drink first thing in the morning. Fresh lemon juice in moderation is good for all doshas. Lemon is a wonderful aid to internal cleansing. Antibacterial and antiseptic, lemon retards the presence of disease-causing bacteria in the digestive tract. It is also a digestion enhancer and helps reduce bloating and flatulence. It kindles a lethargic appetite, getting the digestive juices flowing. And it aids elimination, so your digestive tract is naturally flushed clear every morning. As an antioxidant, lemon helps fight disease-causing free radicals in the body. It helps keep your skin clear and your eyes sparkling.
More ways to use fresh lemon:
Add lemon zest to your herbal tea.
Squeeze some fresh lemon juice over your lentils.
Skip the fatty prepared dressing and opt for a squeeze of fresh lemon and a dash of extra-virgin olive oil over your salad.
2. Say “No Ice, Please!”
According to Ayurveda, iced beverages, especially with or right after a meal, can really slow down digestion. Imagine pouring cold water over burning coals set up to cook your food. That’s effectively what you do to your digestive fires when you gulp down iced beverages with your meal. Instead, opt for digestion-enhancing drinks. Warm water infused with fragrant fennel helps enhance digestion, prevents bloating, and freshens your breath naturally. Cumin tea, or ginger-mint tea made with fresh ginger root slices and fresh mint leaves are great alternatives.
Warm herb/spice teas stimulate the digestion, help your body assimilate the nutrients from the foods you eat and help flush toxins from the system.
To make herb or spice teas, bring water to a boil, add the fresh herbs or spices, turn off the heat, and cover. Let steep for 5-7 minutes, strain and enjoy.
3. Invite All your Senses to the Table
Digestion begins much before the first morsel of food goes down your throat. When food is prepared properly and presented beautifully, and your body and mind are receptive, all of your senses can aid digestion. When you eat mindfully, colors, flavors, aromas and textures blend to make the process of eating a delightful and productive experience.
Create an inviting, pleasant environment to aid in the enjoyment of a meal:
- Keep the dining table free of clutter. Only your food should grace the table at mealtimes.
- Diffuse appetizing aromas 30 minutes before your meal – lemon, orange and coriander are wonderful for getting those digestive juices flowing.
- Eat in a silent, serene atmosphere. Keeping your mind free of clutter while you eat will help your body and mind make the best use of what you’re ingesting.
4. Take a Lunch Break!
How many times a week do you grab a quick bite for lunch, use lunch as an excuse for getting business accomplished or skip lunch altogether?
According to Ayurvedic healers, lunch should be THE most important meal of the day. It’s the time of day when your digestion is naturally at its peak, and your body best able to complete the digest-absorb-assimilate cycle.
Yet most of us eat the biggest meal of the day at night, often not long before we go to bed, and the body has to rev up and work hard to digest the food at a time when it should be trying to get into rest mode. Unless you’re among the lucky few with a workhorse for a digestive system, eating heavy at night tends to result in undigested food clogging up your insides. You’ll find it harder to fall asleep, your skin might break out, you’ll gain weight easily, and you’ll not feel as energetic as you should during the day.
So take that lunch break, and eat your most substantial meal of the day around noon. Heavier foods and yogurt should be eaten at lunch rather than dinner for the same reasons.
And when you have five to ten precious extra minutes, take the time to just sit quietly after the meal, savoring the experience, before you resume activity. This will direct your body’s energy towards digestion before you draw it to other activities.
5. Drink to Good Health!
Water, the Ayurvedic beverage of choice, is crucial for digestion and absorption and to help flush toxins out of the body. It helps prevent bloating and constipation, and helps transport nutrients to the cells and tissues. It helps support the metabolism of fat.
Drink room temperature water or warm water through the day. Water spiked with digestion enhancing spices and herbs is even better. Light, clear vegetable broths, prepared fresh each day, are good detoxifiers and offer soothing comfort on cold winter days.