Adopting new food habits is probably one of the hardest, if not the very hardest, things in our life to do. We all have so many attachments to certain foods and the feelings we associate with them. Believe me, mine come up all of the time. According to Ayurveda, there is a "Yes" food list and a "No" food list for each constitutional type. You can imagine the look on my patients' faces when I show them the Ayurvedic Dietary Guidelines handout and they see all of their favorite foods on the "Avoid" list! Over the past 13 years in practice, I've realized that equally important to steering my patients in the right direction as far as "what" to eat, is "how" to make the change to an Ayurvedic diet. Here are some tips and a video that are really helpful to make your Ayurvedic diet, or any diet for that matter, stick.
Get psyched about the great foods that are on your "Yes" list instead of lamenting the foods on your "No" list. This helps put you in an abundance mindset instead of a deprivation one.
Put the foods to emphasize and to avoid on a continuum. I always highlight the most beneficial foods and the most extreme offenders. For example, Pitta people really benefit from alkalinizing, cooling foods like cucumbers, cilantro, mint, and leafy greens. I highlight those. On the "No" list, there are many things that are mildly Pitta-aggravating and also quite a few that are severely Pitta-aggravating. I highlight those extreme foods, like chiles, raw onion, garlic, fried foods, sour juices, and vinegars. When you're first starting out, it's a lot easier to favor and avoid those few than the whole list. There's plenty of time to move toward following the whole list.
Bring mindfulness into your experience of eating. I spend a lot of time educating my patients about why the food guidelines are what they are. I find that it helps them, as it helps me, to understand why the spicy, salty, and sour foods are on the avoid list, for example. How they can make Pitta people hotter, more irritable, and more acidic. Likewise, it makes choosing beneficial foods more enjoyable. Making food choices from a mindful, educated place is very different than eating while on auto-pilot. We have more awareness of why we are making choices (so often emotional reasons like if you're eating a pint of ice cream because you're depressed) and then, so importantly, how it feels in our body to eat. When we eat mindfully we tend to more slowly, and usually lesser amounts. We notice how we feel eating, and how we feel afterwards. I have my Ayurvedic Nutrition students keep a food journal with notes about how they felt afterwards, how their energy was, how they slept, eliminated, etc. This way you notice what the foods you eat most are really doing to you!
There are more great tips in the video below about creating healthy habits. Leo Babauta, the founder of the very successful blog Zen Habits, is interviewed by Matt Frazier, founder of No Meat Athlete. They discuss becoming vegetarian and training for marathons, and refer constantly to how these habits apply to adopting any new habit.
How have you made the transition to an Ayurvedic diet? What was the hardest part? What helped you the most? Please share your comments below!
One of the most beautiful things about Ayurveda is the way spices are used not only to make food more delicious, but also to heal and balance your body. Autumn is the season dominated by Vata, otherwise known as Wind. You can easily keep your body, mind, and spirit in balance with the Vata season by including Ayurvedic spices in your cooking. Here's a recipe for a Vata spice mixture that you can carry with you when you eat out, or add to your meals at home. You can also take 1/2 tsp. of this mixture with warm water in between meals any time you're experiencing gas and bloating.
Vata Digestive Spice Powder
Grind the following spices and combine in decreasing quantities:
Vata is cold and dry. In autumn when it's also cold and dry, it's important to keep your body warm with good circulation. Warming, pungent spices accomplish this by keeping your digestive fire stoked. Ayurveda also teaches that for optimal digestion, all 6 tastes (sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter, and astringent) should be present in a meal. This spice mixture has all tastes except sour, so just squirt a little lemon or lime on your meal to round it out.
What is the ultimate purpose of good nutrition? Is it just to stay alive? Is it to avoid disease? We have so many food choices in our modern society, yet diet and nutrition are controversial and confusing subjects for most Westerners. Ayurveda, the traditional healing science of India, offers us a profound understanding of the ultimate purpose of good nutrition. Coming from the ancient Vedic tradition that valued spiritual enlightenment above all else, it's no surprise that Ayurvedic nutrition serves to further that same goal.
In the 2500 year old Ayurvedic text, Caraka Samhita, it is stated:
When diseases cropped up creating impediments in penance, abstinence, study, celibacy, religious observances and life-span of living beings, the holy great sages, out of sympathy on creatures, assembled on one of the auspicious sides of the Himalayas.
I was recently asked about the epidemic numbers of people suffering from food allergies, specifically dairy and soy products. This population in the U.S. is so large that in fact the foods themselves have come to be considered generally "bad." While certain natural substances are indeed toxic, these foods are not, in and of themselves, actually the problem. The problem lies, as you will see, in the conditions in which these foods are produced, as well as the condition of most people's digestion in modern society. Below are the many reasons why dairy and soy have become such serious food issues, some of which come from the traditional wisdom of Ayurvedic medicine, and some of which are explained by modern environmental and nutritional science.
If you're one of the millions of people who suffer from low blood sugar, you probably have been advised to eat frequent, small meals throughout your day. Believe it or not, this advice is totally the opposite of what traditional Ayurvedic medicine recommends. As you've likely heard me say a million times, Ayurveda teaches that the root cause of all disease is improper digestion. So with this focus, you can trust Ayurveda to have a very thorough understanding of what optimal digestion is! What I'm about to explain to you may be contrary to what you've heard, but if you'd like to uncover the underlying cause of your blood sugar instability, check this out.
What Happens When You Eat Frequently
In our society, food is everywhere. It's almost hard to avoid eating all the time! Except breakfast, which people tend to skip. (Click here to read about the importance of breakfast.) But let's say you eat breakfast, and then around 10 am you have a muffin, or fruit, or nuts. Healthy snack, right? Well your digestive fire, your metabolic process, now turns its attention to the new food coming in. The problem here is that during the 5 or so hours between meals, you are really supposed to be burning fat, not new food.
Fat is our calm, stable, non-emergency fuel.
Stored in there, too, are all the fat-soluble toxins from the environment. So fat burning is totally crucial! Not just for weight loss, but to detoxify our bodies and also release the essential fatty acids and stable fuels that regulate our blood sugar levels, and in turn our mood and energy level. If we're constantly giving our digestion new food to focus on, then we never enter fat-burning mode.
When considering weight gain, weight loss, and digestion issues, it is important to remember what the oldest medical systems teach about the real solution to weight imbalances. According to the ancient medical science of Ayurveda, the root cause of all disease is improper digestion. That is why Ayurveda strongly recommends eating a diet appropriate to your particular constitution to treat any imbalance. In traditional Chinese medicine as well, the first line of all of treatment is diet. Most people think of acupuncture and Chinese herbs as the main pillars of treatment, but in the ancient texts, food cures are the top priority. With optimal digestion and overall balance as the goals, it’s possible to enjoy a healthy, sustainable weight you trulyfeel good about.
Have you ever wanted to make sea vegetables a part of your family's diet but just didn't know how? Sushi is a common way to get seaweed into a meal, but it can be pretty time consuming. I love the following recipe because it's really easy to make and totally delicious. Sea veggies should be a regular part of your diet because they are high in minerals, trace elements, and B vitamins. The high iodine content in seaweed makes it the ideal choice for anyone with thyroid issues. And from an Ayurvedic perspective, the cooling energy of vegetables from the sea balance the entire body during the heat of summer.
Seaweed Saute Recipe
The best sea veggies to use in this recipe are hijiki or arame. They are small and almost the same texture as the noodles they can be served with!
1/2 cup hijiki or arame
3/4 cup grated carrots
3/4 cup diced yellow onion
1 Tbs. coconut oil
1 1/2 tsp. tamari
1 Tbs. raw honey
1/2 tsp. grated ginger
pinch of cayenne
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1 Tbs. toasted sesame seeds
1 package of soba, udon, or rice noodles.
Rinse the seaweed with fresh water and then soak for 30 minutes. Drain and rinse once or twice more.
Saute the carrots and onions in coconut oil for 3 minutes. Add seaweed to veggies and toss over heat for 2 minutes. Add tamari, honey, ginger and cayenne.
Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove cover and simmer away any excess liquid. Remove from heat and toss with sesame oil and sesame seeds.
Serve over udon, soba or rice noodles. It's even good cold. I promise you and your family will love this!