Life & Style | Health

You are what you eat

Finding foods that interact positively

  • By Binu Sivan
  • Published: 18:00 January 9, 2013
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: Supplied

According to Ayurveda, you are what you eat. The ideal role of food is that of an element that acts as a medicine to one’s body. The food depending on its qualities can either harm the body or aid it and improve its functions. Not just the quality of the food, good health also depends on consuming the food in a timely manner and in the right quantity.

In Ayurveda, not just the basic ingredient but even the spices and herbs are used for their nutritional value besides their contribution to taste. They help balance the doshas, get rid of toxins and aid digestion.

Modern science has now discovered the benefits of these spices. Be it turmeric that is highly effective for treating skin related ailments and infections and inflammatory disorders and even diabetes, or cumin, fennel, coriander, nutmeg and cardamom are also used to treat problems related to digestion, fenugreek is used to treat an upset tummy and ginger is used to treat respiratory ailments, fever and cold.

The food that one eats should as much as possible be organic, fresh and locally produced. It is also important to note that when we refer to Ayurvedic food it does not refer to traditional Indian food alone. It could be any cuisine as long as it takes into account the basic criterion for selecting the food – the body type or dosha of the individual, their specific needs and the six rasas or tastes. Intake of food in Ayurveda is also dependent on the combination of food. Some foods interact positively with each other while others do not.

Sattvic Food

According to Ayurveda, Sattvic food is strong in the sattva guna and is beneficial to body and mind. The basic characteristics of Sattvic food are fresh, natural and sweet. Following a Sattvic diet means that one can limit oneself to a pure vegetarian diet, although it is better to consume meat in moderation, though in a boiled or grilled form. Milk, butter, ghee (clarified butter), fresh ripe fruits, almonds, dates, moong (green gram) sprouts, barley, wheat, cereals, tomatoes, plantains belong to the sattvic food group. The spices commonly used in sattvic cooking are turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, coriander, fennel and cardamom.

Why Is A Person Called Sattvic?

Another common description for a Sattvic person is a ‘Yogi’ which means an almost perfect man, and in the modern world, a woman too. It is used to denote a person who is pure in body and calm in his or her mind. He or she calm, happy people and enjoy good health and mental balance.

Sattvic food And The Body, Mind And Character

According to Ayurveda, if the stomach is fine, everything is fine; and for the stomach to be fine, the food we ingest should be fine. Sattvic food is ideal for the human body. They encourage good digestion and metabolism and result in a calmer state of being. By their very nature they soothe the body and this ultimately results in positive thinking, behaviour and a balanced state of mind. A Sattvic person will also be more fresh, alert, and joyful.

Sattvic Food And The Doshas

According to Ayurveda, Sattvic food is considered to be a better choice of food for most people especially those with a Pitta body type as they need more sweet, bitter and astringent foods to balance their doshas. Another body type that will benefit from Sattvic food is the Kapha body type. People with this dosha are usually heavier and Tamasic food (more about it in the coming weeks) will only make their weight problem worse.

Binu Sivan is a Dubai-based freelance writer

Fact Box

Common Sattvic Food:

Fruit:

Fruit is a leading Sattvic food along with milk and honey. They are considered pure because no organisms are hurt in their procurement. Fruits also contain the rasas of sweet, sour and astringent in perfect proportions. Fruit should be eaten when ripe and must ideally be eaten on an empty stomach.

Dairy:

In Ayurveda, it is said that cow’s milk must only be collected only the calf has had its share. Emphasis is also placed on butter, yoghurt and cheese being made freshly.

Vegetables:

Most mild vegetables are considered Sattvic. However pungent vegetables like hot peppers, garlic, onion, leek, mushrooms and even tomatoes and potatoes are not considered Sattvic by many.

Whole Grains:

These include organic rice, whole wheat, spelt, oatmeal and barley.

Legumes:

Moong dhal, lentils, chickpeas, common beans and tofu are all considered Sattvic if well prepared. Legumes when combined with whole grains provide the body with its quota of protein requirements.

Sweeteners:

Unlike sugar, honey and jaggery (a form of unrefined raw sugar) are considered Sattvic by many.

Spices:

Mild spices like cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, fennel, fenugreek, fresh ginger and turmeric are considered Sattvic. However black pepper and red pepper are not considered Sattvic.

 

The 10 Big Villains – Obesity

Ayurveda’s approach to obesity is not just about trying to make a person lose weight but also to focus on the basic habits – lifestyle, genetic or nutritional – that resulted in the weight being put on. The treatment for obesity in Ayurveda involves a complete overhaul of a person’s lifestyle. Unless this overhaul occurs, any steps taken to counteract obesity will only face failure.

Focus is also strongly placed on the body type of the individual concerned. There is no one size fits all solution in Ayurveda. For instance a Kapha-Pitta body type needs to incorporate more fruits, vegetables and grains in their diet. But those follow dietary fads would tend to swear of all carbs and stick to proteins especially in the form of non-vegetarian food. But meat aggravates the Kapha dosha and the individuals’ weight problems are not solved. But shifting to the dosha specific diet will result in change.

Dr Chandy adds, “Ayurvedic therapies for obesity don’t involve taking the fat out of the body, because this fat will return when we stop the therapies. Ayurvedic approach to obesity is all about activating the sluggish fat metabolism in the body. This will ensure that in the long run accumulation of fat in the body will be minimal, thus providing a long term solution.”

Ayurveda = Vegetarianism?

One of the biggest misconceptions out there is that Ayurveda propagates a purely vegetarian diet. Many are under the impression that if one is on Ayurvedic medicine then one must give up all meat, fish and other non-vegetarian food items. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In Ayurveda food is subject to dosha, climate, the local produce and the individual’s digestion and one’s lifestyle. From this one can deduct that those who live in the colder regions where fresh produce is not available during the winter months will have to depend on a non-vegetarian diet for sustenance. This holds true for coastal desert towns and cities too.

It is an established Ayurvedic concept that eating meat and fish will increase assertiveness in a person and it is recommended that an individual whose job requires aggression should include meat and fish in their diet.

FLASH:

To avoid digestion problems avoid having fish, milk, eggs and beans in any combination in the same meal.

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