The Science of Nutrition according to Ayurveda

Ahara - the science of nutrition, plays a central role within Ayurveda. On the basis of Ahara, each person should have a diet plan based on their current state of health. Through the individual diet plan, the person should gain optimal digestive health and healthy repair of the body tissue. The strength of the Ayurvedic doctrine lies, therefore, mainly in individuality: not the food but the eater is crucial. 

Ahara - A Logical System

In Ayurveda food is medicine. To understand this concept, one has to understand the basic principle of Ayurveda: The five elements, Space, Air, Fire, Water and Earth, exist in all matter of life. They manifest in the human body as the three Doshas – Vata (Air & Space with the principle of movement), Pitta (Fire & Water with the principle of metabolism) and Kapha (Water & Earth with the principle of structure). Every man, every flower, every animal is, therefore, an expression of an individual Dosha. In the same way, every food also has special properties. Through eating certain foods a person's Doshas can increase and decrease and so can have either a positive or a negative effect. 

Classification Of Foods

1) The six different tastes (Rasa): sweet, sour, salty, bitter, astringent and pungent. 

2) The attributes (Gunas), divide into ten pairs of opposites: heavy/light, slow/oily/dry, or cold/hot, soft/hard, static/mobile, slow/sharp, slimy/rough, dense/liquid, subtle/gross and cloudy/clear. 

3) The effective power on human metabolism (Virya) divided into the categories: hot, cold, light, pungent. 

4) The effect within the body after actual digestion (Vipaka), independent of the original taste: sweet, sour or pungent. 

By using this system of classification, you are able to pinpoint the effect on the Dosha of a person through foods and spices that are put together individually and thereby prevent illness or even heal it. 

Agni – The Digestive Fire 

In addition to creating a diet that is specific to your Dosha,considering the digestive power (Agni) also plays a decisive role in maintaining strength, health and vitality. If the Agni in you body is too weak and if the metabolism is disturbed, then you may have a build-up of wastes and acidosis as a result. Toxins and waste materials (Ama) deposit themselves in the body and can trigger various illnesses. The ultimate goal of Ayurvedic nutrition therapy is to strengthen and support the digestive fire. In order to do this add specific spices such as ginger, coriander or cumin and choose foods that are suitable to your Dosha. 

The body should also be cleansed by removing Ama that has already been collecting in the body and so prevents the formation of new wastes. To support this process, drink hot water regularly. Also, the occasional day where you only consume liquids can help. The common goal of both approaches is a strong and healthy Agni. The body's optimal processing and transformation of food that has been eaten into healthy and strong body tissue can only be guaranteed if the digestive fire is strong enough. 

In Practice 

In order to keep the body, mind and soul healthy and happy and to prevent illness, you should follow these practices:

  • Eat at regular meal times, main meal at noon (strongest digestive power) 
  • Eat warm meals (can be digested easier and stimulate Agni) 
  • Have meals suited to your specific Dosha 
  • Try to ensure your meals are freshly prepared, quality meals 
  • Ensure you have all six tastes in each meal (sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, astringent)

Enjoy your meals with all of your senses and take time for your meals. Be aware of your body signals and go with your own "gut feelings"

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