Food is Medicine
“Let food be thy medicine, thy medicine shall be thy food.” – Hippocrates
“When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. When diet is correct medicine is of no need.” – Ayurvedic Proverb
I believe that our food is our medicine and the food we put into our body becomes part of our tissues. Therefore, when when we eat a healthy diet, we become healthy. What is healthy? In Ayurveda there is a big focus on optimizing your digestion, so that you can absorb the nutrients in your food. You’ve probably heard the expression, you are what you eat? Well, in Ayurveda, we believe that you are what you digest. You could be eating the healthiest food in the world, but if you are not able to break down the food and absorb the nutrients, then the food becomes toxic.
We live in an age where we are inundated with information about our health regarding dietary recommendations. Paleo, gluten free, whole 30, vegan, vegetarian, the zone, or raw? Are you confused about where to begin? In Ayurveda, our diet varies depending on our constitution. Therefore, what might be right for one person may not be right for you. I recommend a plant- based diet. Unlike most diets, a plant-based diet is defined by what it focuses on, not what it excludes. The focus is on maximizing consumption of nutrient-dense plant foods while minimizing processed foods, oils and animal foods. It’s based on an abundance of vegetables (raw, fermented, roasted, cooked, boiled, or charbroiled), fruits, beans, peas, lentils, seeds, and nuts. It doesn’t mean that you can’t eat eggs (and if you do, I recommend local pasteurized eggs), organic meat, bone broths, dairy, etc, but it’s also not able being self-righteous and impressing your values on other people because you feel your ideas about healthy eating are right and other people’s ideas are wrong.
When you prioritize plants, they will detox your palate into healthier cravings. We have trained our bodies to have unhealthy cravings through unhealthy foods like processed foods, carbs or sugar. Make your cravings smart and healthy through eating a plant- based diet. We can literally dumb ourselves down through the food we eat because as I mentioned earlier, the food we eat becomes our tissues and impacts our thoughts, emotions and our consciousness. Like attracts like. When we eat unhealthy foods, we feel like crap, want more and can go into a downward spiral. When we eat healthy food, we make healthier choices.
According to Cate Stillman author of Body Thrive, “Your most fundamental relationship is your relationship with food, which mirrors your relationship with your body. If you are in dynamic cooperation with the plants that sustain you, you experience dynamic cooperation within yourself.” Research also shows that plant-based diets are cost effective, low- risk interventions that may lower your body mass index, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. They may also reduce the number of medications needed to treat chronic diseases and lower heart disease mortality rates. It would be very beneficial if physicians recommended a plant-based diet to their patients and particularly ones with high blood pressure, diabetes or cardiovascular disease or obesity.
When we add a variety of plants that are in season and local this is optimal because plants from our bio-region also make up a healthy microbiome. The microorganisms in local and seasonal plants create microbes that keep us healthy and protect us against germs, breaks down food to release energy and produce vitamins. It’s ideal to grow your own food, but if you are unable to, then you could buy local seasonal plants from a community supported agriculture program (CSA) or a farmer’s market. When we add a complexity of nutrients into our diet this leads to cellular nutrition and healthy aging.
The 6 Tastes
There is something called the 6 Tastes in Ayurveda and by eating them this reduces your cravings and makes your palate smarter. The 6 Tastes are as follows:
Primary Actions and common sources
- Astringent– absorbs water, tightens tissues, and dries fats. Legumes, raw fruits and vegetables, herbs
- Pungent– stimulates digestion, and metabolism. Chili peppers, garlic, herbs and spices.
- Bitter– detoxifies and tightens tissues. Dark leafy greens, herbs and spices.
- Salty– improves taste to food, lubricates tissues, and stimulates digestion. Natural salts, sea vegetables.
- Sour– Cleans tissues, increases absorption of minerals, sour fruits, yogurt and fermented foods.
- Sweet– Builds tissues and calms nerves. Fruits, grains, natural sugars and milk.
Tips for a plant- based diet & mindful eating are as follows:
- Eat leafy greens and non starchy foods
- Eat the colors of the rainbow to get more phytonutrients
- Diversify your diet to eat root vegetables, green leaves & stalks.
- Eat more beans, nuts, and seeds
- Grow your own food & learn about what foods are in your ecosystem
- When you’re in the produce section of the grocery store look at what foods you’re attracted to.
- Before eating, take time to give thanks for your food. When we connect with our food and give thanks, we are able to better digest our food.
- Eat without distractions and eat in a peaceful environment for improved digestion.
- Go for a walk at least 30 min after you eat to optimize your digestion.
Nutrition counseling is embedded in my 12-week Awaken Your Best Self Ayurveda Program.