Ayurvedic medicine is one of the world’s oldest healing systems, originating in India thousands of years ago. It has been described as a reflection of a life attuned to the changing cycles of nature. It is believed our bodies and minds are primed to receive different types of nourishment in rhythm with nature’s cycle. Eating the way nature intended is said to create the best diet for mood, energy and weight management while improving digestion and reducing inflammation via a balancing “opposite” approach.
According to Ayurvedic medicine, the three principles to food are how you eat, when you eat and what you eat. Here, we offer some key elements inspired by those guidelines:
How You Eat
How you consume food starts with how you cook. Preparing meals in a calm and mindful manner allows you to be relaxed and in tune with your food and your body when you eat. As a result, you develop more of a connection to your food and how your body feels. You may feel your hunger disappear and notice a sense of satisfaction. Thus, you honor your body’s needs for nourishment and can appreciate the meal.
When You Eat
We’ve been taught for far too long to eat multiple meals and snacks throughout the day. Unfortunately, this has contributed to an increase in insulin resistance, obesity and type 2 diabetes, all of which increase inflammation in the body. It’s time to return to the “old-fashioned” standard of three meals a day and to time your meals to be in sync with the light-dark cycles of the season. To do this, breakfast and lunch should be the biggest meals of the day, since they provide you with sufficient fuel for the physical and mental activities of the day ahead. Dinner should usually be small and easy to digest, as your body is preparing for reduced activity and slumber. A small and early dinner also allows for your digestive system to rest for longer and allow your body to focus on detoxification and repair.
What You Eat
Consume foods that are in season so that you connect the body to the rhythm of nature. Summer is characterized by heat and fire, so it is best to balance that by eating cooling, damp foods (think fruit, vegetables and salads) and smaller meals. Fall and winter are cool and dry, so turn to warm, higher-fat comfort foods, such as soup, root vegetables, nuts, seeds, fatty fish, beans and hot tea. These will keep the body warm and provide the energy and insulation needed to endure the long, cold seasons. Spring is filled with heaviness and moisture; switch to dry, bitter roots and astringent fruits and vegetables like leafy greens, beets and pomegranates that help with liver detoxification. All of these foods provide anti-inflammatory compounds that can help reduce inflammation.