Ayurveda is an ancient long-standing mind body health approach traditional to the Indian culture. Translated the word “Ayurveda” means “the science of life”. Ayurveda focuses on our bodies’ unique energy vitality, and teaches us to live in harmony with nature.
Ayurvedic medicine believes the answer to healing is quite simple: harness your bodies’ natural ability and internal power to heal itself. They believe that personal health is an evolutionary, creative process that we must be engaged in at all times to create our best health and life through balance.
Furthermore, we need to seek balance in all of the areas that affect our ability to be well: mind, body, spirit, connection, community, and on and on; not only movement and nutrition. The Ayurvedic philosophy focuses on bio-individualism (the unique nature of each body) with an emphasis on numerous forms of natural energy creation and management.
Because all aspects of the science of Ayurveda are too detailed to cover in one article, we will focus on Ayurvedic holistic nutrition. Ayurveda teaches that nutrition nourishes our mind, body and spirit on multiple levels; food is the foundation of our journey to experience our body. Ayurveda believes and teaches very simply that “food is life”; food becomes our body and mind, and it is how we create our health and energy.
So many Americans go from one diet to the next, only to crave the foods that the diet told them to eliminate. The result; the inability to stick to the diet and gaining back all the weight they lost. Ayurveda suggests that it is best to eat according to season, and foods harvested in that respective season. It also makes suggestions on when to eat and how to eat.
What to Eat
Winters are generally cold, so traditionally, our bodies are going to crave more warming foods like soups, stews, meats, grains and fats. This is the time of year we should be focusing on foods high in protein and fat.
The spring warms up slightly, the rain starts falling, and our allergies kick in, so our needs are going to change accordingly. During the spring months, it is preferable to eat a diet low in fat and rich in foods that are naturally mucous reducing, fat burning and detoxifying. Leafy greens, sprouts, berries and root vegetables are the perfect foods for this time of year.
Come summer, the weather changes again, and so should our dietary habits. Because of that summer heat, our bodies are naturally going to crave more cooling and hydrating foods like fruits and veggies, helping to keep us from overheating.
Rather than focusing on what foods to eliminate, which inevitable causes cravings for those foods, focus on which foods to eat more of. By eating more of those foods that are in season, we will be naturally brought back into balance. Ayurveda also suggests that to balance unnatural cravings, we include all tastes in at least one meal per day; sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, salty and astringent.
When to Eat
We’ve been taught in recent years to eat multiple meals and snacks throughout the day, yet we continue to have elevated blood sugar levels, and are unable to lose and keep of that troublesome body fat. In most other countries, where obesity is not so prevalent, they rarely snack, and stick to eating only meals.
By eating only three healthy meals, you will stabilize your blood sugar, and begin burning stored fat between meals, which is a more sustainable energy source. When we constantly snack, there’s no need for the body to dip into those fat stores, as it will rely on that immediate energy from the snacks you’re constantly eating.
In addition, we require most of our energy earlier in the day, so most of our food should be consumed earlier in the day. The word “supper” is derived from the word “supplemental”, or soup. Eating a smaller meal at dinner will give your digestive system a rest during the nighttime hours, and allow the body to focus more on detoxification.
How to Eat
Sit down and relax when you’re eating. Unfortunately, we’ve created such a fast paced society, that we’ve become disconnected with our mind/body relationship. Continuously eating on the run is extremely stressful. When eating, we should be in a relaxed state, removed from those stressful environments.
When eating in a relaxed, stress-free environment, we allow our digestive process to be more effective; the mind and body are both being nourished and we can better experience the mental, physical and spiritual benefits of the food we’re enjoying.
According to Ayurveda, another concept that attributes to weight gain is ama (toxins), caused by the accumulation of impurities in our bodies due to poor diet, chronic stress and environmental pollutants. Water-soluble toxins are removed from the body much easier than fat-soluble toxins, which are stored in fat cells.
The accumulation of ama in fat cells causes them to expand, making it more challenging to lose body fat, especially around the stomach, hips and thighs. Over time, as the ama accumulates, it becomes more difficult to remove the impurities from fat cells. This is why it becomes more difficult to lose weight as we get older, and why daily detoxification programs are recommended.
If the ama is not removed, it could affect digestion and mental clarity, cause constipation, physical and mental exhaustion and joint pain, and negatively impact one’s immune system. A simple daily strategy to help combat ama is to consume detox teas, which can in itself, have a positive affect on burning body fat.
Ayurveda Foods for Weight Loss
There are a number of foods used in Ayurveda that can help with weight loss.
Cabbage helps to inhibit the conversion of carbohydrates into fat. Moong dal is a bean sprout full of vitamins and minerals as well as protein and fiber helping to stabilize blood sugar and aid in digestion.
Consuming a tablespoon of honey in hot water in the morning helps to mobilize deposited fat, allowing it to be burned as energy. Buttermilk is somewhat sour and contains probiotics that aid in digestion.
Spices for Weight Loss
Turmeric contains curcumin, which tells the liver to produce mRNA, helping to flush LDL from the body. Turmeric also binds to capsaicin receptors, aiding in thermogenesis. Chillies also contain capsaicin, thus increase fat burning. Cardamom is also a thermogenic herb causing an increase in metabolism and helps to soothe the digestive system, improving digestion and nutrient absorption.
Garlic contains a sulphur compound, allicin, which has great anti-bacterial properties, helps reduce cholesterol, and increases fat burning. Curry helps flush toxins and fat from the body, aiding in the reduction of stored fat.
Cinnamon helps reduce blood sugar by altering the way the body uses glucose, causing it to be burned rather than stored. Cinnamon also causes an increase in insulin production, aiding in cellular metabolism.
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