About three months ago, my trainer and I got to talking about Ayurveda, which is the ancient East Indian practice of holistic living, preventative medicine and healing that seeks to promote health by creating a balance in the subtle energies (doshas) within and around us.
Ayurveda seeks to teach that a lifestyle that keeps the doshas in balance will maintain health in the mind, body and soul. Now, I consider myself to be quite holistic, so I decided to investigate our talk a little further. And because I’m a chef, I became very interested in the food philosophies of this ancient practice.
In the world of Ayurveda, food can be categorized according to six tastes. These acts on the body are committed to increase or decrease the three doshas, which are pitta, vata and kapha. If food intake overemphasizes any of the three doshas, it is believed that the body will then become imbalanced and illness will follow. A good diet should contain a mixture of all six tastes. The correct combination of tastes is considered of paramount importance for proper growth and development according to the practice.
The six tastes are:
A sweet taste (sweet potato, cashew nuts, rice) is believe to increase the body’s fluid, especially milk, and reduce toxins related to pitta. Sweet tastes should be avoided if there is an excess of kapha, as in colds and certain rheumatic complaints.
A sour taste (spinach, lemon, cranberry) reduces vata and increases kapha and pitta. Sour foods stimulate digestion. Overemphasis results in muscle weakness and ailments related to excess pitta, such as ulcers and liver disorders.
A salty taste (seaweed, minerals, salts) increases pitta and kapha. Salty foods help retain fluids and clean the body’s ducts, loosening toxins by attracting water. Salty foods are used as expectorants. Overemphasis is believed to result in premature aging, impotence and skin problems.
A pungent taste (basil, horseradish, cloves) increases vata and pitta and reduces kapha. Pungent foods are stimulating and warming, relieving colds, lethargy, depression and obesity. An excess can lead to burning sensations, thirst and nervous exhaustion.
This is not meant to be a means of diagnosing disease by any measure whatsoever; it’s nothing more than a curious discovery that I thought merited sharing!
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