Change Your Relationship with Food: Eat Ayurvedically

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I am a learning enthusiast, particularly when it comes to wellness. I get tons of articles on everything from the latest superfood to the top 5 moves to tone your abs delivered to my inbox every day. I like to be knowledgeable about the latest trends but recently I’ve been wondering why we are so quick to rely on outside sources when it comes to what’s best for our bodies. I’ve also been wondering if maybe there’s such a thing as having too much information.

It was right around that time that I had the pleasure of meeting Radhika Hira, Ayurvedic chef and owner of the Positive Kitchen. Radhika put into words exactly what I had been feeling — we are more nutritionally knowledgeable than ever, and at the same time, so many of us continue to feel unwell and struggle with our relationship with food because we don’t know how to apply this information to our own bodies. I asked Radhika how she thought the Ayurvedic way of eating could help put people on the path to figuring out what works for them and she had a lot of great things to say. Because Ayurveda has been around for so long and looks at so many aspects of our lives, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by all of the information out there. So for today, Radhika is going to help us look at one area of Ayurveda that can often make the most difference in how we feel — the Ayurvedic way of eating.

Here are the principles I love most about the Ayurvedic way of eating:

  1. Ayurveda treats us as unique individuals. There are no hard and fast rules, just guidelines that are rooted in how different foods make us feel.
  1. Labelling foods good and bad doesn’t happen in Ayurveda. Something is determined to be good for you or not good for you by your body’s reaction to it.
  1. Ayurveda also looks at how your emotions or mental state can be affected by the foods you eat.

The following paragraphs are chock full of useful information, but if you’re short on time, feel free to scroll down to Radhika’s top three tips for eating to improve the way you feel at the bottom of the page. They are serious game changers for our digestive system! Radhika’s contact information is below as well in case you are interested in learning more, having Radhika design a custom meal plan for you, or in having some of her nourishing and delicious food delivered to you.

Ayurveda is a 5000-year-old medical system The logic behind Ayurveda is that we all come from the 5 elements — air, water, fire, ether, and earth.  We all have those elements in us but in different proportions. There are three types of Ayurvedic constitutions or body types that determine how much of each element we are made up of as individuals. These are known as Pitta, Kapha and Vata.

Each type has physical, mental, and emotional characteristics associated with it. In terms of nutrition, foods that benefit one body type may not benefit another. When a food doesn’t benefit us, it can show up in different ways. We may get a stomach ache, or we may find that we feel agitated or cranky. How we feel emotionally after eating different foods is just as important as how we feel physically, and yet we don’t always make the link between our emotional responses and our food intake.

So how do we get started? First, figure out what your Ayurvedic body type is. Radhika’s website has a helpful quiz you can take. I started there. My constitution type is Pitta. That means I have a lot of fire and water in my constitution. It also means that nutritionally speaking, among other things I should be aware of, I should steer clear of things like spicy foods and use more seasonings that are cooling. Now I LOVE spicy foods, so I was already protesting the idea that I had to give them up.

Radhika explained that in Ayurveda, there’s no absolute, there’s no never. So spicy foods aren’t off limits, I simply need to pay attention to when I eat them and how I feel. For example, I may notice that if I were to eat something spicy in the middle of July, I might get an upset stomach, or I may notice that I feel exceptionally irritable, but if I eat spicy foods in February, I may not have as strong a reaction.

This time of year is Vata season in the Northeast. That means that we might feel like the air, along with our skin and hair are dryer and the light crisp fall feeling we love can also make decision making and concentration a bit harder. Some of us may feel an increase in anxiety. So according to Ayurvedic principles, if we want to balance out any of these physical or emotional reactions, we should eat more nourishing and grounding foods.

For example, it may be better to eat vegetables cooked instead of raw. You may notice if you continue to eat the way you did in the summer months, while you were fine then, you may now physically experience digestive problems and emotionally you may feel an increase in your anxiety levels. This means that we may have to trade in the green juice we so loved all summer long for a soup until the weather changes again or we may have to change the time we drink our juice to the times our digestions are strongest — between 10:00am and 2:00pm. And again what you choose to adjust is based on how you are feeling physically and emotionally.

Radhika’s top 3 tips:

  1. Chew your food! This one was a game changer for me and if you don’t do anything else, give this one a try. When I started to pay attention to how much I chewed my food, I realized it was an average of 4 to 6 times per bite. We’ve all read about the benefits of chewing and I personally had no idea how little I had actually been chewing. Since I’ve been making an effort to chew each bite of food at least 16 to 20 times (Radhika’s mom says we should aim for 32 times per bite!), my digestive issues — gas, bloating, stomach pains, and frequent bouts of diarrhea — have completely gone away. I’m even able to eat wheat again. And the times I fall back to my old ways of mindless eating and not chewing (it happens, we’re human and old habits die hard) all of my old issues return.
  1. Start small, don’t try to figure out everything at once. Start by taking the quiz, determining your type, and then start to notice how you feel after eating certain foods. Like anything else, awareness builds over time.
  1. If you suffer from digestive issues, Radhika swears by this tea for improved digestion. She says it can be life changing! Bring about 6 cups of water to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds, 1teaspoon of cumin, and 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds. Boil for 2 minutes, strain the seeds, and enjoy. For best results, drink warm.

Thank you for reading! If you’re interested in learning more about the Ayurvedic way of eating, having Radhika design a custom meal plan for you, or in having some of her nourishing and delicious food delivered to you, you may contact her by email at radhika.hira@thepositivekitchen.com or by phone at 917.655.4515.

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