Ayurveda101 · Recipes

How to Find the Healthiest Diet for You

food-journalMany diets are crafted with a one-size-fits-all approach, but an Ayurvedic diet is customized for each person based on their constitution, the season, time of day, and any imbalance.

If your diet is making you uncomfortable, try keeping track using a food journal where you write down each meal (and snacks), what you ate, the time, and how you felt afterwards.

By bringing consciousness into eating, it not only aids digestion, but helps you better understand the foods are optimal for your body and what to avoid. (Read How You Eat is Just as Important as What You Eat for more tips to improve digestion.)

Taking notes on your diet each day will reveal patterns in your emotions, digestion, and health that you wouldn’t otherwise see. Do you feel heavy and dazed after a meal? Do you feel light and clear? I know it sounds simple, but you’ll be amazed at what you can uncover.

So if you notice that a meal makes you feel extremely heavy or sleepy afterwards, it could mean that your digestion (agni) isn’t able to handle that much food or that what you’ve eaten is too heavy. Meals that are predominantly sweet, greasy, and contain a lot of meat, cheese, and fermented foods will often make you crave a post-meal siesta.

On the other hand, foods that are light like kichadi, steamed veggies and rice, light grains like quinoa, light beans like red lentils, chicken, and lighter soups will be easy to digest and ensure you don’t feel like hibernating.

When I tried this a few years ago, I was able to figure out that raw veggies, garbanzo beans, and cooked cheese made me feel extremely bloated and heavy after eating them. I noticed the same thing with cauliflower. OK, not the most revolutionary conclusion as both of those foods can cause gas and bloating in just about anyone.

But I found that I could eat all kinds of cooked veggies and beans with no issue, and once I laid off those foods, my digestion improved. I also noticed that mixing fruit with cheese, veggies, or milk caused horrible heartburn and some other very unseemly, stinky side effects. Once I stopped mixing fruit with those foods, things improved dramatically.

I have started eating cauliflower again and have found that by adding a bit of extra ghee and digestive, gas-reducing spices (like mustard seeds and cumin) and making sure the cauliflower was cooked thoroughly, I’m now able to eat it more regularly.

Food Sensitivity vs. Allergies

There are food sensitivities that cause a reaction like bloating, gas, heartburn, loose stools, and heaviness. But food allergies are a different matter altogether and symptoms include swelling of the lips, throat, vomiting, wheezing, and skin rashes.

In Ayurveda, allergies are a manifestation of extreme indigestion. In many cases, this is caused by a genetic predisposition or can happen in utero, but it can also be a result of many years of imbalance or improper food combinations.

In treating allergic reactions, it’s important to seek immediate medical attention for the aforementioned allergy symptoms. But working with an Ayurvedic practitioner, you can balance the doshas and perhaps eventually bring those foods back into the diet. I’ve seen a number of people with lactose intolerance able to consume dairy with the help of a practitioner and some dietary shifts.

Photo credit: sushi♥ina

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