The food we eat is that unique aspect of our life which we have almost total control over. Because we are what we eat, according to Ayurveda, it can be a very powerful tool for balancing and for promoting and maintaining health. One ancient authority says that food is our medicine--a good regimen of diet is worth a hundred drugs but no amount of drugs can overcome a poor regimen of diet. Generally, one should eat warm, freshly cooked foods. We can use the tastes in food as a guide to what qualities those foods have. For example, foods which have bitter, and astringent tastes have those qualities (especially dryness) necessary to balance both pitta and kapha qualities of liquid and oily. We will give below examples of foods with these tastes common in our culture. This information has been provided by Dr. Lad, in his book: Ayurvedic Cooking for Self Healing. This book is a good resource of knowledge and menus. Please note that agreement about the qualities of foods is not universal. Another important point is that a list of balancing foods is not a blanket proscription to totally avoid the foods with tastes of sweet, sour, salty (heavy things).  Rather, do eat foods having these other qualities to help promote balance in the emotions and in the physiology but eat them less often and in smaller quantities. The foods to favor will provide a theme of influence but in a gentle and sustained way.



General Guidelines:


·      Sip hot water (with lemon or lime) during the meal to aid digestion.

·      Favor cooked warm, unctuous foods.

·      Favor fresh, organic, locally grown

·      Eat a variety of foods having all 6 tastes and change the variety of foods you eat

·      Eat less meat and more fruit, even eat fruit as a whole meal


Specific Guidelines (eat less of those items in italics):


·        Beverages: aloe vera juice, apple juice, apricot, berry, black tea—spiced, cherry, grain beverages, grape, peach, pear, pomegranate, prune


·        Herbal Beverages:  alfalfa, bancha, barley, blackberry, burdock, chamomile, chicory, comfrey, dandelion, fenugreek, ginger, hibiscus, jasmine, kukicha, lavender, lemon balm lemon grass, nettle, peppermint, raspberry, red clover, sarsaparilla, sassafras, spearmint, strawberry, wintergreen, yarrow


·      Condiments:  black pepper, chutney, coriander leaves, dulse, kijiki, lemon, sprouts


·      Dairy: cottage cheese—from skimmed goat’s milk, ghee, goat’s cheese—unsalted and not aged, lassi, non-fat milk—goat’s milk (avoid homogenized if possible)


·        Food Supplements:  aloe vera juice, barley green, brewer’s yeast, calcium, magnesium, zinc, spirulina, blue-green algae, vitamins D, E, EFA’s (essential fatty acids) found in cold process oils from  cod liver, evening primrose, black currant seed, flax seed, borage; whey powder as a protein supplement; note that omega 3 and 6 are probably best taken in the ratio of 1:1 to 1:2.5, which implies that while one supplements flax oil, for example, one continues to eat ghee also.


·      Fruits:  apples, applesauce, apricots, berries, cherries,  figs--dried, grapes, limes, pears, pomegranate, prunes, raisins


·      Grains:  whole; grains stored more than one year, amaranth, barley, cereals—dry or puffed, couscous, durham flour, granola, oat bran, oats, white rice (basmati only), seitan—wheat meat, spelt, sprouted wheat bread—Essene, tapioca, wheat bran.  (If digestion is weak carbohydrates and proteins e.g., rice and dal, may be taken in separate meals in the same day.)



·        Legumes:  aduki beans, black beans, black-eyed peas, chick peas, lentils—red and brown, lima beans, mung beans, mung dal, navy beans, peas—dried, pinto beans, split peas, white beans


·      Meats:  (NOTE: As recent research points to animal meat, fat, and cholesterol as promoters of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity my recommendations no longer include these as safe suggestions; also Ayurveda makes no recommendations for these foods as habitual diet),  chicken—white, egg whites, fish—freshwater, pheasant, rabbit, shrimp, turkey—white, venison 


·      Nuts: Charole


·      Oils:  ghee, [sunflower oil*]; * only cold processed, fresh, dark bottle


·      Seeds: flax, popcorn, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds,


·      Spices: basil—fresh, black pepper, caraway, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, curry leaves,  dill, fennel, ginger—fresh, mint, orange peel, parsley, peppermint, saffron, spearmint, tarragon, turmeric, saindhava (rock salt), vanilla, wintergreen


·      Sweeteners:  fruit juice, honey, rock crystal sugar


·      Vegetables:  artichoke, asparagus, beets, bitter melon, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cilantro, dandelion greens, fennel (anise), garlic, green beans, green chills, horseradish, Jerusalem artichoke, kale, kohlrabi, leafy greens--lettuces, leeks, mushrooms, okra, onions, parsley, peas--especially dried, peppers—sweet, prickly pear, potato (white), radish, rutabaga, spaghetti


Foods to be taken regularly

Foods that nourish the body and promote sattvic mind are important. For this reason the following listing has been included. According to one writer one should take regularly a fast-growing rice (shastika), a type of red rice (shali), dals – beans/lentils, rock salt, a type of fruit (amalaka), barley, rain water, milk, ghee, and honey. Another adds to this listing: wheat, meat of animals of hot arid lands, sugar, and about 6 other items of unknown identity. The Bhagavad G²ta, Ch. XVII.8-10, describes the qualities of foods to be favored for mental and physical evenness: Promoting life, virtue, strength, health, happiness, and satisfaction are foods of savory, smooth, firm, and pleasant nature to the stomach. Such are desired by the sattvic.




General Guidelines:


Ayurveda includes the consciousness-promoting value of foods, independent of their nutrient and sustaining values. The Bhagavad G²ta, Ch. XVII.8-10, describes the qualities of foods to be avoided are those causing pain, misery, and sickness, pungent, sour, salty, excessively hot, harsh, astringent, scorching are the foods desired by the rajasic. Stale tasteless, putrid, left-over, the repulsive and foul are the foods desired by the tamasic. 


Specific Guidelines:


Ayurveda says that food is your medicine but it also says that some foods do not combine well with others. This incompatibility stems from opposite qualities of food, which then produces contrary actions or otherwise toxic chemical reactions during or following the digestive process. Incompatibility may occur during the cooking process itself caused by chemical changes of the ingredients. Incompatibility occurs when grains or other foods, which have different cooking times, are prepared in the same pot. Thus improper cooking results and leads to toxic substances being formed.  Also, foods having opposite energy (hot and cold) or opposite post-digestive effect (sweet/sour/pungent) give the body conflicting or stalemating information, which may produce ama (a toxic, sticky material detrimental to physiology). The following abbreviated listing from Caraka Samhita, Ayurveda Today, l990, and The Healing Cuisine by Harish Johari includes the most common examples. The listing in the classical texts is quite extensive and many items are quite rare to our culture. 



General Guidelines:



Specific Guidelines:



The ancient authorities say that food is our medicine and no amount of medicine can overcome the effects of a poor regimen of diet.  What is not appreciated, however, is that how one eats is just as important as what one eats. Specifically, the quality of digestion is related to what is going on in the mind, in the body, in our environment, and in our emotions. The autonomic nervous system takes charge of digestion automatically but since it has two aspects, sympathetic and parasympathetic, which operate in a contrary manner, the results of digestion can be good or even bad. When one is not focused in the mind while eating--thinking about work or other things--the energy of digestion is diverted away from the activity of digestion. If one is emotionally charged while eating then the sympathetic nervous system functioning dominates--blood supply is shunted to the peripheral muscles away from the stomach, etc., digestive juices stop flowing, and the peristalsis of elimination stops. When the body-mind is at rest then the parasympathetic nervous system dominates and digestion and elimination proceed normally. Ayurveda suggests the following to promote this vital element of health:


General Guidelines:


Specific Guidelines:





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