Inspired by Ayurveda
Some time ago, my own health problems led me to explore India’s traditional health system—Ayurveda.
Ayurveda is known as ‘The Science of Life’ (1). It offers powerful philosophies to balance the mind, body, and spirit. And, it gives great inspiration for our hectic day-to-day lives.
Healthy food is at the heart of Ayurveda and I was so inspired by the power of Ayurvedic foods to enhance healthy modern living, I set out to launch some of the best as products into the Western markets.
My article introduces three aspects of the Ayurveda diet—sweetness, the spice turmeric and digestion, because these are most relevant to SugaVida’s products.
After reading my words, I hope you feel as inspired by this incredible age-old health and wellness system as I do.
After five thousand years, Ayurveda remains India’s most widely practiced health system. It is considered to be the Mother of All Healing, and has influenced many contemporary Western health systems, most notably homeopathy, physiotherapy, and meditation.
Ayurveda encourages us to find a balanced flow of energy in the body. With balance and low stress, the body defends us brilliantly.
But an army of physical and emotional stresses attack us daily, and when something goes out of balance, discomfort or illness often follow.
We all have our own physical, mental, and emotional balances to find. Alongside Western medicine, Ayurveda helps us to optimise these, and can contribute to better health and wellness for us all.
In Ayurveda, life is an interplay of the energies of space, air, fire, water, and earth. Space and earth are passive, the other three, Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, are Ayurveda’s Tridosha. Vata represents air and space and is the energy of movement. Pitta represents fire and water and is the energy of metabolism. Kapha represents water and earth and is the energy of the body’s structure. (2)
We all have the qualities of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. In those more fortunate, the three doshas are equally balanced. But generally, one is foremost, one secondary, and the third is least prominent, so we must be mindful of the balances between them.
If you study Ayurveda, or work with a practitioner, you’ll learn how your own blend of doshas make up your Prakruti (your born-with constitution). You’ll also understand your Vikruti, which describes your current state of health. Practitioners use the difference between these to plan and prescribe Ayurvedic treatments to improve their patients’ health.
The easiest way to benefit from Ayurveda at home is to explore the Ayurvedic diet. At SugaVida, we’re hugely inspired by the day-to-day positive effects of eating and drinking the Ayurvedic-way.
The Ayurvedic Diet
The world isn’t short of dietary systems. Uniquely, Ayurveda tells us which foods are best for our own constitution. It gives guidelines on how to cook these foods and tells us how to avoid combinations that may be harmful.
Ayurveda encourages us to eat nutritious whole foods that are pure and balanced. This is a Sattvic diet—it is rich in fruits, vegetables, sprouted whole grains, fresh fruit juices, legumes, nuts, seeds, unrefined sugar, and herbal teas. (3)
Different foods differ in their compatibility with the doshas, so a personalised Ayurvedic diet includes recommendations about which foods to eat and avoid.
- Those with a Pitta dosha should focus on cooling, energising foods, and limit spices, nuts, and seeds
- The Vata dosha favours warm, moist, and grounding foods, and restricts dried fruits, bitter herbs, and raw vegetables
- The Kapha dosha limits heavy foods like nuts, seeds, and oils in favour of fruits, vegetables and legumes.
- And, all three doshas restrict red meat, refined sugars, artificial sweeteners, and processed ingredients
This is all fine, except you’re unlikely to eat something if it doesn’t taste great! Luckily, the Ayurveda ingredients list includes some of the world’s most delicious flavours.
In Ayurveda, taste is created in food when water falls to the ground and interacts with the four basic elements referred to earlier. The tongue perceives each food in combinations of Ayurveda’s six tastes—sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent. (4)
The tastes are associated with the effect they have on the body. Two of these, the sweet and salty tastes, can be controversial in health terms. But the Ayurvedic diet gives importance to all six, including the sweet taste that we know and love.
Sweetness in Ayurveda
For many years, the Western diet has included too much refined sugar, which has led to significant obesity and health problems. But sweetness isn’t the enemy.
In Ayurveda, refined sugars also create disorder among the doshas. The sweet taste itself is as important as the other five tastes. (5) Sweet flavoured foods contribute to the essence of life, give strength and longevity, encourage the senses, improve complexion, and promote healthy skin and hair.
In Ayurveda, the two primary unrefined sweet ingredients are honey and palm sugar from the Palmyra palm.
Palmyra palm sugar has delicious caramel-like flavours and is one of Ayurveda’s most cherished ingredients. It is the most nutritious sugar on the planet. It is naturally rich in vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B12 & Iron. And, it has a low glycemic index of 35 and fructose content of just 3%.
Seeing the role refined sugar has played in Western health, the unique nutritional attributes of Palmyra palm sugar inspired us, so we worked with our Indian partners to introduce it to the Western market.
From the Ayurvedic view of sweetness, let’s move on to the wonder-spice of Ayurveda—turmeric.
Turmeric in Ayurveda
Spices are used extensively in Ayurveda. Cooks use them to add exciting flavours, and practitioners use them for health benefits, to improve digestibility, and to minimise food incompatibilities.
Ayurveda’s wonder-spice is the vibrant-coloured turmeric. Turmeric is associated with many traditional health benefits, which are also recognised by the Western food regulations These include potentially positive effects on skin health, the immune system, liver, joint and bone health, and the heart and circulation. (6)
Turmeric has a rich, distinctive flavour. We love to use it in our Ayurveda-inspired recipes, including in a delicious Golden Milk. And, it is, of course, a foundation spice in India’s No1 food export—the curry.
Other important spices used in Ayurveda include cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, and black pepper, which we also use to flavour our products and optimise turmeric’s health benefits.
The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin. Whilst travelling around India, we sourced an organic turmeric with 7% triple-strength curcumin. This wonderful natural ingredient inspired us to launch our range of Turmeric Superblends.
From all-things sweet and spice, we move into the Ayurvedic view of digestion and metabolism.
Digestion in Ayurveda
Digestion transforms the sun’s energy in food into the nutrients that fuel the body.
In Ayurveda, metabolic transformation is known as Agni. There are 13 Agnis in the body that govern digestion and metabolism. The primary one, the gastro fire, is in the stomach.
In a balanced unstressed body, this primary Agni sustains longevity, vitality, and good health. But, in today’s stressed lives, we often chew less and swallow quickly. The doshas become unbalanced and the Agni functions less well, which can lead to discomfort or illness.
Good eating habits are central to Ayurveda, and can help rekindle the Agni and improve the quality of digestion.
Ayurveda advises that lunch should be the most calorie-dense meal, so the Agni is powered by the peak of the sun. A lighter meal should be consumed in the evening to aid good sleep and provide a boost of morning energy.
All too often, we move around soon after eating. This is as negative as bad nourishment, and Ayurveda tells us, the more we rest after a meal, the better our digestion.
Ayurveda also suggests not to drink cold fluids whilst eating. Cold drinks extinguish the flames of the digestive fire. We are advised to pair meals with drinks at room temperature, and only have cold fluids between meals.
Chewing is the all-important start of the digestive process. As we chew, we grind food into smaller pieces that mix with saliva to form a ‘bolus’. Saliva contains the first essential enzymes that kick-start the digestive process. And chewing stimulates gastric juices, digestive enzymes, and even hormones in the digestive system.
But, if we don’t chew our food thoroughly, the digestive process is suboptimal. We swallow larger pieces of unchewed food, which may lead to discomfort or complaints like IBS, bloating, indigestion, and acid reflux.
In Ayurveda, the importance of chewing in good digestive health is well recognised. Traditionally, to aid digestion, and freshen the mouth, aromatic herb and seed mixes are chewed after eating. (7)
When we discovered herb and seed mixes used in this way, we were inspired to launch our own proprietary blend as a natural digestive aid. We think it’s a revolutionary product, you can find out more about our Ayurvedic Digestif Mix here and buy it here.
I hope you have enjoyed my introduction to the wonderful healing system of Ayurveda. The links mentioned in the text are below if you are interested to read more.
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Thank you for reading my article, Namaste.
(2) The Three Doshas
(3) The Sattvic Diet
Nature’s most nutritious and delicious sugar, impressive health benefits, the only known plant-based source of bioavailable vitamin B12, Great Taste Award-winning, versatile sugar/sweetener replacement. Organically and sustainably wild-harvested, unrefined and 100% pure.
The only Great Taste Award-winning turmeric blends, expertly-blended to optimise turmeric’s health benefits, uniquely contains triple-strength (7%) curcumin, versatile in the kitchen, delicious in food, and cold and hot drinks, three flavours and three pack sizes.
Revolutionary fusion of rebalancing herbs and seeds, chew after meals to optimise digestive health, proprietary blend of herbs and seeds sourced for their efficacy and highest quality, inspired by traditional digestive aids used in India and southern Asia.