The Art of Eating

 

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7 Ayurvedic Tips for Energy, Vitality & Better Digestion

Eating is one of life’s greatest pleasures.

However, the habits of the modern lifestyle — including high stress levels, working lunches and convenience foods — wreak havoc on our digestive systems  and take away from our ability to relax and enjoy our meals.

As a result, we are seeing an epidemic of food intolerances, allergies, weight problems or other digestive issues.

Ayurveda teaches us that it’s not so much what you eat but how you eat : this means that your digestive habits play a central role in supporting your overall health and  wellness.

The following principles can be used to promote better digestion and a more enjoyable relationship with your next meal.

 

1. Eat Fresh & Warm

At mealtime, try to favour warm, freshly cooked foods that are freshly prepared. Raw foods can also be enjoyed as a side dish, but tend to be more difficult to digest.

Try to avoid left-overs, and fried, frozen, microwaved or packaged foods. These denatured foods (i.e. not in their natural state) are tamasic in nature, contributing  to lethargy, moodiness and unclear thinking. They also tend to promote toxins, food cravings and habits of overeating.

If you need to prepare a lunch to-go, try using a thermos.

2. Eat Local & In Season

As often as possible, favour foods that are organic, local and seasonal. Organic foods generally taste better and have a higher nutritional value, leaving you feeling more satisfied with smaller portions. They also contain fewer pesticides and tend to break down more easily in the digestive tract. 

Seasonal eating is both satisfying and intuitive. For example, you may notice that you prefer cooling foods in the summer months, such as cucumber, mint, coriander, watermelon or salad. In the winter months, you may naturally prefer cooked foods, such as squash, sweet potatoes and root vegetables.

3. Cook With Love

Ask your mom: the best secret ingredient in any meal is your loving attention and care. When you cook, you are transmitting your thoughts and emotions to those you are feeding. Try to keep a loving state of mind and to enjoy the beauty of what you are preparing. Avoid cooking (or eating) when you are upset, worried or stressed.

 

4. Eat With Love

One of the best ways to correct any kind of chronic digestive problem is to take at least 20 minutes to enjoy, rest and digest at each meal. Keep a pleasant dining atmosphere and avoid any work, reading, difficult conversations or technology at the table.

After you are done eating, notice that your body’s energy naturally moves toward digestion. At this time, you will want to avoid heavy exercise or mental work. A short walk of 100 steps (about 5 minutes) will help your digestive process.

One of my favourite digestive tips comes from Chinese Medicine: After each meal, sit like a king or queen for 5 minutes, and then to rest on your left side for 10-15 minutes with eyes closed. Try not to fall asleep! 

5. Favour Warm Drinks

Taking a glass of warm water 15-20 minutes before each meal will help boost your metabolism. It also hydrates your stomach and will help you to feel more satisfied with less food.

During your meal, take small sips of warm water. Avoid cold beverages during or directly after a meal, which reduces your digestive fire.

6. Eat Regularly & Moderately

Regular Meals: In general, your body does best when you have a routine time for meals. Routine meal-times helps your body to relax at meal times, optimizing natural digestive enzymes and metabolism. A good routine also balances vata dosha. 

Early Dinner: As much as possible, try to take an early dinner, allowing 2-3 hours to digest before going to bed. Avoid eating after 8pm. If you are hungry before bed, try a warm spiced milk or golden milk.

Portion size: Ayurveda recommends a portion size equivalent to your two hands cupped in front you, in the shape of a bowl : this is the size of your stomach. This may be a challenge if you are used to larger portions; however, you may notice that your digestion and energy levels improve with a smaller intake of food.

Snacking: For optimal digestion, it is recommended that you avoid snacking as much as possible. Try to leave 3-5 hours between meals to fully digest your meal before taking your next one. Leaving space between meals ensures that undigested food does not create a toxic build-up in your body.

7. Know What Dosha You Are Working With

You may notice that your appetite (and metabolism) is unique to you and different from others in your family. Once you have implemented some of the basic principles for natural health, an understanding of your mind-body type (dosha) can help you better understand your digestion and metabolism.

For example:

  • Vata-types have light and variable appetites. They tend to benefit from regular mealtimes and warm, cooked foods and spices.
  • Pitta-types have sharp appetites and are irritable when hungry. They can support their bodies through regular internal cleansing, cooling  herbs and spices (mint, fennel, neem, aloe vera gel) and increasing their intake of bitter greens.
  • Kapha type metabolisms are slow, dull and sluggish. They benefit from a lighter diet and cooking with spices such as chilies, garlic, ginger, spring onions, cinnamon and paprika. Of all types, they need to ensure that the keep an exercise regime that makes them sweat daily.

Knowing your dosha allows you to select foods, herbs and spices that enhance and support your digestion and overall health. If you are new to ayurveda, you may want to seek the guidance of an ayurvedic therapist.

Bon appetit!