UNDERSTANDING THE SCIENCE OF EATING RIGHT THROUGH AYURVEDIC FOOD PYRAMID FOR A HEALTHIER YOU- PART I

The concept of food pyramids hasn’t been new to us, however is it not a fact that even if most of us follow it (or try to), we face some or the other health issue. But why? It is because the modern science is yet to realize that different constitutions need different pyramids to stay healthy and fit and “One size doesn’t fit all”.

AND THAT IS WHY THIS BLOG WITH THE AIM:-

  • To explain what is healthy and what is not for different people, using food Pyramids laid down by Ayurveda.
  • To clarify misconceptions about certain foods which have become health fads in the last two decades, though their indiscreet use is causing lot of health issues.

But before that, here is a brief about different constitutions (especially for those who are new to Ayurveda) so that you know which constitution you are before you pick your pyramid.

***To keep the blog short and crisp, only the broad guidelines are being discussed here. For a deeper study of these concepts, I urge you to pick up a copy of THE ROOT CAUSE book and watch The Root Cause Series on Youtube.

A BRIEF ON DIFFERENT CONSTITUTIONS CLASSIFIED BY AYURVEDA

Ayurveda had broadly divided people in three constitutions. These are called as:-

  • Vata people- as a thumb rule such people are skinny, very active and don’t put on weight despite eating a lot because of very high metabolism (metabolism is called as agni in Ayurveda).
  • Pitta people- those who are medium built and very active with medium appetite because of medium metabolism,
  • Kapha people- those who have a heavy built and despite eating less they put on weight because of very low metabolism.

All these three constitutions i.e. Vata, pitta and kapha are equivalent to the modern terms called ectomorphs, mesomorphs and endomorphs respectively however this categorization was done in a far greater detail and depth by Ayurveda. Also, no one is pure vata or pitta or kapha but rather is a mix with one or two doshas dominating over other/s. For example a person may be having a vata mind but a kapha  body and vice versa. And therefore you must go through the entire blog to understand the concept.

*** For a deeper understanding of Vata, pitta and kapha inside our body, i reiterate that you must watch video one (click) and two (click) of The Root Cause Series on Youtube.

A BRIEF ON THE SIX TASTES PRESENT IN FOODS THAT WE EAT

Now those advanced beings who had written Ayurveda had realized that different foods act differently on our body and therefore they had divided foods into six tastes basis their effects on our body. While these tastes and their working has been covered in detail in THE ROOT CAUSE BOOK and video one (click) and two (click), here is a brief on them along with some examples :-

  • Sweet taste– this taste nourishes our body with the help of proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Examples of foods containing sweet taste are milk and its products, grains, cereals, pulses, nuts, starchy vegetables, meat and poultry.
  • Pungent taste– This taste’s task is to stimulate and increase heat/current/pitta in our body thereby increasing the metabolism. Examples of foods containing this taste are hot spices like chillies, capsicum, asafoetida (hing). Even intense exercises and staying outdoors during hot days can also increase pitta/current in the body.

         *** It is important to understand that a food item may be hot in nature (referred to as  Taseer) but may not be pungent and vice versa e.g. sesame, eggs, groundnuts, dates are hot in nature but not pungent, meaning that hot energy (pitta) in form of a chemical called glutamate is stored in them however to stimulate this energy, pungent foods are required by the body.  On the other hand, cardamom is pungent but cold in nature. Higher the pungency more and sudden shall be the kick to the body and mind. And that’s why spices like mustard, cumin, ginger, cardamom, anise, oregano, basil etc., which are mild on pungency are considered sattvic spices which are healthier whereas chillies which give sudden jerk and excitement to the body and mind are considered rajasic spices. It is easy to visualize that rajasic spices can never be good for mental as well as physical health as they suddenly increase the speed of your metabolic processes thereby damaging your body and organs apart from creating an impulsive and unsettled mind. 

  • Sour taste– this taste expands the size of our cells and body tissues. Examples of foods containing this taste are citrus fruits, tamarind, fermented foods like Dosa, idli, cheese, curd, pickles, sour cream.
  • Astringent– this taste constricts the size of our cells and body tissues working exactly opposite to how sour works. Examples of Astringent taste containing foods are tea, coffee, chocolates, pomegranate, turmeric, all the non-citrus vegetables.
  • Salty taste– All types of salt contain this taste however salt is also present in most of the foods though in very small quantity. Salt’s job is to increase volume of fluids in the body and also increase nerve conduction.
  • Bitter– These foods dilate our blood vessels thereby changing the blood flow of our body due to gravity. Typical example of foods having bitter taste would be all sorts of tea/coffee, alcohol, tobacco, onion, garlic, chocolate, beetroot, broccoli, capsicum, eggplant, mint.

***Please note before reaching any conclusion that most of the food items contain more than one taste. For example:-

  • Pulses are sweet (due to proteins) but also astringent.
  • Dosa/idli are sour due to fermentation but also sweet (due to grains which have proteins, carbs and fats) as well as astringent due to pulses added to their batter.
  • Tea, coffee, chocolate, capsicum are bitter but also astringent and pungent.
  • Cheese is sour but also sweet due to milk’s proteins, carbs and fats.
  • Turmeric is astringent but also bitter and pungent.

*** Confused??  check out this blog AYURVEDIC TASTES OF VARIOUS FOOD ITEMS USED IN DAY TODAY ROUTINE to know various tastes present in different foods to help you make the right combination as per your food pyramid 

Sounds difficult to remember? Don’t worry- a bit of practice will be good enough to help you identify different tastes in different foods.

Now since different constitutions have different metabolism, their needs are also different and therefore Ayurvedic texts created different food pyramids for these three constitutions, which looked something like this.

food pyramids

To begin with, we shall pick up the pyramid for Vata or Ectomorph people first, since they are the most sensitive beings on earth (due to narrower and obstructed blood vessels and therefore sluggish blood flow) and have to be most careful in terms of what/when/how do they eat/sleep/wear etc. In astrological terms such people are called as Shani pradhan (Saturn dominated people).

VATA MORPHOLOGY/ VATA DISEASES/ VATA FOOD PYRAMID

To begin with, let us understand that our body is like a balloon where air can be compared with blood. And a vata person is one who has lesser blood in the body (as compared to other constitutions) and therefore their body is like a deflated/shrunk balloon (deflation will depend upon the level of vata present. Higher the vata, higher the deflation, less shall be the amount of blood present especially towards peripherals). This is the reason that due to less blood towards brain (which is also peripheral) they are more active as less blood increases vata (cross connection of the nerves) which increases their overall metabolism too, especially of the peripherals where less blood is reaching. This is the reason that Vata people are prone to brain diseases like irritation, loss of temper, anxiety, depression, nervousness, alzhiemer’s, parkinson’s and headaches, tremors, fatigue, skin diseases, peripheral neuropathy, muscular pains, type 1 diabetes, cancerfibromyalgia. And this is the reason that such people should have more of those foods that increase volume of blood and tissues in them and also push more blood towards the peripherals. And conversely, they should have less of those which do the reverse, meaning those foods which reduce blood volume and further deflate their body.

**** In a way Vata = volume of blood vessels/volume of blood in the body. Lesser the volume of blood higher the vata. It’s like blood moving in a more open space in a person with higher vata vis a vis the one with lesser. That’s the reason blood keeps changing route and so does their focus of vata people. That’s the reason vata people have fluctuating likes/dislikes/urges. Even their memory is also not very good because varying blood flow towards their mind keeps doing/undoing information.

Thus in line with Vata Pyramid as seen above, Vata people should have MORE of following foods as these REDUCE VATA:-

  • Sweet Foods as sweetness will increase tissue mass in them and replenish their worn out tissues due to high metabolism.
  • Sour Foods as sour foods too increase volume of the blood and tissues thereby pushing it towards periphery.
  • Salty foods as salty too increases volume of the blood and tissues.

And should have LESS of following as these are VATA AGGRAVATING:-

  • Pungent foods as pungency will increase current or pitta in the body thereby further increasing metabolism.
  • Bitter as bitter foods are vasodilating (those which dilate blood vessels) and will keep more blood towards stomach and towards core and less towards peripheral thereby further deflating the body (like a balloon). Yes a bit of bitterness is essential to ensure smooth blood flow in the vessels as bitterness reduces resistance by expanding the vessels.
  • Astringent as astringent foods are constricting (those which reduce the volume of cells including blood cells) acting exactly opposite to sour foods and their effect on the body is like bitter foods.

Thus it means that:-

  • Vata people (especially Vata minds) should not have excess of vegetables (remember its all relative), as most of the vegetables barring sour ones (tomato) are astringent and many are bitter (of course a bitterness is important for even vata people). Of course they are essential in moderation to provide fiber, vitamins, essential minerals.
  • Instead their focus should be more on sweet foods like milk and its products, chicken etc. however do remember that over-sweetness in the body with very less of pungency, will also thicken the blood and lead to poor circulation/indigestion etc and therefore it is important to learn to maintain balance).
  • Since they cant afford to increase too much pungency in their body, they should have very well cooked food, else improperly/impartially cooked food in absence of or low pitta in the body, will produce toxins and increase vata. Thus, they should stay away from food like raw salad, raw (unsteamed sprouts), heavy to digest lentils like kidney beans, chickpeas unless they are well mashed almost to watery form. They should also avoid heavy grains if pitta in their body is too less due to dietary restrictions (imposed in case of very high vata diseases like cancer, fibromyalgia where pungency should be very low) in which case they should either enjoy easy to digest grains like rice or eat fermented wholewheat breads (because fermentation breaks down gluten which otherwise needs pitta to get digested).
  • They should also avoid having red meat (being hot) unless they are living in very cold climate.
  • Most importantly, they should stay away from health fads like green tea (in fact all kinds of teas), all kinds of coffees, chocolates, liquor, tobacco, onion, garlic etc. (which are highly bitter and/or astringent foods) else they are highly likely to fall prey to vata diseases as mentioned above (though this is also true that being vata minds they are more prone to fall prey to such foods since such foods give temporary relaxation to vata minds).

Finally as mentioned above, these are broad guidelines and different strategies are required to handle different constitutions, especially, a mix of constitutions. So do read the next blog where we shall discuss the pyramids of kapha and pitta personalities who are prone to obesity and inflammatory diseases respectively along with different strategies and deviations from pyramids required to handle certain diseases.

THIS BLOG IS AN EXTRACT FROM THE ROOT CAUSE BOOK.

One thought on “UNDERSTANDING THE SCIENCE OF EATING RIGHT THROUGH AYURVEDIC FOOD PYRAMID FOR A HEALTHIER YOU- PART I

  1. Hi Alok,
    This is really helpful and this goes to show how Ayurveda was so advanced.
    The book also simplifies the otherwise misunderstood concepts.

    Keep up the great work

    Cheers
    Hitesh

    Liked by 1 person

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