The concept of food pyramids hasn’t been new to us. But is it not a fact that even if most of us follow it, 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.
***A very important point to be noted is that 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.
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 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.
- 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.
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.
To begin with, we shall pick up the pyramid for Vata or Ectomorph people first, since they are the most sensitive beings on earth and have to be most careful in terms of what/when/how do they eat/sleep/wear etc.
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 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, fibromyalgia. 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.
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).
- 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 too much of vegetables even, 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).
- Instead their focus should be more on sweet foods like milk and its products which are cold and sweet (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).
- They should also avoid having red meat as it is sweet but extremely hot (pungent) and is suitable only for cold climates.
- Most importantly, they should stay away from health fads like green tea (in fact all kinds of teas), all kinds of coffees, chocolates etc. (which are bitter, pungent and astringent foods) else they are highly likely to fall prey to vata diseases as mentioned above.
Finally as mentioned above, these are broad guidelines and different strategies are required to handle different constitutions, especially, a mix of constitutions. In the next blog, we shall read and discuss the pyramids of kapha and pitta personalities who are prone to obesity and inflammatory diseases respectively.