This week I wanted to introduce one of my favorite topics, Ayurveda. Ayurveda is an ancient system of healing originating in India. It is often called the “sister science” to yoga.

Ayuh = Life and Veda= Knowledge

“Ayurveda is a medical science and its purpose is to heal and maintain the quality and longevity of life”

Vasant Lad, M.A.Sc.

Ayurveda is very complex but here are a few basics to get started.

In ayurveda the 5 elements (ether, air, fire, water and earth) make up three types of energy (known as doshas) that are found in everyone. When the doshas are in their normal state a person is in balance and good health, when they become out of balance it can lead to dis-ease.

In Integrative Medicine we often talk about the connection between mind, body and spirit (consciousness), the same is true for Ayurveda. In Ayurveda balancing mind, body and consciousness requires understanding the three doshas and how they work together.

The Doshas:

  • Vata = Air and Ether
  • Pitta = Fire and Water
  • Kapha = Water and Earth

Curious about your constitution? Take this dosha quiz.

Many things can affect the balance of the doshas such as what you eat (hot/spicy food = increased pitta, heavy/oil food = increased kapha) and weather (think of the elements that make up the doshas, hot weather = increased pitta, a windy day = increased Vata, etc). I’ll write more on managing seasonal changes through Ayurveda, but for now let’s focus on nutrition.

In Ayurveda there are 6 tastes (which are combinations of the 5 elements):

  • Sweet (earth and water)
  • Sour (earth and fire)
  • Salty (water and fire)
  • Bitter (ether and air)
  • Pungent, hot and spicy, ex. peppers (air and fire)
  • Astringent, dry and light, ex. popcorn (air and earth)

“Nutritional balance is found within the 6 tastes, because these tastes encompass all 5 elements of nature”

From The Book “Eat, Taste, Heal An Ayurvedic Cookbook for Modern Living”

By incorporating all six tastes into each meal it helps to ensure our bodies are being completely nourished and that our digestion is good and strong.

Ayurveda encourages intuitive eating, “the body naturally desires tastes that balance it’s doshic make-up and shuns tastes of an aggravating nature” (from “Eat, Taste, Heal”).

Fact: Garlic contains every taste except salty…another reason I love cooking with garlic.

Unfortunately, the Standard American Diet (SAD Diet) is almost 100% sweet and salty tastes without the balancing effect of the remaining 4 tastes. The consumption of only sweet and salty foods leads to imbalances that cause disease such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

Start noticing which of the tastes are in your meals. It’s a fun exercise and if you notice your meals do not contain all 6 tastes try incorporating them then notice how you feel.

If you’re interested in learning more about Ayurveda stay tuned I’ll be writing more soon! Also, please check out “Eat, Taste, Heal” it is a wonderful book on Ayurvedic nutrition with easy to follow recipes.