The single most important thing you can do for your health every day of the year is to eat wisely. Food is just as, or even more, powerful than medicine. If you do not eat the right foods, and do not follow good eating habits, medicine won't be of much use in recouping health. On the other hand, if you eat the right foods for your physiology, and follow a good routine that enhances digestion, your body will not need medicine for the most part.
Here are nine dietary suggestions from The Council of Maharishi Ayurveda Physicians:
Eat naturally intelligent foods
Did you know that close to three-quarters of the products sold by grocery stores in the United States contain genetically modified ingredients? Or that many of the chemicals and pesticides used in growing foods have been linked to numerous diseases? Processed foods, genetically modified foods, and foods to which additives or artificial preservatives have been added are no longer alive with the intelligence of nature. According to ayurveda, the human physiology is a reflection of the laws of the universe, and the more in tune our lives are with nature, the healthier we are likely to be. Our body possesses the natural intelligence to process those foods best that are closest to nature — whole grains, organically grown vegetables and fruits, wildcrafted herbs. Help your digestion function optimally by choosing organic foods when possible — your health is worth the added effort and cost.
Shun food fads
Every day the media report a new research study on a specific food or drink or a new diet that is guaranteed to work. Keeping up with the latest on what to eat, or how or when, can be a challenge. After all that, what works for a million other people may still not be right for you. Listen to your own physiology, and include a sensible mix of various types of foods in your diet so that you are getting the nutrition your body needs. The recommended midday ayurvedic meal includes whole grains, lentils, vegetables cooked with spices and lassi (a drink made by combining fresh yogurt with water) for balanced nourishment. Rotate your menus. Vary cooking methods — sauté, steam, boil, roast, bake — eating should be an adventure, not a chore. Food fads and roller-coaster diets end up doing more harm than good, starving the body of balanced nutrition and nourishment needed to build healthy cells and tissues.
Opt for lots of fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables contain lots of phytonutrients, and a variety of sense-pleasing colors, tastes and textures. Ayurveda has always recommended eating lots of fruits and vegetables, not only for their nutritional value, but also because they are fine natural internal cleansers. Modern research concurs that fruits and vegetables are powerful disease-prevention foods — in fact, it is now recommended that you eat nine servings of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables a day to prevent cancer and other free-radical-induced diseases. The specific food guidelines for Vata, Pitta and Kapha can help you pick a variety of fruits and vegetables suited to your physiology and the season. Vegetables do not, necessarily, have to be cooked as separate dishes — add them to grains, stuff them in breads, toss them in stews and soups — there's always room for your favorite veggies in every dish. Start your day with stewed apples or pears. Eat a handful of berries for your mid-afternoon snack.
Why choose mustard and ketchup to tickle your palate at every meal when there is a world of aromatic spices to choose from? Spices not only add flavor and aroma; they also bring therapeutic value to your meal. There are over a thousand research studies that have been done just on turmeric. Spices help boost natural immunity, and most of them rev up your digestion so that your body is better able to absorb and assimilate the nutrients from the foods you eat. If you are new to the world of spices and aren't quite sure what to choose, try one of the ready-to-use Churnas from Maharishi Ayurveda, or browse the special editions of our Total Health newsletters for spice mixtures and spice/herb waters for different health goals.
Give your digestive system a break
According to ayurveda, the build-up of ama — digestive toxins — in the physiology is the root cause of most disorders. That's why ayurveda recommends internal cleansing at every change of seasons for optimal health. Detoxing is particularly recommended in the early spring, because that is the time nature starts the annual cycle of regeneration as well. During internal cleansing, eat light yet nourishing foods such as mung bean soup or kichari and drink lots of warm water through the day. Sip detoxifying tea or ama pachana water. Fresh, sweet juicy fruits are excellent cleansers. Take Elim-Tox or Elim-Tox-O from Maharishi Ayurveda for gentle full-body cleansing and Herbal Cleanse or Organic Digest Tone to aid elimination. Periodic internal cleansing gets rid of accumulated junk from inside the body and revs up the digestion for another season.