Ayurveda is a positive science. Its main focus is on health instead of disease. For this reason, maintaining health and preventing disease takes precedence over cure.
Optimum health and vitality are achieved through the most appropriate diet to fit with one’s own individual body-mind constitution.
Quite simply, we are formed by the food we eat and the things we do. By determining the best selection of food items and correct activities, it is possible to guarantee a long life with good immunity and strong stamina.
Food as Medicine or Poison
In Ayurveda, proper diet is regarded as the foundation of good health. However, diet is tricky; food can be medicine for one person but poison for another. The key is to understand one’s own constitution and power of digestion. Then one will know which foods to eat and which to avoid, and also how and when to eat. The old slogan: “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day” may be a good advice for some, but very bad advice for others. Likewise “dinner at nine” may sound romantic, but could be equally unwise ― at least from an Ayurvedic point of view.
In order to maintain good health (and get all-round development), it is important to be in balance in accordance to our constitution. Diet plays a major role in keeping this equanimity. Every food contains the five elements which manifest as tastes and qualities that affect each person differently. Therefore, it is important to know the basic effects of the products we use in our cooking to achieve the desired balance needed for spiritual growth.
Each taste can serve as a way to either provoke or balance our body and mind. If we have a lot of earth element (Kapha) in our constitution and we eat excessive sweets, Kapha is likely to be provoked, which can manifest as overweight, laziness, sluggishness, congestion, or raised blood sugar. If we have a lot of fire element (Pitta), and we eat too much pungent taste such as chili, we may experience burning sensation, heartburn, loose stools, inflammation, acne, irritability, anger, or ulcers. If too much astringent and bitter are consumed when having a predominantly air/ether (Vata) constitution, weight loss, dry skin, coldness, constipation, worry or anxiety may be experienced.
On the other hand, if one experiences aggravation of Kapha, inclusion of more bitter, astringent and pungent tastes in the diet can help balance the earth/water elements. If Pitta (fire) is provoked, the bitter, astringent and healthy sweet tastes are helpful, and if Vata is aggravated, taking healthy sweet, sour and salty taste can help balance the air/ether elements.