Healthy Eating – Part 1

(by PVR Narasimha Rao of JHora, from Facebook)

Many well-intentioned people are doing their best to “eat healthy” and yet suffering, simply because there is much misinformation about “healthy food” out there in our pop culture. Measuring the quality and impact of food in calories is like judging a book from the number of pages. Even carb, protein, saturated & unsaturated fat numbers we see on nutrition labels are only of secondary importance and not the primary factor to judge the impact of food on one. Lab testing may show certain nutrients in a food item, but their effect on YOU is decided by how YOUR body handles them, digests them, assimilates them and how various nutrients reach various body parts.

There is a millennia old framework to judge that well and do what is right for YOU! Some fine-tuning may be needed based on trial and error, but you can start off with what is more likely to work for you, rather than blindly following pop culture fads and one-size-fits-all misinformation and helplessly getting stuck with chronic health issues. Remember: NOTHING is universally good or bad. Every food item may be fantastic for some and terrible for some. And there is a way to know it without resorting to experiments.

Just because everyone says olive oil or coconut oil is the best, don’t switch to it blindly. For a kapha person, mustard oil is the best. Sesame and canola oil may also be ok, but other oils are not good. Again, don’t jump to the conclusion that mustard oil is the best for all. For a pitta person, it is like poison. Coconut oil and ghee are best then. People think that yogurt is probiotic and very healthy. Not so fast. If you are a kapha person, dairy products (especially yogurt) are like a poison. People think that taking too much oil or ghee is bad, but that is exactly what you need if you are a vata person! People think that salads are healthy. Not so fast. For a vata person, raw vegetables and greens are poisonous. They’ll increase vata and give chronic nervo-muscular aches, chronic anxiety, depression etc. We are told “one apple a day keeps doctor way”. That’s true if you are a pitta/kapha person. If you are a vata person, one apple a day ruins your health.

Every food is good for some and bad for some. You need to know your Ayurvedic body type to know what is good for you. There are 3 types – Kapha (weak metabolism), Pitta (strong metabolism) and Vata (variable metabolism). One can also have a combination of these. For example, one can be primarily Vata and secondarily pitta.

Proceeding to buy food without knowing ayurvedic body type is as ridiculous as going to buy clothes without knowing size! smile emoticon Unfortunately, people feel far more uncomfortable wearing clothes that don’t fit them, than eating food that doesn’t suit them! frown emoticon

To find out your body type, you can use questionnaires on online self-service websites. You can search on the internet for “ayurveda body type”. Most of them are reasonable. They can atleast tell you your primary type.

Even if one does not strictly avoid bad foods, one will still benefit if one predominantly eats foods that are good for one. Even when eating bad foods, one can balance them with other ingredients or spices that are good for one.

For example, suppose a vata person wants to occasionally eat arugula (greens) for some nutrients. It is good for piita and kapha, but not for vata. So one can add some tamarind paste to reduce that vata.

Suppose a kapha person wants to occasionally eat yogurt. One can mix some spicy pickle with it to balance kapha.

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