When modern health experts talk about a balanced diet, they are referring to a judicious mix of proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals on your plate. Ask an Ayurvedic healer, though, and the vocabulary changes completely. Here, the concept of a balanced diet is drawn from what your taste buds crave.
The idea is simple: Nature bestows every living being with an innate intelligence that helps them choose what is good and healthy for them. So, when the five elements that compose your three basic doshas are in harmony, you naturally seek foods that are nourishing to you. This is a happy situation, wherein you get all the nutrients you require without having to count grams and milligrams of protein, carbs et all.
But stress, pollution and free radicals combine to throw the dosha balance out of whack. This interferes with the body and mind’s natural ability to choose well, resulting in an unhealthy diet. Take Pitta, for example. This dosha is composed of fire and water. Those with a dominant pitta dosha need to protect themselves from potentially “inflammatory” conditions such as rashes, breakouts, acidity, heartburn, anger. So, logically, Pitta type of persons should avoid sharp, hot foods. But when there is an imbalance, a Pitta person might crave spicy, pungent food.
To ease your body back into its state of natural intelligence, Ayurveda recommends you shift your focus back to your taste buds. Let your meals comprise a variety of flavors. Interestingly, even from a modern nutritional perspective, the six tastes satisfy each of the major dietary building blocks. Sweet foods, for example, are rich in fats, proteins, carbohydrates and water, whereas Bitter and Astringent foods are high in vitamins and minerals.
Now this does not mean one has to include a heavy dessert, sour cream and such in one’s daily diet. Each of these flavors is required in small amounts, and sometimes a cleverly created chutney is all it takes to provide up to four of these. For instance, the quick and zesty Herb and Lemon chutney boasts sweet, sour, salty and pungent flavors.
But what about bitter foods? Why should these be considered essential on anyone’s plate? First, be assured that “bitter” does not mean unpleasant, hard-to-swallow foods in Ayurveda. In fact, some of the foods classified as “bitter” are likely already on your list of favorites! A sampling:
- Leafy greens such as kale, arugula, radicchio, dandelion greens
- Bitter gourd
- Aloe Vera
How Bitter Foods Heal You:
- Bitter foods stimulate the taste buds, triggering a healthy flow of enzymes, bile and digestive juices. When food is digested properly, the nutrients in it are also absorbed better.
- Most of these foods are packed with essential vitamins and minerals. For instance, kale is a good source of beta carotene, calcium, iron, Vitamin C, potassium, magnesium and folate.
- Thanks to their high fiber quotient, they have a cleansing effect on the digestive system.
- The sulfur-based compounds in them metabolize fat and help detoxify the liver.
- In Ayurvedic terms, these foods help balance aggravated Pitta and kapha doshas.
So, indulge in some daily bitterness on your plate: the results for your health will be sweet!