Ayurveda is a health care approach, which was available to humans long before adverse chemicals turned up in the environment and in food. Today, we know that toxic chemicals in food, medicine and the environment can be our worst enemy and a more natural, traditional way of living is very popular. That’s why Ayurveda is helpful! It contains pro-active wisdom, such as positive nutrition, and here is a very easy way to understand how it works.
“Food contains five elements (space, wind, fire, water, earth). Which ones are present in your meal can be identified by taste (earth-sweet, space-bitter, wind–astringent, fire-hot plus sour and salty).
Where the food is from and how the food is produced, cooked and stored will also affect the elements as it can change the taste. What these foods do to your body depends on the elements they contain (e.g. sweet is earth producing = fattening).
Whether the effect of this food is good for you, depends on what body type you are. For example, if you are of the earth body type (gain weight super easy), more earth (fattening) is no good, but if you are a wind body type (easily stressed, can’t gain weight), more earth is excellent.”
This is in essence what Ayurveda-nutrition is based on; an understanding of the food we eat and the effect this has on our unique body type. A “one fits all approach” to nutrition is not the Ayurveda-nutrition way. What is preferable is a uniquely tailored life-style suitable for you.
Eastern healthcare such as Ayurveda, Unani and Chinese Medicine use the theory of the five elements (earth, wind, fire, space and water). But what exactly are those elements? In fact, they are virtual memory joggers for the very many qualities each element represents. So, for example, the element FIRE is of many qualities. It is very hot, light, changeable, melting into liquidity, transformative, produces light/vision, can spread fast, can burn and aggravate in excess, can add life and warmth in small quantities, and generally all that which can be attributed to FIRE. The one thing to know is that all creation, foods and bodies contain a different combination of these five elements and it is their interplay, which produces a more or less predictable (to the trained observer) result.
When it comes to food, taste will guide our understanding, what types of elements are present. So for example, when something “tastes hot, sour and salty” that is a sure sign of the FIRE element to be present. When something is “sweet, salty and sour” then the water element is present. There are six tastes and their combination can reveal the elements present in the food.
Effects on the Body
Food has a certain effect in the body. When the food is ingested the elements in the food will begin their work.
As discussed, the elements have certain qualities, such as: light-heavy, hot-cold, rough-smooth, hard-soft, dry-moist, slow-fast, blocking-spreading, clear-cloudy, gross-subtle, building (anabolic)-reducing (catabolic).
The net result of this action depends on the elements and qualities of your body type as it is the interplay of the elements that determine the final outcome which is either desirable or undesirable.
We are not all exactly the same, in fact we come with variations to our body types. Whilst some people are prone to putting on weight, other people are easily cold and yet others can break into a sweat very easily. Ayurveda looks at the differences between people through the eyes of the five elements.
Somebody who is high in the elements wind and space, the vata body type has a tendency to feel cold soon, not easily putting on weight and can get quite stressed or lose grounding easily. Someone with a high fire element, the Pitta body type can take a lot of action, convert and shift work and get things done and possibly do too much, potentially burn out or overwork. The person dominant in earth, Kapha body puts on weight easily and whilst with great stamina can find it difficult to spring into action.
Our nutritional needs depend on which aspects we want to strengthen and which aspects we want to reduce to create the optimal balance within our bodies. Hence, in Ayurveda-Nutrition a “one fits all approach” might benefit some but be totally unsuitable for others.
Sonja Breuer (MSc. Ayur.) is a HEALTH COACH.
Sonja is a health blogger, presenter, health coach, yoga teacher, energy healer and ayurvedic practitioner. She runs an organic fruit and vegetable delivery business in London. www.thenutritionhealer.com | @happyin40days | FB: Thenutritionhealer