Improving Digestion Without Increasing Vata

According to Ayurveda, good digestion is the key to good health. When one’s digestion has been compromised, a light diet is often recommended to help to get out digestive “fire” back to strength. Recently someone expressed concern about adopting this light diet. His concern was that he did not want to lose weight or increase Vata, which was already out of balance.

Eating light does not necessarily mean eating less—it means eating substantial quantities of lighter foods. Foundational to Ayurveda’s dietary advice is becoming attuned to your body’s signals. If your body is telling you that it is hungry, you need to eat. Otherwise, your digestive enzymes, not having any food to digest, will start to digest your bodily tissues — and you will lose weight. If you are trying to maintain a constant weight, eat when you feel hungry, even if the sensation is not very strong.

As you become more and more balanced, that feeling of hunger should begin to appear at mealtimes, especially at noon when your digestion is naturally stronger. Over time, you will develop an appetite that suits your ability to digest your food, and that maintains your weight.

Of course, when the advice is given to eat when hungry, this means to eat fresh, pure foods. Ayurveda recommend that we eat foods that are abundant in prana— the universal life-force that supports growth and evolution. Such foods include organic fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains and healthy oils. Foods such as canned and processed food, foods prepared with chemical fertilizers or sprays, and left-over foods would not be considered foods that contain “life-force”.

To increase muscle mass, favor fleshy fruits like raisins, dates, figs and mangoes, all of which specifically nourish muscle tissue.

Lassi is a wonderful drink to boost digestion. Lassi is made from freshly prepared yogurt mixed with water. You can add sweetener and spices, such as cardamom, to taste. You can mix water with yogurt in a ration of 1:1 or 1:2.

The strength of your digestion will be bolstered by a regular exercise program. Walking is an excellent exercise for all body types. Try to get in some kind of exercise every day, even if it is a mild form of exercise.

PURE FOODS

Fruits

Apples, Kiwi, Prunes, Apricots, Loquat, Tangerines, Bananas, Lychee, Pomegranate, Cantaloupe, Mango, Papaya, Cherries, Melons, Nectarines, Cranberry, Honeydew, Oranges, Grapefruits, Watermelon, Pineapples, Grapes, Peaches, Plums, Guava, Pears, Persimmon

Vegetables

Artichokes, Eggplant, Lettuce, Beets, Mustard, Greens, Asparagus, Daikon, Onions, Endive, Fennel, Maitake, Parsnips, Bok Choy, Peas, Broccoli, Green Beans, Potatoes, Brussels Sprouts, Kale, Radishes, Cabbage, Leeks, Lima Beans, Shallots, Carrots, Celery, Spinach, Cauliflower, Chard, Chanterelles, Sprouts, Corn, Squash, Shitake, Mushrooms, Watercress, Turnips, Yams

Sprouted Whole Grains

Amaranth, Barley, Buckwheat, Bulgur, Millet, Quinoa, Rice: Basmati, Brown and Wild Rice.

Oils

Olive, Safflower, Sesame, Sunflower,

LEGUMES/BEANS

Garbanzo, Lentils, Mung and other Dals

Spices

Asafoetida (hing), Coriander, Basil, Cumin, Nutmeg, Black Pepper, Fennel seed, Parsley, Cardamom, Fenugreek, Turmeric, Cinnamon, Cloves, Ginger

Nut/Seed

Brazil nuts, Pumpkin seeds, Sunflower seeds, Walnuts

Milks & Cheese

Unhomogenized Cow’s Milk, Seed milk, Hemp milk, Almond or other nut milk

Sweetners

Cane juice, Raw honey, Stevia, Fruit Juices, Maple Syrup