Combining the Ayurveda diet with Modern Science
combining the ayurvedic diet with modern science
Dieting. Raise your hand if you have been ever been guilty of trying some fad diet in hopes of shedding all of your unwanted body fat and getting a rock hard bod in just a few weeks. (*raises hand slowly*). We’ve all been there.
And with just about a million and one different ways to diet, whether it’s doing a week long juice cleanse, cutting out all carbs, or just restricting your calories, it’s easy to fall into this trap of believing that there is a quick and easy fix.
Turns out, there isn’t.
The best “diet” is the one that you can maintain for the long-term, and the “diet” that keeps your mind, body, and soul in balance.
After going through my own journey of struggling with eating disorders, believing that “clean eating” is the only way to get a six-pack, to obsessively counting my macros and weighing out all of my food, I finally arrived at a “diet” that gives me peace of mind and appreciation for my body.
[Read more about my food journey here.]
As a spirit, wellness, and fitness junkie, I’m all about eating foods that raise my vibration, nourish my soul, while still eating to achieve my fitness goals. I want to keep my abs, without stressing about how many calories I’m eating, or if I’m hitting my macros.
What I have found that works best for elevating my mind, body, spirit, while also keeping me on track with my fitness, is combining the Ayurvedic diet with modern nutritional science.
I eat foods that help balance by dosha (Vata-Pitta), while also keeping my calories in check and making sure I get enough protein to keep my hard-earned muscle.
Overview of the Ayurvedic Diet
The main reason I absolutely love and vibe with the Ayurvedic diet is because of the main focus of BALANCE.
With an Ayurvedic diet, food is seen as nourishment that helps bring balance to your mind and body, while also preventing ama, or disease/illness. It’s all about eating food according to your dosha. There are three doshas in Ayurveda: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Each dosha is a combination of two of the five elements that make up the world and our own bodies, which are Ether (space), Air, Water, Fire, and Earth.
Vata = Ether (space) + Air
Pitta = Fire + Water
Kapha = Water + Earth
Each of us have all three doshas, but one or two dominant our being. Our dosha influences our mental and physical processes, including our personality traits, natural tendencies, physical characteristics, and our overall health.
The Ayurvedic diet recommends eating certain foods that help maintain balance of our dosha (or dosha combination), so that we remain the healthiest versions of ourselves at both the physical and mental levels.
However, the Ayurvedic diet is NOT restrictive. Just because you’re a Pitta, doesn't mean you can’t eat spicy food. You can still eat foods that may not necessarily be “recommended” for your dosha, as long as you keep balance and make changes to your diet when you start noticing hints of dosha imbalances (i.e. Pitta imbalances can manifest as aggression, indigestion, skin rashes, etc.).
The Ayurvedic diet also places a huge emphasis on digestion. How we breakdown and process our food is extremely important for soaking up and processing all of the vitamins, nutrients, and energies of the foods we consume. The Ayurvedic term for metabolism is agni, which literally means “fire”. Having a strong agni allows us to digest and metabolize food, which allows for a well-functioning body and a clearer mind.
The biggest difference from Western diets is the belief that food has subtle, non-physical energy (known as gunas) which affect the mind and soul. Food is classified as Sattvic, Rajasic, and Tamasic. Sattvic foods are unprocessed, whole foods that are the healthiest for the mind and body. Rajasic foods are slightly more processed foods, that are more stimulating and denser. Tamasic foods are processed foods that make us feel physically sluggish, lazier, and just not very healthy.
The Ayurvedic diet recommends all doshas to eat majority Sattvic foods. However, it’s all about balance, so eating Rajasic foods and Tamasic foods in moderation is a-okay. Basically, the 80/20 rule applies to Ayurveda, so you can have you veggies and your cake every once in a while.
Overview of the Western Diet
The Western approach to diet sees food as strictly a source of energy for the physical body. Foods are made up of calories, macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals that allow us to literally survive and function. These are all physical properties of foods, and the Western science definitely doesn’t buy into the spiritual / mystical / “subtle energies” of food. When we talk about “energy”, we’re talking about the number of calories that are in the foods we eat. Calories are essentially just units of energy, that equate to what are called “macronutrients”, the proteins, carbohydrates, and fats that make up food.
1 gram of carbohydrate = 4 calories
1 gram of protein = 4 calories
1 gram of fat = 9 calories
So for example, if you were to eat 100g of apple, you would be consuming roughly 14 grams of carbohydrates, which would equate to 56 calories (14g x 4 calories).
Majority of people have no idea how many calories they are consuming on a daily basis, nor do they know how many calories their body actually needs. Each of us have different lifestyles, activity levels, metabolisms, and genetics, that all influence how many calories we need to consume per day. Many of us also have different goals, whether that is to lose weight, gain weight, build muscle, or simply maintain our current weight. This again influences how many calories we should be eating per day.
In order to lose body fat, you need to be in a caloric deficit (consuming fewer calories than what your body is burning).
In order to gain weight / muscle mass, you need to be in a caloric surplus (consuming more calories than what your body is burning).
In order to maintain your current bodyweight, you need to be in a caloric balance (consuming equal calories to what your body is burning).
If your goal is to shed some fat, or add some muscle to your frame, you will need to have a rough idea of how many calories you should be eating a day to meet your fitness goal. It’s easy for calorie counting to become obsessive, and believe me I have been there! (I remember having some crazy eight-hundred-and-something streak on tracking with MyFitnessPal)
Depending on your current relationship with food, how you feel mentally, your health situation, and what goal you may have for fitness, counting calories may or may not be the way to go for you. What is most important is being equipped with the knowledge about how calories and macronutrients affect the body. By being educated and having an idea of how many calories your body needs in order to physically be healthy, you can make food choices that are aligned with your goals.
Combining both approaches
Despite their differences, the Ayurvedic diet and modern nutritional science can go hand in hand. You can eat foods that balance your dosha, and keep you on track with hitting your caloric and macronutrient needs.
Download the Daily Food Journal
Track calories, macros, Ayurvedic “Gunas”, and reflect on how food makes you feel physically and mentally.