For the past few years, I’ve been fascinated by Ayurveda, the traditional medical system of India. Studying for my Nutrition Consultant certification really opened my eyes to so many new perspectives on food and nutrition, but Ayurveda jumped out the most, and so I began a deeper exploration of this field. The main goal to the article is really to help relate Ayurveda and keto – how can we incorporate Ayurvedic principals into the framework of a low carb diet?
The Absolute Basics of Ayurveda
This is a suuuuuuper basic introduction. But, if I had to narrow down the goal of Ayurvedic principals, it would be this: Ayurveda is about achieving balance. This means to balance your body, mind and spirit with your environment, with your activities, and with the foods that you eat. Ayurveda takes into account five different elements, and works to bring these all into a state of harmony. Sound hippie dippy? It kind of is, but there’s actually a lot of “real” (Western) science and medicine backing up Ayurveda.
The principals of Ayurveda are actually quite simple though. Ayurveda isn’t just necessarily about health and medicine in the way we typically think about it, but also about bringing balance to your whole life. As outlined by The Chopra Center, Ayurveda has the following guidelines:
- Take time each day to quiet your mind (meditate).
- Eat a colorful, flavorful diet.
- Engage in daily exercise that enhances flexibility, strength, and cardiovascular fitness.
- Sleep soundly at night.
- Eliminate what is not serving you.
- Cultivate loving, nurturing relationships.
- Perform work that awakens your passion.
The Five Elements of Ayurveda
The foundation of Ayurveda is understanding the five elements, and how they relate to one another. These are the basic elements of life, and they promote health and happiness when in balance. Dis-ease and discomfort are Ayurveda’s five basic elements are as follows:
- ether/space (Akasha): This is the most subtle and conceptual of the elements. Ether represents the space in all things (including in atoms!).
- air (Vatu): Air relates most closely with movement.
- fire (Agni): Fire represents motivation and drive, passion and metabolism.
- water (Jala): Water is easy going, and flows to move things from point A to B.
- earth (Prithvi): Earth is grounded, stable and has a strong structure.
There are more detailed explanations, and a fantastic chart over at: http://www.kimmana.com/five-elements-of-ayurveda/
The Three Doshas of Ayurveda
A Dosha is your unique balance of the elements, that will guide you to make decisions that are best for your health and wellness, based on your body and personality type. There are three doshas: Vata, Pitta & Kapha. We all have varying degrees of each dosha that make up our constitution as a whole (in fact, everything in the world has these doshas), and when these elements are in balance, we experience health. The three main doshas are as follows:
- Vata: Ether & Air
- Pitta: Fire & Water
- Kapha: Earth & Water
People tend to have a dominant dosha, which we will be talking about far more in the next few articles, though you can be a combination of two doshas. There are plenty of quizzes you can take online to determine your dosha, and this article provides a comprehensive breakdown of the doshas and how they function.
Think about how you function (Are you constantly in your head, flighty and on the go? Do you have strong motivation and a quick temper? Are you easy going, and slower to get moving?), to help determine what your dominant dosha(s) is/are. The article mentioned above can also provide guidance in determining your dosha, as can this fairly comprehensive (but not overwhelming!) quiz.
So…How Do Ayurveda and Keto Come Together?
Great question! A lot of Ayurvedic principals help to guide your food choices, and that’s where we can work keto, or other low carb options, into the mix. Once you’ve determined your dosha, the idea is to eat to best balance this energy, especially in terms of Agni (digestive fire). For instance, those who are Vata are typically cold, so eating warm or hot foods will increase fire, and bring balance. Balance can be achieved in many ways, but the dominating idea is that we pay close attention to what, when and how we eat, to best nourish our bodies.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll look at how balancing each dosha can work within the parameters of a low carbohydrate, or ketogenic way of eating. Before you continue, you should definitely check out the dosha quiz. This will help you to be able to choose the foods, activities, spices and herbs that are best for your particular constitution. My results were:
- Vata: 31
- Pitta: 7
- Kapha: 5
I’d love to see how your doshas compare. Feel free to share in the comments!