6 Basic Ayurvedic Food Principles

While much of what is best for you to eat is determined by your individual dosha(s) or current imbalance, Ayurveda has some basic dietary guidelines that everyone can benefit from.

1. Eat foods closest to their natural state. This is an easy principle to remember but can be a difficult one to follow. Health and wellness come from eating food that is natural and unprocessed. If it comes in a can, box, bag, or is frozen, it is likely not the best for us. And if we consume meat, we should be attentive that it is fresh, quality meat and the animal has been treated as humanely as possible.

2. Only eat when you're hungry. Ayurveda asks us to be attentive to our natural signals. Even though eating at routine times each day is important, if we are not hungry for a particular meal, it is better to skip that meal than just eat because it is time. If we are not hungry, it is likely that our digestive fire is not strong enough to do its work properly. Better to wait than to eat food with slow digestion. (If you need a snack during the day, try to keep it light and easily-digestible.)

3. Lunch should be the biggest meal. This can be a tough one for cultures that generally eat their biggest meal in the evening. However, breakfast and dinner fall within the Kapha energy of the day, which means we naturally have slower digestive fire. These two meals should be lighter in nature. The biggest meal should be at the peak of the day (between 10am and 2pm) when our digestive fire is at its strongest.

4. Don't dilute your digestive power. Water with a meal is fine, but it should only be enough to help us eat and digest. If we drink too much with a meal, it can put out the digestive fire and compromise how our food is metabolized. The general rule is to fill the stomach three-fourths with food, one-fourth with water, and leave one-fourth for space. Save your water consumption for between meals, and avoid icy-cold and carbonated drinks.

5. Keep fruit by itself. In Ayurveda, there are guidelines on food combining, meaning that some foods do not digest well when eaten together. Fruit is one of those items that is best not combined with other food. Ayurveda holds that mixing fruit with other items can cause food to not be properly digested/assimilated. Best to keep fruit alone as one of the options for a mid-morning or afternoon snack.

6. Listen to your body. Note how you feel after you eat each meal throughout the day. Do you feel energetic and nourished? Do you feel bloated and gassy? Do you feel lethargic and sluggish? Do you experience heartburn or indigestion? Your body is constantly sending you signals that can help you tailor your diet in a way that best suits your needs. Being attentive to how your body processes certain foods is important to maintaining optimal digestion. Keep a food journal for a few weeks. You'll be surprised by how much your learn!

Now it's time to give it a try! Choose one or two of the above guidelines and test it out for a week or two. All things are accomplished by taking little steps. Keep going and note how you feel along the way! More about eating for your specific dosha to come!