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Ayurveda: a 5,000 year old tradition of eating where food is medicine

LISTEN: Ayurveda: a 5,000 way of eating where food is medicine

Singer songwriter Nicki Bluhm is the latest guest on my podcast, Your Last Meal. For her last meal she wants a classic steakhouse dinner, complete with scalloped potatoes and creamed spinach. But in her daily life, she follows an Ayurvedic diet; a 5,000 year old Indian practice of treating food like medicine. The idea is if you eat a healthy diet, tailored specifically for your body, you’ll ward off disease.

Ayurveda looks at three elements: food, sleep and right use of energy. Seattle-based Ayurvedic therapist and yoga teacher Jodi Boone explains what ‘right use of energy’ means.

“Do you feel like you have a life purpose? People will really examine their work,” said Boone. “Is it meaningful, do they look forward to going everyday or is it something they dread? Even their most intimate relationships, the people they’re closest too; does it give you energy spending time with this person or that person? Or does it bring you down in some way? We’re always trying to find that balance.”

But the first thing they look at is someone’s diet.

“It’s said that if diet is right, medicine is of no need,” said Boone. “If diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. The kitchen is seen also as the pharmacy.”

The philosophy is that you should eat specific foods based on factors like your body type, how cold or hot you run, how much anxiety you experience, if your skin is dry or oily. This is intended to keep your mind and body balanced.

“It’s based off of your three doshas,” Nicky Bluhm said. “You take a test of a series of questions and you figure out your dosha. You’re either pitta, vata, or kapha or you’re a combination of two. I’m vata, which is very dry and lean and long. I’m very tall and I have small bones and my skin tends to be dry. Because I’m dry I need a lot of moisture. So I need to eat oily foods as opposed to brittle, dry chips and things like that. Which is why I have avocados on my rider.”

“The other energy is pitta,” explained Boone. “Pittas tend to run really hot, fiery. Pittas can be short tempered. If a pitta person, for example, skips a meal they can easily become irritable. They’re very driven. They tend to be perfectionists and list makers, very goal oriented. When we look at nourishing a pitta, we want to cool them down, calm them down, which would help alleviate their tendency to be competitive or naturally critical of themselves and others. Just calming and cooling foods. Spices like coriander would be fantastic. Nothing that’s pungent or spicy. Things that are naturally sweet, bitter and astringent are very nourishing for pittas. Also, with pitta, they need to stay away from foods that are deep fried and especially spicy. It’s often what a pitta will crave, they’ll love the five-star Thai dish. What we see again and again is when people start to incorporate the practices of Ayurveda, that five-star Thai dish that they used to crave and love, they can no longer tolerate. So we’re bringing them back into balance.”

Want to know your dosha? Take this test!

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