My experience traveling to Southern India last month leaves me considering differences between my diet here versus the diet I followed while I was there studying at three different Ayurvedic treatment centers.
The Ayurvedic institutions I visited in Southern India taught me that whole grains, like basmati rice, barley, or wheat served with pulses, such as, mung beans can be substituted for meat as a main dish.
I ate these grains and legumes prepared in various ways and in many different combinations at every meal. Cereals were the main food consumed and steamed vegetables were served as supplements. I missed eating meat at first, but the Ayurvedic meal became very satisfying after just a couple days.
Although, I noticed that even though I was eating quite a large quantity, I got hungry a couple hours after eating these delicious meals. It turns out that getting hungry after just a couple hours is a sign that I was digesting this food well. I was taught that eating easily digestible food all the time was good even though I was hungry more often, because it kept my digestive fire going and all systems working to stay properly nourished and hydrated.
When I was hungry between meals I was encouraged to eat whole fruit. Fruit was served separately, by itself, two hours or so after meals, because its digestion rate is quicker than cereals and legumes. Therefore, fruit was eaten alone so as not to get hung up in the digestive tract too long with the cereals, ferment, cause bloating, gas and other problems.
Ayurveda teaches that meat is very hard for people to digest and should be eaten in very small amounts cooked well like in soup or stew. It’s not bad to eat meat, but the way it’s prepared, the quality and quantity need to be carefully considered.
For example, a small amount of white meat like chicken or a small amount fish is easier to digest than red meat or processed meat. Processed meat or red meat is not recommended, because people just cannot digest it in a timely manner. Now, I know firsthand that meat is hard to digest, because I felt the difference between eating mostly vegetarian food at these centers compared the way I feel when I eat meat everyday at home. I felt lighter and I had more energy on the Ayurvedic diet.
Meat is best taken as an occasional supplement to grains and legumes. Small amounts of broth and meat cooked properly help build muscle tissue. Four ounces of meat taken two to three times a week is plenty for most people.
Ayurveda teaches that poor digestion causes most, if not all, disease. When digestion is poor, we may notice bloating, gas, constipation right away, but poor digestion also causes problems like rashes and blemishes on the skin, as well as, problems in deeper tissues that manifest as arthritis, diabetes, and almost all other disease.
After eating practically no meat (4 oz in 3 weeks) and eating whole grains, legumes with steamed vegetables at every meal, I noticed my skin become healthier and arthritis in fingers and toes disappear. Also, another benefit was that while I ate a lot of good food when I was in India, I lost 5 pounds.
ibeginnow: to try to enjoy these healthful habits here at home. I’ll start by integrating more whole grains and legumes and reducing meat consumption.