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Everybody knows that what you eat has a direct impact on your health. According to the ancient health system of Ayurveda, we are at our best when our energies are balanced. This also involves our digestive system, which is why Ayurveda contains a series of guidelines for nutrition. Discover how eating the Ayurvedic way can balance body, mind and spirit.

People who practice Ayurveda believe there are some general rules we should all follow when it comes to diet, and if we eat with them in mind, we’ll be at our healthiest and happiest. Here’s what the oldest health system in the world says about eating for ultimate balance.

5 General Rules for Ayurvedic Eating

1. Are you really hungry?

Ayurveda places a lot of importance on digestion. It says we shouldn’t eat until our previous meal is fully processed. Often when we think we are hungry, we’re just dehydrated—so drinking a glass of water or a cup of tea an hour after lunch is a much better idea than reaching for a snack.

2. Eat mindfully

Eat without distraction and be present in the moment. Ayurveda teaches us that a balanced life is best, and trying to read e-mail or watching television makes it impossible to engage all your senses while eating, resulting in imbalance.

3. Plan your meal schedule and stick to it

Easier said than done, we know: but again, it’s a matter of balance. Ayurveda connects to nature, and nature is all about cycles. Eating at the same time every day will stabilize your blood sugar and balance your energy level—helping you to avoid crashes throughout your day.

4. Listen to what your body needs

If you’ve ever been on a diet, you’ve heard this advice. But Ayurveda says it applies to everybody, not just those trying to lose weight. Pay close attention to when you feel full, and don’t eat more than necessary. Eat slowly and give your body a chance to signal to your brain when it’s reached its limit.

5. Avoid processed foods whenever possible

An Ayurvedic nutritionist, like most nutritionists, will tell you that the healthiest foods are the ones with few or no additives. Prepare meals with natural ingredients and you’ll be able to digest more efficiently and absorb more nutrients.

Read all about the Ayurvedic kitchen in our interview with food expert Janesh Vaidya.

Eating According to Your Mind-body Type

In addition to these general tips, Ayurveda believes that each of us has a unique pattern of energies with specific characteristics and needs. Since one of our primary needs is food, it’s logical that there are rules specific to which energy (or dosha) is dominant in your system. Not sure yet which of the 3 mind-body categories you fall into? Take our test to you learn which advice you should follow.

The Ideal Vata Diet

Because Vata is a cold and dry dosha, eating richer and nourishing foods is important. Vata people tend to be very slender, so extra butter or other fat is not only okay, it’s encouraged. If you’re Vata, Ayurveda says warm beverages are a good way to stay balanced: herbal tea is a better idea than coffee, however. Vatas don’t need the extra caffeine.

The Perfect Pitta Meal Plan

Pitta people are known to be fiery, so colder foods are preferable to balance this out. According to Ayurveda, Pittas benefit the most from vegetarian food, as meats tend to produce more heat when being digested. If you crave warmth, mint tea is known to have a peaceful effect on the passionate Pitta.

The Best Menu for Kapha

Kapha people are typically heavier and retain more fluid than the other two mind-body types. This makes nutrition very important, as it helps maintain a healthy weight. Kaphas should avoid excessive sugar, fat and salt. Cooked, light meals are your best bet, and if they’re “dry-cooked” (baked, boiled, grilled or sautéed), even better! Spicy foods that are low in calories make the perfect midday meal, because your metabolism get slower as the day wears on.

If you incorporate these Ayurvedic nutritional rules into your life, practitioners say you will optimize your digestion. When digestion is good, you’re certain to get the most vitamins and nutrients from your food, meaning better overall health and well-being. To get you started, we have some exclusive recipes for a carrot dip with vegetables and a red pepper curry.

Get healthy, become balanced, and enjoy.

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