Ayurveda and special diets

What is Ayurveda’s viewpoint on trendy diets like paleo, low-carbohydrate, vegan, and raw?

Lately, we see a lot of media coverage for such diets as the paleo diet, low-carbohydrate diets, veganism, and rawfoodism. What does Ayurveda say about these trends and how can they be integrated with an Ayurvedic way of life? Which diet is suitable for which Dosha type?

Robert Keith Wallace

In his latest book, “Gut Crisis”, Robert Keith Wallace, neuroendocrinologist, researcher and author, scrutinizes various dietary regimens and puts them side-by-side with Ayurvedic recommendations. That was quite an undertaking, he writes, because “Ayurveda has this invaluable quality, that it gives recommendations specifically adapted to each person’s individual body type.”

Stone-age diet or Paleo diet

As the name implies, this diet was inspired by stone-age hunters and gatherers. Consisting of meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, nuts, fruits in moderation, and healthy oils (such as olive oil) it is said to help lose weight and strengthen the immune system.
Excluded are: grains, legumes, dairy products, potatoes, salt, industrially processed foods, and oils from seeds.

How to combine the stone-age diet with Ayurveda?

“That isn’t easy,” says Robert Keith Wallace. “An Ayurvedic diet includes Mung Dal, milk, Ghee, and only small amounts of meat and eggs. That’s pretty much the opposite of Paleo.”

Still, a person with Pitta dominance might tolerate the Paleo diet – at least better than people with Vata or Kapha dominance. This is because Pitta dominance usually goes with strong digestive power, so even hard-to-digest food may be tolerated.

Indeed, following the Paleo diet for a limited time can be quite helpful, says Dr. Wallace, as the renunciation of grain, dairy products, and sugar helps alleviate food allergies and sensitivities.

Low-carbohydrate diet

Low carbs, lots of fat – that is the principle of the low-carbohydrate diet (sometimes also called “ketogenic”). Therein it resembles the Paleo, Atkins and other diets. The proponents of the low-carb diet explain that by intaking very little carbohydrates and relatively much fat, the body becomes a fat burning machine.
It is then in a metabolic state called ketosis.The ketogenic diet prefers low-carbohydrate foods such as meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, and natural fats such as olive oil and butter. Sugar, bread, pasta, sweets, pastries, rice, juices and potatoes are avoided.

How can the ketogenic diet be reconciled with Ayurveda?

“People with a Vata dominance tolerate those natural fats well,” says Robert Keith Wallace. “It may also be good for Pitta constitution. But for people with Kapha constitution it’ll be really difficult,” because Kapha has the slowest metabolism and can handle very little fat.

Vegan diet

The vegan diet is purely herbal and usually wholefood. It consists of cereals, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. No animal products, such as meat, seafood, dairy, and eggs are eaten. Many vegans prefer this diet for ethical and/or ecological reasons.

How to combine a vegan diet with Ayurveda?

By and large, the Ayurvedic cuisine is vegan. One main difference is Ayurveda’s use of dairy products: Ghee, warm (organic) milk, Panir, and Lassi are important in Ayurveda.
“Also, vegans tend towards uncooked food, which is not beneficial for Vata constitution,” Dr. Wallace emphasizes. “People with a Pitta constitution are likely to tolerate a raw diet well, but people with Kapha constitution may have problems.”

Raw food diet

According to proponents of a raw food diet, cooking destroys the enzymes contained in the food. Instead of cooking, they prefer using a blender or a juicer, soak the food, or let it sprout. If they cook or bake, then only up to 47 °C. Their main foods are: fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, cereals, nuts and seeds, olive oil, coconut oil or butter. They avoid all food that is cooked or processed.

How may raw food nutrition be reconciled with Ayurveda?

“Basically, cooked food is easier to digest,” says Robert Keith Wallace. For people with a Vata dominance, raw food is too hard to digest; often also for people with a slow, Kapha-like metabolism. The strongest digestive power is associated with Pitta Dosha, which can tolerate raw food well. But even for them, Ayurveda does not recommend eating only raw food, because in the long run, most people cannot fully digest it.

Ayurveda in the modern world
How to bring modern diets in accord with Ayurveda?

Summing up, Dr. Wallace concluded: “Ayurvedic recommendations are based on knowledge that is thousands of years old. People in the western world want to keep up with modern recommendations and diets. But for those diets to be beneficial, it is very necessary to adapt them to one’s body type.” Please do the dosha test here.

It will be a pleasure to give you personal advice for your diet during a walk-in doctor’s hour. Every person is unique, and in order for your sustenance to really benefit you, it should be adapted to the very individual properties of your digestive system, your age, your bodily strength, and your food habits.

© Maharishi Ayurveda Privatklinik Bad Ems

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