Let's talk about food: Knowledge of life


After my son was born, I went looking for the meaning of life. I learned to meditate and spent some time visiting a Vedic temple in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Practicing yoga and exploring principles of Ayurveda, I was able to slow my frantic thoughts. I’m much better at living in the moment now.

“The Sanskrit term Ayurveda translates to‚ 'knowledge of life,’ and the principles of this ancient wisdom remind us that the entire web of life is intricately interwoven. With a unique emphasis on total wellness, the art and science of Ayurveda work to harmonize our internal and external worlds,” the National Ayurvedic Medical Association writes on its website.

Johns Hopkins School of Medicine explains Ayurveda on its website under wellness and prevention: “Based on the idea that disease is due to an imbalance or stress in a person’s consciousness, Ayurveda encourages certain lifestyle interventions and natural therapies to regain a balance between the body, mind, spirit and the environment.”

My own experience with Ayurveda, including an Ayurvedic diet, is limited, though I’ve used topical Ayurvedic oils and regularly cook with Ayurvedic foods and herbs. I’ve been influenced by books by Dr. Andrew Weil and Deepak Chopra, also a trained medical doctor, and have picked up tips and recipes from both over the years. I also made note of foods prepared at temple ceremonies and communal meals prepared by or alongside those in the ashram. While not specifically Ayurvedic, the food was healthy and beautiful, and in the case of prasad, the offering of food that is shared after a ceremony, consecrated. It was always delicious. 

But I’m not entirely sure of my dosha, or the particular foods and food combinations that are best for me, as I’ve never consulted an Ayurvedic practitioner. However, I do subscribe to basic tenants of Ayurveda as I understand them. I’m working to prepare more meals with whole, fresh foods, choose foods that are local and in season and be more mindful about eating in general. As much as possible and practical, I avoid processed food and pesticides.

I’ve mentioned lemons; how the juice of a fresh lemon makes everything taste better. Melissa Eisler extolls the health benefits of the Ayurvedic practice of drinking fresh lemon juice in warm water in the morning at https://chopra.com/articles/the-health-benefits-of-drinking-lemon-water.

According to Eisler, drinking lemon water “rehydrates your body … flushes out toxins … aids digestion and elimination  … boosts immune system … lowers blood pressure … boosts energy level … improves mood … freshens your breath … improves skin complexion … (and) supports weight loss.” 

Lemons, with pectin, calcium, and bioflavonoids, are a significant source of vitamin C. Citric acid in lemons acts as an alkalizing agent, reducing acidity in the body, her article states. Eisler suggests drinking the juice of half a lemon in eight ounces of warm or hot water, with basil, mint, honey and ginger as additional ingredients.

Eisner includes a disclaimer that the information is intended for educational use only and is not a substitute for medical advice, which bears noting. 

With the change of the season, I’m moving away from the fresh fruit and smoothies I’ve been enjoying this summer, and moving on to winter squash and root vegetables. I’ll be making more soup and stews — the mung bean dal last week was a great start. 

Replacing a cup of coffee with lemon water is another positive step toward a healthy lifestyle. It’s surprising to me how quickly and easily things become habit, whether they are good or bad. 

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