Ayurveda and Nutrition

By San Diego College of Ayurveda Block 2 AWP Student- Raeanne Quinton

Nutrition is becoming an increasingly studied topic in modern society—both in the East and West. With the Internet, many people are finding out for themselves what they’re putting in their bodies. I’ve certainly noticed amongst my friends and family an amplified awareness of health and wellness not only for the body but also the soul.

One thing I’ve come to learn is that what is considered “good for me” is different for each person, and that is something to be respected. With the sudden burst of health information in Western society, a lot of people find refuge in specific labels: vegan, vegetarian, locovore, Paleo, raw, pescetarian, I’ve even heard of chlorophyllians (people who only eat greens)!

Another typical Western nutrition tip is to go straight to the food label—a one size fits all dietary system, which measures calories, fat, vitamins, etc. But in Ayurveda, we can cater to anyone, it doesn’t matter what they label themselves as, there are hundreds of herbs, fruits, vegetables, etc. that can we can recommend to anyone to bring them into perfect balance

The fundamental difference between Western and Ayurvedic nutrition is this: Western nutrition is modern, Ayurvedic nutrition is ancient. From this realization, I think there is a very interesting discussion to be had about the variances between the two knowledge systems.

Nutrition in North America is known to be all over the place. We obsess over reducing carbs, but then carbs are good and it’s fat that’s bad! But wait, then there’s healthy fat! Westerners also like to make things really easy for themselves— a typical “healthy” diet for weight loss includes heavily processed whey protein shakes, protein bars and low-calorie snacks. Ice-cold smoothies are also big in North America—with places like Jugo Juice popping up on every corner as a “healthy alternative” to McDonald’s. We’ve got Vitamin Water (a Coca-Cola owned company) that people actually think is good for them, when the truth is it actually has more sugar than Coke and contains no natural substances whatsoever besides water. Many vaidyas would be shaking their heads in shame.

I appreciate Ayurveda so much because it doesn’t get caught up in the latest health crazes. It is an ancient knowledge that doesn’t take change lightly. Of course, modern Ayurvedic practitioners are very fascinated with Western nutrition and take into consideration each person’s unique needs. Every client is classified by their dosha (Vata, Pitta or Kapha) and from there we can see what vitiated elements need to be tended to (fire, water, earth, air or space). Ayurveda is not a one-size-fits-all program. I can bet there are certainly no vaidyas like American TV show hosts that are —yelling and screaming at people to lose weight.

A Vedic diet means so much more than losing weight—it is a diet to maintain health not only for the body but also the soul, karma and to connect you deeply to Mother Nature. An emphasis on UN-processed foods is crucial, as an Ayurvedic Wellness Practitioner my first questions when a client asks me if something is good for them are: Is it local? Is it fresh? Is it organic? Did it come from a happy person? These foods have the most prana (life force!)

From there we can talk about what specific fruits, herbs, vegetables, legumes, etc. might be good for your doshic constitution. I know that one of the biggest challenges I’ll face will just be getting people off of processed, machine-packaged and frozen foods. I have a lot of faith though, I see more and more people reaching for fresh fruit over processed snacks everyday. I’ve also seen Ayurvedic practitioners on the Dr. Oz show. There is a lot of debate stemming up in North America over factory farming methods, processed foods, animal cruelty, GMO’s, etc. It will be very exciting and fascinating to see if Ayurvedic and Western nutrition will continue to butt heads or if Western nutrition will catch up, in a sense, to Ayurveda.