Ayurvedic Nutrition VS. Western Nutrition
There are several notable differences when making comparisons between western nutrition and ayurvedic nutrition. These result in an entirely different line of thinking when considering what constitutes a healthy, balanced diet.
Western nutrition is based on a model which operates under the assumption that all human beings are the same, having the same nutritional needs with the same ability to digest. It suggests a set ratio of macro nutrients and a recommended daily allowance for the intake of vitamins and minerals, but fails to recognize that by processing food, the nutritional value is often greatly reduced, if not lost completely. It also does not take into account food combining and the difference this can make to the digestive system or to the absorption of vital nutrients, vitamins and minerals. It puts emphasis on calorie content and completely neglects any thought for nutrient density.
Ayurveda takes a very different approach. It is a holistic approach in which food is used as medicine to heal the mind, body and spirit on an individual basis depending on individual needs. It is a science in which intuition and intention is the driving force. The effect food has on the mind is considered of equal importance as it has on the body. Ayurveda regards food as a manifestation of the divine and therefore has a spiritual connection with food. It embraces the concept that through balance we can heal the soul, heal the mind and connect deeply with mother nature and the divine.
Ayurveda is based around the philosophy of Samkhya and believes that the whole earth is universal and all living things and humans are made up of the 5 elements or ‘panchamahabhutas’. It is through determining an individuals original constitution of these elements and comparing it with their current constitution that imbalances are diagnosed. Health can be restored through a variety of means including diet. This is acheived by adding or decreasing the qualities required through eating the right foods. It also embraces the concept of food combining and understands that by eating certain foods together can change the effect they have on the body.
It recognizes that living foods contain subtle energies or ‘prana’ and the importance these energies are to our overall health by increasing ‘ojas’, a wholesome substance of vital essence that nourishes all body tissues. Prana is sourced from the sun so it makes sense that fresh fruits, legumes and grains are higher in prana that meat since they grow using photosynthesis. The fresher the better and without the use of preservatives or anything at all artificial.
A vedic diet takes into account six tastes or ‘rasas’ which are created by combinations of the panchamahabhutas and are used when determining the properties of foods in order to establish which are beneficial and which are detrimental to an individual’s health. A balanced diet should contain a little of each.
To conclude, ayurveda takes a holistic approach and uses food as a means to restore a healthy balance to mind, body and spirit and is tailored to each individual’s needs. Western nutrition, on-the-other-hand, fails to recognize not only individual needs, but also the mind / body connection and the importance to nourish both in order to obtain overall good health.
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