Ayurveda: Eating Seasonally + Intuitively for Balance
There is so much to say about Ayurveda and so much that has already been said about this dynamic, living nature of knowledge, known as the “science of life”. Dating back to over 5,000 years and originating in India, the focus of this system is on the flow of prana - or vibrational energy of nature (the equivalent of chi in Chinese medicine) - back into the body. And since we are condensed energy + awareness, this approach of focusing on having a good flow of energy within the body makes sense.
It’s all about balance.
Ayurveda is a system we can apply in order to be brought back into balance, and in this world of duality that we live in something is almost always out of balance. This varies for each person and it is ever changing. It is important to use your own Innate Intelligence when tuning into your body and mind in order to avoid the overwhelm that may creep in when trying to understand all of the various terms and opinions out there.
This means that it isn’t so much about memorizing information, than it is about cultivating your own perception. Listening with your senses to what Mother Nature is saying at any given time, and cooperating to learn and enjoy the ride, and asking for help when we need it, is the essence of Ayurveda.
Ayurveda is very connected to the Earth and the Elements. I find following a Seasonal Diet to be the easiest way to practice Ayurveda, and the easiest way to naturally provoke cleansing and maintain health in the body.
“Whoever wishes to investigate medicine should proceed thus: In the first place, consider the seasons of the year and what effect each of them produces.” - Hippocrates
We want to look at the qualities that arise in nature, in each season, in order to stay in balance. Ayurveda has some general principles, “like increases like” is one of them and generally “it depends” is another. Ayurveda is a beautiful health system for me when looked at in these simple, intuitive terms.
These days there are labels for everything, especially what to eat, known collectively as “diets”. I have been through many of these labels and if I had to give myself one I would say Flexitarian - what this means to me is that I stay flexible on how I feel each day, where I am, and what is happening around me when determining what to eat. And my body will always tell me when I have chosen correctly (or incorrectly)!
“Let food be thy medicine, and thy medicine be thy food.” - Hippocrates
After many years of not being in touch with my Innate Intelligence and trusting my Intuition, I have finally reconnected with that part of me and understand that even with the most advanced medical technology that is available today, what we eat is vitally important. Our human body evolved to be sustained with fresh, organic food and clean water in order for the system to work properly. We are designed to enjoy a wide selection of foods - fresh fruits, vegetables, fats, proteins, carbohydrates, herbs, and spices - when the body is in good health. Ultimately what we eat each day depends on the individual and our personal needs, where in the world we live, and what we are doing on a daily basis, as well as being influenced by our upbringing, ancestry, and culture.
“Without proper nutrition medicine is of little use, with proper nutrition, medicine is of little need.”
- Charaka Samhita (official “textbook” of Ayurveda)
My Ayurvedic nutrition and culinary teacher, Divya Alter, sums it up perfectly in her book, What to Eat for How You Feel: The New Ayurvedic Kitchen:
“When people ask me to describe Ayurvedic food, my answer is this: whatever your definition of healthy food is fresh, pure, seasonal, local, predominantly plant-based, nutrient-rich, easy to digest, satisfying, energizing, healing, balancing, selected and prepared according to your individual needs.”
When we’re not in good health, we want to know why and how to bring ourselves back into health and balance. The body is talking to us in every moment, but in this day and age, the mind can override these signals in favor of its wants and needs, which aren’t always healthy. And because of that, we will often choose things that are not good for us.
So how can we make better choices?
By listening to ourselves, that is - the body.
The soul talks to the body and the body talks to the mind, but the mind doesn’t always listen!
And while it is true that each person is unique and will need different things at different times, I believe there are some general rules to follow about what to eat.
Dr. Elson Haas lays these generalizations out simply in his classic book, Staying Healthy with the Seasons :
Eat Moderately - It is important in Ayurveda not to overeat, as this is stressful on the body and may lead to poor digestion.
Eat Simply - In Ayurveda, food combining is really important. And there are “Standard American Diet” practices that have us think that eating a certain way is normal (ie. Thanksgiving).
Eat Early - Per the Dosha Time Wheel, it is important not to eat too late as that will slow down the digestive process for the food, and may not properly recharge the body. Ideally if following a 3 meal a day eating schedule:
I by no means always follow this, but I know that when I don’t, I am not as optimal and I don’t feel that good the next day. And this will likely vary with each person’s schedule at any given time. As always tune into your own Innate Intelligence and experience in how you are feeling when working with your timing of eating.
Eat Naturally - Eating as close to the garden, organic and local as possible. My default is to follow the EWG’s Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen as it is helpful to know what produce can be eaten without as much risk (ie. avocados) and which ones are non-negotiable (ie. strawberries) for me.
Eat Seasonally - We use the 3 doshas (literally means “fault”) as nature’s way of governing our bodies. Each of us is born with a unique proportion of these energies that determines our individual features, including our inherent mental and physical tendencies, skin type, etc. The secret of good health is to live in harmony with nature’s design for us as expressed by our personal mix of elements - that is our body type or constitution.
And I would like to add, Eat Mindfully! It is so important to be present and be in a good mood when we are eating because if we’re not, it doesn’t matter if we are eating the perfect food for us in that moment, it will not digest properly. I also always like to take a moment to say thank you and acknowledge the amazingly delicious food that is in front of me and be grateful for all the people, plants and ways it made it to my plate at that moment.
And as much as possible Eat Food You Make! When we make food at home, we know exactly what ingredients go into the recipe, and into the body. I of course love to eat at restaurants now and then, and there are times when it is simply more convenient to get takeout, but most of the time, my home cooked food is better!
There are a few more general guidelines I’d like to add:
Drink (Good) Water
While not during meals, please drink lots of good clean water! Water is a key element in the flow of the Earth and 55-60% of the body is made up of water. Water is important. Water is life. Nowadays much of the public drinking water is polluted with chemicals, heavy metals and other toxins (as well as our soil). It is important to get water from a natural spring or invest in a good filtration system that will provide good clean drinking water. If it is in the budget, I recommend filtering the entire house or at least the shower as our Skin is the largest organ in our body and when we shower with this chemical-laden water, we are absorbing it directly into our bodies through the skin. See my Resources for more information.
Cut Sugar Out
I struggle even as I write this, to completely cut sugar out - I have it down to only raw honey, maple syrup, dates, and fruit, and I sometimes cook and bake with coconut sugar, and I once in a while eat a little bit of organically sourced fair-trade chocolate, but in the Ayurvedic nutrition lineage I learned, it is rajistic and channel-clogging so only in small doses once in a while. However when I do eat something with sugar, I make sure not to give myself a hard time about it and just enjoy it for what it is - momentary “mouth pleasure”, satisfaction and enjoyment. Ultimately when I stay away from sugar altogether, I rarely crave it and I tend to have more energy - in my body and mind. And the days I start with something with sugar in it, I seem to be constantly “chasing the high” of that sugary taste.
Avoid Processed Foods + Leftovers
My teacher’s book has many amazing quotes, the following is so clear and true for me,”I do not have to convince you that invigorating food is healthy food. It is what we need to eat to live optimally and maintain harmony with nature. Unfortunately, the modern lifestyle promotes the convenience of packaged and processed foods that are far from invigorating. Famous chefs and popular food bloggers teach us “intelligent” ways of eating leftovers, disregarding the high health costs of leftovers: they give us less energy and weaken our digestion, thus leading to illness.”
In Ayurveda, there are 3 levels of food. In my training I learned them as:
Sattvic food is vibrant. Food that has it’s prana in it - it is alive and fresh and has been freshly prepared and eaten within 4 hours of preparation, and it is being eaten with a calm mind. These foods promote the purity of the mind, peace, intelligence and right decisions.
Rajasic food have lost its freshness, its energy. Leftovers and frozen foods, even if they’re organic, fall into this category. They lack energy as they lack prana. They may give you some “mouth pleasure” but ultimately your body will let you know through the digestion process, and you will likely have discomfort of some kind. This might not seem like a big deal, but also remember that most disease originates in the gut, and that the gut is one of our key “brains” we need to keep healthy and happy so our bodies, our whole life experience, will be healthy and happy.
These foods literally have no prana, no life, no energy. In fact, they deplete us of energy, clogs the channels and leads to major imbalances and disease. These are the foods that Matt Blackburn of Cymbiotika calls the “Goblin Diet”. These foods are heavily processed, artificial, canned, deep-fried, and microwaved food. Avoid them completely.
Honor the Tastes
In Ayurveda, there are 6 Tastes which ideally we want to have in every meal. When all six tastes are present in each meal, then our hunger will be satisfied and we are much more likely to stay in balance. Each taste plays a significant role in supporting the needs of our physiology.
It’s important to note that these are all general guidelines, a guidepost gently steering you on your way. Ultimately it will be paramount to tap into your own Innate Intelligence to feel what is true for you in every moment. Just be sure to tame the mind as that is where we all get into “trouble”. The body speaks to us in every moment, just like nature does, and if we can get out of the “mind chatter” and into our bodies, our intuition within will naturally emerge.
The Power of (Whole) Spices
Spices are crucial in Ayurveda. To quote Divya, spices are “one of the most essential and subtle aspects of every cuisine” and not only that - they protect and heal the body!
“The ancients called spices and herbs “vehicles” equipped with the blueprints for healing. The minute they enter the body, they start to clean up the digestive tract, paving the way for nutrients to reach their final destination. Spices also help the body eliminate unwanted wastes in a timely manner.” - What to Eat for How You Feel: The New Ayurvedic Kitchen
A key principle in Ayurveda is balance, and with spices it is no different. Some spices are more heating and some are more cooling, and so it is important to balance these qualities when creating spice mixes - which are whole spices freshly ground - known as masalas. I make my masalas monthly with whole spices that I store in glass jars, and use in my cooking throughout the month. This is the absolute best way to enjoy the prana of the spices, and to avoid being exposed to spices that are not pure, as some ground spices are mixed with “fillers”. Having a dedicated small electric grinder works great for this.
Thrive with Herbs
Herbalism is not directly connected to Ayurveda, however it is a perfect compliment in my opinion to the foods, herbs, and spices being used in our meals. I have turned to herbalism as a way of preventing disease and helping to combat living in this modern world. Herbs can be used in many different ways - they can be cooked with, make a tincture, infusion or tea as well as topically in various ways. And while I personally no longer take prescription drugs of any kind, I do honor the importance of modern Western medicine, and not all herbs will be good to take while on any prescriptions so definitely check-in with a good doctor before starting any herbal protocols. The Mayo Clinic has a good article to reference here. And the lovely Dr. Carolyn can assist you in evaluating all of your health needs.
My intention with this article and this site is to Inspire Intuitive Health and give general guidelines on Ayurveda. By no means are these specific recommendations for anyone. Each day when deciding what to eat it is important to factor in the following:
See the Dosha Time Wheel for a visual of this concept.
I am here if you need me, please reach out if you have any questions.
Blessings on your Intuitive Health journey!
la luna we see you
in your fullness
with us now
and we release
all that is not love
through darkness and light
the duality of our existence
shadows are needed
to see our gifts
in this knowing we thrive
thank you moon goddess
may we follow your lead
by being in our darkness and reflecting the light
Turmeric + Black Pepper Seed Crackers
These crackers are inspired from Oh She Glows Endurance Crackers, who was inspired by the Chia Seed crackers at the ChocolaTree in Sedona (which I've been to, an amazing place!). When I was working as a postpartum private chef and making these crackers for mama and family, she would leave me notes for the crackers saying “thinner please!”. Note taken - I started splitting the recipe onto 2 baking sheets and they came out so much better! Then I started experimenting with the flavor profiles and since my partner loves turmeric and black pepper, I decided to start with this combo. He also encouraged me to add the RAW fiber which helps with the consistency and and adds an extra dose of fiber, but are not needed to make them. These crackers are so yummy and easy to make, just take your time with spreading them onto the baking sheets before popping them into the oven. Enjoy!
Yield: about 22 large crackersPrep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour and 5 minutes
Vegan, Gluten-Free Ingredients:
This delightful dressing was created on a beautiful summer evening. It's simple, earthy, nutty, and hempilicious! Enjoy with salad, crackers, and bowls of vegetables and grains.
Yield: 16 oz. Glass jarPrep Time: 10 minutes
Vegan, Gluten-Free Ingredients: