Ayurvedic Nutrition: A Brief Comparison with Western Nutrition
Posted on 13 September 2018 by Leonie Satori
Comparing Ayurvedic and Western nutrition guidelines invariably results in conflicting ideas on inclusion and exclusion of certain foods, how and when to eat and whether a food is considered to be 'good' or 'bad'. In this brief article I discuss the underlying philosophy of Ayurvedic nutrition and how this contrasts with Western principles of nutrition.
Conflicting Definitions of 'Nutrition'
Nutrition according to a modern Western viewpoint includes carbohydrates, fats, proteins and water as the four primary nutrients. Nutrition is defined as ‘food at work in the body’ and includes the whole process of the digestion of food. The ‘status’ of an individual in respect to their nutrition can be regarded as good, fair or poor and results from the combination of foods consumed and their use in the body. Our appearance, efficiency and emotional well being judge this level of nutritional status.
The Ayurvedic viewpoint of the concept of nutrition is quite different. It considers that our well being is determined by how well our digestive system can provide nutrients to the physical body. Although it does not consider carbohydrates, proteins etc. in the way that modern nutrition calls the ‘four primary nutrients’, it does consider the six tastes. If combined correctly in a meal, these components can provide us with all these primary nutrients required to sustain life.
According to Ayurveda, a meal that contains all the six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent in the right proportions has all the nutrients required for the proper functioning of the body and balances the doshas. The modern, Western view of nutrition considers food to be defined as anything that can be eaten or drunk, and it considers that the intake of the correct quality and quantity can ensure optimal health and nutrition.
Abundance vs Denial in Nutrition
One aspect lacking in the modern view of nutrition is the methodology to structure an individualised diet. Ayurveda is an interactive system of empowerment that enables the participant to learn and understand their physical, emotional and spiritual needs and how they change and grow through the seasons of their day, the year and their lifetime.
Unlike the modern philosophy that good health comes from denial of certain foods, restriction and discipline, Ayurveda recognises that each person is different and requires an understanding of self. Ayurveda does not believe that health can be achieved by means of a standard diet, a standard exercise program and a standard good night’s sleep.
Self Awareness and Ayurvedic Nutrition
Ayurveda uses a system that observes the effects of food on the physical body, mind and emotions and also the effect that the mind and the emotions can have on the body while you are ingesting foods. Based on this, four aspects of nutrition must be considered when choosing a dietary program:
Understand you constitution or metabolic nature
Recognise your digestive capacity
Recognise your capacity to assimilate nutrients
Recognise the signs if you are not completely digesting and assimilating what you are eating
This aspect of nutrition is where Ayurveda becomes more than just a science of medicine, (and much more than modern dietetics) and becomes a journey of self-awareness and self-realisation.
Unlike the modern view of nutrition, Ayurveda recognises that what may be considered nourishing for one person, may be detrimental to the health of another. In this regard, the modern view of nutrition is lacking somewhat in substance and individuality in comparison to the 6000-year-old system of Ayurveda. However, I see these forms of nutrition, married together - ancient and modern do form a great foundation of wholistic nutrition that is individualised, practical and emphasises an understanding and abundance of life.
About the Author
Leonie is a Naturopath & Medical Herbalist with a passion for good food, healthy living and of course, herbal medicine. When she is not consulting in her wellness clinic in Lismore or blogging about nutrition, Ayurvedic Medicine or natural health, she is studying yoga, growing her own herbs and vegetables or quietly walking in the natural bush land in Northern Rivers NSW.
Contact our health centre in Lismore to book an appointment with Leonie in our naturopathic clinic.