It may feel like the Food Pyramid has been ruling your eating habits all of your life but this icon of the healthy eating ideal was only introduced to the American public in 1992. It has since been replaced with the My Plate graphic but the concept remains the same. A healthy diet equals a “balance” of the basic food groups – grains, fruits, vegetables, milk/dairy, meats/nuts/beans. The tricky part is what passes for “balanced” seems to change fairly regularly. In addition to being confusing, relying on the wisdom of the ever-changing food pyramid has caused many of us to abandon a very important tool for maintaining health – the innate wisdom of our bodies. USDA nutrition recommendations and the fad diet have taken many of us down some pretty sketchy culinary roads. The latest diet based on what your ancestors purportedly ate or slashing consumption of a particular food group may have worked wonders for your spouse but left you feeling drained and bloated. Or the smoothie cleanse may have jump started your energy level but, after a few weeks, left you feeling like something was missing. Simply put – one diet does not fit all.
In fact, some systems of health take individualized eating to a whole new level. Take Ayurveda, a traditional system of medicine that originated over three thousand years ago in South Asia. Ayurveda defines health as a state of equilibrium within one’s self but recognizes the inescapable connection to our environment. Healthy eating the Ayurvedic way involves six tastes – sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent. Each taste has its own health affecting qualities. Check out this chart:
The Ayurvedic system is a complete departure from the American idea of healthy eating and its millenia of wisdom cannot be condensed into one blog. While we can’t give you the Cliffs Notes version of Ayurveda, we hope to widen your perspective and encourage you to tap into your body’s natural wisdom. No one knows you better than you do. If the “all meat diet” slows your digestion to a crawl or the raw food fad has you drooping like a wet rag, there is a reason for that. Instead of relying on every changing external input to determine what feels healthy for you, try slowing down and really savoring the individual foods on your plate and see what comes up. Use the Ayurvedic taste chart to see if you can identify how certain foods make you feel. Try amping up the the chilis if your feeling a little foggy or munching on some mango if you’re feeling blue. Be mindful of how foods affect you. If beans bloat you or watermelon makes your mouth itch, listen to the wisdom of your body but be honest with yourself. We both know the cinnamon roll diet is not the key to everlasting health and happiness.