Friday, May 20, 2011

What's your ayurvedic body type?

Ayurveda is a 4000-year old Indian philosophy of healing and wellbeing. Translated literally, it means the ‘art of living wisely’ (or science of life) – it is a system which encourages balance in all areas of life, with the ultimate goal of improving health through lifestyle choices suited to one’s constitution, such as diet, daily routine, sleep, exercise, herbal remedies, massage and meditation.

According to the UK-based ayurvedic brand Pukka Herbs: “The wisdom of Ayurveda encourages us to take responsibility for our own health according to the different stages of our lives, the seasons, and the environment we live, work and play in. These factors all have a big impact on our health and it makes sense to adapt our lifestyle accordingly so we can continue to live in harmony with our body and stay at optimum health.”

The three doshas
There are three doshas – or mind-body types – according to the ayurvedic philosophy: vata, pitta and kapha. Each dosha is associated with particular attributes, predispositions and health priorities.  Most people are a combination of doshas, with one dominant type. When a dosha becomes out of balance, it can have a serious impact on our wellbeing – the goal of ayurveda is to restore balance and vitality.

Vata types tend to be fast-thinking, visionary and creative but when out of balance they can be forgetful, distracted, nervous and uptight. Vata types are prone to digestive problems (particularly bloating and IBS), anxiety or mood imbalances, and joint disorders. They are aggravated by cold, frozen or dried foods. They can be thrown by change or travel – rest and routine are a vata type’s best friend.

Pitta types are confident, passionate and born leaders. They are organised, perfectionists but excess pitta can make them fiery, short-tempered and irritable. Pitta people have a tendency to suffer from skin irritations, inflammation, overheating, heartburn and ulcers. They should avoid excess heat and humidity, and should steer clear of fried, hot or spicy foods, caffeine and alcohol. Fresh air is a great pitta remedy!

Kapha types tend to be loyal, calm, strong and nurturing but if imbalanced they are prone to fatigue, low energy and overindulgence.  Kapha types may suffer from congestion, water retention, weight gain and slow digestion. Their best medicine is to remain physically active, avoid icy drinks, excess sugar, bread or fatty foods. They need to break their routine every now and then – excitement and variety keep them energised!

Take this quiz to find out what your dosha is.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.

Last year, Emma read a gem of a book called Food Rules – An Eater’s Manual. The author, Michael Pollan, is an internationally acclaimed writer, journalist and professor of Science and Environmental Journalism at UC Berkeley.

I bought the book as soon as Emma mentioned it. It’s a cute little thing but don’t be fooled by its size! Food Rules is a small but mighty (and revolutionary) guide to eating well. Pollan is one smart cookie but he is also very accessible; he speaks in a way that people can understand and relate to. And his book is all about keeping it simple.

Last week, I listened to a talk given by Pollan for Google Authors and he literally blew me away. I was so blown away in fact that I wanted to share his philosophy with you.

Pollan’s ideology can be summed up in seven simple words:
“Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.”

Eat food.
As he so aptly puts it in his book, if your grandmother wouldn’t recognise it as food, it probably isn’t. In other words, eat the way nature intended. Steer clear of processed foods, ‘wonder foods’ (if they claim to fix your every health concern, they probably won’t), additives etc. This really is common sense. The more natural a food, the less ingredients on the label.

We eat so many foods that have been transformed, improved or added to – the end result is a food that is harder for our bodies to process and even harmful to our systems. Real food is filling, satisfying, nourishing. Processed food contains empty calories that simply leave us wanting more. Why? Because we haven’t given our bodies the nutrients they need.

We’re not telling you to go all raw foodist on us, or to do a Gwyneth and go macro; just keep it natural, keep it real, keep it simple.

Mostly plants.
Plants – and this includes fruit, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds – should form the bulk of our diet. Remember that good fats also come from a plant of some description: nuts, olive oil, coconut oil, flaxseed oil etc. Add some healthy protein to this – oily fish, free-range eggs, organic meat – et voilĂ !

Pollan suggests reducing our meat intake to 2-3 servings per week. This particularly targets the US population, where the average person consumes ½ a pound of meat every day! When it comes to plants and protein, stick to organic and free-range wherever possible.

Not too much.
Pollan’s least popular piece of advice. He is not suggesting extreme calorie restriction, just asking us to become more in touch with our bodies, to recognise when we are hungry or full. Our body is an invaluable guide to wellbeing if we listen closely enough! We often eat without experiencing the act of eating, or even paying much attention to what we are eating. We need to learn how to eat mindfully and enjoy our food. We have become so fixated on the nutrients that we often forget to eat for pleasure!

Interestingly enough, juice cleansing is all about the experience of mindful nutrition. When you drink (or chew) your juices, focus on the abundance of natural ingredients, on the different tastes, and on the way your body is digesting and absorbing them. By far the greatest benefit of juice cleansing is the long-term impact it has on our relationship with food. Many people find that they completely change their way of eating after a cleanse.

Five handy tips:
1. Ask yourself where your food came from
2. Make your own meals
3. Tune into your cravings
4. Rediscover the pleasure of eating
5. Eat mindfully. Eating (and cleansing) is an experience.

Check out his fabulous little book and that amazing talk we listened to.