Ayurveda for the whole family

Article by Kerstin Rosenberg, Ayurveda nutrition expert and managing director of the European Academy of Ayurveda.

Implementing the type-appropriate approach of Ayurvedic nutrition in one's own family in a professional way that is suitable for everyday life can be quite simple. And yet many Ayurveda beginners and professionals find it a stressful challenge to reconcile the constitutional needs of parents, children, grandma and dog. "Do I have to cook extra for everyone in the family now?" is one of the most common questions asked after an Ayurvedic nutrition consultation. Fortunately, we can reassure our clients because Ayurveda makes our lives simpler, not more complicated. Even in family diets that are true to type!

Ayurveda creatively packaged

Basically, Ayurveda views every meal as a nourishing source of vital nutrients for physical and mental balance. Through a balanced diet with plenty of fresh vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, nuts, fats and dairy products, the metabolism receives everything it needs for daily cell renewal. I cannot confirm from my own experience that all family members go into raptures when there is a typical Indian-inspired Ayurveda menu with rice, dal, vegetables and chutney every day. What is needed here for the very young and the older ones is more variety through Mediterranean and regionally inspired recipes that can also be prepared according to Ayurvedic principles without always tasting like cumin and coriander.

Constitutionally appropriate variations within a menu

The individual, dosha-regulating component is integrated by emphasizing individual flavors (rasa). In daily nutritional practice, this means that a common family menu can be easily "individualized according to type" by selecting menu components and adding spices:

  • Vata-emphasized family members with a tendency to dry skin, flatulence or a feeling of coldness require more moist and oily food with sweet, sour and salty tastes. For this, they make sure to eat enough soft-cooked grains and protein foods and season their food with a little lemon and salt.
  • Pitta family members with tendency to excessive heat and acidity should prefer cooling and heavy foods. They satisfy their large appetites with a sweet dish, grains, and plenty of root and bitter leafy vegetables. However, instead of seasoning with lemon and salt, they use enough ghee, coriander and turmeric.
  • Kapha-betone family members with a tendency to obesity and colds would do well to eat a little less in general and stimulate their weak digestive fire with spicy, bitter and tart foods. Seasoning with a spicy curry and pepper mixture is very good. Dairy products such as cheese or yoghurt, on the other hand, should be avoided.

Universal remedies from the Ayurveda kitchen that are appropriate for the type

    To balance disorders, Ayurveda recommends a "universal remedy" for each Dosha for internal and external use. These can also be added to the dishes:

  • Sesame oil for Vata

  • Ghee for Pitta

  • Honey for Kapha

  • Ayurveda also mentions special spices for the regulation of dosha disturbances, which can be added to the food if required:

  • Kapha and Vata complaints are reduced with fenugreek, ginger and turmeric.

  • Pitta complaints are reduced with coconut, cumin and coriander

Eight factors that determine the effect of food

In addition to the different needs of the individual constitution types, we find in the eight factors of food a practical guideline for life, which reveals to us the common denominator for a healthy Ayurvedic diet. With three exceptions, the rules apply equally to all and optimize the good digestibility and healing power of our food.

Let us always pay attention to

  1. the right combinations of food (Samyoga)

  2. the use of high quality and regional food (Desha)

  3. wholesome meals according to the time of day and season (Kala)

  4. a neat, clean and quiet environment while eating (Upeyoga Sanstha)

  5. as well as positive feelings while preparing and eating the meals (Upyokta)

  6. so 2/3 of the most important Ayurvedic nutritional rules have already been taken into account. It is especially important to avoid all vata-increasing factors during meals, such as hectic, quarrels, TV or computer games.

    Three other factors emphasize the individual components of nutrition and should be considered by each family member in their own way:

  7. the qualities of food and eater (Prakriti)

  8. the right amount of a meal (Rashi)

  9. the form of preparation (karana)

Which foods are particularly well tolerated and how large the portions may be, always determines the digestive capacity of Agni. Especially children, elderly people and all those who lead a sedentary lifestyle should make sure that they only eat as much as they are really hungry. Likewise, the preparation of the food determines whether it is easy or difficult to digest: hungry and athletic family members with a high Pitta content should help themselves from the salad buffet. All others need mainly warm, cooked food enriched with digestive spices.

Love nourishes body and soul

The best thing that can happen to a family is a mother, father or grandmother who loves to cook and who takes pleasure in spoiling her loved ones with fresh and tasty food. If we succeed in defying the modern fast-food lifestyle and having a family meal together in a convivial atmosphere every day, we have already gained a great deal. Because the healing power of food can unfold particularly well through lovingly prepared meals, which are eaten in a pleasant atmosphere. Even "unhealthy" delicacies are allowed, because from an Ayurvedic point of view it is recommended to enrich the menu with 20% exceptions, as these nourish the soul. In this way, even the "unayurvedic" favorite foods of the individual family members can be integrated into the menu in turn as "soul food", so that everyone can benefit from the healthy lifestyle without dogma and frustration.

Three important Ayurveda rules, for more health and fun with food

  • When preparing your main meal, always look for fresh ingredients and a balanced variety of tastes with sweet, sour, salty, spicy, bitter and astringent.
  • Start your meals with sweet and sour foods and finish with bitter and tart substances to increase the satiety effect during the meal and avoid fatigue and bloating afterwards. This rule can be easily implemented with a sweet and sour soup or a small sweet with fruit compote as a starter and a tea or coffee as dessert.
  • Every Ayurvedic meal should consist of 4 forms for elemental balance: edible, chewable, drinkable and suckable. This rule can be implemented in creative ways that also pay attention to color variety: For example, the toddler meal features creamy mashed potatoes (suckable) with crunchy blanched broccoli (chewable) in a sea of red lentils (drinkable) and toasted slivered almonds (edible).