Ayurveda states that Vata Prakriti people should favour foods that contain the Madhura (neutral / sweet), Amla (sour) and Lavana (salty) tastes. Conversely, Tikta (bitter), Kashaya (astringent) and Katu (pungent / spicy) items should be used in lesser amounts.
Many people new to Ayurveda interpret this literally. However, in most examples of a modern Western diet, excessive amounts of overly-sweet, sour and salty foods are consumed on a daily basis. This means that even for Vata types, the diet should be changed by reducing foods that are overly sweet or sour in nature, as well as reducing overall salt consumption. This may come as a surprise to some readers.
According to Ayurveda, when we consume more sweet tasting food than we can metabolise, our body transforms it into Ama (toxins) which pollute our blood, tissues and vital organs resulting overall poor health, weakened immunity, increasing our chances of producing many nasty health conditions and chronic diseases. The first signs of over use of Madhura Rasa foods are digestive weakness, intestinal flora imbalances, and low energy and elimination problems. No matter what you Ayurvedic type, you will almost definitely benefit by reducing to a bare minimum your use of concentrated sweet foods as well as over use of refined carbohydrates (white flour products especially). Here is a list of ingredients that are basically concentrated sweet taste that should be removed from the diet:
- Evaporated Cane Juice
- Maple Syrup
- Corn Syrup
- Malt Syrup
- Brown Rice Syrup
- Corn Sweeteners
- Barley Malt Syrup
- Beet Juice
- High Fructose Corn Syrup
- Barley Malt Extract
- Crystalline Fructose
- Maltose Succanat
- Fructose Maltodextrin
- Turbinado Sugar
- Invert Sugar
By cutting out or drastically reducing your consumption of sugary foods and foods high in refined carbohydrates, you will almost certainly notice an improvement in energy, immunity and overall health. Now, I don’t want to put the willies up you, but here is an excerpt from an excellent nutrition book called Deep Nutrition by Catherine Shanahan which I strongly recommend especially for its treatment of the subject of refined foods on our health:
As [excess] sugar seeps into your tissues, it coats the surface of cell membranes, with life-changing consequences. This phenomenon may be directly related to the biochemical effects of sugar binding to hormone receptors, jamming them, and rendering us insensitive to the hormone insulin. Once you are insulin resistant, blood sugar levels rise higher still, leading to diabetes and all its related disorders, including weight gain circulatory and sexual dysfunction. For the same reasons sugar jams hormone signals. It also clogs nutrient channels, weakening bone and muscle and slowing neural communication, which can impair mood and memory and lead to dementia. While all this is going on, sugar stiffens the collagen in your tendons, joints, and skin, causing arthritis and premature wrinkling, while interfering with the production of new collagen throughout your entire body. And because sugar changes the surface markers your white blood cells need to distinguish between indigenous cells from invaders, it opens the door to cancer and infection.
The process by which sugar sticks to stuff is called glycation. Glycation reactions are reversible, but with enough heat or time, the temporary bonds become permanent due to oxidation reactions. The products of these later oxidation reactions are called advanced glycation end products, or AGEs. And that’s a useful acronym, because AGEs make you age unnaturally fast. When you toast bread, oxidation reactions generate AGEs in the proteins and sugars present in wheat. These AGEs change the bread from soft, pliable, and pale to hard, stiff, and brown because the proteins and sugars form cross-links that stiffen the bread. The same thing happens inside your body as AGEs cross-link normally mobile proteins. This hardens your cells and tissues, making them brittle and stiff.
Fortunately, at normal blood sugar levels, the reactions occur so slowly that clean-up crews of white blood cells keep them under control by breaking them down. The kidney cleans these AGEs from the blood and excretes them from the body. It is these waste chemicals that give urine its characteristic yellow colour. The clinical implications of having your tissues hardened by sugar protein cross-links are vast and far-reaching. Cross-links turn the semipermeable surfaces of arteries into impervious walls, preventing nutrients from exiting the bloodstream. When trapped nutrients can’t escape your bloodstream, where do you think they end up? Lining your arteries; when lipoproteins deposit on the arterial lining, they attract white blood cells, and can cause blood clots and/or atherosclerotic plaques. A few cross-links on your white blood cells slows them down, making infections more likely and more serious, enabling nascent cancer cells to grow under the radar unchallenged. Are your joints creaking and stiff? AGEs can form in them too. AGEs (primarily from high blood sugar) are one of two major biochemical phenomena that make us look and feel old (the other being free radicals, primarily from vegetable oils).
While you are cutting out sugary stuff from your diet, it is useful to use some mildly pungent and bitter tasting foods or teas. These tastes help remove toxins, as well as correcting blood-sugar imbalances. Another bonus is that they actually reduce our craving for the sweet taste. Try adding 1/4 – 1/2 a seaspoon of turmeric powder to cooking and drink some fresh ginger root tea (spicy as you like it without causing a burning feeling in your tummy).
Finally, remember that if you can’t kick the sugar fix, you are probably using the sweetness of food as a replacement for other sources of sweetness such as love or pleasure derived from relationships and your vocation.