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A path to mindful eating

Food as we know sustains life. However, in our fast-paced and technology-centred life, food and its sacredness has lost its significance. To understand the role of food, our traditional diet, body type, etc, the next Navhind Times workshop ‘Mindful Eating through Ayurveda’, is slated for September 2. Conducted by professor and head of department, Gomantak Ayurved Mahavidyalaya and Research Centre, Shiroda, Neelesh Korde; the two-hour workshop is open to those above 16-years of age and will be held at Dempo House, Panaji. In conversation with NT KURIOCITY, Korde speaks about food and its classification according to Ayurveda, components of a good diet, mindful eating and more.

Maria Fernandes|NT KURIOCITY

For more than 5,000 years ayurveda has been practiced to promote wellness in India. From the Sanskrit words ayurs (life) and veda (knowledge), ayurveda branched from the Vedas and began by describing how to maintain a holistic mind-body equilibrium, aid the healing process and rejuvenate the body by using natural herbal preparations and therapies. Ayurveda today is beginning to find a place in diet trends. Its practitioners consider ayurveda to be a sacred system that unites natural elements, spirituality and diet. In short, nourishment of the body is tied to nourishment of the mind and soul.

“The workshop has been planned with the objective of training people to understand the ancient science of eating and revert to the traditional diet while grasping the fundamentals of this diet,” says Korde as he elaborates on the workshop. Along with this the components of mindful eating will also be discussed at length. Youngsters, Korde believes, who are exposed to a wide variety of food would benefit from this workshop as it will make them aware of what they are consuming and hence more discerning. “Not just them but anyone who is interested in making healthy choices which concerns food will also benefit. This workshop therefore has been planned for those above 16 years of age,” he adds.

When it comes to health matters people seem to have become more proactive than they used to be. An increasing interest in preventive measures not just by the older generation but by the younger generation as well shows a gradual shift in awareness and behaviour. “There definitely is an increase in the number of people who are very health-conscious and choose food according to the nutritional values; however there are others who eat according to their taste buds and hence do not concern themselves with nutritional benefits. The number of culinary TV programmes that show a variety of foods makes it difficult for people to choose wisely and they are in a dilemma as to what they should go for – taste or nutrition,” says Korde. Food, he further says, has the distinction of giving contentment and fulfilment to the heart that the other senses cannot compare with. “I am not against eating and enjoying tasty food, or experimenting with different foods but maintaining a balance between tasty and healthy food is extremely vital.”

As simple as it sounds, maintaining that fine balance is not easy. Walk down the aisles of any supermarket and the senses are bombarded with smells, colours and images that make choosing the right items rather difficult. “Food and what we consume is very important in ayurveda. A simple guideline to making the right choice is by firstly finding out where you come from, namely your genetics and what your ancestors have been able to digest as your genes have over a long time have been tuned to digest certain kinds of food only. Secondly, find out what your geographical location is and then blend the two. Eat foods of the place you are from but at the same time do not compromise your genetic composition for geographical location and vice versa. Blend it with your traditional food,” he advises.

Another aspect of choosing food items or a diet is to understand how the foods we eat will affect our body he says. He explains that while the today’s world classifies food as proteins, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and vitamins, ayurveda’s understanding of food is quite different. It is based on the qualities of the food that are passed on to the person consuming that particular food. “Take for instance, meats. While most people today group meats as white meats that are healthy and red meats that are unhealthy, ayurveda regards meat as the animal source from where it originates. Different meats impart different qualities to the human body. Pork, beef, veal, lamb, venison all impart that particular animal’s characteristics and traits to the consumer (when eaten in large quantities) and we literally become what we eat,” he adds. He illustrates this with an example of the goat. “If you look at the qualities of a goat, even though it is considered red meat, it is very lithe, spritely and these qualities are attributed to the body by those who consume it. Goat’s meat is considered the best by ayurveda among the different meats.”

He continues, “When ayurveda classifies meats it does so according to its qualities and what is best for the body and body type. Generalisations such as white meats being good for you and red meats being bad for you are not made by ayurveda. Similarly, vegetables have a definite structure. Potatoes and other dense foods grow underground while green leafy vegetables grow above it, and then there are vegetables such as capsicums and bell peppers with a central cavity; all have different qualities which are imbibed by the body.”

Ayurvedic principles say that including all six tastes in your meals is likely to keep you healthier than if you cook with just a few. But depending on what body type you are, vata, pitta or kapha, certain tastes have different impacts. “For example, the intake of sweet, sour, salt is good for a vata type, whereas these tastes are not advisable for a kapha type. Bitter, pungent and astringent is good for the kapha type, but not for a vata type. Astringent, bitter and sweet are recommended for pitta,” he says.

On mindful eating, he stresses on the importance of checking what is on our plate with the knowledge that it will transform once we consume it. “It is equally important to know the capacity of your stomach and remember that the stomach should not be completely full. Half the stomach is for food, quarter for liquid and quarter for air or digestion will become a problem.”

Making every effort to maintain good eating habits while dismissing unhealthy ones is not only wise, but it can be life saving in the long run.

To know more about mindful eating, join the workshop by logging on to navhindtimes.in/events and fill in the registration form. Last date for application is August 26. For further assistance call on 6651104.

When had in excess these are the effects

l Madhura Rasa (sweet taste): Obesity, tenderness, laziness, hypersomnia (excessive sleep), heaviness, loss of appetite, loss of power of digestion and cough.

l Amla Rasa (sour taste): Causes thirst, hyper sensitiveness of teeth, horripilation and flabbiness. It also causes a burning sensation in the throat, chest and cardiac region.

l Lavana Rasa (salty taste): Causes thirst, fainting, increases heat in the body, depletes muscle tissue, sloughing of parts afflicted with skin diseases like leprosy, aggravates poisonous symptoms and premature wrinkling, greying of hair and baldness.

l Katu Rasa (pungent taste): Destroys virility, causes unconsciousness, asthma, emaciation, fainting, choking, giddiness, burning sensation in throat, production of excessive heat and thirst and diminution of strength.

l Tikta Rasa (bitter taste): Depletes the plasma, blood, muscle, fat, bone marrow and semen. It produces roughness in the circulatory channels, reduces strength, and causes emaciation, unconsciousness, giddiness and dryness of mouth.

l Kashaya Rasa (astringent taste): Causes dryness of mouth, distension of abdomen, obstruction of speech, constriction of circulating channels and destruction of virility. It gets digested slowly and obstructs the passages of flatus, urine, stool and semen. It causes emaciation, thirst and stiffness.

(Compiled by Neelesh Korde)

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