Ayurveda and Macronutrients - Student Blog

Western Nutrition focuses mainly on macronutrients that provide calories or energy to the body. It is believed that the macronutrients are needed for growth, metabolism, and for other body functions. Macro means large and so macronutrients are nutrients that are needed in large amounts. The three macronutrients include: carbohydrates, proteins and fats. According to Western Dietary guidelines, 45% to 65% of a person's calories should come from carbohydrates, 10% to 35% should come from protein, and 20% to 35% should come from fat. Western nutrition also is based on the idea that everyone should eat the same way.

Ayurveda nutrition is quite different fron Western nutrition. Ayurveda recognizes that everyone is different and unique. Just as humans have a unique gentetic makeup, Ayurveda recognizes that everyone is born with a unique individual birth constitution known as a Vata, Pitta, and Kapha dosha. When examining the doshas, it's important to make a distinction between a balanced versus an imbalanced state. Ayurveda classifies food according to the six tastes, not by carbohydrates, proteins or fats. Ayurveda also considers the potency of the six tastes, which is named virya and the post-digestive effect, which is named vipak. According to Ayurveda nutrition the six tastes each have a warmling or cooling effect on the body. The virya refers to the immediate heating or cooling effect that a particular food has on our physiology. Foods that are predominantly cooling include: sweet, bitter and astringent and pungent, salty and sour foods contain heating qualities or viryas.

Ayurveda also recognizes that tastes transform during the course of digestion and the effects of the final tastes are consistent with the six tastes. Food effects our mental and emotional state by using sweet tastes to calm the Vata mind and cool the Pitta mind. Sour tastes can sharpen the mind. Salty tastes can calm an anxious mind and easily excite a Pitta mind. When used in excess by Kapha types, it promotes greed. A bitter taste can be cooling and clearing of the mind. Pungent taste enlivens the Kapha mind and causes all doshas to become more extroverted. Astingent taste tames the over-confidence of Pitta types and over-complacenty of Kapha types.

According to Ayurveda health begins with proper digestion. The primary function of the digestive system is to bring essential nutriants into the body's internal environment. In the Western culture the importance of proper digestion is widely neglected. Symtoms such as indigestion, heartburn, bloating, and constipation are treated as normal occurances. According to Ayurvedic beliefs digestion refers to the individual's overall agni. After assessing a person's current doshic state, agni is the most important factor in determining dietary needs. It is a fact that everyone digests food differently. Ayurveda identifies improving agni by using spices.

Ayurveda teaches that proper digestion eventually leads to the production of ojas, which directly influences physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual life.

Western culture states how food is required for life, energy and feeding the body, but it neglects to describe how food becomes your body.

Gretchen Pound
AWP Practitioner Program, Block 2