How I Eat For Optimal Health: The Food Diary Of A Yogi
What if I told you that your diet has the potential to make everything right in your life? Ayurveda teaches us that our digestive strength defines the quality of our health. This in turn defines the quality of everything that happens in any given day.
If we burden our body with too much food, our digestive system must use more of the body’s resources to process it; the body then has fewer resources to maintain the immune system and everything else.
This happens not just when we over-eat, but also with indulgences like candy, alcohol, leftovers, and any other processed food found in the middle aisles of the grocery store.
Instead of eating these foods, I try to follow a very simple maxim: eat natural foods in small quantities. By doing this, I not only maintain a healthy weight but I avoid getting sick, feeling lethargic in the morning, and running out of energy halfway through the afternoon.
Before I eat, I listen to what my body needs on that particular day as depending on the time of year and the time of day. Below is what I eat not just for optimal health—but an optimal life.
Early Morning: Warm Water
Every night, our body closes up shop to regenerate and clean itself. This means that every system downgrades into a lower maintenance version of itself. The digestive system exists as a sort of furnace in that its fire burns up the food we take in through metabolization, and though this fire doesn’t go out, it exists at a much lower setting while we are asleep. When we wake up the next morning, the fire must rekindle itself. If we suddenly eat a lot first thing, we overburden the fire and cause digestive and health issues. Each morning after I wake up, I fuel the digestive fire with a cup of warm water.
Mid-Morning: A Banana
Everyone knows that the temperature changes with the seasons. But what fewer people know or live by is that the changing of the season dictates a change in our diet as well. With more or less heat around us, our digestive fire needs different kinds of foods to remain in balance. In the winter, I eat more foods that warm and nourish the body like mostly cooked foods, cow’s milk, spices, and whatever produce is in season like sweet potatoes, broccoli, winter squash, and bananas.
In the summer, I have more raw foods to remain lighter, including carrots, corn, cucumbers, sunflower seeds, and cashews. I also avoid heat-producing foods like yogurt and spicy foods. If I have real hunger in the morning, I’ll eat either a banana or some granola at least two to three hours, after the warm water.
Mid-day: Rice, Vegetables, and Full-Fat Yogurt
If the digestive fire is just warming up in the morning, it’s running at full blaze around midday. This is why Ayurveda teaches us to make lunch the largest meal of the day. This is also when we can consume the densest foods without overwhelming our system too much. Though lunch is my largest meal, I still keep it simple with some cooked vegetables and white basmati rice. In the winter, I may have it with some yogurt and more spices.
Late Afternoon: Rice Cakes with Almond Butter
Variety is not, actually, the spice of life. In fact, it’s the death of the digestive tract. When we combine too many different foods at once, this can turn into minor symptoms like indigestion and gas but can lead to more serious conditions as well. When I have a meal, I keep it simple by not mixing cooked foods with raw foods, dairy with most fruits (bananas are OK), and dry foods with too much liquid. Though I follow a vegetarian diet, if you eat animal proteins it’s important not to mix dairy with them, either. I finish my day of eating around five o’clock with a light snack like some rice cakes with almond butter or a handful of raw cashews.
Nighttime: Nothing but Herbs
It takes at least 4 to 5 hours for food to leave the stomach. Because the furnace is set to low while we sleep, it can’t process undigested food without creating toxicity. After five o’clock, I have a tea of herbs, like turmeric, ginger, and coriander. If you go to bed later, then leave yourself at least 3-5 hours to digest before bedtime.
Eating doesn’t need to be complicated, and in fact our eating is healthiest when it’s not. But eating does need to be dictated by your individual nature on any given day and even in any given moment. If you would like to take your life in a more energetic and ailment-free direction, begin with reforming your diet. If you live the Ayurvedic way, you will not only simplify your diet but create all sorts of exciting shifts in your life as well.