10 Qualities in Ayurvedic nutrition
All these qualities described here are objective and do not indicate whether food is good or bad for you. It is about what you need at a certain moment. One moment you have a need for dryness, the next you need moisture. Everything depends on the relation between your birth constitution and your current state.
Quality 1 – weight: Light / Heavy
Food can be light or heavy. Popcorn, for instance, contains a lot of air and feels light. A piece of butter cream cake is much heavier. This has an effect on our digestion and on our body’s functioning. Hence, heavy food will bring heaviness and grounding, but if you eat more heavy food than is good for your constitution, you will notice that you will feel nauseous and put on weight. Light food brings lightness into your constitution, improves the agility of body and mind and boosts inspiration. If you eat too much light food you will become undernourished and exhausted.
Quality 2 – temperature: Cold / Hot
Vegetables have the quality of being either heating or cooling. Asparagus, cauliflower, courgette and coconut are cooling; artichoke, kohlrabi, sweet pepper and ginger are heating. Of course, food can also be heating by cooking it. Hot food stimulates digestion and the metabolism. However, too much heat in your food, such as hot spices (chilli, cayenne pepper) can interfere with digestion. It increases your appetite, making you gluttonous and giving you heartburn.
Cold food keeps the mind clear and has a refreshing effect when your body or environment is hot. Food can be cold because of its quality or by keeping it in the refrigerator. Cold food is always harder to digest. Too much cold foot not only paralyses your digestion but also your entire metabolism. It makes you catch a cold more easily. It makes your immune system less active.
Quality 3 – moisture: Dry / Moist or Oily
The opposite of dryness is moisture. There are two kinds of moisture: dry moisture, such as water, and oily moisture, such as oil. Cucumbers and watermelon contain dry moisture; nuts and oil contain oily moisture. Dry food includes biscuits and rice cakes. Dry food brings lightness and agility and ensures inspiration and level-headedness. However, too much dry food leads to dehydration, rendering us uninspired, stiff and sensitive to pain.
Moisture boosts our feelings, oiliness ensures our ability to connect. Together, they bring softness to body and mind. Too much moisture and oiliness make us too emotional and too focused on the past.
Quality 4 – solidity: Solid / Liquid
The term ‘solid food’ refers to food you need to chew well, such as a meal of cooked cereal with vegetables. Liquid food, such as soup, is food that you can swallow. Solid food is usually dryer and liquid food is usually moist and oily. Solid food offers the body solidity and structure. However, too much solid food can be exhausting for the body.
Liquid food keeps the body hydrated and is easily digestible. That is why it is often prescribed for sick people. On the other hand, too much liquid food makes the body weak and will affect immunity.
Quality 5 – intensity: Fast / Slow
The term ‘fast food’ refers to food which digests quickly. Fast foods, such as certain spices and sugars, produce their effect quickly. Slow foods, such as cereals, will release their energy slowly. Fast food stimulates, but too much fast food results in overstimulation.
Slow food gives the body rest, but too much slow food will slow the body down and block it.
Quality 6 – mobility: Stable / Mobile
Stable foods are substances whose properties are not easily changed. Coconut oil is a good example. Coconut oil can be reheated many times without changing its characteristics. Stable food ensures a balance in the body; too much stable food results in a straitjacket that is too tight.
Mobile food offers the body and the mind agility and variety, which, in turn, lead to inspiration. But too much mobility results in restlessness.
Quality 7 – elasticity: Hard / Soft
Food that is rich in minerals brings hardness and firmness to the body, which is good for its structure and immunity. An example could be salt crystals. However, too much structure makes us rigid.
Soft foods, such as desserts, bring satisfaction and relaxation. Too much softness makes people weak, passive and lazy.
Quality 8 – clearness: Clear / Cloudy
Clear food has a fresh, pure quality about it. Think, for instance, of a glass of water. Clearness boosts one’s emotional and mental clearness, but too much clearness leads to light-headedness and restlessness.
Non-transparent or cloudy food suggests traditionally prepared food, or food that is off. Cloudiness calms sensory stimulation and consequently also the mind. Too much or unhealthy cloudiness keeps people ignorant and leads to apathy.
Quality 9 – texture: Smooth / Rough
Rough food is food you need to chew well. Vegetables that are undercooked can be rough. Whipped cream is an example of a smooth texture. Smoothness brings flexibility and mobility, but too much smoothness can weaken your organs.
Roughness brings solidity, but too much roughness results in a rigid, immobile body and an inflexible mind.
Quality 10 – structure: Subtle / Gross
This quality refers to the structure of food. For instance, vegetables for soup can be chopped into small or large pieces. Finely chopped food brings lightness to the menu; large pieces make food rather unattractive. Fineness increases subtlety in our observation, but too much subtlety leaves us overstimulated. Grossness protects the senses, stimulates grounding and has something earthly to it. Too much grossness makes us insensitive.
Source: The Ayurveda cookbook from Lies Ameeuw
Food as medicine
According to Hippocrates, the founder of Western medicine and philosopher, nutrition is the essence of health. Healthy eating and drinking habits, the importance of fresh air, the body’s self-healing powers and ensuring balance (homeostasis) were the pillars of his therapy as a Greek doctor (approx. 460-370 BC). Hippocrates said: “Let food be your medicine”. Nature offers foods with strong, healthy properties that can bring health.