With so much information available about what is “healthy” and what is not, it’s easy to feel confused or overwhelmed. We are going to debunk the most common (April!) foolish myths when it comes to diet, and share how some seemingly healthy options may actually be hurting your digestion and making you fat and unwell!
Many people send a lot of time (and money!) striving for the perfect diet. With so many “superfoods” being touted as the next best thing, it can be hard to decipher what is right for you. Ayurveda doesn’t focus on foods that are good or bad, but more on what supports strong digestion.
Without strong digestion, you won’t have the ability to digest, absorb, or assimilate all the wonderful nutrients in your food. You can carefully plan out and prepare each of your three meals and snacks for the day, but without strong digestion, much of the effort will be wasted.
You know the saying, “You are what you eat?” Well to some extent that is true. However we know that it is a little bit more complex than that.
“You are what you eat and can digest.”
So what are some of the best ways to support strong digestion? You may be surprised that many so called “healthy” options actually deplete your digestive strength. Let’s take a look at some of the most common diet myths and debunk them with Ayurveda!
MYTH 1 – SALADS ARE THE HEALTHIEST CHOICE
Most of us have learned that a salad is always the healthiest option on a menu. Well, get prepared for that myth to be debunked! Before we go any further, salads are of course full of essential nutrients and play an important role in a balanced diet. They are certainly a better option than say a cheeseburger and fries. However, salads are notoriously difficult to digest.
Foods that are difficult to digest are the ones that put strain on digestive organs as they have to work much harder to break them down. Not only that, particularly for people who are predominantly Vata, salads can lead to uncomfortable indigestion, and embarrassing gas and bloating.
If you experience regular gas and bloating, it is essential to strengthen digestion before eating these more difficult to digest meals like salads. Salads are best avoided in the colder months of the year, and can be replaced with comforting veggie soups like this creamy parsnip soup. This is not to say that salads should be completely omitted from the diet. Salads, especially bitter greens, can be enjoyed in spring as a side dish, when they are fresh and in season.
MYTH 2 – DRINKS ARE BETTER WITH ICE!
There is no denying the refreshing taste of a tall, ice cold drink on a hot summer’s day. While these drinks provide instant relief from the heat of the sun; they also cool down your digestive fire, known as agni in Ayurveda.
Imagine what would happen if you constantly threw cold water on a camp fire throughout the day? Its strength would diminish, it would begin to smoulder, and you would have a very hard time cooking your dinner on top of it. So why would you throw ice water on your own internal digestive fire all day long? How do you expect your stomach to cook (digest) the food you are putting in if its fire is almost extinguished?
The digestive system needs ample blood flow to perform its job. Cold causes tension and constriction in the body, and repeatedly drinking cold or iced drinks will reduce blood flow to digestive organs, and weaken your agni.
Ayurveda encourages sipping warm water throughout the day, or room temperature water in the summer. For some people, this can be a difficult transition, but your digestive system will thank you for it! Of course, an occasional iced drink will not deplete your agni too much, but regular consumption will.
MYTH 3 – ALL SMOOTHIES ARE HEALTHY
For those interested in Ayurveda, you will already know that smoothies are a topic of hot debate. However, if debunking these diet myths is brand new to you – this is a big one! There is a time and place for everything so all smoothies are not all lumped into one category together. There are some smoothies that are very supportive to digestion. However, many traditional smoothies contain incompatible food combinations.
Most of us don’t pay much attention to how we combine our food, but Ayurveda does. Some foods don’t combine well, and can lead to fermentation in the digestive tract, indigestion, and the formation of digestive toxins. This is when we feel sluggish, heavy after a meal or fatigued. So what are some of the most common culprits for incompatible food combining? Fruit and dairy.
Yes, you heard it right! Fruit and dairy, ingredients that almost every smoothie contains, is one of the most incompatible food combinations for your digestive system. In actual fact, bananas are the worst culprit to combine with either cow’s milk or yoghurt, but seems to be the most popular fruit in most smoothie recipes.
So how to make smoothies more digestion friendly? First of all, using a nut milk, like almond milk, is a good way to get around incompatible food combination of fruit and dairy. Multiple fruits also don’t combine well, so keep it simple and stick to just a few main ingredients. Make sure to omit the ice (as you have already learned this is no good for digestion!) and add a warming spice, like a pinch of cinnamon and cardamom to help digestion along. Try this balancing smoothie for inspiration.
MYTH 4 – DINNER SHOULD BE THE BIGGEST MEAL
In most households, dinner is served as the main meal of the day. Everyone gathers around after a long day to fill up on a comforting meal, often followed by a sweet treat to end the feast. While this is tradition, it may not be the most supportive option for your digestive system, and here’s why.
At the end of the day, you tend to feel tired, right? Well so does your digestive system! Giving it a big meal to process when it is already tired can lead to food sitting stagnant in the digestive tract, and the formation of digestive toxins, known as ama. Your digestive strength is at its peak between between roughly 12pm-2pm. In Ayurveda, this is known as Pitta time of the day, and is considered to be the time of day when your digestive fire is at its strongest.
Why not swap out your main meal of the day to lunchtime, when digestion is at its peak? By doing so, you will be better able to digest your meals. You may find you have more energy throughout the day to complete your tasks, and can go to bed feeling light and comfortable, with no churning or bloated tummy!
MYTH 5 – HEALTHY EATING IS A CHORE
This fifth and final myth to debunk is probably the most important of the them all. Ayurveda does have some rules on how to best support your digestive system. However, nobody is expected to follow them perfectly every single day. These rules are intended to be guidelines that are implemented gradually to ensure lasting change.
If you pick just one item from this list, you will already have started the path to stronger digestion. Healthy eating shouldn’t be a chore, it should be an enjoyable, ongoing process where you are always learning more.
If your current diet is causing you stress, concern, or dismay, let’s just consider the idea that this is not the right diet for you! Food is fuel for your body, but the overwhelming amount of choice around what to eat can be exhausting. Ayurveda, instead of classifying food as good or bad, looks at what food is suited to each individual. It is the best way to eat because it’s personalized to you.
Each of us are completely unique in our own ways, so why would our digestive systems be any different? The Holistic Highway Meal Plan provides personalized recipes that all support your digestive strength. Start by taking our Modern Dosha Quiz today to discover your unique Ayurvedic body type.
The Holistic Highway Team