How to eat Ayurvedic dosha foods when traveling in SE Asia
Traveling in Cambodia and eating safe and healthy may seem to some people to be a quagmire, an oxymoron even. Tat is not necessarily true, but for some it may be so–yet, for all the wrong reasons.
Food in Cambodia is good, better than in Canada, for example. However, there are some sensibilities, skills rather, you ave to learn. This blog post aims to show you some of the ways of the travel-wise.
Ayurvedic Diet in Siem Reap
Ayurveda is clear on this: all health — yes— all health starts with digestion; with the proper metabolism of food.
Therefore, the most important things we can do for our health is to always eat wisely.
Wayist Spiritual Energy Center in Siem Reap, Cambodia, helps clients discover their Dosha Constitution for just a few dollars. We also do full energy audits to help you understand how your body AND your soul uses energy. Armed with this information about your Self and its body, you will be able to make sure that you protect your spiritual energies and properly direct your bio-energies to maximize the joys, health and happiness that life has to offer.
Even when you are travelling in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam, you can take care to feed your body in a way to not make your dosha crazy. We provide clients with a 15-page Survival Guide based on client’s particular dosha. Most of the time it is a simple matter of knowing what foods to avoid, and what spices to add to your meals to balance your dosha energies. When travelling, you NEED all the strength and energy and healing you can get, because traveling taxes your body and mind as it enriches your soul.
Food is energy that keeps us going. Additionally, food provides the nutrients, chemicals and hormone triggers that the body needs to continually regenerate and heal itself. This ongoing process is rapid. For example, the stomach lining renews every three days, and if that does not happen—just imagine what can go wrong. Cells of the body die by the millions every hour and need to be replaced—imagine if something goes wrong there because you did not provide the correct chemical compounds, or you delivered toxic compounds rather than what the factory needs to produce the right stuff.
Therefore, food is considered medicine and energy. In fact, there is a sloka that says “food is medicine when consumed properly, poison if taken incorrectly.” If we eat foods uniquely suited to our physiology, and follow a sattvic (life supporting) routine that enhances digestion, our bodies will reap the benefits and we will find that our days will be happier, healthier and filled with real vitality — at any age.
Here are our top tips for eating Ayurvedic sensibly when traveling and at home:
Eat naturally intelligent foods
Did you know that close to three-quarters of the products sold by grocery stores in the United States contain genetically-modified ingredients, or synthetic (non-food) ingredients? Many of the chemicals and pesticides used in GMO foods have been linked to numerous health issues.
Processed foods, genetically-modified foods, and foods to which artificial preservatives or other synthetic chemicals have been added are no longer alive with the intelligence of nature. According to Ayurveda, our human physiology is a reflection of the laws of the universe, and the more in tune our lives are with nature, the healthier we are likely to be! Our bodies possess the natural intelligence to process the foods that are closest to nature, such as fresh whole grains and organically-grown fruits and vegetables. This makes sense when we consider that we have evolved as a species over millions of years eating whole, natural foods. It is just in the last few hundred years that artificial ingredients and toxic pesticides have been introduced into the food chain. It is no wonder that the incidence of cancer, obesity, mental disorders and the rest has exploded in the last few centuries. Whenever possible, choose natural, and naturally processed foods.
Rice is very good food
You may not want to do this, but we must illustrate this reality. You can live on rice and lentils as 90% of your food intake and be healthy. Why do I say this? Because in the early 90s when I lived in ashram in India for my studies we all lived on kitchari (rice&lentil). Kitchari was what we had to eat, twice a day, like forever. Additionally, almost a billion people in SE Asia agrees with me, because they have been living on rice alone at times to survive extended periods of financial hardship.
The key is in the 10%. Change the taste, texture and flavour with added elements. Add other sources of protein, spices, fruit, vegetables, fiber, and you have a complete meal. Be mindful of your Dosha and add spices and vegetables that manage your energies and there you go, you have yourself the best food money can buy at a few cents per meal–really cheap if you cook for a family or an ashram.
Wheat is broken
The GM food industry had broken the wheat. Millions of people had already developed wheat sensitivity and millions have developed Irritable Bowel Disorder.
The GM industry is only now starting on rice, but their evil product is not that well suited to rice farming, therefore they are still looking for ways to also own that market–the biggest crop in the world. For now (but not for your children, we guess) rice is still naturally safe.
Shun food fads
Each year there are fad diets that come with media hype of new research on certain foods, drinks, or a new diet that is “guaranteed” to work. Keeping up with the latest on what to eat, how, or when, can be a challenge. After all, what works for a million-other people may still not be right for us, as each of us is a unique being. This is the beauty of Ayurveda — it recognizes our uniqueness and gives us a knowledge and perspective that is empowering; that allows us to manage our own health in a very personalized manner. Ayurveda is the ancient science of whole living, not a fad. It has been around for over 3,000 years, is time tested and individualized in its approach. Personalized Health = Ayurveda.
Opt for lots of fruits and vegetables
Eat loads of fruits and vegetables, not only for their nutritional value, but also because they are good natural internal cleansers. The specific food guidelines for Vata, Pitta and Kapha can help us pick a variety of fruits and vegetables suited to our physiology and the season. Vegetables do not necessarily have to be just separate dishes. Add them to grains, stuff them in breads, toss them in stews and soups — there’s always room for your favorite veggies in every dish. Start your day with stewed apples or pears. Eat a handful of berries for your mid-afternoon snack.
Ayurveda prefers bioavailable foods. What do we mean by bioavailable? Cook your veggies rather than eating them raw. Although raw veggies “may” contain more vitamins and nutrients, they can be harder for our bodies to metabolize. Think of a piece of broccoli. If it is raw, how long does it take for our digestive enzymes (digestive fire) to penetrate completely to its core and break it down? Now imagine a cooked piece of broccoli. Whether steamed or sautéed, in either case, room has been created in its cellular structure for our enzymes to penetrate and much more quickly digest it. With the exception of predominantly Kapha types, most individuals will not respond well to eating primarily uncooked veggies. If you are a salad eater, try eating your raw veggies at lunch, giving your body plenty of time to digest your food. During the early afternoon hours when the sun is highest in the sky, our digestive agni is working at its maximum potency. And as the sun goes down, so does our agni. Therefore, to burn our largest meal of the day, we eat it at lunch — we add it to our strong digestive fire at noon.
That salad can kill you
If you are traveling in SE Asia and your digestive system is not yet strong enough to survive some very, very interesting tests, avoid uncooked food altogether. I don’t want to get too graphic about this, but think it through for yourself. Do the people who cook always wash their hands, with soap? Are the kitchen preparation surfaces always sanitized before they prepare your spring rolls, or do they just push the chopped chicken and shrimps aside and make it the way they always make it—and its safe for them because they don’t get diarrhea all that often anymore? Use your imagination.
Spices not only add flavor and aroma; they also bring therapeutic value to any meal. Spices help boost natural immunity, and most of them can rev up our digestion so our bodies are able to absorb and assimilate the nutrients from the foods we eat! If you are new to the world of spices and aren’t quite sure what to choose, try a ready-to-use Churna.
According to Ayurveda, each meal should contain all six flavors: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, astringent, and pungent. The dominance of the flavors will be based on our predominant dosha makeup. For example, a Vata-predominant person will favor heavier meals with sour and salty tastes. A Kapha-predominant person may favor more pungent meals, and a Pitta-predominant person more sweet flavors. Remember, having all six tastes in our meals means that the spice is present, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that we may overtly taste each flavor.
Cleanse from the inside out
The build-up of ama — digestive toxins resulting from improper digestion — in the physiology is, according to Ayurveda, the root cause of most disorders. That’s worth repeating: The build-up of ama is the root cause of most disorders. Improper digestion can be the result of a few habits:
Eating late in the evening when the body is ready for rest and not prepared for the heavy work of digestion. Eat a lighter, well-cooked meal at least three hours before bed, and try to be in bed around 10:00 p.m. or before.
Eating raw veggies or heavy meats that are harder to digest.
Having weak digestion, due to an imbalance, or due to stress in our lives.
Poor hydration. When the body is not hydrated, it cannot remove impurities from the lymph system properly. Blood production and flow may be negatively affected, possibly inhibiting our body’s ability to carry and maintain oxygen and nutrients.
Completing a cleanse during every change of seasons, to detox and rid the body of ama, is recommended for optimal health. Detoxing is particularly recommended in the early spring, because that is the time nature starts the annual cycle of regeneration as well. During cleansing, we can eat light, yet nourishing foods such as mung bean soup or kichari, and drink lots of warm water through the day. Sip detox tea or ama pachana water. Fresh, sweet juicy fruits are excellent cleansers.
Drink to your health!
When possible avoid caffeine, alcohol and carbonated soft drinks, and switch to life-giving, vitality-boosting beverages. Start with water, that most basic yet most overlooked drink — drinking lots of warm water through the day helps to rehydrate our system and flush toxins out of the body. Avoid drinking ice-cold water, especially before, during and after meals. If you have a lot of Pitta to balance, drink it cool; otherwise, room-temperature or warm water is best. When we drink ice-cold water, it slows blood flow in the region of the stomach and slows the action of digestive enzymes. Blood flow and digestive enzymes are directly responsible for strong digestion, and anything we can do to support blood flow and enzyme action will help our digestion — “help, don’t hinder.”
Ayurvedic teas or drinks suited to our physiology, formulated to correct a specific imbalance, can assist in bringing our bodies into balance. Herbal teas are available in stores in SE Asia. If your restaurant does not have herbal tea, pay for a cup of boiling water and use your own bag to make tea. Vata and Pitta-predominant types: at bedtime, try a cup of Organic Vata Tea, or boiled milk. Milk is sometimes hard to find in SE Asia.
Try boiling milk with a slice of fresh ginger. Kapha-predominant types or those prone to congestion (Kapha imbalance), may find that a nice cup of hot water with lemon is a good evening drink rather than heavier milk.
Cultivate good eating habits
Our busy lifestyles can lead us to eat on the go, eat while working, skip meals or eat “junk” foods. However, Ayurveda holds the belief that we can add life to our years and years to our lives by following a good eating routine. This healthy ayurvedic routine includes: eating three regular meals at about the same time each day; making lunch the main meal of the day (heavy dinners can tax digestion and disrupt sleep); and cooking and eating fresh food. Leftovers are considered less sattvic than fresh foods, and when convenient to do so are best avoided.
Additionally, giving gratitude, according to our tradition, for the food we eat, and sitting quietly during and for a few minutes after the meal, are recommended.
Eat for your soul
Balanced health goes beyond physical wellness to well-being in mind, spirit, emotions and senses as well. The food we eat can nourish our mind, body and emotions, not just our body.
Cooking and eating in a harmonious atmosphere turns food into nectar. A pleasant, tidy, cheerful environment and the nurturing company of friends or family will actually make mealtimes more nourishing.
Experiment with what you eat!
Eating the same dishes several times a week? Does your grocery list have the same items on it each time? Break out of that rut and experiment with new foods and flavors! Resolve to try at least one new recipe a week. Eating with friends can be a great way to break out of our routine.
If you have a favorite vegetable or grain you like to eat often, try preparing it differently (sauté, steam, boil, roast, or bake), or combine it with other grains, vegetables or herbs for variety.
Once or twice a week, consider trying a healthy dish from another part of the world.
Fluids and Salts and Alcohol
For every drop that you perspire and pee, you need to replenish salt and electrolytes. You body needs electrolytes to send and receive messages between cells, the brain and organs and muscles. If the nervous system cannot communicate well, the body malfunctions. You need salts.
For every drop you perspired, you need to replace. Count only about 15% of the volume of a beer as water and about -15% of every shot of alcohol. Alcohol and coffee dehydrates us and not all the fluid we take with the alcohol is available as nutrition because we will pee it out as soon as possible.
Remember, the world is our table: Did you know that, according to Ayurveda, we metabolize with all five senses? We don’t metabolize just our food…. everything we hear, touch, see, taste and smell becomes part of us, so choose wisely and live a healthier life.