If you seek more balance in your eating habits, Ayurveda might do the trick. The ancient medical system is all about creating balance mentally, physically, and spiritually — and following an Ayurvedic diet is a big part of the process.
“Ayurvedic cooking is a way of preparing food by applying Ayurveda’s principles,” says Divya Alter. “These principles include selecting the best seasonal, wholesome ingredients for one’s digestion, body type, and health conditions,” she explains, adding that this also includes eliminating ultra-processed and artificial foods. They also include “preparing the food in methods that support digestion and preserve the life-giving energy of the food” and “using spices, not just for flavor, but also to optimize digestion and assimilation,” she explains.
Learn more about Ayurvedic cooking, plus the best Ayurveda cookbooks to help you get started (or strengthen your knowledge of these ancient cooking concepts and practices).
Meet the Experts
Divya Alter is a former monk and Ayurvedic chef, educator, author, and founder of Divya’s.
Understanding Ayurvedic Cooking
As Alter mentioned, Ayurvedic cooking is part of the Ayurvedic medical system and is a practice that follows some of the Ayurveda principles. In Ayurveda, it is believed that each of us is a specific Dosha type — a.k.a. body type. And, when cooking Ayurvedic recipes, we want to keep these body types in mind. Most Ayurvedic cookbooks include information on how to find your Dosha type, but if you’re curious now, you can take this quiz to find out if you’re a Vata, Kapha, or Pitta body type.
Once you understand your Ayurvedic Dosha, it’s time to get cooking. “Ayurveda cooking is simple and easy to execute in terms of technique,” says Alter. She adds that, while it is often associated with Indian-style food, it’s not limited to the food type. “Ayurveda is a universal health system that can be applied anywhere in the world, using local ingredients and making the food compatible with the local climate,” she notes.
How to Adopt an Ayurvedic Diet
Adopting an Ayurvedic diet is simple. The first step is to learn the basic principles of Ayurveda, which can help you create a solid foundation when cooking. Ayurveda cookbooks do a great job explaining these principles, but if you’re looking for something more in-depth, we love the book Ayurveda by Sahara Rose Ketabi. This beginner Ayurveda book breaks down the Ayurvedic medical system and all of the rituals involved—including cooking.
In addition to understanding Ayurvedic principles, Alter says you can try to give your favorite recipes an Ayurvedic twist “by applying the basic principles and tweaking the recipes so that they are best for you to digest.” For example, Alter says she loves Italian-style risotto, but it’s not the most Ayurveda-friendly. “Most recipes call for cooking it with wine and broth, but Ayurveda warns us against cooking with wine or any other alcohol because it makes the food more acidic, and it can also provoke the immune system,” she explains. “Instead of wine, I use vegetable broth or fresh carrot juice,” she adds.
Another important thing to consider is the digestion factor of your food. “‘Easy to digest’ is a key concept in Ayurvedic cooking,” says Alter. “If you don’t digest the food fully (no matter how much you enjoy it), the semi-digested residue can sit in the gut and cause chronic inflammation and other imbalances,” she explains. Digestion is important to consider when cooking, but it’s also necessary post-cooking. “Try to avoid eating leftovers because they are much harder to digest,” Alter explains. To kick this habit, she recommends swapping out a few leftover meals a week with freshly cooked meals and then gradually increase from there. “You’ll notice that you have more energy just from that change,” she explains.
Investing in an Ayurvedic cookbook with recipes is also a great way to familiarize oneself with the practices and traditional recipe types. Here’s how to get started:
By: Emily L. Glaser RN C.Ay
This new release is about how to use Ayurvedic cooking practices to optimize health and wellness for women. The book goes over the basic — and important — Ayurvedic principles to help you better understand the system and what types of recipes will work best for you, along with a collection of delicious Ayurvedic recipes. What we love most about this book is the encyclopedia of remedies for common women’s woes like hot flashes and menstrual cramps.
By: Jayarajan Kodikannath and Alyson Young Gregory
This Ayurveda cookbook is a must-have for parents looking to establish some Ayurvedic eating habits in their kids. The simple book helps parents better understand the principles and practices of Ayurveda, plus shares a ton of great kid-friendly recipes. It’s co-written by an Ayurvedic specialist with over 20 years of experience in pediatric health and geared toward children ages three through 16.
By: Divya Alter
Alter’s book is a must, too. Joy of Balance — which comes out in September 2022 — helps personalize your food experience and features 80 recipes inspired by cuisines around the globe. From delicious asparagus pizza to rose chocolate mousse, this Ayurveda cookbook proves that you don’t need to sacrifice flavor and comfort for healthy.
By: Anne Heigham
It not only covers the Ayurveda cooking basics and shares dozens of fantastic recipes, but it teaches you how to turn your kitchen into the ultimate tool. The book goes over practices like planting a small herb garden and pickling ingredients to use for later, which makes Ayurvedic cooking all the more accessible.
Ayurveda Beginner’s Guide: Essential Ayurvedic Principles and Practices to Balance and Heal Naturally
By: Susan Weis-Bohlen
For the best beginner-friendly guide to Ayurvedic cooking, look no further. This book is a go-to for many as it covers everything you need to know about the basics of Ayurvedic cooking, with many great and easy recipes to try. We love this one because, in addition to the recipes, it has a 3-week guide that makes following an Ayurvedic diet easier.
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