What does it mean to be beautiful? How does one achieve that aura of well-being, that radiant glow? We all want to possess these intangible qualities. The ancient tradition of Ayurveda teaches that inner and outer beauty are intertwined. In order to have beautiful skin, we must nurture the dhatus, or body tissues. Many of us are aware that proper diet is necessary for healthy tissues and beautiful skin. But an ancient Ayurvedic secret tells us that it is actually the strength of our digestive fire, or agni, which is the key to maintaining healthy, radiant skin. The purest and most nutrient-dense foods can do nothing for our bodies if our digestion, absorption and assimilation are not functioning optimally. Here are some key principles to keep in mind, to ensure that you are nurturing your body to maintain glowing, healthy and supple skin.
Agni: Kindling the digestive fire
How do you keep your body tissues healthy and your skin beautiful? Keep the colon clean and the digestion strong. Ama, or toxins, build up when agni is disturbed. It is crucial to maintain strong agni in order to fully access the nutrients in food, and also to keep the body channels free of toxins.
If there is indigestion, drink warm water. This practice will cleanse the body and increase the digestive fire. Cool water slows down the digestive fire, and ice cold water is poison to the system, almost putting a stop to digestion. Also, consuming too much water overall lowers the digestive fire, and may result in additional body weight.
While you are eating, sit straight and avoid distractions such as TV, conversation, or reading. Focus your mind upon the food, and become aware of the tastes. Chew with love and compassion. Each mouthful should ideally be chewed approximately 32 times before being swallowed. This allows the digestive enzymes in the mouth to do their work properly, and also gives the stomach time to prepare for the arrival of the food, thus maximizing digestive power. This is also why it is better to eat slowly, or at a moderate speed.
More tips to keep your digestive system running smoothly:
- Don't consume too many raw foods (particularly if you are Vata-dominant). Your digestive system has to work extra hard to break down raw foods.
- Use ginger and/or spices while cooking. These aid proper digestion.
- Eat your largest meal at lunchtime.
- The appropriate portion size for one meal is equivalent to two handfuls of food. Eating more than the body needs results in the creation of additional toxins in the digestive tract, which affects digestion and elimination.
Proper absorption and assimilation of nutrients is key, as well as proper elimination of energy. When metabolism is impaired due to low agni or improper diet, the body cannot properly break down or absorb the nutrients. What is improperly digested becomes ama, or toxins. Accumulation of ama is the root cause of ALL disease in the body. All skin problems are due in part to accumulated toxins in the digestive tract.
Organic, clean, and local foods are richer in nutrients and free of chemicals and pesticides often found in processed foods or conventional, non-organic produce. These toxic chemicals block the channels of the body, and age tissues.
- Chemically-treated or GMO foods.
- Canned, frozen, or otherwise processed foods.
- Microwaves energetically warp the molecules of food into something the body cannot recognize and has trouble assimilating.
- Anything artificial.
- Anything "reduced" fat, "low-fat," or "non-fat" - these foods typically have chemical additives.
Not only are the above foods unhealthy for the body, they are also unhealthy energetically - they all are vibrating at a low frequency. According to Ayurveda, they are dead foods, and low in prana. Any foods that lack prana create toxins in the body.
- Eat whole, real foods.
- Avoid anything that wouldn't have been recognized as food 100 years ago.
- Eat locally, seasonally, organic.
- Eat freshly prepared, or sattvic, foods.
Eat according to your mind-body type
Ayurveda is an individualized science, and there is no one correct diet for everyone. An Ayurvedic diet keeps the body beautiful by taking into account factors such as a person's constitution, imbalance, the season, the time of day. When choosing foods we should always be mindful of our dosha, or mind-body type, and eat a diet compatible with our constitution. If the doshas become imbalanced due to wrong diet, this leads to poor metabolism and toxic buildup in the body.
This means that for Vata-dominant people, choose grounding, warming foods. Avoid coffee and caffeinated tea, as they are too stimulating for Vata-dominant types. Consume plenty of healthy fats such as avocados, ghee, sesame seeds, and almonds. If you are Pitta-dominant, choose cooling foods. Consume plenty of coconut water, cook with coconut oil, and eat cooling foods such as avocados and bananas. Limit intake of alcohol, coffee, spicy, oily, and fried foods. For Kapha-dominant people, stick to light and heating foods and spices. Eat plenty of organic vegetables to keep your insides clean and light. Steer clear of too many sweet and salty tastes: instead, stick to bitter and pungent foods. The light and stimulating qualities of these tastes will increase the forces of prana in the body (movement and elimination), which naturally clears toxins from the body and keeps the digestive fire strong.
Bottom line: when the body is healthy and in balance, its innate wisdom will intuitively choose foods that are good. Keep your agni strong, keep your body channels clean, and your tissues and organs will work together to bring you great vitality and beauty, both inside and out.