How Well Do You Know Yourself?

We tend to see ourselves as introverts, ambiverts, or extroverts based on how comfortable we are around people. We typecast our bodies as endomorphs, mesomorphs, or ectomorphs based on how easily we gain or lose weight. We even add adjectives like creative, intelligent, and active based on what we enjoy or what others say we are.

We are familiar with these labels. They help us zoom in on specific aspects of ourselves, blurring out all other aspects. The body, however, cannot and does not create such divides. Your mind and body are one and, along with your lifestyle, determine your personality, preferences, and health.

If you were to tie back all of your labels, everything you are, to one single anchor – that would be your metabolic personality, also called your mind-body constitution, functional energy pool, or dosha mix. That’s all you need to know to understand yourself and your health.

Your Metabolic Personality

When you think of what you’re made of, you’re probably thinking cells, genes, and DNA, the building blocks that decide, say, how strong your muscles and bones are or what your state of mind is or which health conditions you are genetically predisposed to. You’re right, but that’s only one part of the story.

There’s this whole other part that explains why you’re YOU. What drives your natural tendencies like craving Chinese takeout or arranging your socks by color or sweating too much or feeling hungry all the time or waking up in the middle of the night, even which health conditions you are prone to beyond inheritance. This part goes beyond your basic DNA code and forms your essence. This is your metabolic personality.

1. It Makes You Unique

There are three types of functional energies (also called doshas), each one coming with their own predetermined set of tendencies. These are:

  • Light and quick (vata) – energy of movement
  • Slow and steady (kapha) – energy of accumulation
  • Intense (pitta) – energy of transformation

All of us have all three functional energies, but most of us naturally gravitate toward one or two of them (in rare cases, all three). This mix is the metabolic personality you were born with, also called your prakruti.

  • You could be predominantly vata, predominantly kapha, or predominanatly pitta
  • Or, you could be vata-pitta/pitta-vata, pitta-kapha/kapha-pitta, or kapha-vata/vata-kapha (the dosha before the hyphen being slightly more predominant than the dosha after the hyphen)
  • Or, you could have equal tendencies of all three doshas

Everything you have an inclination toward and the way your body chooses to function is a reflection of your unique energy mix. So, you will have certain quirks about you; you will like doing things in a certain way; you will have specific interests and pet peeves; you will react to happiness, sadness, and stress in a certain way; you will have your own thought processes. You will even be prone to certain health conditions; you will crave certain foods; you will have particular physical traits; and so on.

You may not know what your metabolic personality was at birth. So the easy thing to do is to think back to a time when you felt healthy and happy.

2. It Is Your Most Natural, Happy State

This is important: The metabolic personality you were born with is your happy, balanced state. Stay true to who you are and you’ll be your healthiest self (the “feels right” feeling). Fight or ignore your natural tendencies and the more imbalanced you will feel (the “not feeling great” feeling). The imbalances accumulate and eventually lead to disease.

Being in balance means being closest to your innate metabolic personality, your prakruti. It does not means having equal amounts of all three types of functional energies.

Thankfully, your metabolic personality is not as rigid as your DNA blueprint.

3. It Can Be Influenced And So Can Be Balanced

Here’s food for thought: You inherit certain traits from your parents, like their hair or predisposition to diabetes. If you look closer, you’ll also notice that you inherit certain likes and dislikes such as the taste for classical music or distaste for olives. If you look even closer, you’ll find that you develop some of these traits on your own, through your own experiences and habits. Like if you were to live a year in France, you’d probably eat a lot more bread than you did growing up and may even start craving it. Or say you were to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, you probably wouldn’t have any trouble falling asleep.

How you interact with your environment – your lifestyle – and, for that matter, your parents’ lifestyles before you were conceived, plays a role in determining who you are. We don’t mean only on an emotional, intellectual, or behavioral level. It’s a lot more physical than that, coming down to how your body functions and how healthy you feel.

The concept has only recently been called epigenetics by conventional science but has, in fact, been one of the key principles of Ayurveda for millennia now.

Even though you are inclined to do things that pacify your innate metabolic personality, when imbalanced, you may end up doing things that aggravate it instead. This amplifies your negative tendencies.

You can stay in balance through your diet, lifestyle, behaviour, and interactions with the environment. The basic tenet is to pacify your predominant functional energy/energies. So if you’re naturally intense and fiery, you’ll need more of cool slow and steady elements (more on that later).

Prakruti vs. Vikruti

It’s important to know the difference to see how far you’ve strayed from your balanced state.

Think of a brand new car: clean, shiny, efficient. From the moment you start driving the car around, it is exposed to the natural elements and your driving skills. If you take it out in stormy weather or drive rashly, it will start looking weathered and possibly not run as smoothly as before. If, however, you are careful to service it regularly and handle it with care, your car will run and look just as it was when you bought it. The body works in a similar way.

The metabolic personality you were born with is called your prakruti (innate metabolic personality). Your present metabolic personality, how you are now, is your vikruti (altered metabolic personality).

  • When in balance, the two are the same. It means you’re doing all the right things to maintain your prakruti.
  • When not in balance, your vikruti will be different from your prakruti. It means your lifestyle is interfering with your natural happy state and is changing it to something that makes you feel less at ease. You’ll need to balance your vikruti to feel your best again.

To figure out your prakruti, observe yourself. Notice how you behave in different situations. It may happen that a certain functional energy is more pronounced when you’re at work, another when you’re relaxing at home or with friends. It may even be that your mind gravitates to one functional energy, while your body gravitates to another. The point is to understand what feels most natural to you.

To Get Started, See Which of These You Can Identify With

First, keep an open mind. Don’t try to forcefully fit yourself into one type. Let it come naturally. The more honest you are with yourself, the better your understanding of your body.

As you make your way through the lists, keep score of the traits you can relate to the most, your most obvious tendencies. Don’t go on what you feel only today or how you’ve been behaving recently, instead think of how you usually are.

Then count the relatable traits under each type and see how much you gravitate to each functional energy and what your mix is.

Typically Light and Quick (Vata)

Your usual response: Yes, no, maybe

Fictional characters like you: Spiderman from the Marvel Universe, Amélie Poulain from Amélie, Jack Dawson from Titanic

  • You are creative and spontaneous
  • Your hands and feet are almost always cold to touch
  • You lose weight easily and have a tendency to be scrawny
  • You walk fast and talk fast
  • You toss and turn at night
  • You are restless and find it difficult to focus on one thing at a time
  • You keep busy so that you don’t overthink or get bored
  • You tend to be self-critical and really appreciate it when you’re allowed to express yourself
  • You take a long time to make a decision and still feel unsure after making it
  • You are prone to pain, anxiety, constipation, colon-related disorders, and depression

Typically Slow and Steady (Kapha)

Your usual response: Yes, but later

Fictional characters like you: Po from Kung Fu Panda, Varys from Game of Thrones, Sean Maguire from Good Will Hunting

  • You are calm, easygoing, and caring
  • You like doing things at your own pace
  • You learn through repetition and have a good long-term memory
  • You gain weight easily but find it difficult to lose weight
  • You’re okay with skipping meals
  • You like the idea of adventure but you need a big push to follow through with it (your stamina is great though)
  • You tend to carry the weight of other people’s emotions and problems
  • You don’t like to plan and prefer to follow others
  • You make slow, calculated decisions
  • You are prone to colds and coughs, allergies, congestion, sinus headaches, weight gain, and water retention

Typically Intense (Pitta)

Your usual response: Yes, right now!

Fictional characters like you: Tintin from the comic series, Ethan Hunt from Mission Impossible, Maximus from Gladiator

  • You are organized, passionate, analytical, and have a good memory
  • You never feel like you have enough time and are always trying not to waste time
  • You are very active and easily turn red in the sun
  • Your hands usually feel warm to touch
  • You gain and lose weight easily
  • You’re always hungry and get hangry if you don’t get to eat on time
  • You like having things under control and get upset when things don’t go your way
  • You are a list-maker, a planner
  • You make decisions easily and stick to them
  • You are prone to fever, diarrhea, skin infections, heartburn, inflammation, and hypertension

Once you become more self-aware, you’ll probably become more forgiving toward yourself. You’ll gain a maturity to act in the moment and control your negative tendencies. You will also be able to understand the people around you and your relationships better, and your world in general will start making a lot more sense.

Isn’t it comforting to know that you should truly be yourself to be healthy? Doesn’t it already feel right?

Why Balance Is Important

Now that you know exactly what rocks your boat and gets your goat (thanks to your prakruti or innate metabolic personality), you’d want to know what it feels like to be perfectly balanced. Haven’t figured out your metabolic personality yet? Head here.

Imagine, on a perfectly sunny, breezy day, you are trekking down a hilly path with a friend and without a care in the world. Suddenly, you stumble on a piece of rock. You are about to fall. Your heart skips a beat. That fall could spell a disaster for you. But moments before you hit the ground, your friend pulls you back to your feet. You regain your balance, heave a sigh of relief, thank your friend profusely, and continue on your path.

That’s balance for you – a state of equilibrium, an ideal state of being where you are walking steadily despite a changing terrain.

This, however, is only a rather literal example of balance that is visible to the naked eye. In truth, though you can’t see it, your health faces many stumbling blocks in the form of changes in your external and internal environment. It is constantly losing and regaining its balance. The friend that helps stabilize it and keep it going is a phenomenon known as homeostasis.

Homeostasis is the phenomenon by which your body maintains its balance.

Homeostasis works so smoothly in maintaining your body’s balance that you don’t even notice the complex processes running in the background. Take for instance, change in body temperature in hot and cold climates. To survive, your body must maintain a particular temperature. In hot climates, it reaches that temperature by dilating blood vessels and making you sweat; in cold climes, by contracting the blood vessels and making you shiver.

A circular system of feedback and action makes sure that all chemicals in the body, like fluids, electrolytes, and hormones are kept in balance. As a result, all metabolic processes in the body work in perfect balance.

Take glucose (sugar) metabolism, for instance. You need the right amount of a hormone called insulin to help your cells absorb glucose and produce energy. If you secrete less insulin, the blood glucose levels rise and over time can lead to diabetes; if you secrete more, the blood glucose levels fall and can cause hypoglycemia. As long as the insulin levels and the blood glucose levels are in balance, you are in no danger of these two potentially fatal conditions.

Simply put, balance is a state of health. It is achieved when the body functions dynamically in response to a continuously changing external environment.

Any time the body cannot respond to the changes outside, vikruti or imbalance manifests. Whether slight, moderate, or severe, imbalance is a condition where your body and mind are not functioning at their best.

In the initial stages of imbalance, you end up doing less than you are capable of, which sparks off negative emotions toward yourself and others, and you suffer from a general sense of malaise and unfulfillment. If the imbalance is not identified on time or ignored, little health niggles and peeves can become major conditions with time.

Though the inner workings of the body are not under your direct control, you can still stay in balance. Don’t compare yourself with anyone else. Everyone has their own unique state of balance. Just stay as close as possible to your innate metabolic personality. That is your state of balance. Eat foods and herbs suited to it, engage in physical activities that counter your negative tendencies, practice the right kind of yoga, and adopt an overall healthy lifestyle.

Balance is not merely the absence of disease, it is a state where you feel healthy, light, energetic, happy, and at peace with yourself and the world.

Supplements: What You Need to Know

Food creates an experience: the appetizing fragrance tickling your nose, the inviting appearance delighting your eyes, the textures felt as you make your way through your meal, the flavors unleashed as you chew, and that fundamental feeling of satiety. This experience is lost when you “pop” a supplement pill.

But is that all that is lost? We’re afraid not.

Supplements Were Never Meant to Replace Food

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Supplements emerged in the last century or so to fill gaps in nutrition. If someone did not have enough of a nutrient in their body, the void was filled with a synthetic version. With supplements there to save the day, nutritional deficiency epidemics of the past centuries – like scurvy (vitamin C), rickets (vitamin D), beriberi (vitamin B1), and pellagra (vitamin B3) – were forced to become just that, things of the past. They were conquered.

Yes, this was indeed a milestone in science and medicine, but it paved the way for unprecedented paranoia, a paranoia that grew to include fear of diseases like heart disease and cancer.

Even healthy individuals felt the need to take different kinds of supplements just in case they fell prey to a deficiency in the future, just in case their regular meals were falling short of essential nutrients, just in case they developed a cancer or heart disease, just in case they weren’t their healthiest selves.

But here’s the thing: supplements proved useful in correcting existing, severe nutritional deficiencies; they weren’t used in “just in case” scenarios.

Whether or not supplements have any benefit on an overall healthy person is yet to be proved. On the contrary, they have been seen to cause side effects, in certain cases quickly escalating to death. Is that a risk you are willing to take?

The best way to get your fill of nutrients is to eat a variety of good-quality foods (think rainbows on your plate). It’s not a colossal or unpractical demand. You just need to stick to fresh, real food and not go on an outrageously restrictive diet of, say, only cheese sandwiches and soda.

That brings us to the point: contrary to popular belief, most people are not deficient in the important micronutrients. Even seemingly unhealthy fast foods like mac and cheese have them. They may come with a lot of unwanted calories, but micronutrients are tucked in there too.

This explains why, on an average, 9 out of 10 Americans can still flaunt good scores on nutritional tests. The reason you are asked to eat healthy food is to get more nutrients per calorie.

Food Gives You Everything You Need …

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The terms “food synergy” and “food matrix” are often used to explain the complex nature of food. They hint at mysterious components and interactions that science hasn’t been able to catch up to. So yes, there are vitamins A, D, E, K, B, and C and minerals that you’ve heard of, but there are more. Thousands more.

To give you perspective, at the turn of the last century, we believed food was made up of proteins, carbs, and fats alone. Now see where we’re at – vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and the search continues.

Moreover, the components of food share a solidarity like no other. Like the beads of a bracelet, they don’t add the same value to your health when forced to work in isolation. The links with other components are necessary for them to work in your body in the way they’re intended to. Supplements miss these important links.

As food matrix design and food technology progress, we are still nowhere close to replicating the structure or effect of food.

… In the Amounts You Need

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Micronutrients, including vitamins and minerals, are needed in micro-quantities by the body, quantities that the human eye cannot even see. Their normal ranges are narrow, not leaving too much room for swinging off the mark, less or more. The body will notice and retaliate (think disease).

No wonder that the same vitamin, vitamin A, can be a blessing to a deficient child preventing them from going blind while being a death threat to an otherwise healthy individual through hypervitaminosis A.

The important thing to realize then is that more does not necessarily mean better. And this seems to be the biggest risk with supplements.

Despite RDA values (standardized values telling you how much of a nutrient you need each day), everybody has a different normal. Your body’s requirement for vitamin C will be different even from your identical twin. Most supplements turn a blind eye to these differences, so you’re always at risk of overshooting your normal. On top of that, most supplement manufacturers promise you dosages way above the RDA.

And doesn’t a capsule-sized quantity of a microscopic need already seem too much?

With food, this worry is taken off your plate. The chances of you getting too much of anything are slim because they’re anyway present in such minute quantities in food.

A Potpourri of Foods Gives You Backups

Canva - Bowl of Vegetable Soup

Should your body not be able to use a particular nutrient well from a particular food, say potassium from sweet potato, with a mix of foods on your plate, you’ll have backup sources of potassium, perhaps soybeans.

This also takes care of the fear of missing out due to a food allergy. Can’t have yogurt for calcium because you’re lactose intolerant? Don’t. Have oranges instead.

Nature has given you a thousand and one ways of getting any nutrient you need. Supplements, on the other hand, may not always give you what their labels promise.

Which brings us to the point: no one’s keeping a tab on supplements, not even the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). The FDA has been forced by way of law to give a free hand to supplement manufacturers, demanding no proof of safety or efficacy of their products. The threats of contamination are a whole other horror story.

There is also the assumption that scientific research must have already been done to prove all of the tall claims, the laundry list of health benefits. The truth is some initial research has been done and research is being done, but the industry has taken “jumping to conclusions” to new heights. Supplements, even natural ones, are based on conjectures and unproven hypotheses, a danger that must be recognized.

Not All “Natural” Supplements Are Good for You

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The word “natural” has been thrown around and misused a lot. Many natural supplements are derived from nature but aren’t like “in nature.” That makes a huge difference.

Even if a supplement is created from natural sources like sheep wool or edible sources like green tea or red grapes, the moment you process and reduce them, you are taking away elements of their supporting matrix. They carry similar risks as supplements from non-natural sources, synthetic supplements if you will.

Choose Supplements Closest to Whole Food

1B_Supplements

To be healthful, it is not enough for a nutrient or an active ingredient to be extracted from natural sources – for that matter, wool or green tea are both natural. The nutrient is most effective and least harmful when it is taken as it appears in nature – for instance, lycopene in tomatoes as opposed to tomato-derived lycopene supplements.

The 1Balance whole herb combinations contain dried and powdered herbs – quite like the dehydrated burgers or salads NASA prepares for its astronauts.

This is how 1Balance surpasses other supplements.

Being more akin to food, rather than an assortment of isolated chemicals lacking in your diet, the 1Balance whole herb combinations can be called “complements” instead of supplements. Just like food is necessary to keep your organs functioning at full steam, so are these herb combinations. In fact, many of these herbs have been part of traditional diets across the world and could have been part of yours too had they been locally available to you. Their chief activity is to help your body do its best to utilize nutrients from your diet.

Once your body works at its highest capacity and you put a little more thought and care into your diet, getting the right nutrition will hardly be a challenge.

How to Personalize Our Diet and Lifestyle

We take everything personally. Even when we say we are not. From the seasoning on our pizza to the fragrance in our scented candles, every choice we make carries a trace of our personality.

Personalizing, or choosing according to our body’s needs, is almost second nature for us. With food, at least. For the most part, what we include in our diet (or don’t) reflects our body’s relationship with specific foods. Even our random cravings are not so random. They are a direct reply to our body’s needs. Needs as unique as our metabolic personality, that is the unique way our body functions.

Not quite so with lifestyle, however. We start with the right one (the right amount of food, sleep, and activity). But sooner or later, influenced by factors like occupation, milieu, and health, our lifestyle changes. Often, that also alters our food habits. Slowly, our body goes out of its natural rhythm and loses its balance.

We can bring ourselves back on track by prioritizing our real needs. It doesn’t require a major rehaul of everything we are doing or eating – we couldn’t possibly have gone that wrong! – just small shifts on a regular basis. Since all functions in our body are interconnected, a small tweak in one functional area can help balance other areas too.

Personalizing Is the Same as Balancing

Canva - Man Standing on Rope Near Beach

Before we set about personalizing, here’s an easy formula.

Personalizing = balancing with the opposite quality

Now for the explanation. How each of us functions is rooted in who we are or, if we narrow it down further, one influencing energy or quality we have.

Broadly, each of us is a mix of three different functional energies:

  • An intense fiery energy that drives us on
  • A light and quick creative energy that helps us change and adapt
  • A slow and steady accumulative energy that keeps us grounded

What makes us unique is the ratio in which we express these energies. We could express predominantly one, a mix of any two, or even a nearly equal mix of all three.

Personalizing is often as simple as balancing our predominant energy/ies with food and activities that have the opposite quality.

  • An intense person needs coolness.
  • A light and quick person needs stability.
  • A slow and steady person needs lightness and warmth.

Personalizing for the Intense Type: Looking for Cool Things

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Those of us who have a predominantly intense energy are always speeding at the top gear. We keep pushing our limits, our aim being “faster, higher, stronger.” Our favorite phrase is “bring it on!” So we work long hours, work out vigorously, spice up our food, and burn the midnight oil every day. Until we come to a halt with a crash.

What we need is moderation in everything we do. In fact, this first level of personalization – finding the middle way – is essential for all of us, not just the intense type. The second level is getting more of what cools us down, function by function. Let’s start with sleep.

Sleep

The intense energy delays sleep. However tired we may be, we lie awake in bed thinking up elaborate plans of action for the next day or solving problems that plagued us all day. The personalizing or balancing fixes depend on how far we have veered away from the moderate way.

  • Sometimes, a chilled bedroom and cotton bed sheets may be all we need to discard thoughts and embrace dreams.
  • Sometimes, we may need more – a cool bath, a cup of passion flower or chamomile tea, and a session of deep, slow breathing before bed.
  • Some of us, however, may also need to rejig the evening routine, incorporating more calming, passive activities such as listening to music.

While we personalize, let’s not forget the general rules for good sleep.

  • Find the magic number. How many hours do we need to wake up fresh and keen to begin the day? It doesn’t have to be 8.
  • Put sleep first. Let’s block off those hours first. Everything else can follow.
  • Catch up on sleep. Daily. We don’t starve ourselves on weekdays to pig out on weekends. Or drink 1 liter of water all week and 8 on Sundays. We can’t make up for the sleep lost on weekdays by sleeping in on weekends.

Mind and Mood

The intense mind is sharp and dynamic. But pushed beyond its center of balance, it makes us irritable and uncooperative.

  • Instead of trying to tick all the boxes on our ambitious lists, can we prioritize? It’s okay to push some tasks over to the next day and some to the waste bin, even. In short, can we do less than what we’re doing?
  • Everyone takes deep breaths when agitated. Let’s be more specific and try the cooling or the hissing breath. They do more than cool our tongues. They reduce the beta waves in our brain that are linked with a state of agitation and increase alpha, theta, and delta waves, associated with relaxation and deeper consciousness.
  • Meditation helps. So it must be part of the daily routine. But at a time of crunch, even this quick exercise could help. Closing our eyes, let’s visualize a vast blue sky, a stretch of clear blue water, or a silent forest.

Digestion

Digestion being our strong suit, we are able to eat just about anything, even foods that are heat producing – usually, meat and hot spices like chillies and black pepper. Of course, in moderation. But if we had to personalize a platter, it would include more of

  • Cool, heavy, dry, and mild foods – like baked white potatoes and cooked lima beans
  • Cooling herbs and spices like fennel, cilantro, lemongrass, and cardamom – in fact, if we want to personalize a ready meal, all we may need to do is season it with these coolers
  • If there’s no way to escape a spicy meal, we could chew on some fennel seeds and cardamom afterward.

They help even more when we follow these general rules of eating right.

  • Number of meals: We should eat 3 main meals, with lunch being the largest, and a couple of snacks at most. The deciding factor ought to be hunger, not habit.
  • Mealtimes: The lunch ought to be had between 12 and 2 pm and dinner before the sun sets
  • Meal attitude: We ought to eat mindfully, chewing every bite carefully. And only when we are calm.

Metabolism

We have a fast metabolism. Which means we use up energy quickly, even when we’re resting. So we need frequent refueling. But more than that we need to learn to distribute our energy well. With our kind of single-minded pursuit of things, it’s easy to get emotionally exhausted.

  • Sometimes, all we need to do for energy is sleep at the right hour and for the right number of hours. We may be doing everything else right.
  • Sometimes, we may also need to take a look at our diet. It should have energy-rich food, but not those with a lot of sugar or other refined carbs. We need an energy plus nutrients package, which can be found in complex carbs like whole grains and fibrous veggies. Meats? Yes, but not every day. They turn up the heat.
  • And rather than powering through every task or every exercise routine, let’s take small breaks every now and then. It’s bound to keep us calm and even boost our performance.

Bones and Joints

It’s difficult to know what’s happening with our bones and joints until they suddenly turn stiff or painful. Given our high metabolism, our bones keep breaking down and restructuring themselves more frequently. Nothing to be scared about if we have a good diet, a good dose of the sun, and a good regimen of weight-bearing exercises.

  • Bones need calcium and vitamin D. We could pick out a couple of items from this list for every meal: tofu, cottage cheese, white beans, kale, mung beans, celery, cilantro, prunes, oatmeal/oat bran, shrimp, and mushrooms (white, stir-fried; shiitake, stir-fried; portabella, grilled). But that’s not all. We also need the support of a healthy regular diet.
  • Exercising in the sun is a good way to take care of our bones. But both the sun and exercise can make us feel hot and tired very quickly. We could personalize by combining the two in a clever way – say by swimming or taking our dogs for a walk. And even if we do go for a run or an intense gym session (which we love to), let’s focus on quick cool downs.

Personalizing for the Light and Quick: Looking for Stability

Canva - Photo Of Woman Wearing Blue ShirtThose of us who have a predominantly light and quick energy are always on our feet. Our minds too are perpetually jumping from one thought to another, trying to meet the demands of the fast-paced world.

We can often be heard saying, “That’s boring. I need something else.” On good days, that makes for a creative way of looking at the world; on bad days, that makes us indecisive, anxious, and fidgety.

What we need is to stay grounded. Warming and moist foods, gentle yoga and isometric exercises that give us steadiness, and meditation are what we need.

Sleep

Sleep is not our strong point. It becomes fragile the moment things seem even a little beyond our control. We need to be soothed into sleep.

  • Some days, all we need are a warm and snug room, a warm bath before bed, a cup of valerian tea, and oil massage on the feet. A moderately heavy dinner with sleep-friendly foods like tart cherry juice or almonds could also help.
  • It might seem useless in the beginning, but daily meditation makes it easier for our minds to disengage. We don’t need to force our mind to be blank or focus on one thing. We can simply let it flow and keep bringing it back periodically.
  • Some of us may also need to incorporate more calmness into our days through deep breathing, nature walks, and yoga.

Mind and Mood

On our best days, we are fun, creative, and bursting with ideas – typically, days we wake up well rested, have a full tummy, and work on something that interests us. On our worst days, we are overwhelmed, frantic, and unable to focus. Besides the usual things most people do to keep their mind balanced, here’s what we could do.

  • Rhythm gives our thoughts a pattern to follow. So we could get some rhythm in our activities, whether it’s listening to music, exercising, or practising deep breathing. Which is why, we would find it easier to continue with a Zumba lesson rather than a regular gym routine. When it comes to trying deep breathing, what works for us best is alternate nostril breathing.
  • Brain puzzles are a good way to sharpen our focus. We just need to make sure they are neither too easy nor too difficult. We lose interest quickly.
  • We also need to question ourselves periodically – are we doing something in line with our strength and interest? If not, our mind will be perpetually discontented.

Digestion

The light and quick digestion is erratic. Some days we nibble on our food, some days we hog. But other than that, we have little reason to complain. Most foods on our recommended list are delectable.

  • A well cooked warm and moist meal with a mix of flavors but with more of sweet, sour, and salty foods is what our palate prefers.
  • While most people may be overly cautious about their fat intake, we needn’t be. Fat is good for us. A drizzle of healthy fat (butter, ghee, or olive oil) can personalize most foods for our body. We should also choose fatty cuts of meat without any compunction.
  • Seasoning with warming herbs and spices like bay leaves, ginger, garlic, cardamom, and black pepper can also keep our digestive fire consistently stoked.
  • Let’s also remember to drink water and juices to keep ourselves hydrated.

Metabolism

We don’t have as much energy as we think we do. But we also do squander our energy working haphazardly or thinking erratically. So frequent refills are necessary. If we don’t, we push ourselves into a state where we are physically exhausted but unable to calm down mentally.

  • We don’t link water with energy, but more often than not, we feel drained when we are dehydrated. And we do tend to get dehydrated if we are not cautious about our water intake.
  • Working out is an obvious way to build energy stores. But we need to be careful about not overdoing it. We don’t deal well with exhaustion. So yoga is a better choice than working out in a gym. Even in yoga, postures that help us stay grounded and make us hold our pose are better – for instance, cat-cow pose or seated forward bend. Other than that, strength-building isometric exercises like plank, side plank, or glute bridge also help build muscle strength and stability.

Bones and Joints

We have bones that are more prone to wear and tear than restructuring. So one meal we eat should be for our bones.

  • We could choose from calcium and vitamin D foods like Salmon, sardines, tofu, fresh figs, almonds, pistachios, chia seeds, sesame seeds, parmesan cheese, yogurt, spinach, sweet potato, watercress, orange juice, oatmeal, tuna, oyster, shrimp, and eggs. But that’s not all; a balanced diet comprising all other nutrients is essential.
  • While we mustn’t do heavy exercise, it will help to lift some weights. Strength exercises make our bones sturdier. Even better is to do strength training in the sun, not just for the vitamin D but also for the warmth.

Personalizing for the Slow and Steady: Looking for Lightness

Canva - Pensive Woman in Gray Coat Holding Book

Those of us who have a predominantly slow and steady energy like to do things at our own pace. Naturally, our favorite line is “Can it wait?” There are many advantages to being so calm and sorted all the time. But a major disadvantage is lethargy and gloominess.

We need things that helps us pick the pace. Usually, things that make us feel warm and light.

Sleep

We are blessed sleepers. We fall asleep quickly and sleep heavily for a good 7–8 hours. The only problem is that sometimes we may sleep a little too much for our own good. It doesn’t even feel refreshing. On normal days, we need to do nothing different. But if we’ve been oversleeping for a while, here’s what we can do.

  • We make sure we’re working out daily, twice if possible. Working out gives us more energy and dispels gloom. We oversleep on days we feel depressed.
  • Keeping the bedtime fixed, let’s bring the wake-up time forward by 15 minutes every week till it’s closer to sunrise. (Yes, even on weekends.) Once our body regains its natural day-night pattern, our sleep will get back on track.

Mind and Mood

We are generally calm, happy, and unruffled on most days. Not even a lot of work or emotional events can faze us. But this calmness also hides an inertia and lethargy, which in turn can make us prone to gloominess. If only we knew how much more we are capable of doing.

  • We need activity, both physical and mental. And we need to keep trying to push our limit. So if we enrol in a gym, we should look out for one that holds boot camps and healthy competitions. Yoga and meditation too would have more effect when performed in groups.
  • Even though everyone advocates slow breathing to balance the mind, quick breathing is more our thing. Quick breathing exercises, like bellows breath, make us more energetic and upbeat. If we want to meditate, we should personalize it. Practising mindfulness while walking can benefit us more than meditating in a seated position.

Digestion

Digestion is definitely not our trump card. It is usually slow, and we remain full for long after a meal. That’s not entirely bad news since it also curbs our tendency to snack. But it’s not a happy feeling either. We need two types of foods: those that are quickly digested and those that help in digestion.

  • A plate personalized for us should be warm, light, and not so moist. The foods that dominate would taste spicy (garlic, onion, wasabi, etc.), mildly astringent (pomegranate, chickpeas, etc.), and mildly bitter (kale, turmeric, etc.).
  • When we have a ready meal in front of us and not much choice, we can personalize it by having a smaller portion and using warming herbs and spices like black pepper, paprika, and cinnamon.
  • A walk after a meal is essential. It keeps the food moving through the digestive tract.

Metabolism

The slow and steady metabolism is, well, slow and steady. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t have energy. Quite the opposite. We have more stamina than most others. But we do not utilize the energy we have. As a result, we gain weight easily.

  • Exercising is the best possible thing to rev up our metabolism. But we like to take things easy, so it’s easier said than done. Rather than exercising alone, we ought to buddy up or take membership in a gym that gives us personal attention.
  • We should focus on cardio, which makes us use our whole body – say, running, jogging, sprinting, high-intensity interval training, dancing, cycling, and even sun salutations. The objective is to sweat.
  • Variation in our exercise regimen is also essential. Otherwise, we tend to get too comfortable in a routine and stop pushing ourselves.
  • A warm shower after exercise can help us maintain the energy.

Bones and Joints

This is usually not our problem area. We have sturdy bones that are not prone to degeneration. That said, because we don’t usually exercise, we can experience stiffness and muscle weakness.

  • Strength-training exercises are essential but we don’t need to make a huge space in our routine for these. We could do plyometric exercises like burpees, jumping squats, and weight lifting between running or jogging.
  • Vitamin D and calcium foods we can eat daily include tofu, white beans, spinach, kale, pumpkin seeds, okra, black beans, watercress, Brussels sprouts, mustard sprouts, rhubarb, oat bran, eggs, shrimp, and mushrooms (white, stir-fried; shiitake, stir-fried; portabella, grilled).

Immunity

Our immunity is a reflection of our good habits. So if we make sure that all the other functions are balanced, our immunity is balanced. For instance, poor sleep can visibly weaken our immunity, as can poor digestion or a disturbed state of mind.

So if we personalize our lifestyle and diet according to our metabolic personality such that we get enough sleep, eat the right kind of foods (almost every food group has something to offer for our immune system), work out adequately, get some sun, and maintain hygiene, we needn’t do anything special for our immunity.

How to Stay in Balance

Ever worn a sweater in the peak of summer? Added more salt to a salty soup? Ridden a Ferris wheel when you were dizzy?

Nope. You did just the opposite, didn’t you? Common sense. You don’t do things that aggravate an existing problem. You do things that balance it.

Now, how can your health stay in balance? By staying as close as possible to your innate metabolic personality or prakruti – your “no problem” zone. Your innate metabolic personality is your body’s personality at birth. It’s what gives you your unique appearance, metabolism (as well as organ function), and behavior.

Everybody’s innate metabolic personality is made up of three functional energies (light and quick, slow and steady, and intense) in different ratios. You can figure out your unique mix of functional energies quite simply by identifying your tendencies.

Once you know your tendencies, gear up to rein them in slightly. If you don’t, they tend to go overboard and cause trouble – ask anyone who has had a sweet tooth!

The two basic principles you need to remember to balance are:

  1. Like increases like
  2. Opposites balance each other

So if you are given to bouts of restlessness, find activities that calm you down. If you like being a couch potato, get up and stay active purposefully. But if you tend to overwork yourself, dial it down to escape a burnout. Here are a few suggestions on how to keep yourself balanced. But don’t stop at these, invent your own.

Staying Light and Quick, Not Restless

Canva - Selective Focus Photography of Person Watching Watch

If you have a light and quick metabolic personality, your mind is overflowing with ideas and your daily planner overflowing with chores. Pretty much like the wind, you are constantly moving from one task to another. On a good day, you get so much done! On a bad day (which can be quite frequent), however, you are see-sawing between exhaustion and anxiety. The trick is to ground yourself.

  • You need constant excitement and inspiration and would eagerly welcome change. But hey, take it easy. Change can send your mind into a tizzy and fuel both exhaustion and anxiety. So it’s essential for you to stick to a routine. The routine doesn’t have to be boring. You can keep a slot free for trying out new things every day.
  • Eat well-cooked warm meals with sweet, salty, and sour flavors. You have a wide variety of fruits, veggies, meats, oils, and spices at your disposal. Let your creative (and digestive) juices flow unhindered.
  • Keep yourself warm and comfortable with warm baths, warm teas, and warm meals. Don’t overexercise since you tend to lose weight quickly. Gentle strolls and rhythmic dances are better for you.
  • Get to bed by 9:30 pm and wake up at 6 am. Perform pranayama (alternate nostril breathing) and meditation before sleeping to calm your overactive mind. They may be challenging initially, but once you get into the groove, they’ll give you a sharper focus and deeper sleep.

Any sort of transition or change makes you more restless. Which is why on nights when you have disturbed sleep, you will find yourself waking up around 2 or 3 in the morning. To curb this tendency, engage yourself in immersive, creative activities during early evening (2–6 pm). You also need to take special care to keep yourself balanced in the cold and dry months as well as in the months when the season changes drastically.

Staying Slow and Steady, Not Sluggish

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Are you one of those calm and composed people who, quite like water, like to live life on their own pace? Good for you! You are probably among the happier people in this world. On good days, doing things at your own pace can produce a perfect piece of work. But on bad days, you find yourself unmotivated, lethargic, procrastinating, and depressed. For a slow and steady person, the key to staying in balance is staying active.

  • You have a tendency to find a comfort zone and settle down (kind of like earth), refusing to challenge yourself. Change your routine frequently. Don’t do similar activities every day. Keep room for trying out new things.
  • Stay purposefully active. Rather than sitting down with a bottle, get up to fetch a glass of water. Leave whatever you are doing and take a short stroll every couple of hours. Do exercises that pump up your heart rate. Not only will that help you burn calories, it will also improve your mood and motivation.
  • Since your digestion is sluggish, eat warming, spicy foods that have bitter, astringent, and pungent flavors. Pungent foods in particular can help clear the sinuses – a common health complaint of slow and steady people.
  • Sleep is the dearest word in your dictionary, and you like to get a lot of it – 8 hours, easily. But the tendency to oversleep also puts you at risk of sluggishness, lethargy, and, eventually, metabolic disorders. Get to bed a little after 10 pm and wake up before the sun rises, say around 5 am. We know it’s only 7 hours, but if you make the most of your light and quick energy (yes, you have it too, but in a smaller quantity) in this hour of transition from darkness to light, you won’t need more sleep.

The times of the day when you feel most sluggish are 6–10 in the morning and evening. Stay vigorously active during the morning slot and use the evening time to wind down. Stay especially active during the cold and wet months of the year.

Staying Intense, Not Irritable

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If you’ve never understood the phrase “too much of a good thing,” look at someone with an intense metabolic personality. You’d identify these focused and driven individuals easily; they’re the ones you think of when you think “fire.” One big problem with being serious, focused, and driven all the time is that there’s always a burnout lurking around the corner. Another is that not everyone around you can keep up with your pace, and that could fire up your naturally hot temper. The trick is to keep yourself cool.

  • Eat cooling foods like sweet, juicy fruits and bitter and astringent leafy greens. The high water content will do you good. Cut down hot, spicy, and sour foods. In a balanced state of health, your body will intuitively shun these tastes since they can give you heartburn and acid reflux.
  • Take scheduled breaks and head outdoors (not when the sun’s shining bright, though). Stay as close to nature as possible. Take leisurely walks or swim a few laps to calm your mind.
  • On days you cannot afford to take a break, treat yourself to some exclusive me-time in the evening. Massage your body with coconut oil, take a cold bath, play some soothing music, enjoy a light read, and then, just before hitting the bed, settle down for pranayama (sheetali) and meditation.
  • Sleep by 10 pm and wake up by 5:30 am. You are the type that loves to take on a new project past midnight and ends up compromising on sleep. So a strict sleep routine is a must.

Since your body temperature takes direct cues from the environment, afternoons (10–2 pm) can be challenging, especially in the summer months. Avoid stepping out in the sun, tone down your exercise regime, and add more fruits and herbal teas to your diet. Also remember to keep your room cool at night.

Balance Yourself

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Now that you have a basic idea about how to stay in balance, here’s a little exercise for you to try at home. We’ll tell you the qualities associated with your predominant energy and the opposites. Going by the principles of “like increases like” and “opposites balance each other,” find suitable activities. You’ll soon be able to draw up your own list of healthful activities.

Light and Quick
  • Inherent qualities: Dry, cold, light, quick, and moving
  • Opposite qualities: Moist, warm, heavy, slow, and steady
Slow and Steady
  • Inherent qualities: Cold, moist, heavy, slow, and steady
  • Opposite qualities: Hot, dry, light, fast, and mobile
Intense
  • Inherent qualities: Warm, oily, light, bright, and intense
  • Opposite qualities: Cool, dry, heavy, dull, and mild

How to Get Back to Balance

Canva - Woman Practicing YogaIn the course of your life, several things may happen that could change your innate metabolic personality or unique mix of functional energies – say, relocating to a new place or doing a job that demands odd hours – making you quite unlike yourself. Great if your body adapts to change and you don’t at all mind this new you, but such luck is rare. Sooner or later, the body tires of being someone it was never meant to be and you start experiencing an imbalance. You can’t always re-relocate or find a new job. So what do you do? You balance according to your symptoms.

Imbalance will always show up as changes or symptoms in your digestion, metabolism, sleep, brain function, bones and joints, and immunity. Keep an eye out for such changes.

Each symptom can be tied down to an excess in a particular functional energy. For instance, an uncharacteristic bout of heartburn means your digestive system has become overactive, something that is seen in people with more intense energy. On the other hand, feeling more sluggish than usual could mean that your energy expenditure is flawed, a problem that plagues people who have more slow and steady energy.

After you identify the energy/ies responsible for causing the symptoms, pacify them function by function. Or pacify whichever energy is triggering most of the symptoms.

Happy sleuthing! (Clues below)

Bones and Joints | Brain Function | Digestion | Metabolism | Immunity | Sleep

Health Is Holistic: Look at the Bigger Picture

How good are you at playing Sherlock when you have a health problem, something like a headache, an upset stomach, or a fever? Can you usually tell what the trigger is? Do you care about the root cause at all or are you a more “Put out the fire for now” kind of person and go straight for the symptoms?

Pinpointing the Cause

portrait of a beautiful girl
portrait of a beautiful girl

On some level, we are all closely in tune with our bodies. We are capable of tracing the little discomforts we feel to something we must have done during the day, something we overdid, did wrong, or did differently. We know what to blame – if not the exact cause, our guesses are pretty darn close.

Think about it. When you have trouble falling asleep, what are you most likely to pinpoint as the cause? You may say too much screen time, a late start to theday, a heavy dinner, too much caffeine, or racing thoughts. These are the more well-known triggers. You could be right.

There is a possibility, however, that the cause is entirely different and you are completely thrown off course – just because you couldn’t think of it. Would it strike you that maybe you didn’t exercise enough that day and so wasn’t tired enough to fall asleep? Or perhaps it was your nightcap that stole your z’s? Would it occur to you that your weekend sleep schedule was upsetting your body’s circadian rhythm or that an overactive thyroid gland was making you restless?

Our point is: the body systems, the core functions, are way too interconnected and interdependent for you to always be able to make the right associations.

Consider a blood sample. It has blood cells, hormones, oxygen, carbon dioxide, immune cells, toxins, antibodies, vitamins, minerals, and glucose – all of these elements from different body systems. That’s proof of the extent to which conversations are going on between your different body parts.

By consequence, a health glitch in one part is bound to affect other parts as well. Are you going to leave those unaddressed?

If your kidneys aren’t doing a good job of removing toxins from your liver, your liver is going to become a toxin storehouse, undergo damage, and give you chronic fatigue. While you try and correct your kidney function, you must also support your liver to withstand and overcome the backlash.

Here are some other interesting core function relationships that may surprise you:

  • Sleep and immunity: Sleep better and you will fall sick less often. Sleep increases the production of immune T cells in the body so that you’re better at fighting off disease.
  • Digestion and bones: Digest your food well and your bones will get stronger. There’s no point eating nutritious food if your body can’t make use of the nutrients in them. Some of these nutrients are building blocks for your bones.
  • Immunity and brain function: Strengthen your immunity and your memory will improve. Microglial cells of the immune system play a role in generating nerve cells in your brain’s memory center, the hippocampus.

The Better Approach

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To enjoy a quality of health you can sustain, the better approach is to err on the side of caution and keep all your core functions in balance. They can take care of each other and internally make up for any imbalances in one or the other. This approach works because that’s exactly how the body works – no divides, no separation of body and mind, and no obsession with organ system microcosms.

So when you have an upset stomach, do what you need to immediately do to support your digestion and normalize your stools, like avoiding spicy food and having more fiber. At the same time, make sure you’re supporting your other core functions as well like immunity, brain function, and your bones. Infections and stress, too, can cause an upset stomach while your bones will bear the brunt of poorly digested food.

The body is complicated. Instead of trying to oversimplify your understanding of how it works, simplify your approach to healthy living. Do right by all your core functions and always bear in mind the bigger picture.

Take a look at each of the following core functions and find out what you need to do to stay in balance.

Bones and Joints | Brain Function | Digestion | Metabolism | Immunity | Sleep

How Do Supplements Help Our Body Balance Itself?

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At first, there was food.

Mostly seasonal fruits, roots and tubers, leaves, flowers, and tree bark. Then scampered in meat. The veggies came later, when our nomadic foremothers and forefathers dug their roots in.

Then came supplements.

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The first ones were the vitamin pills. They emerged as the scourge for scurvy, and other deficiency diseases. So far so good. Dare we deny a pill in the face of a dire want and no time to lose? But then, haunted by the specter of deficiency, we began popping more and more of these pills, scared that our diets weren’t enough.

Shortly after, we moved on to something extra, not to prevent diagnosable deficiencies but to prevent diseases altogether. Superfood extracts (green tea extract or blueberry extract) or, for more bang for the buck, the superstars that make superfoods (curcumin, resveratrol, or the omega-3s).

Then we thought up radical supplements that could altogether replace food as we know it, love it, drool over, and bond over. These started with the seemingly harmless protein bars and shakes and ended with fat substitutes and meal replacement liquids.

Together, these sounded like an invite to the garden of good health by the fountain of eternal youth!

But they are not what meets the eye

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Processed with VSCO with kp1 preset

Study after study has found that such supplements cannot help our body balance itself. On the contrary, they may upset the fine balance our body has been building up ever since its womb-days.

Even if we turn a blind eye to the lack of variety of nutrients as well as the presence of anti-nutrients in the food replacements, our body doesn’t. These are not food as our body has come to understand and accept over millions of years of evolution – that is whole food deriving nourishment organically from nature. Our high-strung immune system tags these foods as “suspicious strangers” and triggers inflammation, which eventually spreads to the entire body. So much for balance.

It’ll probably take us a few more evolutionary jump cuts before the body makes friends with these strangers.

Even the vitamin, mineral, or antioxidant supplements fall short on their promise.

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First, these isolated ingredients get zero support from the food matrix in whole food.* Which is why vitamin C from pills is not as efficient as an equal amount of C from orange juice.

Not as efficient is a best-case scenario, however. In the worst case, the isolated ingredient can be harmful. Plenty of evidence shows how synthetic folic acid gives rise to a number of side effects that food folate doesn’t.

Second, each of us needs different amounts of micronutrients, however microscopic. With all the fortified foods we eat, there’s always a risk of overdosing on mass-produced one-dose-for-all-adults supplement pills. That’s a health risk. Fat-soluble vitamins stay in the body, unused. And while the water-soluble ones are flushed out, when in excess, some (read vitamin B6) can do enough damage in that short time. Isolated antioxidants are a whole other scarefest.

Third, supplementation for a long time can render our body incapable of working on its own. It’s like we forget certain skills when we outsource certain tasks. So if we’ve been constantly pumping in vitamin D, it’s going to take our body a whole lotta time to relearn the ropes of D-making again.

What’s really funny (in a sad way), though, is that unhealthy eaters who take these supplements needn’t bother to because these alone are never going to help. And healthy eaters who take these supplements don’t need to because they’re getting most of it from healthy foods.

Healthy eaters could instead focus on making food more functional, that is getting more out of what they are eating. By processing food the right way. Or by making the body more efficient with a little help from the third type of supplements.

Some supplements, however, have long complemented our diet.

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We have been using them for ever. As herbs and spices. Asian, Mediterranean, and Caucasian diets have always been spice and herb-heavy, which speaks to their superior health and longevity.

For the sake of clarity and distinction, let’s call these complements. A complement is what is needed to make a whole. It’s not an add-on. If we get down to the basics, food itself is a complement to the process called life. As are water and air.

Herbs and spices are not much different from food anyway.

Canva - Onion Rings on Gray Bowl

At the molecular level, food is made up of macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) that run the show and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that stage-manage.

So are spices and herbs. Of course, they do not have a lot of macros to offer. But they more than make up for it with micros of a special type called antioxidants.

Our body has an internal store of antioxidants, in the form of enzymes (glutathione, catalase, superoxide peroxidase, etc.) and hormones (melatonin, estradiol, etc.). Food supplies the rest. Plant food also offers a wide variety of potent antioxidant groups like polyphenols, carotenoids, and alkaloids besides vitamins and minerals. Together, our body’s antioxidants and those from food neutralize highly reactive cell-damaging molecules called free radicals.

Free radicals are the bugbear of this century and antioxidants are the knights in shining armor. There’s a twist in the tale, however. Free radicals are produced during as essential natural processes as breathing. They are also generated upon exposure to unavoidable things like UV rays and exercise or ubiquitous toxins like cigarette smoke and pesticides. So a body without free radicals is one that has stopped breathing. Plus, they are not bad beyond redemption. They are routinely deployed by the immune system to kill pathogens.

Complements help balance the oxidant–antioxidant equation

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A delicate balance between free radicals and antioxidants is essential for us to thrive. Our own antioxidants and food maintain it well in an ideal world. But in the real world, toxins find many a sneaky route into our body, tipping the balance in favor of free radicals. Even a healthy diet falls short of the mark, and it takes our body a few days to rebalance. How do we then maintain the balance?

Not by adding isolated or synthetic antioxidant supplements, that’s for sure. Antioxidants don’t function as well without the food matrix. Worse, there’s also the risk that in large quantities, they defect and join the free radical squad.

Nor by digging through bigger heaps of food on larger plates. We need to eat smart.

Enter herbs and spices. Even the little amount we use to temper, garnish, or flavor offers a gamut of antioxidant plant chemicals. Each of these comes with a unique skillset to defuse different types of free radicals.

With herbs and spices, as with food, variety is key.

There are of course some helpful herbs and spices that are not part of our conventional diets because they are not grown locally or we haven’t developed the palate for them. We could still include them in our diet in their dried and powdered form or as teas.

Complements help balance other body functions

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Fire-fighting (literally) free radicals is just one of the many skills on the resumé of these complement herbs and spices. Integrating themselves into many pathways in our body, they increase its efficiency in several functional areas.

  • Metabolism

Many herbs modulate the enzymes that speed up various biochemical reactions in the body. Enzymes need specific microenvironments to function their best. The herbs can either crank up or dampen their efficiency, depending on what our body needs to stay in balance.

Amla or Indian gooseberry inhibits carb-degrading enzymes (α-glucosidase and α-amylase) in the small intestine when the blood glucose levels keep rising during a meal. This makes sure there’s less glucose for the intestine to absorb and release into the blood. With the blood glucose balance maintained, our body has a better shot at steady energy rather than highs and lows on cue from food.

On the other end of the spectrum, bitter herbs like aloe vera or andrographis stimulate liver enzymes to increase bile production. Bile breaks down fats. The right metabolism of fats has a lot to do for our health – for starters, more vitality and smaller spare tyres despite the french fries and burgers we may occasionally devour.

  • Immunity

Another crucial thing that herbs, like food, do is balance our immune response. It’s critical that our immune system responds to threats appropriately. Any less, we’d be capitulating to infections; any more, we’d be burning out inside with chronic inflammation.

Amla, on the one hand, can activate immune cells like macrophages, natural killer cells, and B and T cells. On the other, it can inhibit chemicals that carry signals for inflammation.

Andrographis, likewise, can activate the production of antibodies. But it can also do an about-face and stop immune cells from traveling across the body.

  • Sleep

It’s not just about regulating one function, though. A single herb can help balance more than one function. Talk about versatility.

Take chamomile, the old reliable for the poor sleeper. It has a compound called apigenin that functions similar to a nerve-calming chemical called GABA (γ-aminobutyric acid) and activates the same pathways for good sleep.

  • Digestion

But that’s not all chamomile does. It also helps keep the muscle contractions in the food tract regular. As food passes at a regular rate, we absorb nutrients better.

Bay leaf, on the other hand, slows down the passage of food through the intestines so that more nutrients are absorbed. It also helps reduce the quantity of fluids released by our intestinal walls, so that we don’t lose water through stool.

This is not the doing of a star player, however. A number of bay leaf flavonoids, alkaloids, and tannates make it a team event.

  • Mental well-being

Likewise, curcumin takes the credit for everything good turmeric does. But in molecular reality, there are actually a whopping 235 identified compounds working in tandem in these yellow roots. Besides fighting free radicals, turmeric also helps improve mood.

It can inhibit two enzymes called monoamine oxidase A and B that catalyze the oxidation (read destruction) of dopamine and serotonin. Dopamine and serotonin are nerve chemicals linked to a happy state of mind.

Velvet beans too have a similar effect but via a different mechanism. Their seeds contain L-dopa or levodopa, which is the building block for dopamine. They may even have some serotonin. These can restock our personal “happy hormone” store. Though a source of protein in South Asia, velvet bean seeds are not part of a conventional American diet. The best way to get them may be dried organic seed powder.

Let’s step up to the plate

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We need natural supplements as we need food, but the right kind. The kind we call complements. The kind that is as close to their natural form as possible. The kind that is capable of making our bodies better managers of food, sleep, time, and energy.

Nothing’s better than being able to incorporate more of these naturally into our diets. But if we can’t, the second best option is to get them in a dried, powdered, or tea form, without any additives or preservatives.

Happy balancing to us!


Notes

1. Food matrix: Food does what it does to our body not just because of its ingredients but also because of how the ingredients are all bound together in an intricate physical and chemical structure. This structure is the food matrix. It can support or suppress an ingredient’s availability and function in the body.

How to Beat the Big Bad Three: Trans Fats, Sugar, and Refined Foods

If you are reading this, you’ve surely started eating clean or are planning to start, very soon. Congratulations! You’re off to a great start.

Clean eating is great. But with all the noise surrounding what maketh a balanced meal – with butter, without butter? Eggs every day? Only the whites? White rice or brown bread? – it can be challenging to create a healthy plate.

However, while the nutrition science community continues the battle on eggs and butter, there are two things they all agree with.

  • Have more plant produce than meats and animal products.
  • Get rid of trans fats, sugar, and refined (processed) foods.

Why should you have more plant produce?

While animal foods have more fat and protein, plant produce has it all, carbs (starch and fiber), proteins, healthy unsaturated fats, vitamins, minerals, and other plant nutrients (that often act as antioxidants).

Why should you get rid of trans fats, sugar, and refined foods?

These are involved in a number of health problems.

  • Artificial trans fats are linked with heart disease risk, diabetes, and inflammation. Trans fats found in nature (some fatty cuts of beef and lamb) are not linked with such health risks.
  • Added sugar is linked with obesity, diabetes, fatty liver, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, depression, and cancer.
  • Refined or over-processed foods can cause obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and some types of cancer.

Now, we know it’s tough to stick to a diet that starts with eliminating foods that are such a big part of your daily meals because of convenience or because of taste.

So our suggestion is that you make a list of things you typically eat in a day and find natural or less harmful replacements, step by step. Don’t start replacing everything in a single day.

We’ll get you started.

Trans Fats

Thankfully, you can stop worrying about the trans fats. The FDA banned the use of trans fats completely in 2018, which means most products on the US market today are trans-fat-free.

Unless, of course, you are traveling out of the country or are holding on to some old stock of packaged goodies.

In such cases, look up the labels on the packages for an ingredient called “partially hydrogenated (any) oil.” Even if the package says “zero trans fat,” it could contain 0.5 g/per serving trans fat (this was permitted before 2018, not anymore).

The usual suspects are any baked goods (pie crusts, cookies, biscuits, crackers, cakes), processed meats, coffee creamer, microwave popcorn, margarine and other spreads, and vegetable shortening.

Trans fats are not necessary, but fats are, even saturated fats, in small quantities. Have nuts, seeds, and fatty fish and go right ahead and drizzle that teaspoonful of butter and ghee on your food.

Sugar

The writing on the wall is clear: sugar is public enemy no. 1. But when the enemy is so sweet, it’s tough to quit.

You don’t need to quit all sugars, certainly not the natural sugars found in fruits and veggies.

You don’t need to altogether quit the added sugar like in table sugar, honey, fruit juices, sodas, and syrups either. Granted, added sugar is just a taste enhancer, not a nutritional necessity, but taste is a biiig reason for us to stick to diets and for diets to work for us.

So within reason – which equals 6 teaspoons (25 g/100 cal) for women and 9 teaspoons (36 g/150 cal) for men – you can still have added sugar.

But with about 74% of the packaged foods you eat containing sugar, even foods that don’t taste sweet – bread, cereals, yogurt, pasta sauce – you are probably already eating more than you should.

What should you do?

If you are of a slow and steady metabolic type, you’ve probably already taken our diet recommendation seriously and have been cutting down on sweet foods (natural or otherwise). But if you are not, this is how you can control your sweet tooth.

Read Labels

Read labels on packaged foods. Always. Even if they say “healthy,” “wholesome,” or “organic,” track the “added sugar” amounts (thanks to a new rule by the FDA in 2018, you should be able to see this now) in the packaged food items you are likely to have in a day, say, cereals, fruit juice, yogurt, bread, granola bar, candies, sauces, salad dressing, canned soups, ice cream, etc. Choose whichever has the least sugar.

Less added sugar = more health.

Compare and Choose

Ideally, now the “added sugar” info should be enough to help you choose your food, but if you want to be extra-careful, look for the other names for sugar – there are a whopping 61! Some are easy to identify because they contain “sugar” in the name, while those like cane juice crystals, dextrin, and ethyl maltol, are trickier (you will find a ready list here).

Some high-fructose varieties, like agave nectar or syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, and fruit juice concentrates, though marketed as organic, natural, or diabetic-friendly are more harmful. So if you find these listed in a food item, keep the food back on the shelf.

Added sugar is made of glucose and fructose. Since glucose is thought to be the cause of diabetes, sugar manufacturers have been marketing low-glucose high-fructose sugars as healthy alternatives. But that’s far from the truth. Fructose is processed only in the liver, and anytime there’s an overload, the liver quickly stores it as fat, giving you a sugar belly and later liver failure. Fructose can also make you insensitive to insulin, leading to diabetes, and the satiety hormone (leptin), making you overeat and setting off a vicious cycle.

Replace

  • Cereals: You need energy in the morning, but it’s best not to get it from sugar-laden cereals. Why not swap the fancy fruity breakfast cereals with whole grains like oats or quinoa? They have more fiber and protein, and unless you add it, no sugar. Add fresh sweet fruits to sweeten it up, and a drizzle of honey if you must. If you want to top it up with dried fruits, stick to a handful. They are concentrated sources of sugar.
  • Jam, jelly, syrup: Who can deny the goodness that jam on warm bread and maple syrup on hot pancakes are? Maybe reserve them for special days? On other days, chop up seasonal fruits and serve on whole grain bread. You could even grind them coarsely, mix a teaspoon of honey, and add a pinch of cinnamon powder for flavor.
  • Fruit juice: If you have access to it, have a whole fruit, not 100 percent fruit juice or even fresh prepared fruit juice. Fruits have fructose, but the fructose is bound to fiber, vitamins, and other helpful nutrients. Which means, the fructose itself reaches the liver slowly and can be processed without being stored up as fat. Juicing removes the helpful fiber. It goes without saying, of course, no matter how much you like mangoes, a mango diet is a no-no. At the end of the day, it’s still way too much fructose and your liver doesn’t know it’s coming from a natural source.

Remove

Sodas, energy drinks, and sports drinks: Hot days, bad days, sad days … there’s never a good reason to have sodas, not even diet sodas (sugar’s not the only harmful chemical on earth)! And no reason for energy drinks if you have a good diet. Sports drinks are rarely necessary for the average person, who is not involved in strenuous high-intensity or endurance sports. Water and a good meal afterward may be good enough.

Make It Yourself

If you can free up a few hours on a weekend, you can make granola bars, sauces, soups, and salad dressings at home in sufficient amount to last you a while. Not only are you going to use the best-quality stuff you can afford, you will also be able to control how much sugar or salt is going in them. It’s a matter of a few minutes to cook a salsa sauce or mix a vinaigrette dressing. Of course, you may not be able to make all the sauces at home. In such cases, again, check the label and find low-sugar and low-salt (sodium) alternatives.

Tackle Cravings

When emotions run high, can sweet treats be far behind? But hey, candies, chocolate, cakes, and ice cream are treats meant to be enjoyed occasionally. They can’t be your chill pill for stressful days!

Craving a sweet food? Drink a big gulp of water. Wait around. Drink another. Still picturing that treat? Bring out your hidden stash of dates, raisins, berries, and nuts. Much better, isn’t it? At least you won’t beat yourself up with guilt anymore.

If you can, make cookies and cakes from scratch, using healthier alternatives (almond flour for refined flour, perhaps; keep reading for more options). Cooking involves your senses and increases satisfaction. It’s likely you’d feel satiated with a smaller portion. And it soles the pesky cravings that won’t be fooled by raisins or dates.

Limit Added Sugar

Whether it is table sugar, cane sugar, brown rice syrup, raw sugar, brown sugar, or even honey, limit to just 100 (for women) and 150 (men) calories. Organic honey does seem to be a healthier option because it supposedly contains antioxidants, but the benefit may be small. Still, you can replace the table sugar in some of your dishes with organic honey.

Look for Sugar Alternatives

You could use artificial sweeteners like acesulfame potassium (acesulfame K), aspartame, saccharin, sucralose, neotame, advantame, and stevia, all of which the FDA approves. The science community is on the fence about the benefits and risks of these sweeteners. While so far there’s no concrete evidence that these are more harmful than sugar, they may push you toward overeating because artificial sweeteners do not satisfy your brain (which wants the real sugar). Be on your guard.

Refined (Processed) Foods

As you try to fix your menu for the day, you will probably find that there’s no way to completely avoid processed foods.

One, because most people do not have access to fresh veggies, fruits, fish, and meat through the year, if at all. Two, because most foods are processed. Any food that has been altered, even slightly, is processed – for instance, veggies frozen to increase their shelf life or chickpeas ground into hummus – and it doesn’t necessarily mean unhealthy.

Tip: Look for the American Heart Association’s Heart-Check mark on the packaged food. It should help you choose the healthier processed foods you can fit into your diet.

But you should watch out for over-processed or refined food, which typically loses many of its nutrients like fiber, B vitamins, and essential minerals while being processed. Adding these nutrients later into the refined product does NOT make it as healthy as the natural or lightly processed version. Most refined foods are also too high in sugar, salt, and fat for comfort.

Tip: You can understand whether a packaged food is refined or over-processed by looking at the label. The more ingredients listed on the label, the higher its chance of being refined.

As you try to fill your plate, think of the staples you typically need. The best option is to replace them with whole food when you can and control portions when you can’t.

Veggies and Fruits

Even if you don’t have access to a farmer’s market, take it easy. Cut or frozen vegetables are the least processed items in the supermarket. In fact, frozen fruits and vegetables can sometimes be more nutritious than fresh varieties because they are frozen when their nutrient content is at its peak. If you buy canned fruits, choose those with the least salt (sodium) and sugar content.

Bread, Pasta, or Rice (Grains)

Look at the color. If it’s white, it’s refined. Choose whole wheat bread and pasta over white flour products and brown rice over white rice. White flour has much less fiber and vitamins than whole wheat flour. White rice mainly contains carbs, while brown rice (the whole grain version) contains the bran (fiber, vitamins, and plant nutrients), the germ (protein, vitamins, fats, and minerals), and the endosperm (carbs). Also explore other healthy options like antioxidant-rich black rice (turns purple when cooked), red rice, protein-rich wild rice (not really a rice, rather a grass seed), chickpea flour, almond flour, coconut flour, buckwheat flour, brown rice flour, oat flour, and spelt flour.

  • Light and quick: coconut flour, brown rice flour, almond flour, and all types of rice
  • Slow and steady: chickpea flour, buckwheat flour, oat flour, wild rice, quinoa, red rice, and basmati – in general choose long-grain rice over short grains because they are easy to digest, but keep the portion small
  • Intense: spelt flour, coconut flour, brown rice flour, wild rice, and basmati

Meat and Fish

If you are looking at processed meat (smoked, cured, salted, or dried) for your protein staple, look elsewhere – maybe, the frozen section if you can’t find a local butcher for fresh cuts. Frozen meat isn’t as bad as cold cuts or deli meats. It doesn’t contain harmful additives. Yes, that means bidding goodbye to hot dogs, sausages, bacon, ham, pepperoni, salami, corned beef, and beef jerky, most days of the month. When it comes to fish, choose a low-salt canned variety and leave alone the breaded fish.

Tip: Animal produce doesn’t have to be the only source of protein in your diet. Beans and pulses are an excellent source too. Explore “meatalikes” like tofu and tempeh.

  • Light and quick: You can eat more meat than the other two body types, just make sure, it’s well cooked and fresh. Instead of a deli sandwich, how about packing a whole wheat bread sandwich with a canned tuna filling? You can add a small amount of cheese.
  • Slow and steady: You are supposed to have less meat. So make yourself a sandwich with Ezekiel bread (sprouted wheat), tomatoes, lettuce, boiled eggs, and homemade yogurt.
  • Intense: Instead of a deli sandwich loaded with cheese and cured meat for lunch, try a whole wheat pita wrap with hummus and falafel. It’s best for you to stick to more veggies.

Dairy

Almost all dairy products you have are processed. Even milk has to be pasteurized. Rather than looking for no-fat or low-fat varieties, go for full-fat milk, cheese, and yogurt, especially if the source is grass-fed dairy. Look for the organic label. It gives some guarantee that the cattle is at least 30% grass fed. Full-fat dairy is particularly good for a light and quick metabolic personality.

It’s better to get your cheese from a cheese counter rather than off the shelves. If that’s not possible, choose cheese blocks over slices and shredded cheese. You’ll have more control over the portion size (especially important if you are slow and steady because you should have very little). Choose soft, unsalted cheese if you have an intense or slow and steady metabolic personality.

Cheese is one of those things you should cut down on. It’s healthy only in moderate quantities, even if it is fresh and organic.

If you have the time, energy, and the will, instead of buying flavored and sweetened yogurt, you can make your own supply with the least effort. It will probably have more good bacteria than many store-bought ones promise.

Nuts and Seeds

You may think flavored nuts and seeds (paprika coated, wasabi dusted, or soy drenched) are a great snack to keep your nutrition quotient high, but you’re not getting the whole story. They also pack in quite a bit of salt and sugar. Favor good ol’ unflavored nuts and seeds. Soak them or roast them.

  • Light and quick: all varieties of nuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds
  • Slow and steady: charole nuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds
  • Intense: charole nuts, raw and desiccated coconut, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds

We know you know some foods like french fries, potato chips, cookies, candy bars, fruit juices, sodas, and sweetened coffees, and ready-to-eat packaged meals are non-negotiable because they have very little nutrition to offer. Even if they claim to be low-carb, even if you are running low on time.

But if one day, you are craving one of these, or you’re eating out at a restaurant, or you have no control over your meal, go ahead and enjoy it without any qualms.

We know, 9 days out of 10, you are vigilant!

How To Create A Balanced Meal

You’re here. Our guess is that you’re confused or unconvinced about what a balanced meal looks like. You may have had a go at a couple of diet dos and don’ts but nothing really struck a chord with you or stuck, and now you’re more determined than ever to crack the code for the sake of your health. cue champion music

If you’ve been listening to anything we’ve been saying, you’re also probably wondering what a balanced meal looks like for your unique metabolic personality (prakruti). We’ll get there in a bit. But first, let’s address the killjoy: overthinking.

Intuitive Eating: Don’t Overthink It, You’ll Just Know

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Most people overthink when trying to eat healthy, trying to nail every single food group, keep within calorie counts, keep up with diet trends, mimic diet plans of fit celebrities – the stress of it all is enough to trigger a burgers-and-fries spree. Some may even complain that they barely get time to sit down and eat a proper meal, forget plan it. Hear! Hear!

But what if we told you that you could let go of all this unnecessary stress? That healthy eating can come down to strong hunches? And that there’s thousands of years of Ayurvedic science to vouch for it?

You’re welcome.

So, here’s what you do. Stop looking for your dietary answers everywhere else but within.

A downright basic instinct like eating has to come from how you feel on the inside. Like when you see a food, smell it, and taste it, how you feel immediately after eating it and then the morning after.

What’s fascinating is you’ll naturally prefer foods that balance your metabolic personality – without even realizing it! Think about it. Over the years, your body has created a roster of foods that make it feel good and those that don’t. That programming has already happened. What you need to do now is just be more aware and feed into it.

So, intuitively decide what you should cook today, which dish you should order from a menu, or which sections you should skip at a buffet. Intuitive eating is your best and safest bet as far as your diet goes, and trust us, it will never fail you.

But what about those intense cravings for chocolates or fries or coffee? Is it okay to indulge then? Isn’t that your body telling you what it wants?

Umm, no, that’s just your mind messing with you. Feel-good foods like these are mostly about immediate gratification and do nothing for your health, when they’re not harming you. However, if it’s natural, whole foods that you’re craving, like grape juice or oatmeal or stewed apples, give in because that’s probably your body saying “I need this.”

Now no one expects you to reach zen levels of intuitive eating overnight. It’ll take time to re-sensitize your taste buds to tastes and textures of foods that are right for you, but give it that time. And go at your own pace. At the end of the day, you should be enjoying what you eat, not punishing yourself.

Eat Seasonally and Locally: Whole, Unprocessed, Fresh

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This is so, so important and should be your starting point, even before tapping into your intuition.

Just by sticking to fresh, whole fruits and vegetables of the season, you’ll be doing yourself a HUGE favor. It avoids the whole problem of processed foods that you often don’t know enough about (danger! danger!).

Seasonal produce is also in tune with, well, the seasons – like kiwifruit in spring, watermelons in summer, cranberries in the fall, and oranges in the winter. This is important because you need to balance out the effects of the weather too. Your body reacts and behaves differently in summer than it does in winter, doesn’t it?

By buying groceries from a local market, you’ll also be supporting your local economy!

Eat For YOU: Cater to Your Metabolic Personality

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So, you’re buying your seasonal produce and playing your hunches. If you did only this and nothing else, you already have loads to gain.

But once you’re feeling a little more confident in your food choices, you could start looking at your meals through these very chic metabolic personality lenses.

This is not meant to be restrictive or controlling in any way. Everybody can eat everything in moderation – excluding foods to which you are allergic or that are not good for health conditions you may have. What you need to take a second look at is the foods that are your staples, your go-tos – they should balance your prakruti.

So, say you’re trying out a new Korean restaurant around the block, by all means, experiment! But say you become a regular there, it would help to know which items on the menu are better suited for you. We promise it’s not as complicated as it sounds!

Qualities to Look Out For

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Processed with VSCO with e4 preset

Memorize the qualities applicable to you so you don’t have to constantly refer to long lists of foods to eat and avoid [use the mnemonics if you need help remembering]. Your intuitive sense will soon catch up.

  • Light and Quick: heavy, warm, oily/moist, smooth [Haley wears orange socks]
  • Slow and Steady: light, warm, dry, rough [Lisa wears dotted ribbons]
  • Intense: cool/cold, heavy, dry, mild [Cindy has denim mittens]

You’ll notice that the qualities of food you need to look for are the opposite of your own body’s qualities.

[P.S. Let none of this overwhelm you. Don’t go looking for that PERFECT meal, but try to put a little thought into your food before it’s in your mouth. Maybe start with the warm or cool foods first?]

Prioritize the qualities in the order they’re given. So say you’re predominantly ‘slow and steady’, the lightness of the food is most important for you, more so than the food being warm. If given the choice between refrigerated cauliflower (light and cool) and freshly cooked beet (dense and warm), pick refrigerated cauliflower because that’s how important lightness is for you.

Let’s look at a different scenario. Say you’re ‘intense’ and you know tomatoes are not great for you but you still want to eat them, choose roasted tomatoes or a tomato salad over a tomato soup because dry trumps moist for the ‘intense’ type.

For those of you who need a crash course in identifying qualities in food, continue reading. If you feel you already have a good sense, skip to the shortcuts.

Pinpointing the Qualities of Foods

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Unless you’re eating fruits as is or vegetables in something like a simple salad, it can get tricky putting your finger on the qualities of a dish. But not if you have a clear understanding of what you’re looking for!

  • Light vs. Heavy: The weight or density of the food

Light: salads, popcorn, apples, spinach, honey

Dense: root vegetables, bread, red meat, stewed fruits, bananas, dairy, nuts and seeds (don’t go for very heavy foods like deep-fries or canned/processed foods; they are out-and-out unhealthy)

  • Warm vs. Cool: In temperature or the effect on your body

Warm: warm in temperature (soup, hot beverage) or warming to your body (chilis, most spices, mangoes, alcohol)

Cool: cold in temperature (refrigerated leftovers, frozen food, chilled soda) or cooling to your body (mint, cucumber, beets)

The effect on your body may sometimes be straightforward as with chilis and mint, but in other cases like for mangoes or beets, it may take some reading up to build that knowledge.

  • Dry vs Oily or Moist: Pretty straightforward; dryness vs the greasiness or water content of the food

Dry: dried fruits, popcorn, wine (drying to the mouth), crackers, white potatoes, beans

Oily: avocado, cheese, fried eggs, nuts and seeds, olives

Moist: soups, stews, melons, zucchini, yogurt

  • Rough vs Smooth: Again straightforward; go by the texture of the food

Rough: cabbage, cauliflower, dark leafy greens like kale

Smooth: bananas, avocados, soft cheese, pudding, puréed soup

  • Mild vs. Sharp: The kick in the taste is the giveaway

Mild: cucumbers, apples, lime juice

Sharp: vinegar, pineapples, pickles, nicotine, caffeine, hard alcohol

Some Shortcuts You Can Use Immediately

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As you train yourself to look at ingredients and dishes a little more closely, here’s what you can do immediately:

Light and Quick:

  • Have 4–5 smaller meals in the day instead of the standard 3 square ones
  • Eat well-cooked, warm food
  • Top your food with oil or ghee and digestive spices (bay leaves, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, garlic, paprika, turmeric)
  • Eat at the same time every day so you have a routine

Slow and Steady:

  • Serve yourself smaller portions
  • Make sure your food is warm or freshly cooked
  • Add digestive spices whenever you can (ginger, garlic, oregano, turmeric, black pepper, cayenne, cumin)
  • Cook your vegetables

Intense:

  • Cook your food well and serve it warm
  • Top it with oil or ghee and digestive spices (fresh basil, coriander, cardamom, mint)
  • Eat at the same time every day and eat in a peaceful environment so you are more aware of what you’re eating and don’t end up overeating

When, How Much? Listen to Your Body, Not Your Mind

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Eat when you’re hungry. If you keep up an eating schedule, you’ll feel hungry around the same time every day. To know whether you’re really hungry, look for signs from your body instead of your mind. You’ll hear your stomach growl, you’ll feel a pit in your stomach, and if you wait too long, you may even feel a headache coming on.

Your body will also tell you how much to eat. Eat till you’re almost full – when you can eat more but you know you’ll feel stuffed if you do.

Don’t confuse yourself with the gazillion rules out there about whether breakfast should be your biggest meal of the day (according to the Western diet) or lunch should be your biggest (according to Ayurveda). Like we said, just focus on eating till you are almost full. What most diets are in agreement with, though, is that dinner should be your lightest meal of the day, only practical if you’ve at least had one other heavier meal.

Don’t Forget to Balance Your Food Groups

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Now that you know how to balance your meals according to your prakruti, it’s time to account for food groups as well. The goal is to get in a healthy mix of protein, complex carbohydrates, fibrous veggies, and a little bit of fat.

Yes FAT. Despite all the misinformation that may have reached your ears, your body needs it, healthy versions of it. It’s no coincidence that your brain is at least 60% fat and four major vitamins, A, D, E, and K, are fat soluble!

Include all three types of fat in your diet – saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated – roughly in equal proportions (⅓, ⅓, ⅓).

  • Saturated fat: animal fats (red meat, butter, ghee), tropical oils (coconut oil)
  • Monounsaturated fat: most nuts (almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, peanuts/peanut butter), avocados, olives/olive oil
  • Polyunsaturated fat: most other oils; like oily fish, walnuts, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds

Here, too, remember to factor in the nature of the food and lean toward those that help you stay in balance. A few other pointers:

  • Choose fats that are unprocessed (goodbye trans fats!): Stick to whole foods, foods that are naturally oily (deep fries aren’t). This gets tricky with cooking oils because, unless you’re making them from scratch, all commercially available oils have undergone some degree of processing. Since you most likely won’t have the luxury of avoiding them, at least cultivate a preference for ‘extra virgin’ and ‘cold pressed’.
  • Get more omega-3s than omega-6s: Excess of omega 6s is bad for your heart. Don’t completely avoid them though, you still need them.
  • Decide how much fat you need based on your metabolic personality: Overall, ‘light and quick’ individuals need a little more oiliness in their system, while the ‘slow and steady’ need a little less. So, ‘light and quick’ meat eaters could do with fatty cuts, while ‘slow and steady’ meat eaters should have leaner cuts.

Now assuming that you’ve responsibly included some fat in your meal (as toppings like chopped nuts or a drizzle of oil or as cooking oil or as a side of sliced avocados), if there were to be a drone hovering over your plate, here’s what it should look like:

Certain Foods Just Don’t Go Well Together

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Either they leave you confused as their tastes clash (sour green apples and sweet figs), they are both difficult to digest (eggs and cheese are both protein), they digest at different rates (fruit digests quicker than dairy), or they make you really feeeel the weather (chilis in summer!).

Remember when we said not to overthink? We meant it. So, go with your gut here as well. If you know certain food combos make you feel heavy and sluggish or give you acidity or an upset stomach, avoid them.

We would, however, like to introduce you to the 3 loners that like to be loners:

Protein: Don’t have different types of protein in the same meal; go with one. Maybe don’t club bacon and ham in your sandwich or fish and milk in your curry?

Fruit: Keep your fruits separate. They’re best eaten on their own and preferably grouped according to taste, like apples and pears. If you must add them to dishes, add smaller quantities and cook them first.

Milk: Consider milk to be a meal on its own. You’re still good to have it with oatmeal though. With fruits? Best not make that your normal.

Now we know a lot of popular dishes like pancakes, fruit-flavored yogurts, even pizza don’t follow these rules. But maybe next time you have something like that, make it a point to notice how heavy or light you feel or if there’s any uneasiness caused. Take a call accordingly.

Also, if you must have a food combo that is not ideal, at least try topping it with digestive herbs and/or spices.

Cooking for the Family

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Oh, the task of pleasing everyone’s metabolic personalities! Right? Not really. Like we said, just cook seasonal foods, that’s the most important rule. To meet everyone’s unique needs, add toppings separately. Keep them in small containers on the dining table so that your family members can easily reach out for them.

Meals You Know But Could Make Your Own

This is just to give you an idea and is in no way restrictive. Pick and choose what you like from your relevant list (don’t include the meats if you’re vegetarian or vegan) and apply the logic to whatever else you eat.

BREAKFAST

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  • Light and Quick: eggs + buttered toast + cheese + mashed sweet potatoes + bacon + avocados + orange juice + PB&J + coffee creamy & sweet (only cup for the day)
  • Slow and Steady: toast without butter + eggs + mushrooms + roasted tomatoes + mashed white potatoes + berries + black coffee (only cup for the day)
  • Intense: unsalted butter and toast + baked beans + mashed white potato + apple/watermelon juice + fruit salad + no-cream coffee sweetened with organic maple syrup/cane sugar (only cup for the day)

LUNCH

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Pasta

  • Light and Quick: whole wheat pasta + sautéed vegetables (carrots, peas, zucchini, fennel stalks, leeks) + roasted chicken + black pepper + pecans + parmesan’s cheese + cow’s milk
  • Slow and Steady: soba or buckwheat noodles + red pepper purée as the base + sautéed vegetables (broccoli, red bell peppers, asparagus, peas) + black pepper + goat’s cheese
  • Intense: white sauce pasta (not tomato based) + sautéed vegetables (broccoli, carrots, leeks, peas, bell peppers) + roasted chicken/shrimp + cow’s milk + soft cheese

Cobb salad

  • Light and Quick: hard-boiled eggs + bacon + chicken breast + avocados + lettuce + red wine vinaigrette + Roquefort cheese (soft)
  • Slow and Steady: hard-boiled eggs + tomatoes + lettuce + chives + chicken leg (not the breast) + red wine vinaigrette (in small amounts) + goat’s cheese (feta)
  • Intense: chicken breast + avocados + lettuce + Shiitake mushrooms (baked in strips) + red wine vinaigrette (in small amounts)/ lime juice + Roquefort cheese (soft)

Deli sandwich/Cuban sandwich

  • Light and Quick: chicken breast/dark turkey meat/beef/eggs + cheddar cheese + lettuce + onions + mayonnaise/mustard + ketchup
  • Slow and Steady: light or dark turkey meat/catfish/eggs + goat’s cheese + tomatoes + bell peppers + lettuce + onions + mustard [+ sausages/ham only if there’s lemon juice + bitter greens like kale]
  • Intense: chicken breast/light turkey meat + soft cheese (Roquefort) + lettuce + onions + sweet bell peppers + mayonnaise [+ sausages/ham only if there’s something sour like lemon juice + bitter greens like kale]

DINNER

Canva - Raw Chicken Breast Seasoned With Peppers Beside Red Chili, Basil, Bowl of Tomatoes, and Raw Pastas on Table

Soup

  • Light and Quick: creamy thick soup + cumin, coriander, black pepper [clam chowder]
  • Slow and Steady: clear, spicy soup + ginger, garlic, onions [Tom Yum Kung]
  • Intense: thick, non-spicy soup (maybe coconut milk based) + cucumber, parsley, pumpkin [pumpkin soup]

Steak

  • Light and Quick: beef/chicken steak in black pepper sauce + baked sweet potatoes + carrots + spinach/lettuce
  • Slow and Steady: chicken thigh steak in garlic sauce + mashed potatoes + steamed broccoli + mustard greens + peas
  • Intense: chicken breast in pesto sauce + mashed potatoes + sautéed broccoli + peas + green beans + sweet peppers

Chinese takeout

  • Light and Quick: butter garlic fried rice + orange chicken/kung pao chicken + stir-fried bok choy [overall: sweet, spicy, sour]
  • Slow and Steady: corn fried rice + chili chicken cubes (cheng du chicken) + mapo tofu (tofu, chili, beans) [overall: spicy, light, dry]
  • Intense: vegetable fried rice/wheat noodles + moo goo gai pan (chicken, mushrooms) + teriyaki cauliflower [overall: non-spicy, filling]

We know it may feel like a lot to taken in right now, but know that so many people are not having to deal with the stress of ill health just because they eat right. Start somewhere. Come back to this article whenever you’re confused.

Keep it whole. Keep it fresh. Keep it simple. Happy nomnoming!

Why You Should Eat What You Should Eat

If you had to pick one sentence you have read again and again in our articles, we’re sure you would pick: “Eat according to your metabolic personality.”

It probably sounds like a difficult thing to do. But trust us, it isn’t. You’re already doing some of it instinctively. If your metabolic personality is what gives you your instincts and tendencies, then it must also have given you the tendency to choose and like certain foods. It has. That’s why, though you may not be aware of it, your body is almost always making informed choices.

Your body chooses foods on the basis of the physical qualities (if you like the taste, smell, texture, etc.), immediate effects (how you feel after eating the food – light and energetic, full and dull, bloated or acidic), and long-term effects (if the food has improved your energy, digestion, mental clarity, etc.).

Think about it, when you need energy, don’t you instinctively reach out for a sweet food? Don’t you recoil from a food that’s made you nauseous at some point of time? Aren’t you also more likely to add condiments to your meal that have once helped you with digestion?

Anytime you feel you don’t know how to eat right for your body type, listen to your body. It will, however, take you some time to observe and understand the body’s signals, so we thought of giving you a head start.

Check your detailed health assessment report (in your inbox). We’ve arranged standard food groups (fruits, legumes, dairy, etc.) in the diet recommendation section in 2 neat lists: what you should eat more of and what you should eat less of.

Go ahead, try them with an open mind. Check what works for you and what doesn’t. And then tell us how you feel.

What You Should Eat

Canva - A Bowl of Fruits

So far so good, but we know that list in your inbox is by no means exhaustive. So what should you do for foods outside the list?

If the foods are natural and whole and you are not on a restricted diet, eat small amounts of everything. You need the unique nutrition each food offers. But if you’re looking for staples, judge by the physical qualities of the food (whether you like the taste, texture, etc.) and by your experience after eating the food (whether the food is making you feel good).

Light and Quick

Canva - Bread with Fig and Cheese

Since you have frequent energy dips, you need to eat filling and energy-giving foods. Most energy-giving filling foods, you’ll notice, are naturally heavy, oily, or moist, and sweet (as they contain different forms of glucose). Since you also have an erratic digestion and a tendency to feel cold, the solution is warming foods or spices that rev up your digestion. Have sour, salty, and spicy-tasting foods. Notice how they increase the saliva flow in your mouth? Salty foods can also help you retain more water and reduce your tendency for dehydration.

To sum up: You usually complain about poor energy, erratic digestion, and feeling cold all the time. So you should have more warm, filling, moist, sweet, sour, salty, moderately spicy foods.

  • Sweet foods: bananas, sweet peas, barley, cashews, fresh figs
  • Sour foods: lemons, cheese
  • Salty foods: rock salt, tuna, olives

Tip: While you can eat greasy and sweet foods, choose healthier options like ghee (clarified butter) rather than trans fats and naturally sweet foods rather than refined ones.

Slow and Steady

Colorful Vegetables on Wooden Background

Since energy is never a concern for you and you tend to stay full longer after meals, eat light. Most light foods are naturally dry, non-oily, and often not sweet – if you are thinking of mildly bitter leafy greens, you’re on the right track. These also contain antioxidants that help you fight infections. Now to rev up your digestion, clear up your sinuses (congestion is a typical problem), and perk up your senses, it’s better for you to choose warm, spicy, and mildly astringent foods.

To sum up: You usually complain about fullness, poor digestion, and sinus congestion. So you should eat more warm, light, dry, spicy, mildly astringent, and mildly bitter foods.

  • Mildly astringent foods: pomegranates, chickpeas, parsley, green mango
  • Mildly bitter foods: kale, watercress, turmeric
  • Spicy foods (warming): ginger, garlic, onion, paprika, chilli peppers, wasabi

Tip: If you have a puffy appearance, cut back on salty and sour foods. Both of these cause water retention and bloat you up.

Intense

Canva - Healthy Vegetarian Salad

Since you practically burn up your fuel to complete a task at hand, you need to refuel yourself with energy-giving and filling foods that last longer in your tummy. It’s great if the filling food is also cooling – you can be a hothead when hungry. Also, since you are prone to heartburn, avoid oily, greasy, sour, and very spicy foods. Bitter, astringent, and sweet foods are more likely to give you energy as well as cool you down. The alkaloids in bitter foods can help you fight inflammation better.

To sum up: You usually complain about burnouts, heat rashes, and heartburn. So you should eat more cool, filling, dry, sweet, bitter, astringent, mildly spicy foods.

  • Bitter foods: Bitter melon, cocoa, neem
  • Astringent foods: Asafoetida, aloe vera juice, plantain, java plum
  • Mildly spicy foods: cinnamon, cumin seeds

Tip: Reduce your salt intake as much as you can. If you must, flavor your food with rock salt.

All that said, the most important thing you need to consider when choosing a food is how you feel after eating it. Let that be the chief guiding factor.

Quick Hack: Eat What You Are Not

Canva - Woman Holding Red Apple and Green Peach

Don’t know your metabolic personality yet? Despair not. Pick one adjective from each of the following sets to describe yourself:

  • Build: Heavy/light
  • Skin and stools texture: Moist/oily/dry
  • Skin temperature: Hot/cold
  • Digestion and pace of work: Slow/quick

Now choose foods that have opposite qualities. For instance, if you have chosen heavy, moist, cold, and slow, and steady, make a meal with foods that are light, dry, warming, and quick to digest – say, an apple and pear salad with a sprinkling of cinnamon powder.

Cheers to eating mindfully!