Doing an Ayurvedic cleanse and not sure what to eat? Cleansing is a great time to get back to basics and keep things simple! During a cleanse, it’s important to pay special attention to your diet to avoid overtaxing your digestion and to assist your body’s purificatory channels in releasing toxins. Although it can be tempting to skip meals, fast, or favor liquid diets (like fresh juices) during a cleanse, Ayurveda does not recommend this approach, because it can cause your agni (digestive fire) to become imbalanced.
Here are some basic Ayurvedic detox diet guidelines from The Council of Maharishi Ayurveda Physicians. Enjoy these delicious, beneficial foods while you’re detoxing!
Eat ama-reducing foods
According to Ayurveda, ama is the product of incomplete digestion. It’s a sticky, toxic substance that clogs the channels in your body that carry nutrients to your cells and eliminate waste. Since the goal of cleansing is to clear ama out of your body, it’s good to favor foods that are light, warm, cooked, and easily digestible. Try to follow a vegetarian diet with freshly made flatbreads, light soups and dhals, organic vegetables cooked with spices and freshly-made grains such as quinoa. Mung dhal pacifies all three doshas and is nutritious, but really easy to digest.
Certain fruits, vegetables, and spices are especially helpful during a cleanse, so it’s good to try and eat a serving or two of these items every day:
- Cooked Fruit: Eat cooked prunes and figs at breakfast along with a stewed apple or pear. In general, most sweet juicy fruits are excellent cleansers.
- Vegetables: Eat lots of cooked leafy greens. Chop your greens and cook them with our Detox Spice Mix for added benefits. Brussels sprouts and cabbage are also helpful.
- Grains: Light, nutritious whole grains like quinoa, barley, amaranth, and small helpings of rice are recommended. You can also make Kanji—an excellent hot beverage that’s helpful for flushing toxins out of the body through the urine—by boiling rice with lots of water.
- Spices: Ginger, turmeric, coriander, fennel, and fenugreek help to open up your body’s channels and support the flushing of toxins via your skin, urinary tract, colon, and liver. Add spices to soups and dhals as they cook, or sauté the spices in a little ghee and add to your dishes just after you’re finished cooking them.
- Lassi, made by combining fresh yogurt with water and digestion-boosting spices, is an excellent lunchtime beverage.
Avoid ama-producing foods
From the Ayurvedic perspective, leftovers, and "dead" foods such as processed, packaged, canned, and frozen foods all create ama, because they are very hard for your body to digest. While you’re doing an Ayurvedic detox, be sure to avoid: non-organic foods; genetically-modified foods; and foods grown with chemicals, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers. Foods with chemical additives also introduce toxins into your body and are confusing for the natural "intelligence" of your digestive system. They should, therefore, be avoided.
It’s also helpful to steer clear of heavy dairy products like aged hard cheese or yogurt; foods that are deep-fried or oily; raw foods of any kind; heavy desserts; and foods that contain refined sugar and honey. These foods are harder to digest and can create ama when you’re cleansing. Also on the reduce-or-avoid list: yeasted breads, dry breads (like crackers), and fermented foods.
Choose foods according to your body type or imbalances
Ayurvedic healers recommend tailoring your diet year-round to your constitution and your imbalances. This is particularly true during cleansing to help regulate your digestive fire (agni). For detailed information on diets and foods for pacifying each of the three doshas, visit Vata, Pitta, or Kapha.
Drink plenty of hot water through the day
Warm water helps flush toxins out of your body through your urine. To derive healing benefits from the water you drink, you can add some detoxifying spices to the water. Here is a recipe for Detoxifying Tea from The Council of Maharishi Ayurveda Physicians.
Ideal time to detox
Not sure when to do your detox? According to Ayurveda, the cusp between winter and spring is the ideal time to do an at-home internal cleansing program, because it allows your body to release any toxins that may have built up over the long cold winter. That being said, you can do a detox anytime your digestion starts to feel a bit sluggish and needs some fine-tuning.
After your cleanse is over, take a few days to gradually move away from the Ayurvedic detox diet; slowly introduce heavier foods as you ease back into your regular diet. This is also the perfect time to start taking Rasayanas (Ayurvedic formulations for overall health and vitality) like Amrit, Organic Digest Tone, or Vital Man or Vital Lady. Now that the channels of your body are clear, your body will make maximum use of the overall healing benefits of these tonics!
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