Adolescence is the age of major physical, intellectual, and emotional growth. Children become adults, leave home, and become independent. Because these changes happen so fast, this time is often difficult both for teenagers and parents.
To make this transition smoother, Maharishi Ayurveda offers practical advice on how to take advantage of the characteristics of this age and create healthier and happier teens.
The basis for teenage health: A Pitta-pacifying diet
Pitta dosha, which governs this stage of life, is associated with transformation, heat, and metabolism. To utilize this transforming power and balance Pitta, teenagers should eat cooling and nurturing foods. This is the time to start building the foundation for healthy tissues. If teens eat nourishing food, it will quickly turn into healthy cells and tissues. If they live on junk food and fast food, that will also transform fast into toxins, giving rise to future health problems.
A cooling and nourishing diet includes lots of fresh vegetables, especially squashes; sweet juicy seasonal fruits; soaked nuts and seeds; raisins and dates; milk; lassi; and homemade cheese like paneer. Rotating grains, vegetables and fruits will give enough variety to make the diet more attractive. Eating a stewed apple in the morning balances the digestive fire and creates ojas, the substance within us that maintains life and promotes bliss.
Four meals a day are recommended for teenagers, with the main meal at noon. They should not overeat even if they are very hungry, because undigested food can create ama (toxins) that will aggravate Pitta. Drinking plenty of water during the day is a good habit to start early. Water cools and balances Pitta and detoxifies the body. By water, Ayurveda means clear, purified drinking water, not sweetened, flavored, and carbonated soft drinks.
Ayurveda also recommends moderate exercise. Games and sports can be a fun way to get into a healthy habit. In addition to boosting circulation and metabolism, exercise enhances immunity and endurance. Yoga asanas are ideal because they not only tone the muscles but stimulate the functioning of internal organs. Maharishi Ayurveda recommends Organic Premium Amla Berry, an excellent supplement for muscle growth and vitality.
Teenagers can greatly benefit from practicing Transcendental Meditation®, which increases IQ, enhances learning ability, increases mental clarity, and calms the mind and body. The Intelligence Plus (formerly Study Power) herbal formula also helps with learning new information. Research has shown that it helps increase intelligence.
Balance all five Pitta subdoshas
All five subdoshas of Pitta need special attention in this period of life. Each represents an aspect of Pitta and governs certain functions of the body.
- Alochaka Pitta represents the eyes and is best balanced by consuming a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables.
- Bhrajaka Pitta supports the skin, which is sensitive during adolescence. Since this is a period of faster transformation, chemicals from skincare products and cosmetics absorb easily into the skin, disturb Pitta, and can create rashes and acne. Products made with natural ingredients, on the other hand, nourish the skin without irritating it. The same principle applies to diet. Fresh, natural food without preservatives and additives feeds the skin from the inside. Consuming Pitta-aggravating meals, such as spicy and salty fast food, or pizza with tomatoes and cheese, can also irritate the skin, especially on hot sunny days. When Pitta is aggravated, the skin becomes less resistant to sun damage. Even a mild sunburn can turn into more serious symptoms later.
- Sadhaka Pitta is seated in the heart and governs emotion, contentment, memory, and intelligence. This subdosha is also highly sensitive in teenagers. A regular routine (for example, going to bed early, before 10 p.m.), and eating regular meals, is very stabilizing. Skipping meals and watching violent movies, however, aggravate Sadhaka Pitta, leading to negative emotions. Sweet, juicy fruits, such as pears, watermelon, and stewed apples are very comforting to Sadhaka Pitta. Raisins, date milkshakes, and rice pudding are delicious, satisfying, and also pacify this dosha.
- Pachaka Pitta governs the stomach and small intestine and is responsible for the digestion and assimilation of nutrients. To keep Pachaka Pitta in balance, one should eat cooling and nurturing meals made with squashes, mung beans, and lassi. The following spice mix is also cooling and can be added to every meal. Mix one part turmeric, one part cumin, two parts coriander, and six parts fennel. Sauté the powder mix in ghee or olive oil and add it to vegetables, dhal, or grains.
- Ranjaka Pitta represents the liver and blood and is especially aggravated by toxins from environmental pollutants and food, which can lead to skin and blood disorders. Foods that support the liver include white daikon radish, loki, and Organic Rose Petal Spread with milk. The spice turmeric also helps the functioning and detoxification of the liver.
Intelligent foods for an intelligent mind
If you want your teen’s natural intelligence to flourish, offer them more “intelligent” food. Intelligent food is fresh, organically grown, prepared with loving attention, and contains prana, or life.
“Unintelligent” food includes junk food, fast food, canned, packaged, and frozen foods, and leftovers. Artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives not only load the liver with toxins, but weaken the immune system, and can lead to food allergies, or contribute to disorders such as attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity.
Adolescence is the time when children start building their adult bodies. Whether they become healthy, balanced individuals or weak, illness-prone people depends largely on what they are eating and doing now. Skip the Big Mac at McDonald's and switch to fresh, homemade meals! The whole family will enjoy the health benefits.
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