The quality of food is a pivotal focus of Maharishi Ayurveda. Food is considered a foundation of health. The lack of food purity — contamination with GMOs, chemicals, pesticides, herbicides and improper growing methods is implicated in many health issues.
Maharishi Ayurveda's approach is uncomplicated. Purity, or in Sanskrit sattva, is key. As a benchmark, favor whenever possible organically grown foods. If organic isn't available, determine the purity pedigree of the food you are buying. For example, while "wild crafted" foods may not be certified organic, they can be purer than a certified organic food product.
All children should avoid junk food or canned, frozen or packaged foods, as these have less chetana, or embodied intelligence, compared to fresh foods. Young bodies are delicate and susceptible to toxic exposures. According to Maharishi Ayurveda, too many of these junk foods will erode intellectual power and may create mental imbalances. Recent research shows that additives in junk foods, if eaten as a steady diet, can lower IQ.
Organic dairy products such as whole milk, panir (a fresh cheese made from milk), freshly-made yogurt and lassi are all ideal proteins for children, as are soaked almonds and walnuts. Spices such as turmeric, cumin and black pepper help digestion, metabolism and brain nourishment, and should be introduced in small pinches if your child is not accustomed to them. Some spices are antioxidants, and black pepper helps enhance utilization of oxygen in the brain.
Balance is everything
This is a recurring theme in Maharishi Ayurveda — balance as an end goal.
All fathers and mothers should examine the quality and quantity of fat, protein, sugar, and air the children are ingesting. The young brain needs these four major nutrients for mental clarity and integrated functioning.
Recommended fats include ghee — which is clarified butter — and olive oil. Maharishi Ayurveda recommends organic raw sugar, Sucanat, honey, rock sugar, and jaggary. But — moderation here, too, is important. It's important not to let the child eat too much fat or sugar, no matter its source or purity. Even pure foods can be eaten to excess. The American diet is loaded with sugar. Today, the average American consumes 125 pounds of sugar a year, when just a hundred years ago the average was two pounds.
Most children need to eat more freshly-cooked, organic green vegetables and sweet, juicy fruits. Many children resist eating them, but if encouraged, and fruits and vegetables are served in appetizing ways, they will do it.
The Power of Behavioral Rasayanas
In ayurveda, behavior is considered so significant, it's considered medicinal — something which nourishes and restores balance by itself. But its called something different in ayurveda: it's called a behavorial rasayana. Rasayanas are elixers that nourish the source, the deepest aspect of physiology, and promote longevity. But rasayanas are not just herbs.
Behavior plays an important role in children's health. Childhood is the Kapha, or growing, stage of life, so it's especially important that they see only nurturing television shows and movies. Watching violent entertainment or spending time with friends who are often angry or jealous can create ama, or impurities, in the mental channels. This results in a decrease in mental acuity and creativity.
There are three functions of the mind in ayurveda: learning, retaining and recalling. In Sanskrit they are known as dhi, dhriti, and smriti. Because children are moving through a time of life when acquiring knowledge is so important, these three functions need to be working in a coordinated fashion in order for learning to take place. If the daily routine or diet is not healthy, or if the child is eating a lot of junk foods, or constantly in an environment that is not nurturing and positive, these functions will be impaired, and the child will start to feel frustrated, irritable and less creative.
Behavioral rasayanas — or principles of activity — are especially important in teaching children the behaviors that will bring health and happiness throughout life. A person who practices Achara Rasayanas is "calm, free of anger, truthful, sweet-spoken, clean, simple, positive, devoted to spiritual practices such as meditation, unconceited, charitable, chooses friends wisely, maintains a balanced daily routine, and shows respect for teachers, preceptors and elders."
Of course, the best way to teach children these behaviors is to display them yourself. Cultivating a respectful, calm way of relating to children helps them learn to treat others with respect and reinforces this important behavioral rasayana.
Just for Kids
Children can also take herbal food supplements to boost their health. Maharishi Ayurveda has developed a number of formulas that are just for kids. At age four or five, start your child on Intelligence Plus (formerly Study Power), one tablet twice a day. This will increase mental clarity, boost resistance to stress, and balance the emotions. Children can also take ¼ of their parent's Amrit Ambrosia and Nectar tablets morning and evening. The Amrit tablets help reduce the effects of toxins from the environment by scavenging free radicals, and contain natural sources of nutrients such as Vitamin C. Older children take half the adult recommendation for Ambrosia and Nectar.
It's also important for the parents to give their children an herbalized sesame oil massage (abhyanga) every day or at least every other day. This will help boost their natural immunity and help them get better sleep, and gives the parents a wonderful opportunity to express affection and love.
More about children and Ayurveda
- Why Kids Get Sick and How to Prevent It
- Raising Super Healthy Kids
- Fun Ayurvedic Recipes for Kids of All Ages
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