Ayurveda and Vitamins
The concept of vitamins is another example of scientific reductionism. Modern science commits the mistake of characterising whole foods by the health effects of specific nutrients. This has led to the emergence of a multi-billion dollar nutrient supplement industry driven by huge profits. And nobody is really sure whether these supplements have any positive impact whatsoever on our nutritional landscape.
In fact, studies reveal that the supplements are actually harmful.
Ayurveda, on the other hand, is holistic and talks about totality. There is no mention of vitamins in Ayurveda.
Ayurvedic diet is based on the principle of six tastes. Rather than looking at nutritional labels for x amount of vitamin A and y amount of vitamin B, the six tastes naturally guide us towards proper nutrition. If our meal is composed of six tastes we will automatically get all the desired vitamins among other nutrients.
As we know A,D,E,K are fat soluble vitamins. They are not in fact soluble but a part of fat itself. So if we consume fats like dairy, nuts, meat, fish etc. we will naturally get these vitamins. All these foods are oily, sweet and hence kapha increasing. So kapha foods will give us fatty vitamins.
While bitter, astringent and sour vegetables, fruits etc. will give us the watery vitamins B and C.Similarly pungent and bitter Ayurvedic kitchen spices like turmeric, cumin help liver in better absorption of nutrients. Boiled and cooked green leafy vegetables as opposed to raw salads help in better absorption.
A vata type personality is naturally prone to vitamin deficiency disorders particularly fatty vitamins. In fact the concept of deficiency is a myth as body can generate what it needs provided it is given the right raw materials. So either the metabolism is deficient or the raw materials (whole food) are deficient. There can be no vitamin deficiency per se.
We try to cover up deficiencies with vitamin supplements but it puts load on our detoxifying organs – liver and kidneys. At the same time we inhibit the body’s natural ability to generate its own vitamins.
Ayurvedic herbs like triphala can be a good substitute to vitamin supplements. It helps in the absorption of vitamins from foods and also converts the inactive vitamins to active form.
The take home message is that be mindful about including all the six tastes in your meals and you can safely forget about vitamins.