The Yoga Food Pyramid Defined
Photo: Beth Rankin
Recently, I was looking at Dr. Weil’s Food Pyramid and it got me thinking about what a Yoga Food Pyramid would look like. I’ll have to admit, it looks much the same as his anti-inflammatory food pyramid and he included some fabulous ideas that I would have never thought of, though now I’ll be sure to include them in my routine.
What should you constantly be including in your daily ritual of meals and from what should you be detaching? The USDA has taken a new and innovative view of the food pyramid. Today, they say that one size does not fit all and this couldn’t be more true, especially considering the varying doshas and their impact on your diet. But these are ideas that are for the most part, good indicators of a healthy diet.
Yoga Diet Food Pyramid
Dr. Weil puts fruits and vegetables at the bottom of the food pyramid, meaning that it includes the largest servings, 4 to 5 of each to be specific. These fruit and vegetables should be varying colors of the spectrum according to Dr. Weil. If you’re interested in which colors provide which nutrients, read my article over at Planet Green: Can You Eat With the Seasons and Eat the Rainbow at the Same Time? But I would say to look for deep color in your fruits and vegetables because that’s an indicator of nutrient density. I would also add that the quality of your fruits and vegetables is incredibly important; think local, organic, and if possible, grown by your own two hands.
Next up, grains. This is where we start to fall into the processed food trap. Whole grains means minimally, if at all processed. I get about six servings a day. This includes both grains, beans, and legumes. For me this means organic rolled oats for breakfast. Consider my post on how to start your day the Serene way. For lunch, I’ll do a kitchari with quinoa and mung beans. Consider a handful of raw nuts (soak for better digestion) as a snack and then a similar grain and beans dish for dinner. Good whole grain choices include oats, barley, basmati rice, quinoa, buck wheat, and bulgur.
In terms of beans, mung and adzuki beans are good choices, but most beans are pretty healthful. Just make sure that you soak them and cook on low for a long period of time. That means no canned beans; you risk synthetic hormones used in packaging like BPA and phthalates. Next up, include healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil, ghee, and avocado. I also enjoy safflower oil (especially in my vegan mayonnaise).
Should You Eat Fish?
If you’re going to eat fish, consider environmentally sustainable fish like sardines, anchovies, and herring. Small fish are so much easier on the planet. Rather than eating this delectable oily fish by itself we feed 80 percent of the Pacific sardine catch to bluefin tunas raised in Mexico and Australia. From a nutrition standpoint, sardines are loaded with Omega 3 fatty acids. So you can have that pickled herring and eat it too.
Dr. Weir recommends 1 to 2 servings per day of whole soy. According to health guru Christina Pirello, they include phytoestrogens, which act like estrogen receptors in the body. Soy isolates, these are the fake cold cuts and vegan salad dressings of the world, are known to be carcinogenic and incredibly unhealthy, on the other hand. These should be avoided whenever possible. Again, it just comes back to always making sure ingredients are just that, ingredients, and they’re as minimally processed as possible.
He also recommends Asian mushrooms in large quantities. We explored their importance a bit in my post on Liver and Intestinal Cleanse with Dried Daikon, Kombu and Shitake.
What About Meat?
While he recommends 1 to 2 servings per week of other protein sources including lean meats, eggs, and high quality cheeses, I would vary this just a bit. I don’t eat meat at all. I’ll instead choose local, organic eggs and a few bites of high quality stinky cheeses from time to time. Yogis believe that we’re all connected and that means all living beings. Eating meat promotes an unsettled feeling and since it’s not necessary in order to be healthy, I don’t eat it. I understand that this means I should shun fish in all circumstances as well, but it’s a step I’m moving towards and we can all agree that yoga is a journey.
And then come the extras. Choose healthy spices in your food pyramid like turmeric, ginger, and garlic. If you’re detoxing avoid garlic and onion because both of these are good for maintenance in the body. This means when you’re trying to let go of toxins, they have a tendency to hold onto them. That’s why I didn’t include them in my kitchari recipe. As Dr. Weil says, any sweets should be in the form of a small square or two of dark chocolate.
Is Alcohol a No-No?
We’ll discuss yoga and alcohol at a later date in depth. But for now, my favorite Ayurveda teacher Scott Blossom says that alcohol in very small quantities is good for the body. But I mean really small quantities like 3 to 4 tbsp or about ½ drink per day. He doesn’t confine that to red wine, but his teachings say that controlling quantity is most important.
Guard against any deficiency with, in my opinion, the best omega fatty acid supplements and oils on the market: Udo’s Oil 3.6.9 Blend. Choose the oil rather than the capsule for a better deal. You could also consider a probiotic formula and a good high quality multi vitamin. But again, this is not intended as a doctor’s advice. Consult your doctor before making any drastic changes to your diet.