Welcome back to The Ayurveda Glow Podcast, a place to discuss how the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda can be applied to your modern, everyday life to help you feel vibrant in mind, body and spirit, enjoy optimal health, and glow from the inside out.
I’m your host, Katrina, an Ayurvedic Health Counselor & plant-based nutrition advocate based in Santa Monica, California. Through this podcast, I’ll be sharing with you what I’m learning in the areas of plant-based nutrition, sleep, yoga, meditation and a variety of holistic mind-body approaches to optimal health. I aim to explore each of these areas through the lens of Ayurveda.
In this episode, I want to share an Ayurvedic practice that has been a game changer for me. Specifically, the practice of aligning with the rhythms of nature. And, even more specifically, the daily practice of having an earlier, lighter dinner – which means, for me, making lunch the main meal of the day.
A healthy, earlier, lighter dinner can help you to sleep better at night, feel more energized and lighter when you wake up in the morning, and feel better overall throughout the day.
In this episode, here’s what we’ll cover:
- Why staying in sync with the rhythms of nature is important when it comes to optimizing your health. Ayurveda was founded on this principle and an exciting new branch of science called Circadian Medicine now supports this as well.
- Also, you’ll learn why an earlier, lighter dinner can help you to align with nature’s rhythms and support your overall energy, quality of sleep and ideal weight.
- Finally, I’ll share a few quick and easy dinner ideas to help you shift to an earlier, lighter dinner.
Let’s dive in!
#1: Align with the rhythms of nature to optimize your health and longevity
Okay – so as mentioned, one of the fundamental principles of Ayurveda is that we can support our optimal health and longevity by aligning with the rhythms of nature.
This is something that Ayurveda has been teaching for thousands of years and the good news is that an exciting new branch of science called Circadian Medicine has emerged that supports Ayurveda’s ancient wisdom.
In fact, in 2017 the Nobel Prize in medicine was awarded to two scientists “for their discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythms”, otherwise known as our biological clock.
Circadian Medicine reveals how the light and dark cycles of the day affect our digestion, sleep, hormone production, cardiac function, innate immunity, neurophysiology, body temp, activity and rest.
All living organisms on Earth have an internal clock, known as the circadian rhythm. In humans, this is why we are awake during the day and sleep at night. Our biological clock also helps regulate eating habits, hormone release, blood pressure and body temperature.
The biological clock responds to darkness by triggering the brain’s production of melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep. When the sun goes down, our brain begins to produce melatonin.
In our modern world, we’re no longer limited by the setting of the sun for light. We can simply turn on lights when the sun goes down. Many of us spend time after sunset watching movies, reading books, working or Facetime-ing via a variety of screens whether it’s a laptop, tablet or phone.
It’s important to be aware that the bright light we’re exposing ourselves to suppresses melatonin production and this can disrupt our ability to experience quality sleep.
Circadian Medicine also explains that an imbalance between lifestyle and rhythm can lead to increased risk for a number of diseases including metabolic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity and cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
The Ayurvedic Clock: 6 Time Periods of the Day
As mentioned, Ayurveda has long recognized the importance of aligning with daily, monthly and seasonal cycles to create ease and flow in our lives – as well as a way to support optimal wellbeing.
In a previous episode, I explained the concept of the 3 doshas in more detail. If you missed that episode, check it out to learn more. I’ll be sure to drop a link in the show notes below.
The 3 doshas are: Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
Vata – characterized by air and ether elements – is dominant from 2 – 6 am and 2 – 6pm.
The afternoon Vata hours are a time of creativity and expansive thinking. The early morning Vata hours of 2am – 6am, however, are a peaceful time of day. It’s a time of receptivity, an ideal time for meditation, prayer or spiritual practice.
Pitta – characterized by the elements fire and water – is dominant between 10pm – 2 am and 10-2pm.
The Pitta time of day is a time of digestion, productivity and transformation. During the midday hours of 10am – 2pm the sun is at its highest in the sky and there is more heat in the natural world, as well as in our bodies and minds. Our body metabolism is strongest during the midday hours.
Kapha is dominant from 6am – 10 am and 6pm – 10pm and characterized by water and earth elements.
So the morning period of 6-10am has a heavier energy, as does the 6pm – 10pm timeframe which is a time of day when the body’s metabolism begins to slow down as it prepares for sleep.
Okay, so that’s #1. We’re a part of nature and we can optimize our health and wellbeing by aligning with nature’s rhythms.
#2: Why an earlier, lighter dinner is a wise move if you want to align with nature’s rhythms and support your overall energy, quality of sleep and ideal weight.
So why does Ayurveda teach that it’s important to make lunch your largest meal of the day instead of dinner? And how can an earlier, lighter dinner help you to experience more energy, more clarity of mind, a higher quality of sleep and even support your ideal weight?
According to Ayurveda, our digestive fire, also referred to as “agni” in Sanskrit, is strongest in the middle of the day when the sun is at its peak. It’s for this reason that Ayurveda recommends lunch to be the largest meal of the day.
When our digestive ability is strong, we’re able to create healthy tissues, eliminate waste efficiently and produce a subtle energy called ojas which influences immunity, physical strength and clarity of perception. In the evening, however, our digestive ability slows down, as the body is getting ready to go to sleep.
Ayurveda suggests it’s best, therefore, to eat dinner at least three hours before going to sleep so that our body can fully digest the food. If you have trouble going to sleep, eating earlier may help.
When we fully digest everything before going to sleep, the body can direct energy to all its other important nighttime functions like flushing out toxins from the brain, digesting the events of the day and repairing and growing brain cells.
When we align with the rhythms of nature, including when we eat and when we sleep, we support our optimal health. Eating an earlier, lighter meal at least 3 hours before you go to sleep ensures that digestion is complete. Your body is now free to focus on all the restorative and healing processes that happen during sleep.
And, when the body can focus on repairing itself during the night, as opposed to digesting a big meal right before bedtime, you’ll wake up feeling more energized and lighter.
The takeaway is that we are a part of nature, so it makes sense that we optimize our health when we align our lifestyle and diet with the daily, monthly and seasonal rhythms of nature.
By knowing how the different energies of the day flow and how this impacts our health, we can adjust our activities so that they’re in sync with the day.
Simple changes in our daily routine and eating habits can make a huge difference in how we assimilate the nutrients we take in. After all, as Ayurveda teaches, it’s not just about what you eat, but also, more importantly, about what nutrients you absorb.
When you make lunch the most substantial meal of the day, you support your body’s ability to absorb nutrients.
#3: A few quick and easy dinner ideas and tips to help you shift to an earlier, lighter dinner
So what are some quick and easy ideas for an earlier, lighter dinner?
When we think of the word “supper”, the words “supplemental” or “soup-er” come to mind. A delicious soup, a light salad, a warm, cooked and spiced curry are good options.
Or, you may want to consider other light foods that are also easy to digest. Lightly cooked or sauteed veggies are easier to digest, for example.
Meanwhile, it’s best to avoid eating heavy foods at night like meat, dairy, pasta, or beans because these foods are more difficult to digest and require more time to digest.
To shift to an earlier, lighter dinner, the main thing that has worked well for me is to plan ahead. I try to plan meals ahead of time when I shop for groceries or go to the farmers market. But a number of times during the week I may be eating out for various reasons.
No matter what the day brings, when I know in advance that I want lunch to be my primary meal of the day, I make sure it’s nutrient-dense and has enough healthy fats to keep me fueled and satiated until it’s time for dinner. As long as I have a substantial, nutrient-dense lunch with healthy fats, I usually don’t need to snack in the afternoon and I’m not ravished later in the day either. As a result, I personally find it easy to have a lighter, earlier dinner.
That said, the best way to find out what works best for you is to experiment. See how you feel when you make lunch your primary meal of the day. Try it out for a week and see how you feel when you have an earlier, lighter dinner. Do you feel more energized in the morning and throughout the day? Do you feel lighter when you wake up in the morning?
As a side note, research also shows that a “high-calorie breakfast with reduced intake at dinner is beneficial and might be a useful alternative for the management of obesity and metabolic syndrome.”
Okay! So this brings us to the end of this episode.
Thank you for joining me today. I hope you enjoyed this episode and have an even deeper awareness of the powerful impact that aligning with nature’s rhythms can have on your overall well-being.
Ayurveda has been teaching for thousands of years that it’s not just about what you eat that’s important, but also about what your body absorbs and assimilates.
Digestion is the key to your health because it’s through digestion that your body builds cells, tissues, muscles, bones and more. You are not what you eat but what you absorb and assimilate.
A nutrient-dense, satiating lunch will fuel you through the day. And an earlier, lighter dinner at least 3 hours before going to sleep will allow your body to fully digest the food and focus on the restorative processes of sleep.
By syncing the times you eat during the day with nature’s timing, you’ll benefit most from the nutrients you consume and optimize your energy as well.
So try this out for a week or two and let me know how it goes for you. Do you feel more energized in the morning? What have you found works best for you? Let me know by sending me a direct message.
I’m so excited to share more in future episodes.
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Thank you so much for listening. I appreciate you so much. Wishing you a beautiful day.