HOW TO EAT ACCORDING TO AYURVEDA
'Food is not rational. Food is culture, habit, craving and identity'.
Reference - Charaka sutra sthana 11/35
According to Ayurveda Traya Upastambha are the 3 sub pillars which include Ahara, Nidra and Brahmacharya which balance our body and support life from within. Among these Ahara is the main and supporting pillar which sustains overall health and maintenance. Ahara (food) is ingested with the help of the tongue, mouth and throat. It is mainly explained that right from conception in the mother's womb we all are nurtured by Ahara and nutrients. The food is garnished with affection and love and reaches the fetal circulation through the placenta with Ahara rasa coming from the mother. There are many factors which cause Dosha Vriddhi and changing the function of Agni directly. The ayurvedic diet is an eating pattern which has been around for thousands of years and mainly focuses on balancing different types of body energy and improving health. In this article, we are going to discuss the main factors which are important and their ayurvedic aspect in detail.
Ayurveda is a form of holistic medicine which promotes a balance between body and mind. There are 5 elements in the universe- Vayu (air), Jala (water), Akash (space), Teja (fire) and Prithvi (earth) which circulate within the body. According to diet, doshas determine which food must be taken to promote inner balance. Food is the life of all living beings which provides support to the element and is known as Prana for life. It is sustained unless and until the metabolic fire is intact in the body. Fuel is present in the form of Ahara which keeps agni intact and steady which further nourishes and strengthens the body tissues and enhances strength. Due to disturbance or impaired digestion, there is the formation of Ama (toxic residue) which disrupts healthy well-being.
- Mental Attitude
- Attention while Eating
- Quality of food
- State of Food
- Order of Eating food
- Food Combination
- Quantity of food
- The Act of Eating
1. MENTAL ATTITUDE
- It is the state of digestion and assimilation of nutrients which begins with the attitude towards food.
- Different attitudes affect the reception of meals.
- One must make a meal that you are neutral. The meal should take 24-72 hours to pass through the digestive system, 6 hours is the minimum time to digest fruit to pass in the vegetarian system.
- As ayurveda says we should enjoy our food!
2. ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES
- Food quality-Petroleum-based insecticides and fertilizers are present in the food chain. There is a lower sperm count and many other hormonal effects due to various environmental issues. Both men and women are prone to accumulated toxins in the reproductive system.
- Ayurveda views the body as the progressive development of tissues which nourish each other and begins with food as a source of nutrition and the reproductive system or fertility as the transmission of food. If any foreign matter accumulates in reproductive tissues causes infertility.
- Petroleum-based products are used in the manufacture of medicines, agrochemicals, contraceptive creams and personal hygiene. These products have effects on the body called 'xenobiotics' and have specific estrogen effects on the body called 'xenoestrogens'.
- Fungicide like Vinclozolin which is sprayed on fruits affects both men and women and affects their testosterone levels. It blocks the testosterone from cell links up to cell and blocks sex hormones from being produced.
- Cells have special doors which allow nutrients and chemicals to enter the cells and petrochemicals affect these cells and block the door for normal hormones to enter the cell. Hence the body is bombarded by a huge quantity of substances which occurs in small doses.
- The normal body has self-regulating functions which eliminate excess hormones from the bloodstream, but due to excess hormones, the body does not recognize the estrogenic chemicals and allow them to stay in the body.
- If estrogen is not directly causing the problem it inhibits the production of progesterone, the hormone which balances estrogen. Excess estrogen causes problems in women such as (Anxiety, weight gain, Emotional disorientation and premenstrual syndrome). In men, estrogenic chemicals cause a lowering of testosterone production and give many problems such as Weight gain, Enlargement of tumors, prostate and lower sperm count and increased anxiety.
- Eating different vegetables can repair and stop the effect of hormones like the effect of phytochemicals which have green leafy vegetables, oats, barley and flaxseed oil which can be easily removed through a normal bowel movement. The plant hormones block the receptacles and prevent the stronger action of petrochemicals.
3. LOCAL FOOD
- Ayurveda states that food should be obtained from the local environment and should be in its natural season.
- Patients suffering from weak immunity, allergies and weight problems only eat locally grown food which is of that season only.
- Ayurveda states that immunity and the functions of enzymes are lowered if they consume from another region apart from their region and climate. We become accustomed to eating food at any time which is the cause of disease.
- The body changes according to seasons and the extent of digestive enzymes also varies according to seasons and climate.
- Eating pineapple in winter in Zurich promotes problems in digestion and causes undigested food mass.
- Food which comes from Spain and Africa is harvested long before the full nutrient content is developed. Regular intake of food from different locations will lower the number of nutrients available to the body.
4. STATE OF FOOD
- According to Ayurveda, Raw food is more difficult to digest than cooked food as the process starts in a pre-digestion form which makes food easier to break down in the stomach.
- Fruits and vegetables make food easier to break down than raw.
- Cooked food is the best way to take the food as it supports the Agni which has pros and cons for each state of food.
- Each different state of food has different actions on the metabolism of different constitutions.
5. RAW FOODS
- It is an important source of Prana (life force) and enzymes.
- Raw Fruits are the best for Vata and Pitta types of people which suppresses the metabolic functions and cleansing properties.
- Fruits can make the digestive system too acidic in the Pitta type of person, as the Pitta type generally can not eat raw fruits in the morning.
- The Moistening Action of fruit is good for Vata types who tend to be dry. Kapha Type will do well with certain fruits in the late morning.
- Raw Vegetables can be best taken for the Pitta type which has the strongest digestive powers and the second last Kapha type has the capacity to handle raw vegetables.
- The Kapha Type can eat raw vegetables in late spring and in summer and avoid eating in Winter and early spring.
- Ayurveda states that raw foods require more metabolic energy and more body heat to digest. So, one must have low raw food in the cold/winter season.
- Nuts, seed and oil should be taken in raw form as it is hard to digest but they have a more concentrated form of protein which is good for the Vata type but not for Pitta and Kapha type.
- In Ayurved fresh spices and fresh dairy products increase the intake of enzymes which are lost during cooking.
6. COOKED FOOD
- According to ayurveda, cooked food is easy to digest and assimilate.
- Cooking is a kind of antidote which changes the quality of many foods.
- But some food is not to cook and heat as by heating the enzyme structure changes and normal healthy honey becomes poison.
- On cooking the food it eliminates the enzymes and vitamins/nutrients which makes cooking better as it allows it to absorb quickly.
- If food is not cooked properly the nutrients are not cooked and are expended to digest and the body is unable to break down the food as completely.
- There are two important factors in this- not overcooking the food and cooking at a very high level of heat.
7. LIQUID FOODS
- It can be put into a blender and turned into juice and drink. Raw and slightly cooked food in liquid form is problematic over a long period.
- The human colon needs solid matter food which maintains its tone. If we take a liquid diet for a long period the tone of the colon gets prolapsed.
- Fiber is the main source to maintain the tone and strengthen the colon and lower part of the body.
- The colon is the major site of absorption of micronutrients and a liquid diet does not absorb the nutrients before their elimination.
- A liquid diet diminishes the digestive capacity through the lower enzyme functions.
- According to ayurveda, a liquid diet for a long period of time suppresses the digestive fire (Agni).
- In the Kapha type of Prakriti, one can have vegetable juice fasts for one day a week as it increases the functions of enzymes.
- Pitta-type Prakriti can have fruits or vegetables and can have a liquid diet twice a month a day for each time.
- Vata-type Prakrit can mix a solid lunch and a liquid breakfast.
- In cold times, it is advised to avoid this kind of diet and have liquids which are at room temperature.
8. SOLID FOODS
- Solid food forms the basis of everyone's diet and without solid food, the digestive organs get collapsed.
- Yoga and various special exercises prevent this collapse.
9. ORDER TO EAT FOOD AS PER INDIVIDUAL
- Food is one of the most looked at and important factors in nutrition.
- Whatever we eat enters first which will either be digested or blocks the way for other food to be digested. The food must enter in the order that the body should digest them.
- Pitta- Kapha type should follow this diet- Fruits, Green salad, Beans and Raw vegetables.
- In Vata Type- Fruits, Cooked vegetables with whole grains, Dairy products and raw vegetables.
10. FOOD COMBINATION
- Liquid food generally passes the solid food in the stomach and moves into the small intestine.
- Every liquid has its own capability to enhance or suppress the digestive process.
- Liquids should be taken in small amounts as they lubricate the digestive tract and liquefy the food in the stomach.
- If the liquid food is mixed with the wrong food it over-activates the digestion and creates acidity.
- There are certain groups which should not be mixed together such as Eggs (should not be mixed with red meat, fish and milk), Lemon (should not be mixed with yogurt, cucumber or tomatoes), Honey (should not be mixed with ghee)and many more.
11. QUANTITY OF FOOD
- The prime factor in Ayurveda nutrition is to consume the food according to the actual amount of food.
- The best way to start the dietary plan one must eat less as the amount of people eating is staggering and is the main cause of disease.
- The stomach is a muscle which can be stretched and contracted with training as we eat more we are training our stomach to stretch more.
- As per Ayurveda, the stomach must be filled with ⅓ solid food, ⅓ liquid food and ⅓ empty stomach. This is the ideal proportion to perform its job which mixes everything and is well chewed with digestive acids. If it is not mixed well then food and acid move to the small intestine which is known as a half-baked state.
- If the stomach is too full the digestion process will not happen well and stuffing yourself will impair the process of digestion.
- Good nutrition is a balanced mixture of different kinds of food in a sufficient amount.
12. THE ACT OF EATING
- The beginning of the lesson on eating should be the pleasure which brings consciousness to the whole process of the food. When we begin to contemplate the mouth which gets its actual pleasure in the form of taste.
- Chewing food fully is very important as it gains full pleasure.
- It allows the mixing of saliva with food and preparation from the stomach. Ayurveda states that one should chew the mouth 32 times before swallowing and chew with each tooth.
- The middle path is important in all dietary matters. Buddhism the greatest physician told us that chewing in excess amounts should be avoided and that after eating one should not lie down nor do physical exercise for fifteen minutes but after fifteen minutes one can do a short casual walk to stimulate digestion.
- According to ayurveda, the body needs three meals a day. Eating between meals fatigues the digestive system and it should be avoided.
The Digestive System works in three basic stages-
- Liquefaction and mixing of the food (stomach and mouth)-- Kapha.
- Transformation and Assimilation (stomach and small intestine)-- Pitta.
- Assimilation and elimination (colon)- Vata.
In Ayurveda, there are 3 stages which are controlled by Kapha, Pitta and Vata which are known as the '3 Stages of Digestion'. Disturbances in the doshas involve digestion which causes Gas in the colon (due to Vata doshas), Bloating in the stomach (related to Kapha) and Acidity in the small intestine (due to Vata doshas).
- Eating between meals does not digest the full stomach to digest and move the food to the next stage which causes premature aging and poor assimilation of nutrients.
- In ayurveda, constant intake of food breaks down the body's ability to metabolize fats, proteins and carbohydrates and this inability begins to weight gain and reduces the intake of food.
- If you don't want to gain weight, correct menstrual difficulties and eliminate chronic digestive problems.
- It is concluded that the act of eating should be a pleasure in one's life and it begins with the choice of food and preparation of food. Most importantly eat the food in the right order and combination which assimilates fully and provides benefits.