Ask anybody in the world who works to earn money. He or she does so for three basic needs: food, clothing, and shelter. And out of these three, food is the most vital. “Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like.” These wise words of Mark Twain are applicable at any point in life.
Food is the only natural resource through which you get nutrition to survive. If you aren’t conscious about your food choices, the food that should nourish the body can damage it. In such cases, you need to take measures with the quality and quantity of food and the frequency of food intake.
The Relation Between Food And Diseases
According to Ayurveda, “Rogah Sarve api Mandagnau,” which literally means all diseases are born out of indigestion. This shows the importance of food habits.
Ayurveda has a concept of agnee (digestive fire), which can be correlated with digestive enzymes. When this agnee is not fully functional (of course, due to food habits), it cannot digest food optimally. As a result, the semi-digested or undigested foods eventually turn into morbid matters, which disturb the normal functioning of your body and cause a spectrum of diseases.
Ayurveda has a clear protocol as to what, how, and when to eat to remain optimally healthy. Let us try to understand each aspect of this diet.
Healthy Eating According To Ayurveda
In his text called the “Charaka Samhita” (written approximately 2500 years ago), the great sage Charaka elaborates the rules of dietetics. These rules are known as “Ashta Ahara Vidhi Visheshayatanani,” that is, 8 factors related to food and diet habits. These 8 factors apply to one and all in any given situation.
|1||Prakrti||This denotes the natural qualities of the food, i.e., inherent attributes like heaviness or lightness of food.|
|2||Karana||This includes the process of preparation. The method of preparation and processing changes the natural properties of foods.|
|3||Samyoga||This refers to the combination of one food with others (like combining fruits with vegetables).|
|4||Rashi||This denotes the quantity of food to be eaten.|
|5||Desha||This denotes the habitat. It determines the variations in the qualities of the substances according to their geographic region due to various factors like the type of soil, use, and acclimatization to that particular region.|
|6||Kala||This denotes the time factor that can be understood in two ways: daily variations and seasonal variations. It also refers to the age, i.e., the individual’s factors of age and disease.|
|7||Upayoga Samstha||This consists of the dietetic rules.|
|8||Upayoktr||This indicates the person who eats.|
Ayurvedic Rules Of Food Consumption
As per the Charaka Samhita, following these basic rules will help you avoid diseases and stay healthy.
1. Eat Hot Food
According to Ayurveda, you should eat fresh and hot/cooked food as it is easy to digest. Such foods help the Vayu (one of the three doshas of the body) to move downward, which encourages proper bowel movements. Remember that excessively hot or cold food is not advisable.
Also, eat fresh foods as stale food can cause indigestion and stiffness. According to the Bhagavad Geeta, eating tamasika ahara (stale, excessively cooked, and/or over spicy food) makes way for various ailments.
2. Eat Unctuous Food
The dishes you cook should be moderately unctuous as this eases digestion and excretion. Balancing a dish makes the food more nourishing and tasty. Extremely unctuous foods (such as pizza with double cheese) are heavy to digest, whereas dry foods aggravate the vayu dosha and often contain very less nutrition.
3. Eat In Proper Quantities
This is one of the most important factors. But what is the proper quantity? As per Ayurveda, the right quantity depends on your digestive capacity and overall strength and is, hence, subjective.
One way to measure the perfect quantity is to stop eating when your hunger is satisfied and when you don’t feel heavy.
Overeating causes your body to feel heavy and drowsy. Eventually, this leads to obesity and other related complications. But eating too little will make you malnourished. So, experiment and find the right balance.
4. Eat After The Previous Meal Is Digested
What should be the right interval between meals? The idea here is to eat only the food you have eaten is digested. The symptoms that suggest proper digestion are clear belching, hunger, lightness in the body, and enthusiasm. If your belching smells of the previous meal, hold on, as your meal is not yet digested.
If you eat before the food is digested, it can cause severe indigestion and digestive complications over a period of time.
5. Eat Compatible Food
In Ayurveda, eating foods of the opposite potency (viruddha ahara) is prohibited. For example, onions and milk cannot be eaten together as both have different potencies and quality parameters. Various such combinations come under this category and need to be avoided.
However, many people try such food combinations on a daily basis and remain completely healthy. So, this principle of incompatibility depends on subjective factors such as your body’s constitution, strength, vitality, habitat, etc. To be on the safer side, just avoid incompatible foods when you can.
6. Focus On Hygiene When Eating
Eating in a clean, hygienic, and pleasant place and in clean vessels increases your appetite and lets you enjoy your food. This is why most restaurants are decorated nicely. These factors directly affect your digestion and satisfaction levels.
7. Eat In Silence And Concentrate
“Eat while you eat.” A majority of the people who suffer from digestive issues work in white-collar jobs. A contributing factor here is lunch meetings/discussions. When you focus on other issues during lunch, you hardly pay any attention to the food you eat.
Food is the source of your energy, your vitality. So, concentrate only on the food during meals and experience the smell, taste, texture, and flavor of the food. Avoid stress as being stressed out will prevent you from enjoying even your favorite dish. Enjoy eating and don’t let it be a chore. You can even try saying gratitude and prayers before eating for better focus.
8. Divide The Stomach Into Four Parts
Charaka Samhita contains a description about the quantity of food that’s ideal. According to this, you should divide the stomach into four parts. Fill two parts with solid food, one part with water, and one part with air (kept empty). Following this method will keep your digestive system healthy and strong.
9. Pay Due Regard To Yourself
Be aware of the food choices and the quantity that suits you particularly. Think about yourself before eating. Is the food good or bad for you? What should you avoid today considering any specific health issue? How much do you need to eat, really? The only person who knows completely is you. Listen to your inner voice and make your own diet rules accordingly.
If you’re seeking truthful guidance on food habits, Ayurveda can be the best teacher. Apart from treating diseases, Ayurveda deals with the prevention of diseases and overall wellness. It shows ways to cherish life fully without giving way to illnesses by altering your diet.