For thousands of years, Ayurveda has thought us that what we eat plays a big role in determining our health. All matter consists of all five elements which are manifestations of consciousness. As we eat we take into ourselves the subtle influence attached to the food, Prana as well as the physical form of the food.
|| Ahara Bhivrudhihi Balam Arogyam
Varnodriya Varnodriya Prasadascha ||
Food builds and supports the body, improves complexion and general appearance.
|| Vyadhimindriyadorbalyam Maranam Chadigachati
Viruddha Rasa Viryani Bhunjano Natmavannaraha ||
Harmful combination of food may cause problems on consumption, it may even cause disease, create heaviness in body, and at times may even cause death.
Therefore Taittareya Upanishad says:
|| Annam Brahameti Vyajanath
Annadhyaiiva Khalvimani Bhutani Jayante
Annat Jatani Jeevanti Annam
Food is the cause of creation, preservation and destruction. Hence food is al I all Anna Bramha It is life itself. It is god.
Here all food articles are addressed as Anna
A wholesome diet can be described as one that nourishes Dhatus of the body, helps restore balance between them when it is disrupted, does not clog the body channels and leads to satisfaction.
Wholesome and unwholesome diet varies from person to person and is governed by age, body construction, nature of work and season.
Food builds the body, hence it must be consumed and sensibly. Greed and ignorance must be set aside and choose what is good, the wholesome diet consists of:-
1. Cereals, grains and hard seed coat like red, shali rice, old wheat.
2. Pulses: like green gram.
3. Water: boiled purified, strained, filtered.
4. Salt: Rock salt.
5. Leafy vegetables: all except mustard leaf.
6. Milk: Cow Milk.
7. Ghee: Out of cow milk of Indian origin.
8. Tubers: ginger.
9. Fruits: seasonal fruits are good.
10. Oil: Sesame Oil.
11. Dry fruits: Dates, almonds dry grapes etc.
The food that pleases our taste is good for us, but it has to be simple and clean. One should always eat moderately according to seasons. Seasons and environment affect our health as much as food. The state of Doshas in the body changes with seasons. India experiences three seasonal changes during the year. They are summer, Rainy and winter.
Summer diet: the intense heat during the season absorbs all moisture and oil. Temperature shoots up increasing dryness and dullness in the body
The diet should contain light, oily, easily digestible, cold and liquid foods. Milk, buttermilk, coconut water, vegetables like cucumber, tomatoes, onions, drum stick, banana, white pumpkin, mint, lemon, pulses like masoor, green gram, fruits like mango, orange, grapes, is an ideal diet.
Prolonged refrigeration and reheating has to be avoided
Rainy season diet: There is rain and so is increased humidity. This aggravates Vatta. Diet during the rains must be light, fresh, hot, easily absorbed and one that strengthens digestion. Diet should include old grains like wheat, rice, corn, cucumber, green gram, vegetables like ladies finger, green guard, and fruits like apple, banana, pomegranates, mangoes etc. Milk is particularly beneficial.
Winter Diet: This is the best period as health is concerned. Hunger is increased and body gets more nourishment. A diet is greasy, sweet, salty, sour and nutritious is the best during winter. The food items good for this seasons are Ghee, Butter, Oil, Milk, Pudding, Black gram, honey, sugarcane juice, sweet made of flour, gooseberry amla, and dry fruits sprouted pulses, bread of wheat, oranges, cauliflower, peas, cabbage, tomatoes, carrot, spinach and fenugreek leaves etc.
Dry ginger, warm water and hot foods are good for this season. Special note on diet- it is important to know what to eat and the qualities of what is consumed. Only then one can enjoy all the benefits that food has to offer.
Smooth and oily foods: Diet must contain adequate amounts of ghee and oil. Fearing heart disease, blood pressure and obesity, people avoid ghee and other oils which does more harm than good. Ghee is clarified butter, ghee and oil not only enrich the taste but also softens the food and hasten digestion, strengthens the body, sharpen the senses, improve complexion, transport Vayu and aid in smooth elimination of wastes. They lubricate the joints reducing wear and tear due to friction.
Now a days due to the popularity of refined oil, the susceptibility of joint pains and disorders has also increased. Hence it is essential to have ghee and oil in their natural state.
Appearance: the colour, aroma and taste of food created a desire to eat and stimulates the digestive juices. Hence attention must be paid to its appearance and presentation.
Place of eating: the place where food taken should be clean, pleasant and peaceful. Eating should be treated as a sacred activity and hence must be performed with the same kind of earnestness and concentration. Eating while watching television or talking should be avoided. Dirty, noisy or disorganised surroundings may disturb the peace of mind which adversely affects not only the appetite, but also the entire digestive process.
Mental state: Eating when angry, jealous, tense, nervous, scared, etc. prevents one form enjoying food. The secretion of digestive juices is also hampered. Hence discussing, watching reading or thinking about disturbing things while eating should be avoided.
Timing: For smooth and complete digestion, it is of vital importance that food be eaten only at the appropriation and regular hour. A few things must be kept in mind to have good digestion.
Food should not be taken in
· Absence of hunger.
· Before the complete digestion of the last meal.
· Any food takes 3 hours to digest fully.
· Feeling of heaviness in the heart or stomach.
· Before waste elimination- expulsion of gas, urine and stool.
· Food to be eaten between 11 am to 2 pm as it is the period of Pitta Increase. So the digestion takes place quickly.
· Not to consume too hot, too cold or dry food, stale food disturbs digestion.
· Neither less nor more food to be consumes. If less is consumed, the enzymes attack the nearby Rasa. If more is consumed there may not be space for movement. The food remains undigested and the body becomes lethargic and gurgling may start.
· Quantity of food to be
|| Ardha Savyanjan Manasya Trutiyam Udakasyacha
Vayoho Sancharnartha Chaturtha Mivasheshayet ||
Vagabahatacharya: Ashtanga Hridayam.
“To obtain maximum nutrition, food should be taken in appropriate quantity. Half of the stomach capacity to be filled with food, one quarter for liquids and other quarter for of empty space for Vayu, for mixing of digestive juices with the food. If the stomach is packed to the capacity, digestion is hindered disrupting the etire process of food absorption and assimilation.
|| Swasthya Paripalanhetushu Matravadannam Pradhanam ||
’To maintain good health, appropriate quantity of food assumes a great importance.
· If after a meal, hunger is satisfied, heaviness in the chest region and stomach is absent and no difficulty in standing, siting, sleeping, walking, laughing, berating, talking etc.
· When deciding the quantity of food to be taken, the nature of one’s digestive capacity and the digestive nature of food is to be kept in mind. Over eating may be harmful. So eating anything in excess including light foods to be avoided.
· Inadequate quantity of food leads to weakness and dissatisfaction while eating will lead to aversion of food, heaviness in stomach and chest region, obesity and indigestion etc.
· Hence food is to be taken only while hunger is felt keeping in mind the digestive capacity and nature of food.
· Masticate the food properly, biting it for 32 times so that the saliva glands can get activated and more saliva is extracted out and it gets mixed with the chewed food and the digestion process starts in your mouth itself. Saliva digests food into Rasa and this Rasa protects the seven tissues, mainly Ojas.
· Vegaan Na Thasyet: Suppression of natural urges is harmful.
· Natidhrut Bilambitam: eat neither hastily or slowly. Haste makes waste. The saliva cannot join the process of digestion and indigestion occurs, resulting in constipation and acidity.
· When hungry one cannot drink water. One has to have food. But if one drinks water one would suffer from Jalodar water retention in the stomach. Likewise one cant have food when one feels thirsty. If one eats food, one would suffer from Gulma a disease ofclots.
· While having food one must drink water but in very small quantity. According to Vagabhatacharya:-
||Samasthoola Krushabhukta Madhyanta Prathamanbupaha ||
Drinking water before eating, weakens the digestion and leads to loss of weight. Drinking water during a meal boosts digestion and increased life span, but please take not that the water should not be consumed in glasses but very small quantity as in a sip of water will only be suffice. Water intake after meals in very harmful and it increases Kapha and one becomes obese.
· Sushrut also support saying
|| Tadadao Karshayetpitam Sthapayenmadhya Sevitam
Paschatpitam Bruhyati Tasmadikshaya Prayojayet ||
Water intake before meals weakens the body, water intake during meals keeps the body balanced, and water intake after meals increase fat in body.
· Therefore to maintain good digestion during meals taking one to three sips of water is considered best for digestion of food.
· The six tastes- sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent should be included in the meals moderately. If one has more of sweets he may suffer from fever, cough, obesity, diabetes and worm problems. If one has Sour food he may suffer from skin problems, jaundice, swelling leprosy etc. If one has excessive salt in his meals then he will suffer from eye problems, bleeding gums, dysentery, greying of hair, hair fall etc. With more pungent food he is likely to suffer from drying of mouth, lose consciousness, thirst and acidity. With bitter foods may suffer from gas problems and joint pains.
· After meals one must clean the teeth with brush.
· All health people must have food in between 11.00 Am and 2.00 Pm. And evening in between 7.00 Pm to 8.00 Pm. One who does physical activity can have light breakfast and other can have fruits or salad.
· The dinner must be light because digestion power is slowed during the night.
· Two hour gap between dinner and sleep is a must.
· Ayurveda says-
|| Ratro Kshiranna Bhujyante Aayuhu Vruddhi Dinne Dinne
Ratro Dadhyanna Bhujyante Aayuhu Kshinam Dinne Dinne ||
In the night one who eats rice and milk is blessed with long lifespan, but one eats rice and curd at night will have a reduced lifespan.
Despite being beneficial, normally curds have a tendency to block channels. Hence eating curds at night have to be avoided as one has to sleep after dinner. The digestive process continues at a very slow pace during sleep. Even the healthy should avoid eating curd at night. Patients of Asthma, cough, col, arthritis and fever must not eat curds even during day as this disorders are caused by blocking of srotas- channels.
After dinner one has to walk for a while as it promotes digestion. After lunch one cannot sleep but can rest for a while.
|| Mitam Bhuktwa Shatam Japwa Padashatamtata
Vaamabhage Shayanasya Bhisagbhihi Kim Prayojanam ||
One has to eat in moderation. Do a japa of God’s name for hundred times and walk hundred steps. Then sleep by left side. One who follow this regime does he need a doctor?
One can retire to sleep 2 hours after dinner by sleeping on his left side because the digestive fire is just above the navel at the left side of the stomach.
· At the end of dinner one can have buttermilk with rock salt and cumin seed powder.
· One has to follow a schedule for eating
||Yam Madhyena Bhoktavya Yam Yugmam Na Langhayet ||
Once a meal is done you should not eat anything for the next 3 hours or for a Yama as the hours of digestion is taking place, also one should not remain hungry after 2 yamas i.e. 6 hours.
· ||Yam Madhye Rasotpatrihi Yam Yugmat Bala Kshaya ||
During the period of Yama, Rasa is produced but if one keeps hungry even after Yam Yugma- he will lose strength.
Unfavourable combination of food items may lead to disease like leprosy, leucoderma, blindness, acidity, fever, thyroid problem, epilepsy, boils etc.
1. Milk with curds, salt, radish, garlic, lemon, bananas, pomegranate, gooseberry (amla) black gram fish.
2. Curds with milk or hot foods.
3. Honey with ghee, radish, warm milk, warm meals, cucumber and groundnut.
4. Cold water with ghee oil, warm milk, water melon cucumber and groundnut.
5. Rice with vinegar.
6. Banana with buttermilk.
7. Do not reheat the food before it gets cold, this leads to disease.
|| Upavrutastu Papojyaha Yastu Vaso Gunoho Saha
Upavaso Soovigyeyaha Na Shareerasya Shoshanam ||
The real meaning of upavasa is to remain near God, bit commonly it is termed as Fasting.
Being away from sins, and always remembering God is real Upavasa, not making the body suffer without food.
To maintain good health and to maintain a good digestive system in proper condition, upavase is recommended by Vashista Smriti:
|| Akadashyam Upavaso Yam Nirmitam paramoushadam ||
Upavasa or fasting once in the eleventh day of lunar cycle is like a ultimate medicine to keep the system pure.
Golden rules for Maintaining Health
1. Sleeping on time and rising before sunrise.
2. Remembering good health is not restricted to physical health, emotional and psychological well being are crucial.
3. Five to ten minutes of meditation after rising has a calming effect on your mind and body.
4. The wholesome diet is the key to health. Take medication becomes redundant without it.
5. Meal time should be quite time with oneself.
6. Meals should be taken on time after previous meal has been digested. Eating between meals is bad and harmful.
7. Consumption of curds at night is harmful.
8. Exercising for 15 minutes keeps one fit and healthy.
9. Eat well, eat moderately, eat when hungry, and eat what you earned sincerely. Never will you be diseased says Ayurveda.
One must guard against Obesity
Simple message of Ayurveda is-
|| Aayuhu Kaamaya Manena Dharmartha Sukha Sadhanam
Ayurvedopdeshu Veedheya Paramadaraha
Nitya Hitahara Vhara Sevi Samikshyakaari Vishayeshta Sakataha
Datasama Satyaparaha Kahamavan Aaptopasevi cha Bahvatyarog ||
“He who indulges daily in healthy foods and activities, who discriminated good and bad of everything and acts wisely, who is attached too much to objects of the senses, who develops the habit of charity, of considering all equal with kindness and truthfulness, pardoning and keeping company of good persons only, becomes free from all diseases – This is the essence of life to be healthy wealthy and wise”- says Ayurveda.