Ayurveda considers food as the most superior among medicines. it is called as ‘Brahma’- origin of life. Ayurveda strongly believes the reason for all disease lies within our digestive process. Every grain we eat carries a subtle energy with it, which get transferred when we eat it. What we eat reflects upon our body and mind.
Ayurveda explains certain factors responsible for wholesome and unwholesome effect of food:
Prakruti – the nature of the food
Depending on whether the food is easily digestible or not, food can be classified in heavy and light qualities. Meat is heavy for digestion while rice and vegetables are lighter. This is the basic nature of the food and while eating we must take this into consideration.
Karana – processing / mode of cooking.
Cooked food gets digested and absorbed easily compared to uncooked food. Some food substances like fruit and some vegetables are better taken as uncooked. Traditional method of cooking helps in saving the nutritional qualities of food. Microwave cooking destroys Prana in the food. Depending on the method of the processing like frying, roasting etc, the qualities of the food change. i.e. can be lighter or heavier for digestion.
Samyoga – food combination.
While preparing food the ingredients must be compatible and properly mixed together. The combination of vegetables and ghee or butter are considered healthy food. The ghee nourishes and lubricates, assisting in the digestion of the vegetables.
Sour fruits eaten with milk produces a curd and is difficult to digest. This is poor food combining and incompatible ingredients.
Rashi – quantity.
While eating one has to consider the individual ingredient quantity as well as the total quantity of the food that is consumed.
Here again we have to consider the heavy and light qualities of the substances that are taken. The quantity of food depends on your digestive fire. There is no fixed criteria for the amount of food according to age, sex, race, etc. A general rule is that one part of the stomach should be filled with food, one part with liquid and one part should be left out for effortless digestion.
Desha – place or environment
Ayurveda has divided place into three types: marshy, arid, and normal. It is very important to consider the climate, temperature, humidity, etc. Ultimately, food must be eaten in a place which is clean. If the surroundings where one eats are good and sattvic (pure) and peaceful then the food is better absorbed and has good and beneficial effects upon the body and mind.
Kala-time or period
For respecting the natural rhythm of the body, we should abide to regularity. When the previous meal has been proper digested then only the next should be consumed. One must also change the type of the food as well as its quantity and quality depending on the seasonal changes. The main meal must be taken between 10 to 2 in the afternoon, which is Pitta time. Breakfast can be lighter, between 7:30- 8:30am. Dinner can be between 7-8:30.
Upayoga Samstha – rules for eating
Food must be consumed while it is hot. This will naturally increase the digestive fire.
Meals must be taken in relaxed, calm and cheerful atmosphere. One should not eat, when one is overpowered by strong emotions like anger, anxiety etc. Similarly eating too slowly or too rapidly, eating while talking, laughing, thinking or watching television is also not advisable. Food should be taken mindfully with the thought that this food is going to benefit my body and mind. Smoking or drinking too much water or any other liquid after eating is not advisable.
Upabhokta – person who takes the food
Food should be taken after considering, ones body mind constitution, digestive power, season, time of day and whether the previously taken food has been digested or not.