Ayurveda considers food to be the best medicine. It is called Brahma: the origin of life. It strongly believes that the reason for all disease lies within our digestive process. Every grain we eat carries a subtle energy within it which gets transferred when we consume it. What we eat is reflected in our mind and body.
Ayurveda explains certain factors which are responsible for wholesome and unwholesome effects of food as follows:
- Nature of the food
Depending on whether the food is easily digestible, it can be classified as heavy or light. Meat is heavy on our digestion while rice and vegetables are lighter.
Food, when cooked is more easily digested. Fruit and some vegetables are better eaten raw. Traditional methods of cooking help to preserve the nutritional qualities of food whereas microwaving destroys its life force. Depending on preparation – frying, roasting etc. – its quality changes, becoming lighter or heavier on our digestion.
- Food combination
When preparing food, the ingredients must be compatible and properly combined. For example, combining vegetables with ghee or butter is considered healthy. Ghee nourishes and lubricates, assisting digestion of the vegetables.
Sour fruits eaten with milk produce curd which is difficult to digest. This is poor food, combining incompatible ingredients.
Quantity of food depends on your digestive fire. There are no fixed criteria for the amount of food according to age, sex, race, etc. A general rule is that one part of your stomach should be filled with food, one with liquid and one should be left empty for effortless digestion.
Consider climate, temperature, humidity, etc of the place where you eat, which should also be clean. If your surroundings are favourable, sattvic (pure) and peaceful, then food will be better absorbed and have beneficial effects on mind and body.
To respect the natural rhythm of the body, stick to regularity. Only when your previous meal has been properly digested may the next one be consumed. Also adapt the type as well as the quantity and quality of food according to the season. Your main meal should be between 10am-2pm, which is when your digestive fire is strongest. Breakfast can be lighter, between 7:30-8:30am. Dinner can be between 7-8:30pm.
In order to naturally increase your digestive fire, it is best to eat your food warm.
Meals should be taken in a relaxed, calm and cheerful atmosphere. Do not eat when overpowered by strong emotions like anger, anxiety etc. Similarly, eating too slowly or too rapidly, eating while talking, laughing, thinking or watching television is not advisable. Food should be consumed mindfully with the thought that this food is going to benefit your body and mind. Smoking or a lot of water or any other liquid after eating is not advisable.
- You and your meals
Take into consideration how much you can digest, your mind-body constitution, the season and time of day. Leave plenty of time between meals for digestion.
Aparna K. BAMS, MD, PhD
Consultant advisor for development of Oneworld Ayurveda and visiting physician
Aparna is one of the few specialists in the world with a PhD in Ayurveda. Born into an Ayurvedic family which operates a traditional Ayurvedic Panchakarma hospital in Kerala, India, she grew up observing her father, the renowned Dr. Padmanabhan Read more »