In Ayurveda, What to eat? How to eat?
Diet is basically the sum of the food consumed by organisms. It is not something someone goes on when trying to get healthy because of the unbeneficial way they normally eat. All the organisms including humans eat to survive. All disease comes from eating and living unhealthfully but there is so much knowledge to this. We should eat appropriate food to live healthy life at all times.
Concept of Diet in Ayurveda
Ayurveda has always given immense importance to diet since ones diet is what they eat and what you eat, if it is digested properly, becomes you. Since it determines the health of a person is defined by healthy digestive system and health of the digestive system depends on healthy eating habits, not just eating what is thought to be healthy. The most healthy meal can be the most toxic meal if consumed in the wrong manner, i.e. too much, too fast, too slow, in the wrong order of qualities of the food, etc and etc…
There are 8 factors which have to be taken into consideration before consumption of any food or diet.
Basic character of the food
Before consuming any food we should know the basic character of the dietary ingredient. It defines how the food will be digested and assimilated in our body. For example ‘garbanzo beans’ have heavy character hence are difficult to digest. This knowledge takes time to understand. There is no list in general that is written to provide this knowledge because each dietary ingredient may have several different qualities as per the time is is eaten i.e. the ripeness of the food article to the varies species of that food item, i.e. the varied types of meat or varied types of rices (basmati rice is a heavy rice and not for normal consumption where as sixty day harvest rice and other short grain rices can be light and can be eaten all the time*****).
These are the various treatments or processes done on the food to change the basic character of the dietary ingredient up to certain extent. These processes include soaking, cooking, frying, roasting, etc. For example, rice grains have basically heavy character but when cooked with water become lighter and easier to digest. A meat soup, which is used in many treatments in Ayurveda can have the meat cooked first then made into a soup making it even lighter and easier to digest yet maintaining its nourishing qualities.
It is the combination of two or more dietary ingredients. Combinations give rise to properties different from those possessed by individual food items. For example, fish and milk when consumed individually are good for health but when consumed in combination give rise to various disorders mainly of the skin. A book that is readily available and from the Western nutritional library is Food Combining Made Easy although this is not Ayurveda, it gives a general understanding of food combining that is proper and easy to understand. it is also written in the early 1900’s and food combining still has not been brought into the Western nutrition’s compendium of common knowledge.
It is the quantity in which the food is consumed. It is measured in two ways
1) Quantity of each dietary ingredient
2) Quantity of total diet consumed at any point of time.
All of which is determined upon ones own agni or digestive capacity at that very time as well as the season and other things listed in this article.
It includes the region where that particular dietary ingredient is grown as well as the region to which person consuming that dietary ingredient was born and lives presently. It is of extreme importance as the locally produced foods are easily assimilated in the body. The concept of eating local food (slow food movement) which is now very popular in the western was known and practiced since thousands of years in Ayurvedic.
It is with respect to disease state and season. Certain dietary ingredients are benefical in certain disease states and certain seasons while others are not. For example, the consumption of foods with cold character should be forbidden in beginning of summer season and milk should be avoided in acute stage of fever.
Directions of use
These are the rules and regulations which should be followed during food consumption. For example one should not eat before earlier food is digested. This turns both meals into toxic waste or aama and destroys agni or the digestive capacity.
This is the person who consumes the food. It is perhaps the most important factor since beneficial or non-beneficial effects of diet depend on the individual consuming it.
Always eat the food which is fresh and warm. Because fresh and warm food is more palatable and easy to digest. (There is no such things as a raw food ayurvedic diet. This goes directly against all the deeper knowledge of Ayurveda. Reheating food is not healthy. This also makes one more conscious as to the amount of food they are cooking as well as the amount of food one is eating. It also makes one aware of their own agni or digestive capacity to then prepare their own meal of the right quantity.)
One should always eat foods of all the different qualities from chewable to lickable, meaning from hard to soft. Also making sure there is the appropriate amount of oil in some or the other form.
One should always eat in proper quantity that is not too full or too little. To do otherwise destroys the digestion.
One should eat only when earlier meal is digested properly. As stated before, without letting the previous meal digest completely, eating another meal turns all of it into aama which is basically a improperly digested foodstuff that is toxic to the body and is where diseases comes from. It also destroys the agni, the digestive capacity or the fire that is digesting the food.
One should not eat the foods with opposite characters. For example do not eat food with hot and cold character in combination. eg. milk and fish
One should always eat in pleasant and hygienic place with proper cutlery appliances. Any time the mind is disturbed it affects the digestive process. To eat in a calm environment that is conducive to eating food that will turn into you is the beneficial action for health.
One should not eat too quickly or too slowly. Both cause disease. One of the main steps for a person with Irritable Bowel Dysfunction is to simple chew their food and slow down.
One should eat with his or her full concentration. The food that you are about to eat is actually going to turn into you if eaten properly. It will build a healthy you or it will build a dysfunctional and diseased you. To spend time with your meals, with focus on only eating, with no distractions will create health.
One should eat according to his or her constitution, the food which is acceptable by the body which eventually will help in building the health. This rule is blown out of proportion in much of what the West is calling Ayurveda. To eat a diet that is an “anti pitta diet” that is taught in Western ayurveda will destroy the digestion as the foods that create the digestion are all pitta and all the cooling anti pitta foods that one will be following on those lists are going to put out the digestive fire and create aama or toxicity. This does create disease. This is also the same with anti vata and anti kapha diets in their own fashions. A balanced diet contains all the rasas or tastes and is respective in the balancing of them to the time of day, the weather of the day, the balancing of the season, the agni of the eater, and only lastly to one’s own constitution unless one has a disease that then the intake is needing to be based off of to heal the disease. Normally what is seen when one undergoes true Ayurveda panchakarma is that after the excessive doshas are thrown out and the agni is rekindled properly and the individual is rebuilt is that the foods that were too heating for them are now not at all (speaking to anti pitta diets). This brings to question how applicable those anti dosha diets are. Another thing to mention with this is that what was once thought to be ones normal constitution was nothing more than an imbalance and the anti dosha diets were not making them better.
The food which is consumed as per all the above rules is easily digested and assimilated in the body. This ultimately helps keeping one healthy.
The most important part that has to be noted here is that ancient scholars have given equal importance to the things other than food such as the place of eating place and even appropriate use of cutlery and bowls, cups and plate to eat off of which makes the food presentable and boosts person’s interest in eating and affects the digestion which is all very important factor in proper digestion and assimilation of food.
Because there have been questions regarding rice…
Just to add, none of these rices are basmati.
and also a fun read…. http://www.asianagrihistory.org/articles/Uma-Ahuja.pdf