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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. Shshru says - Food builds and supports the body, improves complexion and general appearance. Harmful combination of food may cause diseases, create heaviness in body, and at times may even cause death. Therefore taittareya upanishad says:- Food only is the cause of creation, preservation and destruction. Hence food is all in all it is life itself. It is god.
- 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 constitution, nature of work and season.
- Food builds the body, hence it must be consumed sensibility. Greed and ignorance must be set aside and choose what is good. The wholesome diet consists of :-
- Cereals, grains with hard seed coat like red, shali rice, old wheat.
- Pulses - like green gram.
- Water - boiled or purified, strained, filtered.
- Salt - rock salt.
- Leafy vegetables - all except mustard leaf.
- Ghee - out of cow milk.
- Milk - cow milk.
- Tubers - ginger.
- Fruits - Seasonal fruits are good.
- Oil - Seasame oil
- Dryfruits - dates,almonds 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 season. 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 this 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, butter milk,coconut water, vegetables like cucumber, tomatos,onions, drum stick, banana (unripe) curry,white pumpkin,mint,lemon,pulses like masoor, dreen gram, fruit like mango, orange,grapes,watermelon,muskmelon with the warm food - is an ideal diet.
- Prolonged refrigeration and reheating is to be avoided.
- Rainy season diet - There is rain and so is increased humidity. This aggravates vata. Diet during the rains must be light, fresh,hot,easily absorbed and one that strengthens digestion. Diet, should include old grains like wheat,shaali rice, corn,cucumber, greengram,vegetables like ladies finger, green gourd and fruits like apple, banana,promogranate,mangoes etc. Mangoes and milk are particularly beneficial.
- Winter diet - this is the best period as far as health is concerned. Hunger is increased in this season and body gets good nourishment.
- A diet that is greasy, sweet,salty,sour and nutritious is the best during the winter. The food items good for this season are ghee,butter,oil,milk,pudding,black gram,honey,sugar cane juice, sweet made of flour,gooseberry amla,dry fruits,sprouted pulses,bread of wheat,organs,califlower,peas,cabbage,tomatoes,carrot,spinach and fenugreek leave etc.
- Dry ginger, warm water and hot foods are good for this season.
- Special notes on diet - it is important to know what to eat. It is also important to know when 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 food - 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 soften the food and hasten digestion, strengthen the body, sharpen the senses, improve complexion, transport vayu and aid in smooth elimination of wastes. Lubricate the joints reducing wear and tear due to friction.
- Nowadays popularity of refined oil has increased, and susceptibility to joint disorders is also increased. Hence it is essential to have ghee and oil in their natural state.
- Fresh and warm food - food should always be freshly prepared and eaten warm, as it is nourishing, tasty, easy to digest and regulates vayu. Cold and stale food is tamasik and has no valu.
- Appearance - The colour, aroma and taste of food creates 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 is taken should be clean, pleasant and peaceful.
- Eating should be treated as a scared activity and hence must be performed with the same kind of earnestness and concentration. Eating while watching television or talking should be avoided. Dirty, noise or disorganized 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 juice is also hampered. Hence discussing,watching,reading or thinking about disturbing things while eating should be avoided.
- Timings - For smooth and complete digestion,it is of vital importance that food be taken only at the appropriate and regular hour. A few things must be kept in mind to have good digestion.
Food not be taken in
- Absence of hunger
- Before the complete digestion of the last meal.
- Any food takes 3 hours for digestion fully.
- Feeling of heaviness in the heart or stomach.
- Before waste elimination - expulsion of gas,urine or stool.
- Food to be eaten between 11 a.m to 2 p.m as it is the period of pitta increases. So the digestion takes place quickly.
- Not to consume too hot,too cold or dry food; stale food disturbs the digestion.
- Neither less nor more food to be consumed. If less is consumed. 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.
- To obtain maximum nutrition, food should be taken in appropriate quantity. Half of the stomach capacity is to be filled with food, one quarter for liquids, and the other quarter empty space for vayu, for maxing of digestive juice with the food. If the stomach is packed to the capacity, digestion is hindered disrupting the entire process of food absorption and assimilation.
- 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,sitting,sleeping,walking,laughing,breathing,talking etc. is experienced - then it means the food is taken in appropriate quantity.
- When deciding the quantity of food to be taken, the nature of one's digestive capacity and 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 over eating will lead to aversion to food, heaviness in the stomach and chest region, obesity, indigestion etc
- Hence food is to be taken only when 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 joins the food and digestion starts from the mouth itself. Saliva digests food into rasa and this rasa protects the seven tissues, mainly ojas.
- Suppression of natural urges is harmful.
- Eat neither hastilynor very 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. Like wise, one cannot have food when one feels thirsty. If one eats food, one would suffer from 'Gulma' a disease of clots.
- While having food one must drink water in small quantities. According to vagbhatacharya.
- Drinking water before eating weakens digestion and leads to loss of weight drinking water during a meal boosts digestion and increases life span.Water intake after the meal immediately is harmful and it increases kapha ; one becomes obess.
- Sushrut also supports saying - Water intake before meals weakens the body, water intake during the meals keeps the body balanced, and water intake after the meals increases fat in the body.
- Therefore to maintain good digestion drinking water during the meal is considered the best. Though one or two sips of water after the meal will not make difference.
- The six tastes - sweet,sour,salty,pungent,bitter 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 excessively, he may suffer from skin problems, jaundice, swelling, leprosy etc. If one has excessive salt in the meals he may suffer from eye problems,dysentery,bleeding from the gums, greying of hair,hair fall etc. If one has excessively pungent things, he may suffer from drying of mouth and throat, loose consciousness, thirst and burning sensation in the body, acidity etc. If one has bitter food excessively he may suffer from gas problem and joints pain.
- After the meals one should have only two meals a day. One between 11 to 2 p.m. and evening between 7 to 8 p.m. one who does physical work can have light breakfast. Others may have a fruit or salad.
- The dinner should be light, because the digestion power is slowed down in the night.
- A two hour gap between dinner and sleep is a must.
Ayurveda says :- In the night one who eats rice and milk would be blessed with long life span. But one who eats rice and milk would be blessed with long life span. But one who eats rice and curds at night would reduced life span.
- Despite being beneficial, normally curds has a tendency to block channels. Hence eating curds at night should 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 curds at night. Patients of asthama, cough,cold,arthritis and fever must not eat curds even during the days as these disorders are caused due to the blocking of the srotas - channels.
- After dinner,one has walk for a while because it promotes digestion. After lunch one should not sleep but can rest a while.
- One has to eat in moderation. Do a japa of god's name for hundred times, and a walk hundred steps. Then sleep by the left side. One who follows this regime does he need a doctor?
- One can retire to sleep after 2 hours of dinner. Then one one should sleep by the 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 fresh butter milk with rock salt and cumin seed powder.
- One has to follow a schedule for eating:-
- Once a meal is done, one should not eat anything till 3 hours for a yama as the digestion is taking place. Also, one should not remain hungry after 2 yamas - 6 hours
According to Bhava Prakash
- During the period of yama rasa is produced but if one keeps hungry even after 6 hours he will lose strength.
Unfavorable combination of food articles, may lead to diseases like leprosy,leucoderma,blindness,acidity,fever,thyroid problem,epilepsy,boils etc.
- Milk - with curds,salt,radish,garlic,lemon,banana,pomogranate,goose berry,black gram,fish.
- Curds with - milk pudding,hot foods.
- Madhu (Honey) with - ghee,radish,warm milk,warm meals,cucumber,ground nut.
- Cold water with - ghee,oil,warm milk,warm things,water melons,cucumber,ground nut.
- Watermelon - cold water,mint
- Rice with - vinegar
- Black gram - radish,animal meat
- Banana - with butter milk
- Milk - with kichadi
- Do not reheat the food once it gets cold. This would to diseases.
The internal meaning of upa - vasa is to remain near god. But commonly it is termed as fasting. Being away from sins, and always remembering god is real upavasa, ot making the body suffer without food.To maintain good health and to maintaoin the digestive system in proper condition,upavasa is recommended by vasishtha smriti - upavasa or fasting once on the eleventh day of lunar cycle is like a medicine to keep the system pure.
The above mentioned information is added from the book called "MUDRAS & HEALTH PERSPECTIVES" by "SUMAN.K.CHIPLUNKAR".