Agni or the digestive fire is the chief protector of the body.Food is the fuel for internal fire (Agni). Food and drinks if taken in proper manner promote growth, life, intelligence and health.
There are seven factors which should be considered for selecting and eating the food.
A. FACTORS RELATED TO FOOD
1.Svabhava (Natural Quality)
5.Desa (includes the habitat of the food article and the user)
7.Upayoga Vyavastha (Mode of using)
Svabhava – Property
Assess the nature of the food like whether it is heavy or light, Dry or oily, slow or speed, cold or heat, etc.
Eg. Meat and wheat are heavy to digest whereas gruel (kanji) is light.
Samyoga – Combination
Certain combinations enhance the health, eg. Wheat and milk
Certain combinations become incompatible, eg. Milk with fish, honey and ghee in equal quantity
Denotes processing which produces the transformation of inherent qualities.
Eg. Rice when cooked becomes lighter to digest
Denotes the quantity which depends upon the nature of the food materials, its quality etc.
Eg. Heavy food should be consumed in less quantity and light food in large quantity
Desha-Region or Place
Refers to the region in which the article of the food is grown and the user lives.
Denotes time for intake and digestion of food.
Also denotes season of the year and time of the day for using certain food articles.
Eg. Curd should not be taken at night time
Denotes the manner of taking food
- Procedure to take food
- Pay attention to calls of nature before eating
- Bath or at least wash your hands, face & feet before you eat.
- Sit in an isolated and clean area.
- Face the direction of the sun
- Pray and thank nature for providing you food.
- Feed others
- Consider eating as a yagna (a vedic fire ritual) and that you are offering havis to the internal fire ( Agni) who is Bhagavan (God)
- Concentrate and eat with confidence. Avoid watching TV, conversation during eating.
- Approach each items with reverence and love and chew them well.
- See that all the six tastes are present in the menu.
- Eat sweet, oily food first, sour, spicy in the middle and bitter, astringent at last.
- The food should be warm.
- Always eat accustomed food (in relation to body, age, season, dosa & disease).
- Half of the stomach should be filled with solid food, one quarter by liquids and the other quarter should be kept vacant for air.
- Use rice, wheat, barley, tender radish, grapes, green gram, jaggery, ghee, milk, honey, pomegranate,triphala daily. Can find similar combination in the other geographic areas if we use this sense.
- Foods which are preserved from the previous day should not be taken except curd, ghee, honey, butter milk.
- Avoid curd at night.
- Avoid overeating and untimely eating.
- Anupana – the drink which is taken after meals gives satisfaction, aids easy digestion and provides a sense of contentment. We can add herbs, leaves, medicines etc to the drinking water. Diabetic patients can take herbs which are anti diabetic, which keep the blood sugar level well below the normal.
Activities after meals
Take tambulam (betel leaves), walk about hundred steps and lie on the left side.
Avoid bathing, driving, swimming and exertion immediately after meals.
Health-promoting components of a plant based diet.
One of the key aspects of a predominantly plant-based diet is its high content of dietary fibre. Generally, the term “dietary fibre” refers to plant cell walls and non-nutritive residues. In addition, a plant-based diet is low in saturated fat, high in essential fatty acids and high in antioxidant nutrients and phyto-chemicals. These important plant compounds offer significant protection against diseases like heart disease, cancer and arthritis.
Beneficial effects of dietary fibre
1.Decreased intestinal transit time.
2.Delayed gastric emptying, resulting in reduced post-prandial (after meal) hyperglycaemia.
4.Increased pancreatic secretion.
5.Increased stoll weight.
6.More advantageous intestinal microflora.
7.Increased production of short-chain fatty acids.
8.Decreased serum lipid levels.
9.More soluble bile.
A good goal for dietary fibre intake is 25 to 35 grams daily. This can be easily achieved if the dietary focus is on whole, unprocessed plant foods. Vegetables are excellent sources of fibre. In fact, 1 cup of cooked carrots has almost the same amount of fibre as 3 slices of whole wheat bread or 2 cups of oats.
A diet high in fibre is important in the prevention and treatment of a number of diseases.
Diseases highly associated with a low-fibre diet– Metabolic Obesity, gout, diabetes, kidney stones, gallstones,Dental caries, autoimmune disorders, pernicious anaemia, Multiple sclerosis, thyrotoxicosis, dermatological conditions,Hypertension, Cerebro vascular disease, Ischemic heart disease, varicose veins, deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, Colonic Constipation, diverticulitis, haemorrhoids, Colon cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitas, Crohn’s disease.
One should take a balanced diet comprising of such articles of diet, which are wholesome to the individual for maintaining health and prevention of diseases. A diet comprising of preferably red variety of rice, barely or wheat, green gram (Mudga), rock salt, fruit of amalaki , milk, ghee, honey and sterilized water is considered as a balanced diet, good for health.
Eight factors of Dietary Habit
The eight factors, which should be considered while deciding a diet for a particular person include Prakriti (Nature), karana (processing),samyoga (combination),rashi (quantum),desha(habitat), kala(time), upayogasans (rules of use) and Upayokta (the user). They are known as Ashta Ahara Vidhi Vishesha ayatana.
Prakriti (nature) : the nature of the substance is due to its inherent properties. For example by nature black gram is heavy while green gram is light. Similarly by nature pork meat is heavy while meat of deer is light.
Karana (Processing): process is that which modifies radically the properties of substances. The processes like churning, cooking, environmental factors like humidity, season, place, container and period of preservation may affect properties of a substance. For example a solid substance may be softened or liquefied by adding water or cooked on fire. The curd or yogurt by nature induces edema, but on churning it becomes buttermilk (Takra) which relieves edema. Poison may be used as drug after its proper purification and processing.
Samyoga (Combination): Combination of two or more substances may also alter the natural properties of individual substances. For example individually honey and ghee are good for health, but taking their mixture in equal proportion becomes harmful. Similarly honey, milk and fish individually have no adverse effect, but when taken in combination become harmful. Thus some substances exhibit peculiarities on combination, which are not seen in the case of individual substances.
Rashi (Quantum) The quantity of food to be taken is known as Rashi. The quantity of individual articles of diet (Parigraha) as well as the total quantity of diet (Sarvagraha) is to be taken in to account while deciding a quantum of diet for a particular person. This will depend on the individual’s digestive power. The quantity of diet will also affect digestion. Even light diet in excess may become heavy for digestion.
Desha (Habitat): Desha refers to country and the diet and drug articles produced at different places differ in their qualities also. The substances produced in their natural habitat have better qualities than produced elsewhere and are better suited to persons of that region.
Kala (Time) : The contents of diet should be changed according with the season. For example in winter the digestion power is strong, so the heavy diet articles are good, while in summer and rainy seasons light articles are generally advised, as digestive power is compromised during these seasons. Furthermore in the diseased condition diet articles have to be selected according to Dosha involved in and the stage of the disease. Ghee for example is contraindicated in the first seven days of fever but if fever runs a chronic course then ghee is prescribed to increase the strength of patient as well as to alleviate the dryness caused by the heat of fever.
Upayogasanstha (Rules of Use): the rules for taking the diet are prescribed. The most important rule for taking diet is that it should be taken on digestion of the previous meal. The main symptoms of proper digestion of the ingested meal are, lightness, feeling of hunger and thirst, enthusiasm and timely appearance of natural urges.
A warm unctuous meal with no antagonistic articles is advised. The food should be in proper quantity taken on digestion of the previous meal and in a favourable place. One should eat neither too fast nor too slow, without talking or laughing and with full concentration.
Bad habits of eating may lead to many disease and therefore should be avoided. Taking wholesome and unwholesome diet articles together is known as Samashana. It is bad for health.
Eating before the digestion of previous meal is known as Adhyashana. It leads to Ama formation and is the cause of many diseases.
Eating at irregular times, some times in less quantity and at other times in increased quantity are known as Vishama-Ashana. It leads to the vitiation of Vata. Therefore it is advisable to eat at regular time and in appropriate quantity.
Upayokta (User): It refers to the person taking the food. He should consider what is specially wholesome and unwholesome to him. Accordingly he may select and avoid some of the diet article.
Prescribed method of eating habit (Ahara Vidhi vidhana)
In Ayurveda ten rules for healthy diet habit have been given that are known as Ahara vidhi vidhana. These methods are good for both healthy persons and patients. It is good habit always to eat warm food having unctuous and non-antagonistic substances in proper quantity after digestion of the previously eaten meal at favourable place with all the favourable accessories not too fast and nor too slow, not while talking or laughing and with full concentration and due consideration and due consideration of self.
Ushna (Warm) food): The warm and freshly prepared food is tasty promotes digestion ,gets easily digested, has carminative action and decreases Shleshma.
Snidgha (Unctuous) : Unctuous food is tasty, further stimulates digestive juices, gets quickly digested, carminative to gases, nutrient opt body, improve the senses increases strength and produces clarity of complexion.
Matravata (In proper quantity): Food eaten in proper quantity doses not disturb the equilibrium of the Dosha and digestion gets easily digested and passes down and promotes life span.
Charaka has advised to divide the stomach in three parts imaginary. One part of the stomach fill with solid diet articles, the second part with liquids and the third part keep empty. One can know whether he has taken improver quantity of food by the symptoms mentioned for it.
Symptoms of food eaten in excess: After eating food if there is excessive heaviness and feeling of obstruction in abdomen, pain in sides, saturation of senses, and cessation of hunger and thrist, then it indicates that the food has been eaten in excessive quanitity and it causes vitiation of the three Dosha.
Symptoms of food eaten in proper quality. : Absence of the above mentioned symptoms of excessive eating and particularly feeling of ease in sitting ,standing, lying movements, respiration, laughing, and gossiping, easy digestion by evening and morning, promotion of strength, complexion and development are the symptoms indicating that the quantity of food ingested is proper.
Symptoms of food eaten in less quantity: The food eaten in less quantity does not satisfy satiety, causes loss of strength, Sara and immunity, complexion and development, upward movement of gases, decreases life span, sexual power, damages body, mind, intellect and sense , and lead to vitiation of Vata leading to eighty types of Vata disorders.
Jirne (On Digestion of Previous meal): It is always good that one should eat on the digestion of the earlier eaten meal. The symptoms of proper digestion are feeling of appetite, thirst and lightness, proper movement of gases, bowel and urine, feeling clarity in heart and channels.
This good habit of eating helps in digestion of food timely and quickly, promotes life span and odes not vitiate Dhatu.
Faulty Habits of Eating
Adhyashana: Eating of food before the digestion of the earlier meal is called Adhayashana. It is a bad habit of eating and leads to the vitiation of all the Dosha quickly. In this condition when one eats during the digestion of earlier meal then both undigested and, under digested and digested meal mix together and leads to production of ama.
Vishamashana: The irregular (Vishama) habit of eating is not good. Untimely eating or some times taking food in excess quantity and sometimes in less quantity are known as Vishamashana. It leads to increase and vitiation of Vata.
Samashana: Eating of food containing both wholesome and unwholesome diet articles is known a Samashana.
Virya Aviruddha (Non Antagonistic): The diet articles to be ingested together should not be antagonistic to each other and doing so the disorders caused by virudddha ahara may be prevented.
Ishta Desha Sarva Upakarna (Proper Place and Circumstances):
The food should be eaten at proper place and favourable circumstances (Sarva Upakarna). It prevents the psychological and physical disturbances. For instance eating at a place having bad smell or horror sight and unfavourable circumstances may cause mental disturbance, badly affecting the appetite and digestion.
Na-Ati Drutam (Not too Fast): One should not eat too fast; it may lead entering of food in wrong passage and the person may nor relish the good taste of the food and may injure the health.
Na-Ati Vilimbatam (Not too slow) : the food eaten very slowly may not satisfy satiety, the food becomes cold an dmay be taken in more quantity. Therefore one should not eat veryfast or very slow.
Ajalpana Ahasanam (Neither while talking nor Laughing): One should not talk or laugh while eating and eat with concentration. It may cuases same problem as mentioned for eating too fast.
Tanmana Bhunjita (Eat with full concentration) One should eat with full concentration.
Atmanama –abhi-Samikshaya (consideration of Self) : While selecting the food articles due consideration is to be given to their suitability to the person who is eating.
Ayurveda as a life science, has a comprehensive approach in delivering the key factors regarding the food from the selection to the final stage. This watchfulness is to keep the population healthy and happy, thus attaining the ideal goal of wellness.