Rules of Consumption
How to eat is equally important, as the speed of food intake is of prime importance. Slow eating promotes better digestion, greater satisfaction and better weight loss or maintenance. Ayurveda advises eating neither too slow nor too fast. Mindfulness while eating promotes optimal digestion and is considered to improve glycaemic control. Overwhelming emotions during food consumption and digestion can lead to irregular and anomalous digestive processes.
Adhering to these rules in daily life will prevent the dysfunction of agni, thereby evading the formation of ama or metabolic derangements, toxins and undigested food, and maintain the tridosha’s homeostasis.
1. Eat only when hungry, after the previous meal is digested. For example, when the tank of your car is full, you do not add more fuel to it as it may cause leakage and damage to the car. In the same way, if you eat when your previous meal is undigested, it imbalances the doshas and creates inflammation at the cellular level.|
2. Eat warm, fresh and good-quality food. Stale food gets oxidised very fast and leads to lipid peroxidation, causing cell damage in the body. Warm food promotes digestive power and aids in the peristaltic movement of the intestines. During the first phase of digestion, kapha is increased, so warm food balances it. There are, however, a few exceptions to this, like honey and curd.
3. When cooked food is left uneaten for a long time, pathogens start forming in it. If this food is now reheated and eaten, it creates fermentation in the stomach, resulting in indigestion, flatulence, gastritis and acidity.
4. Food should include all the six rasas or tastes—namely, sweet, sour, salt, spice, bitterness and astringency—in the daily diet. Excessive intake of one or the other rasas can disrupt the equilibrium, leading to some or the other health problem. For example, excessive intake of sweet foods can lead to obesity and those of pungent foods to acidity.
5. Food should be unctuous, that is, it should include healthy fats. It improves taste and also helps in the movement of the food because vata needs lubrication. In Ayurveda, the head is considered the root of the body, and we know that fats are an important fuel for the brain. So, when we nourish the root that is the brain, we provide strength to the sense organs, which helps the entire body system to flourish.
6. Food needs to be eaten in proper amounts—not too much nor too little. The tridoshas are not disturbed if portion control is maintained. The volume of food should be between half and three-fourth of the individual’s appetite. The difficult-to-digest or heavy portion of a meal should be one-third of the total food consumed, while the remaining should be easy to digest. A proper quantity of food produces an equilibrium of tissues and health.
7. Ayurveda promotes mindful eating. Rhythmic eating, that is, chewing the food properly, is necessary to enhance digestion and the absorption of nutrients from the food. Digestion involves a complex series of hormonal signals between the gut and the nervous system, and it takes about twenty minutes for the brain to register satiety (fullness). There’s also reason to believe that eating while we are distracted by activities like driving or typing may slow down or stop digestion, similar to the ‘fight or flight’ response of the sympathetic nervous system. When we do not digest well, we may miss out on the full nutritive value of some of the food we consume.
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8. Food should be eaten in pleasant surroundings, with cutlery, and should be prepared according to the individual’s choice. Open and windy places are not favourable for a person with Vata prakriti. A candlelight dinner will be enjoyed by Vata-and Pitta-prakriti individuals, but a Kapha-prakriti person would need an adequate amount of light to see the food. A Pitta-prakriti person is more particular about their diet and desires favourable accessories.
9. Different foods that are consumed during a meal need to be compatible with each other and should not be contradictory in their actions. For example, dal and rice are complementary foods; together they provide a complete protein profile and each of them also facilitates the assimilation of the different nutrients present in the other.
10. Only eat food that is nourishing to one’s particular constitution and which suits one’s mental and emotional temperament.
Excerpted with permission from The Ayurvedic Kitchen: Ancient Wisdom to Balance Body, Mind and Soul by Dr Asghar and Sonal Chowdhary, published by Westland Publications