Nowadays people forget the basic principles of healthy food. Due to a lack of information or incorrect information about healthy food many lifestyle diseases are taking place.
Ayurveda strongly believes the reason for all disease lies within our digestive process. What we eat reflects upon our body and mind.
Healthy food is considered in Ayurveda to be the best medicine. Poor digestion (koshtha) is considered the primary origin or causative factor for nearly all disease.
So how do we determine what is healthy food? Healthy food is dependent upon many things.
Below are Ayurveda’s eight important aspects of healthy food. These are known as ahara vidhi visheshayatana.
The Basic Principles Of Healthy Food
The nature of the food or it’s quality is known as Prakruti.
Depending on whether the food is easily digestible or not, food can be classified as heavy or light in quality. Meat is heavy for digestion while rice and vegetables are light. This is the basic nature of the food. While eating we must take this into consideration.
How food is prepared or processed is known as Karana.
Generally, cooked food is better for nutrition. Some food substances like fruit or even salads are better taken as uncooked. Food cooked on natural wood or a coal fire tends to have better taste than food cooked with electricity or gas. Microwave cooking destroys prana or life-energy in the food.
Processing includes other methods like roasting, frying, baking, drying, churning etc. and depending on the method of the process can actually change the qualities of the food. Food becomes either more light or heavy for digestion.
Food combination is known as Samyoga.
While preparing food the ingredients must be compatible and properly mixed together. The combination of vegetables and ghee or butter are considered healthy food. The ghee nourishes and lubricates, assisting in the digestion of the vegetables.
Sour fruits eaten with milk produces a curd and is difficult to digest. This is poor food combining and incompatible ingredients.
Rashi means quantity.
While eating one has to consider the individual ingredient quantity as well as the total quantity of the food that is consumed.
Here again we have to consider the heavy and light qualities of the substances that are taken. The quantity of food depends on your digestive fire. There is no fixed criteria for the amount of food according to age, sex, race, etc. However, parigraha takes into consideration the quantity of each item and sarvagraha means the total quantity to be consumed.
Desha means place or environment.
Ayurveda has divided place into three types: marshy, arid, and normal. Consider the environment in relation to temperature and cold climate conditions. Ultimately, food must be eaten in a place which is clean. If the surroundings where one eats are good and sattvic (pure), then the food is better absorbed and has good and beneficial effects upon the body and mind. This is healthy food.
Kala means time or period.
Timing is everything. Only when the previous meal has been properly digested should you consider eating the next meal. Change the type of food as well as the quantity and quality of food in accordance to seasonal changes. Take the main meal between 10am and 2pm which is pitta time, the optimal time for digestion.
7. How You Eat
Upyoga Samastha – rules for eating.
Food ideally should be consumed while it is hot. This will naturally increase the digestive fire. Likewise, meals must be taken in a relaxed, calm and cheerful atmosphere. One should not eat when one is nervous, angry, anxious or in a disturbed state of mind.
Similarly, eating too slowly or too rapidly along with eating while talking, laughing, thinking or watching television is not advisable. It is better if we concentrate on the food only with the thought that this food is going to benefit both the body and mind. Smoking or drinking too much water or any other liquid after eating is also not advisable.
Make Eating Healthy Food A Ritual
It is recommended to take a shower and wear clean clothes prior to cooking. Our guest is God. Therefore, food should first be served to him and then children. Chanting of mantras and offering a prayer to God is always advisable knowing that blessed food will always nourish both the body and mind.
Upbhokta means ‘person who takes the food’.
Every person must take into consideration his own constitution, capacity of digestive power, the season, time of day, and whether the previously taken food has been digested or not.