Dietetics and Its Solutions in Ayurveda - Alveda
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Dietetics and Its Solutions in Ayurveda

Ayurveda, also called the Science of Life has a two-folded aim, which is “Swasthasya Swasthya Rakshanam” i.e. to preserve the good health of the healthy, and “Aturasya Vikara Prashamanam” which means to cure the disease of the diseased. The aspect of prevention is much emphasized in Ayurveda which is why detailed guidelines for dietary regimens are given in the texts. The Ayurvediya Dietetics system is highly scientific in nature and is designed taking into account the body constitution (Prakriti) of an individual like the diurnal and seasonal variations, the geographical location and corresponding climate conditions, the method of food preparation, and many other factors.

The benefits of a ‘beneficial’ diet (HitakarakaAhaar) include keeping a person healthy, and maintaining normal body functions, while at the same time correcting imbalances in the body and ultimately preventing disease. These 8 factors known as “Ahara Vidhi Vishesh Ayatana” are to be considered important in the diet. They are:

  • Prakriti – nature of the food article. Eg. Green gram is easy to digest whereas black gram is heavy.
  • Karana – method of preparation. Eg. Steaming raw rice makes it easily digestible.
  • Sanyoga – combination. Eg. a Combination of milk and sugar is good whereas, a combination of milk and fish is poisonous.
  • Rashi – quantity of the whole meal and that of the individual items.
  • Desha – habitat or place of eating.
  • Kala – time of day, night, or seasons
  • Upayogasanstha – rules for food intake
  • Upayokta– wholesomeness of the eater and thought on his/her age, constitution, likings, etc.

In Acharaya Sushurta, food should be easily digestible, energizing, soft, and warm, and should be eaten only on an empty stomach. An important factor to consider when eating is the amount of food an individual eats based on her AGNI (Digestive Capacity). Eating more or too little agni than can be absorbed can lead to various ailments of the digestive system, which can eventually affect the whole body. Ideally, the solid portion of the meal occupies half of the total volume of the stomach, with one-fourth of that portion filled with liquid, leaving the other quarter free for various gastric secretions. should Eating around the right time impairs the function of Agni and leads to many diseases. Ideally, eat during pitta kala, which occurs in the afternoon and evening.

So also, after having the first meal the next should ideally be after 6 hours to ensure proper digestion of the previous meal so that the individual is hungry enough to eat the next meal.

As much as it is important what to eat it is important how we eat. The food should be warm and moist. There are specific guidelines about the eating place which should be clean, well-ventilated, well-lighted, and calm. One should eat in a comfortable position concentrating on the act of eating. Talking, laughing, or indulging in other activities which might distract us, should not be practiced while eating. The food that we eat should also be appealing visually and aromatic so as to arouse our senses so that eating becomes a sacred and pleasurable activity.

Modern science is slowly realizing the importance of these subtle details and their implications. When it comes to defining food ayurveda defines food as shad rasatmak ie; with six tastes which are Madhur (sweet), Amla (sour), Lavana (salty), Katu (pungent), Tikta (astringent) and Kashaya (astringent). One’s food should include all six tastes in optimum quantity in order to attain balance.

It is emphasized to eat according to geographical location(Desha), seasonal variation(Kala), and body constitution(Prakriti). This provides an insight into why certain food item is digestible or non-digestible in a particular season or in people belonging to a specific geographical location. In the age of globalization where one can get food from various countries, people seldom think about the relevance of what we eat to our bodies and what consequences it can have on them.

The PRAKRITI i.e. the body constitution of an individual is the most important factor which decides the regimen for healthy as well as the diseased, so also the dietary regimen. General guidelines are as follows,

Prakriti Vata dominant Prakriti Pitta dominantprakriti Kapha dominantprakriti
Physical features of an individual with Thin built, dry skin, frizzy dry hair, cold body temp, Alert sleep, low body strength, loses weight easily Medium frame, well built, oily warm skin, sound sleep, fair-reddish skin, medium body strength, normal constant body weight Overweight, cold-greasy skin, thick hair, pale skin, deep sleep, high body strength, difficult to lose weight
Emotional/psychological features Quick, impulsive, nervous, unstable, creative Motivated, sharp, intelligent, short-tempered, jealous Content, slow, kind, calm, lethargic, good memory
Favorable tastes Sweet, sour, salty Sweet, bitter, astringent Pungent, bitter, astringent
Tastes to be eaten less Pungent, bitter, astringent Salty, sour, pungent Sweet, sour, salty
Eat more of Warm, heavy, moist, sweet foods. Milk and milk products in moderation, oils in moderation, vegetables which are bulky, moderate usage of spices, light herbal teas, cooked meat, fish in moderation, sweet and sour fruits, soups, nuts, Cooling and soothing food, less spicy and sweet. Unsalted butter, milk, ghee, buttermilk, soft cheese, sweet fruits, fruit juices, beans, moong, rice, wheat, white meat in boiled or cooked form, etc. Warm, light, dry foods. Skimmed milk, goat milk, buttermilk, warm drinks, herbal teas, spicy soups, nuts in moderation, all spices, horse gram, green gram, honey, less fatty meat, fish(boiled), honey, Alcohol in small amounts with dilution.
Eat less of Cold, light, dry, pungent foods. Raw foods. Spicy and fried food. Bakery products like biscuits and white bread. Vegetables like potatoes, beans, and brinjals Hot, spicy, salty foods. Fried foods, lentils, Sour fruits, spices, pungent and acidic vegetables, and hot beverages. Alcoholic drinks, aerated drinks. Sour cheeses. Seafood, Fermented foods, Oils except for coconut, and soya. Vegetables like tomatoes, chilies, Heavy, oily, unctuous, cold foods. Dairy products. Sweet and bulky fruits. White sugar, Kidney beans, black gram, Cold beverages. Red meat, fatty meat, Oil except sunflower, and mustard.

The Ayurvediya texts give details of various dietary formulations (Aaharkalpanas). These formulations are important to be followed by both diseased and healthy individuals. They are basically some soups, decoctions, gravies, jams, and drinks. These preparations hold importance especially when we design specific dietary programs during and after Shodhanachikitsa like purificatory(panchakarma) procedures. These preparations are soothing, carminative, appetizing, nourishing, and purifying in nature. There is also a description of various food groups viz. cereal group, pulse group, vegetable group, tuber group, meat group, oil group, milk group, etc. where detailed information of each type is given with examples, with their effect and side effects on the body if taken in excess and disease-specific usage. Ayurvediya dietetics is incomplete without the VIRUDDH AAHAR concept. A detailed description of the poisonous effects of combining incompatible foods, improper food preparation methods, wrong timing, and incorrect intake of food can be found here. For example,

  • Milk combined with non-vegetarian food (meat, fish, or egg) is considered a poisonous combination. So also, Milk or Yoghurt with fruits especially citrus fruits.
  • Fruits with starchy food (rice/potatoes etc.)
  • Combination of vegetables with fruits.
  • Chilled water/ beverages with meals.
  • The heating of honey.
  • Curd should not be eaten at night.
  • Left-over food should be avoided and if eaten should not be combined with fresh food.

The conception that Ayurvediya physicians put unnecessary emphasis on diet during consultations is totally incorrect. Changing faulty diet habits is mandatory and should not be ignored especially while one is suffering from imbalance. All of these rules can feel overwhelming, even unbearing complicated but ultimately rational. Not following these rules, deranges our AGNI and generates AMA, a toxic substance that is often at the root of imbalance and disease Thus Ayurveda considers eating as not a mere routine activity but calls it’ YAGNA’ thus a holy deed wherein we sacrifice the SAMIDHA(food) into the sacred fire of AGNI(digestive capacity) to achieve a balanced and healthy life. As the proverb goes “You are what you eat” It is important to eat healthy in order to lead a healthy life.

Ayurveda consultant

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