Ahara—or food in Ayurveda—is one of the three pillars, which maintain life. How, when, and what we eat, are equally important. Ayurveda has basic dietary guidelines regarding choosing the appropriate food, combining foods, cooking methods as well as quality and quantity of food. Understanding these basic rules is very important to create an awareness of healthy and mindful eating and maintaining good health. Truly, food is your best medicine!
1. Prakruti- Nature Form
The attributes of any substance are fixed and cannot be altered. These attributes which are elemental in any substance are known as ‘Prakruti’.
A person suffering from obesity or diabetes has more water and earth elements. In this case, it is recommended to avoid heavy, oily, or gooey foods like dairy products, sugar, or wheat. A person suffering from gastric acid reflux or hot flushes has more fire elements and is advised to avoid spicy food like chilies, garlic, and pepper and to include more cooling ingredients such as coconut water, cucumber, asparagus, broccoli, mint, coriander, etc.
2. Samyoga- Combinations
The mixture of two different substances is called samyoga. This mixing of substances may result in a recipe that may be either beneficial or harmful to the body.
E.g the mixture of milk and sugar is beneficial while the mixing of fish and milk might cause harmful effects on the body.
3. Karana- Processing
The processing of foods leads to changes in their inherent properties. The processing methods can be dilution, application of heat, emulsification, storing, maturing, flavoring or preservation, etc. For example, popcorn is lighter to digest than dried or cooked corn. Butter, when boiled turns into ghee, which has finer qualities than butter itself. Yogurt is heavy to digest but when churned, it turns into buttermilk, which is easier on digestion.
4. Rashi- Quantity
The diet consumed in an appropriate amount is digested properly. For better understanding stomach should be divided equally into four parts. The food should fill up 2 parts of the stomach; one part should be filled with water while one part should remain empty for proper digestion.
Desha refers to the place where food is grown. Foods differ in quality due to the difference in soil and climate. Locally grown products originating from the region are best suitable for the person living there.
6. Kala- Time
Diet should be consumed in accordance with different seasons and also according to the Dosha condition in one’s body. One should also decide the type and the proportion of the diet to be had according to the different stages of childhood, youth, and old age.
7. Upayoga Samstha–Dietetic rules.
The diet should be consumed hot, fresh, and with enough moisture, in appropriate amounts. It is better to concentrate on the food only, being conscious that it is going to benefit the body and the mind. Refrain from drinking too much after eating, this will put out your digestive fire! As a rule, one glass is enough during the meal, enjoyed in small sips rather than gulped down. And remember to be grateful for the food!
8. Upabhokta- Be mindful
Consider your own constitution, the capacity of your digestive power, the season, the time of the day, and whether the previously eaten food has already been digested.
Applying these Ayurvedic rules in your life will make a big difference, contributing to a long and happy life. If it seems like a lot, start first with a few of the rules, and when comfortable, add more. Remember, health is your wealth!