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Diet and Ayurveda

By Sujal Patil
Ayurveda has a two-fold aim – to preserve good health of the healthy and to cure the disease of the diseased. The aspect of prevention is much emphasised upon, which is why detailed guidelines of dietary regimen are given in Ayurvedic texts. Dietetics in Ayurveda has a highly scientific approach and is designed keeping in mind the body constitution of an individual, diurnal variation, seasonal variation, geographical location and corresponding climatic conditions, mode of food preparation and many such details.
The following eight factors considered important for diet:
• Prakriti: nature of the food article. Example, green gram is easy for digestion whereas black gram is heavy. Eat food which is easily digestible, energetic, soft, warm, in optimum quantity and only when one is hungry.
• Karana: Method of preparation. Example steaming raw rice makes it easily digestible.
• Sanyoga: combination. Example combination of milk and sugar is good whereas combination milk and fish is poisonous. Ayurveda defines food as having six tastes – sweet, sour, salty, pungent, astringent and bitter – and all should be included in optimum quantity so as to achieve balance. Each taste has a different effect on the body.
• Rashi: quantity of the entire meal and that of individual items.
• Desha: habitat or place of eating. Eating place which should be clean, well ventilated, well lit, and calm. Eat in a comfortable position concentrating on the act of eating. Food eaten should be appealing visually and aromatic so as to arouse senses making eating a sacred and pleasurably activity.
• Kala: time of day, night or season. Eating before or after proper time will hamper digestion resulting in many diseases. One should ideally eat during the afternoon and evening and a 6 hour gap should be maintained between meals to ensure proper digestion.
• Upayogasanstha: rules for food intake. The food should be warm and moist. Eat according to your digestive capacity otherwise it will result in various diseases of the digestive system. Ideally the solid part of the meal should be half of the total capacity of the stomach, one fourth parts should be occupied by liquids and the remaining fourth part should be kept vacant for the various gastric secretions.
• Upayokta: wholesomeness of the eater and thought on his/her age, constitution, likings, etc.
Eating according to the prakriti (body constitution), desha (geographical location) and kala (seasonal variation) is important. This can give us a clue as to why certain food items are digestible/non-digestible in a particular individual or in a particular season or in people belonging to a specific geographical area. In today’s era of globalisation we can get American food in India or Indian food in Australia, but very little do we think about the relevance of what we eat on our bodies and its consequences.
In all of this lie clues about food allergies, unexplained skin diseases or auto immune disorders all of which common today.
These rules can be overwhelming, even irritatingly complicated, but the rationale behind them is that eating is a holy act in which we sacrifice samidha (food) into the sacred fire of Agni (digestive capacity) to achieve balanced and healthy life. Not following them deranges our digestive capacity and generates toxic substances that are often at the root of imbalance and disease.

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