A popular saying is: “you are what you eat.” the food what we eat ultimately assumes three forms. Two of these forms are nutrients and the third is excreta. The two nutrient parts are known as gross (Sthula) and subtle (Sukshma) the gross becomes the tissue element through a seven-layer metabolic process. The subtle part becomes the mind and hence the above adage.
To be in calm within, Ayurveda says food of sattvika quality should be consumed regularly. The holy Geeta defines sattvika food as:
Foods which promote life, vitality, strength, health, happiness and satisfaction, and which are succulent, unctuous, nourishing and pleasing to the heart are dear to the pious.
The science of yoga says, when the element of vata in the body is vitiated, the mind also gets vitiated. So the food that vitiates vata should also be avoided. According to Ayurvedic advice we should consume all six tastes everyday with the predominance of sweet (madhura-rasa) so that our daily meal is balanced.
This means that carbohydrates, which are predominantly sweet in taste, should constitute a major share of our food intake compared to sour, salt, bitter, astringent and spicy tastes, which should be consumed in smaller proportions. Their presence is necessary for the balanced physiological functions of the body.
Food which is easily digestible and which is not a burden on the digestive process is said to be the best food. Cow’s ghee is predominantly sweet (madhura rasa pradhana) and is helpful for proper digestion when consumed in a small quantity with hot food.
The seasons also have a say in the matter of our diet. Winter and summer are diagonally opposite to each other in their effect on the digestive process. Summer makes the system weak. Digestion is stronger in winter. The quantity and constitution of food advisable also varies accordingly. We advise heavy foods for the winter, and light/ semi-solid foods for the summer. In winter, we can afford to eat more and heavier foods than we should in summer.
Ayurveda divides the year into six seasons(ritus). Each season needs to be compensated by a particular rasa as shown below:
* Hemantha and Shishira( winter):Amla(sour)and Lavana ( salt)
* Vasantha (Spring): Katu ( pungent/ spicy), Tikta ( bitter) and Kashayam ( astringent)
* Greeshma (Summmer):Madhura ( sweet) , amla ( sour) and Lavana ( saltish)
* Varsha (Raniny): Amla ( sour), and Lavana ( saltish)
Food may be good but taken in the wrong combination it affects health and can cause many chronic metabolic disorders. Our traditional knowledge identifies as many as 18 types of food combinations which are incompatible.
The following are some examples of incompatible food:
Many times the modern science nutrition doesn’t recognize this incompatibility factor and consequently we end up in consuming milkshake with citrus fruit. Fish processed with milk products, re-heated food, etc. all the time. These cause accumulation of toxins in the body.
Ayurveda says, re-heated food is slow poison. If we adhere to the traditional way of eating as prescribed for the changing season, cooking the days meal afresh, every day and not storing cooked food in the refrigerator and reheating it subsequently many of metabolic disorders we suffer from can be prevented.
Recently studies on metabolic reinforce the Ayurveda theory that digestion doesn’t culminate in the gut, but devolves through the tissues and ultimately becomes the energy for the body without producing any waste products which accumulate in the tissues as bad fats and other toxins.
There is an old saying that say: A person who eats once is a yogi(ascetic), he who eats twice is a Bhogi(reveler) and the person who eats thrice is a Rogi (patient). What this implies is that a person who doesn’t exert himself physically in his daily occupation should niot eat as we eat functionally these days. If at 11am we eat sumptuous food which is nutritious, easily digestible and has all the six rasas, it is sufficient for the day. The evening meal can be warm milk and fruits. This is the ideal regimen for longevity for a healthy person with no morbidity.
Written By: Prof.., Dr. G . G. GANGADHARAN