Ayurvedic principles provide us with simple yet profound wisdom that remedies this confusion and lack of intuitive connection. Food is one of the three pillars of health in Ayurveda. Re-claim your ability to feel into your intuition and know what is best for you and for those around you!
Ayurvedic nutrition is not about telling you what to eat or not to eat, it is about empowering you with the principles of nutrition so you can apply those to your unique self and life and design the most suitable and healthy diet for yourself. To integrate these principles according to you’re the climate you live, time of season and time in your life (your age), and unique body type.
The ancient Ayurvedic sage, Caraka, listed 10 principles for Ayurvedic nutrition to eat food wholesome. These are like the “bible” for Ayurvedic nutrition:
ONE - Food should be Warm/Cooked (“Ushnamashneeyat”)
It's best according to Ayurveda to cook your food rather than eat food raw. Most people don't have optimal digestion, so why make your digestion do all the cooking? Let the kitchen do the cooking and take the burden of work off your digestive tract. And when you can digest the food well, you have a greater ability to absorb the nutrients because the nutrients are more bio-available. Cooking food is also anthropologically more suitable for us (we have been using fire for at least 1.9 million years). Think about it - when fruits are ripe, they have cooked by the sun, right?
TWO - Food should be Unctuous/Snigdha (“Snigdhamashneeyat”)
Unctuous food is food that has some lubrication or oiliness in it. When food has this quality, it provokes the power of our digestive fire and supports proper elimination of waste. Unctuous food also strengthens the body and senses and brings out lustre of the body.
Ensuring your diet has adequate amount of unctuousness also helps mitigate the epidemics of dryness and dehydration all around the world. And, let's face it, it makes food so damn tasty. We recommend using ghee as your primary cooking oil for the tastiest and healthiest way to include the unctuous quality in your diet.
THREE - Food consumed in proper quantites (“Matravadashneeyat”)
Divide your stomach up to determine the general quantity of food per meal. 1/2 of your stomach should be food, 1/4 liquid, 1/4 space, or 1/3 food, 1/3 liquid, 1/3 space. Ensuring you're eating a proper and proportionally balanced quantity of food supports easy digestion, maintenance of a healthy digestive tract, proper elimination of wastes and overall longevity. When you do choose to over-indulge, enjoy it, and take some extra herbs to support your digestion during dinner time (more on this later).
FOUR - Eat food only after the previous meal has been digested (“Jineashneeyat”)
This is an important factor for most of us to consider, because these days as a culture, we are simply eating too much, too often! We have coffee shops and convenience stores on every corner, our fridges are full of tempting foods beckoning us every minute of the day. We are snacking every hour for energy from chocolate, dried fruit, nuts, coffee or sweets – quick injections of stimulants to give us a hit of energy or to hug our emotional selves.
When we eat food before the previous meal has been digested, you get half-digested food mixing with immature nutrient fluids which is incompatible for the body to digest, which then easily creates āma – a thick sticky toxic substance which is the cause of many diseases. Perhaps you need to snack less, eat less or intermittently fast under the guidance of your health practitioner. So if you're eating 6 times per day at the moment, start moving towards with 3 meals per day, no snacks.
FIVE - Avoid incompatible food combinations (”Viryaavairudhamashneeyat”)
In Ayurveda, there are some incompatible food combinations that may surprise you. Some incompatible food combinations (Viruddhanna) विरुद्धान्न include:
- Fruit mixed with other food groups (e.g. fresh fruit mixed into your vegetable and grain smoothie).
- Dairy + banana.
- Sweet and sour fruits eaten together (stick to one fruit at a time).
- Fish and milk.
- Milk and salt (e.g. drinking a chai tea after lunch).
- Honey with heat (e.g. honey in hot drinks or tea, porridge, toast chicken or cake) *caution, this is considered poison in Ayurveda.
SIX - Eating food in a proper place and with the right accessories/equipment (“Ishtasarvopakaramashneeyat”)
Eat in a calm and quiet environment that supports your comfort levels, using clean and appropriate plates and utensils for food.
SEVEN - Don't eat fast or in a hurry ("Naatidruthamashneeyat”)
Try to chew your food until it’s almost liquid. This helps your digestive enzymes and juices to activate and do their job. When you eat hurriedly, the sympathetic nervous system (“flight or fight”) is activated which affects your digestion. You can’t even digest the best organic ayurvedic food while in a flight or fight response. You also can’t determine the different tastes of food or detect foreign bodies or if the food has gone bad.
EIGHT - Don't eat too slowly (“Naativilambitamashneeyat”)
On the other hand, if you eat to slow, perhaps because you are distracted, multitasking or at some fancy restaurant when they bring the food out every 30 minutes, causing you to eat for 4 hours straight, this can cause some issues. You should not stop and start the digestive process, as this will deprive you of the feeling of fullness and satisfaction, and also there's a danger that you may take more food than is required and have irregular digestive health.
NINE - Eat your food mindfully (“Ajalpana ahsana Tanmana bhunjeeta”)
This is the number one essential factor for the whole diet: Have gratitude and for the food you eat and enjoy it, no matter what. Don't talk excessively during eating, multi-task at the work desk or eat while travelling. Eating food should be a ritual. It is a sacred offering to your Self. Reflect on this: you are offering nourishing substances to your higher Self that accumulated effort and attention to provide for you. Eating mindfully activates the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the “Rest and Digest” nervous system.
If you still have trouble shifting out of a stressful state to a “rest and digest” state, consider taking a pinch of 111 Bliss in hot water 5-10 minutes before your meal time. Also remember that “food is alive” – the microorganisms in food are sensitive to your emotional state and consciousness at the time of cooking and eating. Eating with imbalanced emotions forms ama (undigested toxic material). Before you sit down to eat a meal, STOP, perhaps take some slow deep breaths and give gratitude to nature for providing you with these nourishing earth substances. Then enjoy in love.
“Even if you eat ice-cream, enjoy it.”
This is a quote from Dr. J.R. Raju, a world famous Ayurvedic doctor, who talks about how ice-cream is one of the worst foods for digestion. Even he agrees we should enjoy the food we eat.
TEN - Eat according to your unique constitution and current state
(“Atmanamabhisamikshya, samyak bhunjeeta tanmana bhunjeeta.”)
Know what is good and appropriate for your unique self. Having self-confidence while eating means knowing your ever-changing self and what suits you. The foundational teachings of Ayurveda, which includes learning about the five elements and three doshas, equip you with practical knowledge to recognise your ever changing self, and how to therapeutically balance that in any given moment.