Diet for you
Ayurveda has stated that Purusha (i.e. man or human) is made by what he eats. The meaning of this sentence is very clear, what we eat is what the body metabolise and all the tissues starting from Rasa dhatu to Shukra dhatu (7 dhatus in ascending order are; rasa rakta mamsa meda asthi majja shukra). So the quality of food and the type of food matters a lot along with the quantity. In today’s day what we consider while following a diet plan is mostly focused on the quantity. We need to understand that quantity alone does not matter as much as the nature of the food decides the approximate amount to be consumed. For example if we consider; a bowl full of popcorn is not a much to satisfy the appetite whereas to the contrast, a bowl of custard is much heavier in nature and many of us may not be able to digest or even consume all of it. Another important factor which varies from individual to individual is the appetite. Every person should decide his food intake proportional to his appetite. Generally Ayurveda states that ½ of your food intake in accordance to your appetite should be solid food substances made from grains, cereals, fresh vegetables, fruits, etc. and 1/4th of your appetite should be liquids which include not only water but also juices, gravy, soup, etc. the remaining 1/4th has to be kept empty for the motility of abdominal gases. This space left empty helps to avoid bloating of stomach and also provides enough room for the digestive enzymes to comfortably mix up with the food.
Thus the concept of healthy diet can be achieved if we consider the quantity, nature, quality and appetite all together to plan our diet. It is always better to consume the amount of food required only for normal functioning and nourishment of your body, as it is well said by the sages, ‘Eat for living but don’t live for eating’.
There are few more rules, or rather precautions to be taken while eating to avoid the most undiagnosed disease; i.e. eating disorders. Below are a few of the general rules to be followed.
- Eat only when you feel hungry; avoid unnecessary snacking in between your meals.
- When you eat give your full attention to the food you eat. Avoid disturbances while eating; for example; watching television or listening music while eating.
- Always eat freshly cooked food, if not possible at least eat warm food, as food if cold takes a longer time to get digested and also overloads the digestive system.
- Always avoid stale food.
- Do not leave your food before you are done with your meal. Basically taking a break in a single meal and getting back to have it having it often leads to improper digestion. Also the food should not be left open in a plate for longer time as food is best consumed when it is freshly cooked and warm.
- Do not drink water in excess amount during meals, especially just before and immediately after your meals.
- Fruits are good for healthy digestion, as they contain good amount of fibre and micronutrients. Fruits should always be consumed 30-40mins before meals, so as to avoid over eating. Secondarily, it is also important that fibre should be provided before the meals as it gives an appropriate idea of our appetite.
- Avoid heavy meals and prefer small meals as it avoids the chances of over eating and indigestion. Smaller meal does not over load the digestive system, which in return helps in better absorption and excretion.
- Try to have dinners nearest possible to the sunset timings. Ayurveda expects a healthy individual to have his dinner before sunset; if possible this rule should be followed. But many times it is not possible for everyone to go along with the ‘before sunset dinner rule’. In such a case efforts should be taken to balance the equilibrium by having an easily digestible dinner also making it as early as possible. There should be at least a gap of an hour between dinner and sleep, active efforts should be taken to fulfil this condition without delaying the bed time.
- Immediate sleep after meals should be avoided (especially at the afternoon). Sleep reduces the rate of metabolism thus slows down the rate of digestion as well; this leads to indigestion and generation of Aam. Due to any reason like disturbed sleep at night or any other disease condition, if rest is expected then sleep should be managed before meals; to prevent indigestion and acidity related complications. This might be helpful at certain times but should not be regularly practiced.
- Excessive sweet, sour, salty, spicy, bitter and astringent (shadarasa) should be avoided, but all the six tastes must be included in certain limits in daily diet.
- Food heavy in nature should be consumed first, i.e. start your meals with heavy to digest substances like desserts. Trend is to have desserts and sweets after meals. Sweet is quite heavy taste as compared to the rest five, and also takes maximum digestive efforts in metabolism. Sweet after food overloads the digestive system.
If these rules are followed well and to the most possible of limit, need of a diet is almost complete for an average healthy individual.