Healthy Eating Guidelines of Ayurveda
One of the most fundamental and sacred experiences we have as a human is eating. After all, when we consume food, we are incorporating the energy of other lifeforms whose constituents have been perennially exchanged since the beginning of known time, inherently intending for them to support and sustain our being as a new part of ourselves. However well intended, we all serve to benefit from considering the Ayurvedic understanding of how food we eat eventually becomes a functional part of ourselves and what guidelines we can consider for truly healthy eating.
Ayurveda shares the unique insight that health is not only dependent on the quality of the food we eat, but also the way we digest it. This can be achieved by maximizing our digestive fire (agni) so nutrients can be absorbed properly to increase the efficacy of what we consume to build healthy tissues in the body.
If agni is slow or irregular it can lead to undigested food which becomes a toxic buildup (ama) that can eventually block healthy processes in the body. If agni is too high nutrients are essentially burnt up before being utilized.
In the Sushrut Samhita (one of the three main texts in Ayurveda) it outlines a very simple approach to the laws of food consumption. Food should be consumed:
- Hot, warm and fresh
- Unctuous (oily)
- In proper quantity
- When hungry
- In a congenial place
- In leisure
- With proper cutleries
- Without talking
- Without laughing
- With full concentration
- Having self-regard
Some easy ways to begin implementing these practices at home can be through remembering these 10 Healthy Eating Guidelines:
- Begin meals with grace or by simply taking 3-5 slow breaths. This prepares the body to receive the food.
- Eat in a calm environment where there is little distraction. It is best to avoid having the television or radio on. Avoid excessive conversation especially if it involves heightened emotions. Avoid reading while eating.
- Chew food to an even consistency. This requires your attention to be involved with the process of eating. There is no magic number, however food should become liquid in quality and liquids should be chewed like food. This improves digestion and absorption.
- Eat at a moderate pace and until 75% full. Overeating is one of the major causes of disease in our society. When we eat too much digestion slows. When we finish eating we should not feel heavy or hungry. We should feel satisfied. This can be obtained by consuming 50% food, 25 % liquids and leaving 25% free for air.
- Following your meal let your food digest before moving on to the next activity. It is best to wait 15-20 minutes. During this time engage in light conversation or read something joyful; enjoy Nature or go for a gentle slow walk. If you are rushed, center yourself with 3-5 breaths before beginning another activity or rushing out the door.
- Consume small amounts of liquid with meals. One- half cup of room temperature or warm water on average. Dry meals may require slightly more while moist meals (like soup) require none at all.
- Take all water and liquids at room temperature or warm. Cold drinks reduce the digestive fire and decrease digestive function. This is true not only at mealtime but throughout the day.
- The body’s rhythms mirror those of the universe supporting peak digestion around noon with the midday sun. Therefore it is best to eat the largest meal at noontime with lighter, easy to digest meals in the morning and evening.
- Allow at least three hours between meals. One good sign to eat is feeling hungry! This means that the previous meal has processed and the body is ready to intake again. This allows most individuals 3-5 meals per day depending on metabolic function and balance of the dosha.
- Eat food prepared with love. The energy of the cook is always in the food. Avoid eating food prepared with stress, anger or resentment. We eat not only the food but also the emotions of the chef. The same applies when you are cooking for yourself or others.
In our Rutacharya (seasonal regimen) blog post and seasonal workshops we share details on which foods are best for each season. In general it is recommended to only eat what grows locally. Seek out local vegetables, fruits fresh on bushes or trees, and local grains. Meat should be wild or ethically harvested and dairy products can be found fresh at local farms.
In practice we have seen that targeting one healthy eating guideline per meal for a few days is supportive to allow these practices to become second nature. Give it a try!
Weekly Healthy Eating Guideline Challenge
- Week 1- eat to 75% full for one meal a day (ex: breakfast)
- Week 2- eat to 75% full for two meals a day (ex: breakfast and lunch)
- Week 3- eat to 75% full for three meals a day
- Week 4- eat to 75% full for all meals and add eating in silence for 1 meal a day (ex: breakfast)
- Week 5- eat 75% full for all meals and add eating in silence for 2 meals a day (ex: breakfast and lunch)
- Week 6- eat 75% full and in silence for three meals a day
You can see how this gentle process allows an easeful transition into the Healthy Eating Guidelines so that they become a part of your daily routine. Take the challenge and share your experience with us on the Facebook Group Page!
The effects of creating balance in the digestive system is one of the best ways to take charge of your overall health. Do this simple work and enjoy all the benefits that will come your way.