Natural Diet& Nutrition

Ayurvedic / Natural Diet -

Ayurveda, or the science of life, is almost as old as Indian civilisation.
 Using only natural products, it adopts a holistic approach, harmonising in the body, mind and soul. There are no distressing side effects and it is an internationally acclaimed form of healing. Today, the benefits of Ayurveda are recognised and acclaimed the world over. This science is well accepted as a natural and effective way of keeping the body healthy and free of toxins.

In the ancient days, the qualities of each and every food preparation and their effect on the tissues of healthy as well as diseased individuals of various constitutions were studied in detail. Hence we find references of dietary factors as etiological factors, which trigger off, subdue, as well as aggravate many disease processes.

In almost all diseases Ayurveda has advised the avoidance of certain food items, which have a tendency to aggravate the disease and consumption of certain food items that have a beneficial effect on the recovery from the disease.

Intake of food very slowly (vilambit ahar) leads to increase in consumption. Food also becomes cold and hence tends to act like poison, in the process it does not get easily digested

Food also should not be consumed hurriedly (atidrutam ahar) accompanied by excessive talking, laughter and the person should not engage mind on other things while eating, as all these leads to the food passing into the wrong passage thereby delaying the digestion process. The food in turn does not stay in the alimentary tract for the required time and the person is denied of the experience of good or bad qualities of food.

Thus diet is important for maintenance of health. However, if one does not use his discretion regarding selection of food in relation to place, time, constitution etc. as given below, the same diet can give rise to disease by vitiating the doshas.

Important of Tests

Rasas are extremely important in our diet and the diet should primarily consist of all the six rasas. In medicine, the Veerya (potency) is predominant whereas in diet, rasa is predominant. Consumption of a particular rasa in large quantities in particular seasons has also been advised.

It has been instructed that madhur rasa (madhur dravyam not only constitutes sweet items like sugar, jaggery but also other food items like wheat, rice, maize etc.) should be consumed first, amla and lavana rasa should be consumed in the middle of the meal and tikta, katu and kashaya rasa should be consumed at the end. There is some ideological basis for this.When a person is hungry, the stomach is empty. Empty stomach causes an increase in vata dosha. To pacify this vata dosha, madhur rasa should be eaten first.Apart from this, kaphavruddhi is required to moisten the ingested food. This is accomplished by the madhur rasa.

Since dravyas, having madhur rasa are difficult to digest, it is advisable to eat these dravyas first.After this, it is correct to use amla and lavana rasa. The reason for this is not to pacify the remaining vata but also to aid digestion by improving the agni.Lastly, katu, tikta and kashaya rasa should be taken as these rasa increase the agni along with reducing the kapha which increase after ingestion of food.

This rule applies in relation to health. But in pathological conditions this idea has to be modified accordingly. For example: In anorexia and similar kapha disorders, initially ginger and salt i.e. katu and lavana rasa should be used.Of these, katu rasa pacifies the kapha while the lavana rasa moistens food and pacifies vata. Similarly, the order of using these rasa can be suitably altered taking into consideration the prakruti (nature of the person), individual preferences and the condition of the doshas. At times, when rasa like lavana, amla and katu, which produce burning sensation, are used first, madhur rasa has to be used in the end in order to reduce the offending pitta.

Like for instance, in tropical countries, there is a custom to eat sweet preparations before starting the meal. This is useful in moistening the annavanha srotas (alimentary canal) before ingestion of food. Contrary to this, in cold countries, there is a custom of taking soups of amla and katu rasa.

There is a definite order even in arranging food items in the dish: Staple food like rice and chapatti are kept in the center of the dish. On the left side sweet dishes are kept, then sour pickle and lemon.Lavana rasa is kept in the center (right in front of the eyes) and tikta or katu rasa are placed on the right side of the plate.Diet and Place: Eating hot and pungent food in continental climate (Jangala desh) or eating fatty and cold food items in maritime climate would increase pitta and kapha doshas respectively.Diet and Season: Eating hot and pungent food in summer or cold food in winter would increase pitta and kapha doshas respectively. Quantity and Quality: Eating heavy food items in excess or too less quantity of food of light items would increase kapha and vata doshas respectively.New Tastes: Eating food to which one is not habituated would also cause sudden imbalance of doshas.

Constitution and diet
If a person with vata constitution eats dry food, person with pitta constitution eats hot and pungent food and person with kapha constitution eats fatty and sweet food, in excess; it would result in increase of the same dosha in the body.

Diet and digestive power
If a person with weak digestive power eats heavy food items, it leads to formation of ama (impaired functioning of body heat). Diet and srotorodha (obstruction of the body channels): Diet, which increases doshas and simultaneously damage tissues, leads to obstruction of the body channels.Rasa primarily depends upon the six different tastes, which are inherent in substances that tend to diminish or increase the deranged humours and the fundamental principle of the body as also to bring about a normal equilibrium amongst them.
The particular sense object that is perceived by the tongue is called rasa. It can also be defined as that Guna which can be perceived only by the Rasna-Indriyas. According to each and every individual the rasas can be evaluated by classifying them into six different types.

Madhur (Sweet)
E.g.. sugar, banana, jackfruit, sugarcane, honey, jaggery, fruits etc,. Generally food is sweet in taste, neutral in energy, and sweet in its post-digestive effect. It nourishes and maintains humors, dhatus, and malas (wastes).

Amla (Sour)
E.g.- amla, tamarind, buttermilk, curds, mango( unripe), sour fruits and pickled vegetables etc. All tissues are nourished by sour tastes except reproductive tissues.

E.g. - All salts and sea food. Salts help in strengthening all tissues but when used in excess it depletes the tissues.

Katu (Pungent)
E.g. - Sunthi ( dried ginger), maricha (black pepper), pippali (long pepper), hing (asafoetida) etc. Spices and spicy vegetables do not offer much nutrition but they stimulate digestion.

Tikta (Bitter)
E.g. - Neem, karela (bitter gourd), chandan (sandalwood), manjistha (Indian meddar), marigold, Adulsa (Malabar nut), Vekhanda etc. Such vegetables offer little nourishment but they are useful in cleansing the digestive organs, and help in digestion, if taken before meals.

Kashaya (Astringent)
Eg - Kulath (horse gram), Harda, ashoka, babbul (acacia tree), teak, jambul (black berry), etc. They help in providing minerals but do not build tissue.

Each of the six tastes also produce effects on each of the internal organs. They have the capacity to adversely affect certain organs in the body, when found in excess.