AYURVEDIC NUTRITION
 
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FOOD-AN AYURVEDIC VIEW AHARA

“Swasmin stheeyate ithi Swastha”

[Healthy is one who is established in the self]

 

Ahara is one of the three supporting factors of life, plays a key role in the promotion of health and prevention of diseases.

 

In Vedic literature it has been equated with nectar. The food articles which replenish the bodily dhatus and help in eliminating the disturbance of their equilibrium are to be regarded as wholesome.. A man votary of wholesome diet considering Ayurvedic dietetics survives for hundred years in a disease free state

 

Introduction

Ahara is one of the main factors provided by nature for healthy long life of human beings. The wholesome and unwholesome foods are responsible for happiness and misery respectively. Dietary consideration is an important component of every prescription in Ayurvedic therapy. Sometimes, dietary management in itself is a complete treatment.

 

Contrary to modern approach, Ayurvedic dietetics does not deal only with the specific nutritional contents of food - carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals etc, but it also takes into account the food we take in and the manner in which we take it, nature of food, agnibala, mode of preparation, combination, season, place and environment etc. Field of Ayurvedic dietetics is vast and more scientific.

 

Charaka says that it is the Ahara which maintains the equilibrium of bodily dhatus and helps in promotion of health and prevention of diseases (C.Su.-25/33).

 

According to Sushruta, Ahara is that which restores the vigour, provides strength immediately after taking, sustains body and increases the life-span, happiness, memory, power, ojas and digestive capacity (S.Ci.-24/68).

 

Importance of Diet

Among three Upastambhas (supporting factors) of life, the Ahara (diet), Nidra (sleep) and Brahmacharya, the diet is an essential factor for maintenance of healthy life (C.Su.-11/35). Being supported by these three well regulated factors of life, the body is endowed with strength, complexion and growth and continues up till the full span of life.

 

Acharya Charaka has mentioned that, Anna (food) is the best sustainer of life (C.Su.-25/40).

 

Six Rasas in Diet

Ayurveda has recommended that all the six tastes should be in every diet to enhance the bala or immunity.

 

Six rasas are

1.

Madhura Rasa (Sweet taste)

2.

Amla Rasa (Sour taste)

3.

Lavana Rasa (Salty taste)

4.

Katu Rasa (Pungent taste)

5.

Tikta Rasa (Bitter taste)

6.

Kashaya Rasa (Astringent taste)

 

Tastes and their effect on doshas

Sweet, sour and salt increase kapha and decrease vata. Pungent, bitter and astringent decrease kapha and increase vata. Sour, salt and pungent increase pitta. Sweet, bitter and astringent decrease pita

 

Sequence of consuming food

Madura (sweet) rasa ahara are advisable to take in the beginning of meal, food with Amla and Lavana (sour and salty) rasa in the middle and Katu, Tikta, Kashaya (pungent, bitter and, astringent) foods should be taken at the end of meal.

 

Food which is not easily digestible, which are unctuous, sweet etc. should be consumed at the beginning of the meal; food of opposite qualities should be taken at the end of the meal; and those which are predominantly sour and salt, in the middle of the meal.

 

Dietetic Principles of Ayurveda

Apart from elemental constitution of food various dietary rules and other factors like matra (quantity), kala (time or season), kriya (mode of preparation), bhumi (habitat or climate) , deha (constitution of person), desha (body humour & environment) etc. also play a significant role in the acceptability of wholesome diet.

 

Quantity of food

Quantity of diet depends upon the power of digestion and metabolism (C.Su.-5/3).

 

There is no fixed quantity in which different food articles are to be taken. One third of the stomach should be filled with solid food, one-third with liquids and one-third should be left empty for Vata, Pitta and Kapha (C.Vi.-2/3).

 

Time of consuming food

A person should take meal only when he feels hungry, when belching is pure, after the elimination of urine and faeces, when the flatus is moving downwards easily, when the mind is clean (devoid of emotions),when the sense organs are clear and when the body is light.

 

Ayurveda recommends that the lunch should be the largest meal of the day. The supper should be lesser and lighter than lunch.

 

Ashta Ahara Vidhi Visheshayatana

It is not possible to derive the entire benefit out of food, simply on the basis of quantity of intake, without considering these eight factors

 

1.

Prakriti (nature of food articles)

2.

Karana (method of their processing)

3.

Samyoga (combination)

4.

Rashi (quantity)

5.

Desha (habitat)

6.

Kala (time in the form of day, night or seasons and state of individual)

7.

Upayogasanstha (rules governing the food intake)

8.

Upayokta (wholesomeness of individual who takes it).

 

Viruddhahara (Dietetic Incompatibility)

A very unique principle Ayurveda upholds is the viruddha ahara (incompatible foods). The food that vitiates the factors in the body and does not help in expelling the same is termed as viruddha ahara. Consumption of such foods, which are not compatible, will give rise to various diseases.

 

Common Examples of Virudha food

 

Honey with Hotwater

 

Milk and Fish in one meal

 

Curd and Chicken in one meal

 

Acharya Charaka has described eighteen factors responsible for dietetic incompatibility (C.Su.-26/86-87)-

 

1.

Desha (climate)

2.

Kala (season)

3.

Agni (digestive power)

4.

Matra (quantity)

5.

Satmya (accustom)

6.

Doshas (tridosha)

7.

Samskara (mode of processing)

8.

Ahara virya (potency of food)

9.

Kostha (bowel habits)

10.

Avastha (state of health)

11.

Krama (order of food intake)

12.

Parihara (restriction)

13.

Parihara (restriction)

14.

Paka (cooking)

15.

Sanyoga (combination)

16.

Hridya (palatability)

17.

Sampad (richness of quality)

18.

Vidhi (rules of eating)

 

Seasonal Consideration of Dietetics

In Ayurvedic classics, there has been a thorough consideration for seasons, besides the dietetic regimens for days and nights. Whole year is divided into six seasons and detailed dietetic regimen for these seasons is prescribed (C.Su.-6).

 

Practices before taking Food

Due to its great significance, the food has attained the highest position of 'Brahaman' in this universe. Hence, before taking the food, for the betterment of life, it should be worshipped in its full religious and ethical discipline. Acharya Charaka has been given much detail of these principles (C.Su.-8/20). These religious practices increase devotion towards diet and have good impact on the mind and body.

 

Conclusion

Physical, mental, social, intellectual, emotional and spiritual dimensions of health could be balanced by taking proper diet. Every human being should aware about , own Agni bala, state of Doshas in body, characteristics of different food articles, their mode of preparation and rules of intake. Proper knowledge of Ayurvedic dietetics and its application.