Ayurvedic Basic Dietary Guidelines

According to the Ayurvedic principles your diet should be based upon your individual constitution (the three doshas or constitutions are: Vata, Pitta and Kapha). In the Ayurvedic literature there are several types of nutritional disorders:

1. Quantitative deficiency: insufficient food leading to under-nutrition or even starvation.

2. Qualitative deficiency: wrong food combination resulting in malnutrition, insufficient essential nutrients and sometimes toxic conditions.

3. Qualitative and quantitative over-nutrition: Overeating resulting in obesity, hypertension, heart diseases, high cholesterol levels.

4. Toxins in food: certain foods or food combination’s lead to toxemia and digestive disorders.

5. Foods that are not suitable to your individual constitution: can cause immune deficiency and disease.

The above mentioned nutritional disorders are connected to the strength of “gastric fire” or agni. Your gastric fire can be disturbed by an excess of vata dosha causing irregular appetite, indigestion and gases. The pitta dosha is responsible for an agni disorder resulting in hyperacidity, heartburn, hyper-metabolism and hypo glycaemia. An excess of kapha dosha can lead to slow metabolism, allergies and overweight. The “ideal” agni is a result of balanced tri-dosha, so a person having a balanced gastric fire can eat almost any type of food, and digestion, absorption and elimination of food are normal.

But, there is another important factor in food digestion and that is food combination. According to Ayurveda every food has its own taste, a healing or cooling energy to it and a post-digestive effect. So mixing different food tastes, energies or post-digestive effects can result in bad digestion (because agni slows down) and production of toxins.

According to Ayurveda one should take fruits, vegetables, starches, proteins and fats separately taking in consideration their constitution and the particular time of the day.

As for the influence of foods on the tri-dosha the principles are as follows:

– Pitta increases with foods that are sour and pungent.

– Kapha aggravates with milk products.

– Vata is over-stimulated by beans, dry fruits, astringent and bitter substances.

In Ayurvedic literature is suggested that you can chew 1/2 teaspoon of fresh ginger before each meal to stimulate appetite and digestion, while you should avoid drinking cold or icy water during or after the meal because it slows your gastric juices. It is suggested that you take small sips of warm water (or at room temperature) during the meals. You can end your meal with a cup of lassi (you blend 4 teaspoons of yogurt with 2 pinches of ginger and cumin powder in a cup of water).

When eating, one third of your stomach should be filled with food, one third with liquid and one third should be empty, in order to allow a proper digestion.

Here are some basic guidelines you should follow in order to avoid digestive problems. These guidelines should be followed depending on your lifestyle, type of activity and seasons. For example most people need to eat a more consistent breakfast during wintertime. During the change of seasons one is exposed more to have digestive problems (and to various illnesses) so the following guideline are especially recommended in that period.

Here are some basic rules:

– in the morning drink one or two glasses of water (at room temperature) with some drops of lemon juice,

– try to eat just fruits until noon, and wait at least 30 minutes before eating any other foods,

– eat your meals always at the same time (difference of 30-60 minutes is tolerated),

– drink only pure spring water at room temperature,

– eat mostly cooked food,

– do not eat after 7 pm (fruit, salad and soup is allowed),

– 20 minutes before your meal eat some fresh ginger with warm water,

– avoid drinking at least 2 hours after eating, you should drink in small sips during the meal,

– you should not eat bananas, cottage cheese, yogurt and other dairy products after dusk,

– when you are stressed, tense, nervous or tired you should not eat,

– when you are ill if you eat you feed the illness, so avoid eating during illness,

– avoid going to sleep after meals.

According to Ayurveda improper food combination’s produce indigestion, fermentation, putrefaction and gas formation. Over time this can lead to toxemia and various diseases.

Here are some basic Ayurvedic rules when combining food:

– Do not mix milk or yogurt with sour or citrus fruits,

– Avoid eating fruits with potatoes or other starchy foods, because fructose and starch are digested in different times (fructose quickly while starch is digested more slowly) resulting in bad digestion of sugar.

– You should not cook honey. Honey digests slowly when cooked. Uncooked honey is nectar while cooked honey is poison.

– Do not mix meat protein and milk protein together. Meat has heating energy while milk is cooling so they counteract one another, disturbing the digestion.

– Melons and grains are not good together, because of different digestion times. Melons should be eaten alone.

– Milk and melons should not be combined. Both are cooling, but milk is laxative and melon is diuretic, and milk requires more time for digestion. Moreover milk curdles in the stomach. That is why you should not combine milk with sour fruits, yogurt, cheese, sour cream and fish.