Eating for good digestion (part 2)
(This article is a continuation from “Eating for good digestion, part 1…”)
Building Balanced Agni and Eliminating Ama
One of the principles or laws of nature Ayurveda teaches is ‘Like Increases Like’. This means that when you expose anything in nature to a certain quality, that quality will be increased. We can use this simple but profound idea to build a strong digestive fire, or balanced AGNI.
Balanced AGNI has the qualities of warm, light and slightly oily. If we want to build balanced AGNI, we simply need to introduce these same qualities through our food and lifestyle practices, regardless of our our constitution. But how do we do this?
As a basic starting point, you need to favour food that is unprocessed — that is, whole food that hasn’t been processed by food manufacturers and doesn’t come in colourful packets with a list of unrecognisable ingredients…. pretty much anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognise as food! Your body finds it easier to digest wholefoods because they, like your body, are more ‘natural’. They also have a more ‘sattvic’ or peaceful quality to them which has an effect on your mind.
To introduce the quality of ‘WARM’ you simply need to favour predominantly cooked foods, use mild spices in your cooking and sip warm drinksthroughout the day.Try starting the day with a ginger, honey and lemon tea – the best way to kick start your AGNI and eliminate AMA in the morning. You also need to avoid excessively HOT foods such as chilli and also COLD foods and drinks (that means pudding and cake is preferable to icecream!).
To introduce the quality of ‘LIGHT’ you need to avoid the excessive consumption of very heavy foods like meat, cheese and eggs and prepare other heavy foods like wheat and milk in a way that makes them lighter. Milk should be consumed cooked with spices and wheat should be eaten as dry roasted chapattis and semolina. You should also favour lighter foods such as those presented in this book – vegetarian soups, daals, rice, porridges, pancakes, breads and so on.
To introduce the ‘SLIGHTLY OILY’ quality you should use a moderate amount of good quality oil in your cooking — including ghee, sunflower oil, sesame oil and olive oil. This will help to ignite the fire in your belly and keep it burning bright. And you should avoid the excessive consumption of dry foods (crackers, baked goods, salads, low fat foods) or overly oily foods (such as deep fried foods).
The quantity of food you eat is also important. Try to avoid over-eating on a regular basis. If you happen to over-eat one meal, simply skip the next meal or have something extra light to help your AGNI recover.
One last thing. Our AGNI is at its strongest in the middle of the day, when the sun is at its highest point. If you can, try to eat your main meal, or your heaviest meal of the day at midday and eat a lighter meal in the evening. Traditional cultures have followed this practice for thousands of years but it has been forgotten in our modern culture. Try and bring it back whenever possible.
But the most important thing is to eat food that has been cooked with love. It is always easier to digest!