"When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use;
When diet is correct, medicine is of no need.”
The age-old Indian practice of Ayurveda stresses the fact that a balanced ahara (diet) is key to increasing yourprana (life force) and ojas (vigor or radiance) and building your vyadhi kshmatva (immunity).
Living in a time where you heavily rely on grazing - junk food, nibbles, or treats in the form of chips, crackers, granola bars, smoothies, or cookies - you're constantly looking for anything sweet or salty between meals. But are you aware of Ayurveda's take on these mini-meals?
In this article, let's understand more about snacking, its pros and cons, Ayurveda's take on it, and some dosha-specific tips and recipes.
Most people snack at least once during the day. The reasons for snacking can vary. The most common reasons include hunger between meals, craving for certain rasas (flavors) such as madura (sweet), amla (sour), or lavana (salty), the need for an energy boost, or even boredom. Since snacking is such a common phenomenon, you need to know what it does to your overall being.
As per scientific research, having small meals between the major meals can be associated with both weight gain and loss, depending on your snacking behavior: what you're eating, why you're eating, your frequency of snacking, and how it fits into your dinacharya (daily routine).
With the phenomenon of snacking being so common, it is difficult to categorize it as 'good' or 'bad'. Researchers have attempted to determine whether snacking impacts your health negatively or positively. Turns out, it does a bit of both, depending on what you're choosing to consume. Let's look at some of the pros and cons.
Provides you with time to consume some extra nutrients, if you're snacking on fruits, vegetables, or nuts
Helps you experience an instant boost of energy that keeps you going through the day
For those with a poor appetite, snacking on healthy food can help fulfill nutritional needs
Eating the wrong food items (cookies, junk, fried food, chips) can result in the intake of excess calories
Overeating during snack time can result in lower food consumption during lunch or dinner and even skipping meals
Consuming processed food with high sugar or salt content can change your palate and lead to greater cravings for similar food items
In order to understand Ayurveda's take on snacking, it is essential to understand the concept of digestion. Ayurvedic Samhitas (scholarly texts) state 'you are what you digest, not what you eat.'
Food is considered sacred and as powerful as medicine. If you have snacks that are suited to your doshas or physiology while following a sattvic (life-supporting or pure) routine, it will enhance your digestion and help you reap benefits in the long run. Avoiding rajasik (fiery) and tamasik (spoiled, stale, or old) foods is essential, as per Ayurvedic texts.
One of the most important factors in good health is digestion. When your agni or digestive fire is strong, your mind and body are abundantly in ojas (vigor or radiance). On the other hand, if your digestion is poor, your body will accumulate ama (toxins) in the digestive tract, resulting in innumerable illnesses.
How you choose to consume your snacks - whether you're overeating due to emotional stress or eating when you're at ease - deeply impacts your digestion. Snacking or eating between meals when you're physically or emotionally distracted can leave you with indigestion or bloating. Building awareness around healthy eating routines and choosing snacks that pacify and nourish your dosha are key to your overall well-being.
By nature, Vata is known to be cool, light, dry, and rough. Snacking on foods that neutralize these qualities, such as warm, oily, moist, grounding, and nourishing foods helps balance the Vata dosha. Snacking is considered good for a Vata-dominant constitution because, with this dosha, you need frequent and small meals to keep you nourished.
Rasas (flavors)that help nourish and pacify the Vata dosha, as per Ayurvedic texts are:
Madura (sweet) includes fruits, most grains, root vegetables, milk, ghee, lean meats, oils, and nuts.
Amla (sour) additions such as a squeeze of lemon, a side of kimchi or sauerkraut, a slice of cheese, a spoonful of yogurt, grapefruits, oranges, or pineapples.
Lavana (salty) additions involve including salt in your snacks to stimulate digestion.
Here's a simple recipe you can follow based on your Vata dosha:
Steamed or boiled sweet potato
Handful of berries
Rock salt to taste
Dash of lemon
Oil of choice (avocado or olive)
Add all the ingredients to a bowl. Drizzle the dressing and toss. Eat it fresh.
By nature, Pitta is considered to be oily, hot, sharp, and liquid. Snacking on foods that neutralize these qualities, such as cool, mild, dry, and heavy foods helps balance the Pitta dosha. Since Pitta usually leads to a big appetite, it is essential to snack on nourishing foods to calm the agni or digestive fire. Long periods of fasting further aggravate the Pitta.
Rasas (flavors) that help nourish and pacify the Pitta dosha, as per Ayurvedic texts are:
Madura (sweet) includes sweet fruits, root vegetables, squash, ghee, and milk.
Tikta (bitter) foods such as kale, dark chocolate, collard greens, or Jerusalem artichokes and spices such as cumin, fennel, neem powder, and turmeric
Kashaya (astringent) additions such as soybean, black-eyed peas, chickpeas, kidney beans, pomegranate, apples, broccoli, cauliflower, and coriander, to name a few.
If you have Pitta dosha, here's a simple recipe you can follow to keep your body cool and boost digestion:
1 cup of fresh chilled curd
1/3 cup of filtered water or rose water
1 teaspoon of toasted fennel seeds
2 teaspoons of honey
Add all the ingredients to a blender and churn till frothy and smooth. Add mint leaves for garnish. Serve at room temperature or slightly cold (not ice cold).
READ MORE: Pitta Diet: Everything You Need To Know
By nature, Kapha is known to be slimy, cold, dense, heavy, and soft. Snacking on foods that neutralize these qualities, such as light, warming, and drying foods helps balance the Kapha dosha. Since Kapha-aggravated bodies have sluggish digestion, it is essential to fast for longer hours in-between meals to give your stomach a break.
Rasas (flavors) that help nourish and pacify the Kapha dosha, as per Ayurvedic texts are:
Katu (pungent) flavors such as chilies, ginger, radish, turnip, raw onion, and spices such as cardamom, cloves, turmeric, and paprika.
Tikta (bitter) flavors such as bitter gourd, brinjal, kale, dark chocolate, collard greens, or Jerusalem artichokes
Kashaya (astringent) additions such as apples, pears, berries, soybeans, black-eyed peas, chickpeas, kidney beans, broccoli, cauliflower, dry figs, prunes, and coriander, to name a few.
If you have Kapha dosha, here's a simple recipe you can follow for a soothing and invigorating effect:
Thinly sliced ginger
1 cup filtered water
1 teaspoon of raw honey
Add the thinly sliced ginger to a saucepan and combine with water. Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer for five minutes. Pour the tea through a fine sieve. Add honey and enjoy it.
READ MORE: Kapha Diet: Everything You Need To Know
While consuming dosha-specific snacks to pacify your dominant dosha is important, it is also essential to keep Ayurvedic tips in mind for your overall well-being. Good eating habits ensure a full stomach, energy throughout the day, a good mood, and a peaceful mind. Below are some recommendations to follow:
Include Shadrasa or the Six Tastes
“The strength, complexion, immunity, etc. of a living system is under the control of diet which in turn is under the control of six rasas”
– Susruta Samhita, Sutra Sthana, Chapter 1, verse 28
Ayurveda recommends including the six rasas, i.e. madura (sweet), amla (sour), lavana (salty), kashaya (astringent), katu (pungent), and tikta (bitter), which originate from the panchamahabutas or five elements, in every meal. You must adjust the ratio of each in line with your dosha and prakriti or individual constituencies to maintain digestive health. The ayurvedic scholar Susrutacharya emphasized first consuming something sweet, then salty and sour, followed by pungent, bitter, and astringent flavors.
Establish a routine
The ahara vidhi or dietary guidelines in Charaka Samhita Sutrasthana 27th chapter (Annapana Vidhi Adhyaya) state that you must eat appropriate quantities of food at appropriate times while sitting on a raised platform. Eat without distractions such as the phone or television and keep conversations light while having a meal. After every meal, go for a short walk to boost digestion.
Be mindful of snacking
Your snacks should be small in size and simple by nature. It will not only give you enough energy for your daily activities but also keep you feeling light. You should also have some space and time between your meals. Let each meal and snack pass through your digestive tract slowly and without disruption. A reasonable timeframe to snack after a big meal is 2-3 hours. As per Ayurveda, you should try to have a sattvic or pure diet, which includes sprouted whole grains, fresh fruits, vegetables, fruits, and nuts.
Mind your cravings
If you constantly desire to snack, ask yourself whether you're actually hungry or looking to eat out of emotional or physical stress. Drink some water or herbal teas to curb your hunger. Use this as an opportunity to cultivate greater self-awareness while practicing mindful eating habits.
Avoid Virudhahar or incompatible food combinations
According to Charaka, food choices that aggravate the doshas and do not get eliminated from the body are incompatible. Combining different kinds of food confuses the intelligence of your agni (digestive fire) and leads to toxic accumulation or ama. Some basic combinations to avoid are:
Milk (cold in nature) and fish (hot in nature) have an incompatible potency
Sweet and sour fruits should never be combined
Equal quantities of ghee (cooling and moisturizing) and honey (heating and drying) should not be combined
In autumn or spring, avoid consuming curd at night
Avoid eating raw and cooked food together
Do not consume bananas with milk or curd since it can diminish the agni
Traditionally, ayurvedic scholars believed that your food and snacking habits should be ethnic to your place of origin and must involve traditional, simple, and fresh preparations with small portion sizes and limited processed foods. According to Ayurvedic principles, dinacharya and ritucharya, or the daily and seasonal cycles of change, respectively, should influence your diet. Meditation, yoga, and light exercises can go a long way in keeping you healthy.
Once you have mastered the art of dosha-specific snacking, you will realize how a healthy digestive system works wonders for your body. It's about time you start reflecting and make simple changes to lead life to the highest potential.
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