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  • Unlocking The Secrets Of Ahara Vidhi Vidhan - Ayurvedic Dietary Guidelines

    Unlocking The Secrets Of Ahara Vidhi Vidhan - Ayurvedic Dietary Guidelines

    The Ayurveda Experience August 12, 2023

    Are you tired of being in a constant battle with your digestive system? Experiencing bloating, heaviness, or a burning sensation after meals? Irregular bowels, alternating between constipation and normalcy? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, your gut health may be compromised, and your eating habits could be to blame!  

    Well, my curious reader, let me introduce you to the concept of "Ahara Vidhi Vidhaana" in Ayurveda1, which roughly translates to "the art and science of eating" and are dietary guidelines explained by Acharya Charaka. From mindful chewing to mindful choices, Ayurveda teaches us that every meal is an opportunity to nurture our body, mind, and spirit.  

    When life hands you the complexities of the modern world, Ayurveda whispers in your ear, "Why not return to the wisdom of the ages, the three pillars of life - Trayopasthambha2!"  

    Ahara (diet), nidra (sleep), and brahmacharya (celibacy). Among these, ahara holds utmost significance as it fuels our health and vitality. Diet is not just about filling our stomachs; it's a process that provides bio-energy and nourishment to our body's tissues (dhatus).  

    What Ayurveda has to say about a balanced meal? 

    When my patients come to me with their gut concerns, wondering why their seemingly balanced meals aren't quite doing the trick, I gently steer them towards an age-old treasure trove of wisdom - Ayurveda. You see, Ayurveda doesn't just focus on carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and proteins. It beckons us to embrace the symphony of flavors, a delightful dance of the "Shadrasa3" - the six tastes that make a truly balanced meal. 

    A truly balanced meal according to Ayurveda incorporates all six flavors present, including sweet (madhura), sour (amla), salty (lavana), pungent (katu), bitter (tikta), and astringent (kashaya) tastes in your food. A complete six flavored meal not only curbs your untimely cravings but also helps in proper digestion. 

    What is the correct order of eating the six flavors? 

    Have you ever found yourself staring at your colorful meal plate, contemplating which dish to dive into first? "Should I dive into the veggies first, or perhaps the rice? And what about that tangy chutney calling my name?" Well, fear not, for Ayurveda comes to the rescue with its own culinary compass – the six flavors and their perfect pecking order! 

    According to Ayurveda4, the correct order of eating the six flavorsis as follows: 

    • Sweet (madhura): Start your meal with sweet foods, because sweet foods are comparatively heavier to digest. Also, when Ayurveda says 'sweet' it doesn't necessarily mean desserts. You can pick any grains or veggies that have the quality of sweetness like mung dal, potatoes etc. Sweet taste is nourishing and provides a sense of satisfaction preventing you from overeating too.
    • Sour (amla): Follow sweet with sour flavors, which aid digestion and stimulate the taste buds. Example - Squeeze a little bit of lemon onto salad or opt for a tangy tamarind chutney.
    • Salty (lavana): The salty taste comes next, helping to stimulate appetite and improve the process of digestion. However, it should be used in moderation.
    • Pungent (katu): Pungent flavors, such as spices and peppers, come after the salty flavor. They help enhance metabolism and promote circulation.
    • Bitter (tikta): Following pungent, bitter tastes help cleanse the palate and aid in detoxification. Dark leafy greens and herbs are good examples.
    • Astringent (kashaya): End your meal with astringent flavors, which help in absorption and create a feeling of balance. Chickpeas, pomegranates, bay leaf or a teaspoon of fennel seeds to aid in digestion etc are examples of astringent taste.

    Here's an example of a shadrasa meal: Start with something sweet, because it takes longer to digest than other tastes. Follow with savory and nourishing dishes, including grains, vegetables, and proteins, for a satisfying and balanced experience. 

    Importance of ahara vidhi vidhana in present age 

    Ayurveda emerges as the guiding light with its time-honored treasure trove of wisdom – the "Ahara Vidhi Vidhana." 

    Imagine savoring a meal, not just for its delectable flavors but also for its perfect timing – in sync with the sun's journey across the sky. Ayurveda encourages us to align our eating patterns with the sun's natural rhythms, starting with a light and nourishing breakfast as the sun rises, gradually indulging in a wholesome lunch as it reaches its zenith, and finally savoring a modest dinner as the sun sets. 

    Always remember the anthem, 'Rise with the Sun, and set with the Sun' 

    But that's not all! Ayurveda reminds us that HOW we consume our meals matters just as much as WHAT we eat. Slow down, dear foodies, for the art of mindful eating awaits you. Savor each bite, cherish the flavors, and let your body revel in the joy of balanced nourishment. 

    1. Ushnamashniyat5 (consuming warm food)

    In this busy modern world, who really has the time for a freshly cooked hot meal right ? With all the packaged, frozen food stacked up in your refrigerators, life seems a little bearable for most of us. But you may want to change your mind when you learn what Ayurveda has to say about the importance of a fresh hot meal.

    The first requisite for a prepared meal is that it should be taken ushna (hot). Ushna here refers to the temperature of the food, not the ushna guna (property) of the food.

    Here’s why

    • Consuming hot food enhances taste, stimulates agni (digestive power), and promotes vatanulomana (proper movement of Vata), ensuring efficient digestion.
    • Starting the meal with warm food (ushna anna) stimulates saliva and gastric juices.
    • Heating food kills harmful microbes, ensuring food safety.
    • Warm food, matching the body's temperature, is easily digested, preventing excess energy expenditure and lethargy associated with consuming cold food.
    1. Snigdhamashniyat6 (Diet should include fat)
    • Snigdha guna (unctuous property) in fat pacifies Vata dosha.
    • Fat promotes body growth, provides strength to senses, and improves glow.
    • Fat is a concentrated source of energy and essential fatty acids needed for growth, nerve cells, brain, and the absorption of vitamins A, D, E, and K.

         3. Matravatashniyat7 (Consuming food in proper quantity) 

    If you are someone who is always confused about the quantity of food you should be consuming, constantly counting calories, juggling between different diet trends - Acharya Charaka7 explains several indicators to assess if your quantity of food consumption suits your agni (digestive power) and bala (strength)

    • Absence of stomach distress due to excessive food intake.
    • A sense of ease while standing, sitting, lying down, walking, and breathing effortlessly.
    • No cardiac discomfort or excessive pressure on the chest.
    • Relief from hunger and thirst, signifying adequate nourishment.
    1. Jeerne ashniyat(Consuming food after digestion of previously consumed food)

    This principle advises us to eat only after the previous meal has been fully digested because the undigested remnants, known as ama, interact with the new food, provoking imbalances in the doshas. 

    To prevent this we need to understand the proper signs of digestion as explained by Charaka9 -

    • Clear belch, lightness and enthusiasm post meals
    • Vegoutsarga (proper elimination of flatus and stools) 
    • Appearance of kshudha(hunger), and pipasa (thirst).
    1. Veerya vruddhamashniyat10 (Consuming food that is not contraindicated in potency)

    So if you’re someone who loves their milkshakes and ice creams with hot brownies, this may come as a shock to you. Consuming incompatible foods can lead to various health problems and even life-threatening conditions.  

    Viruddha ahara11 refers to food combinations that are incompatible due to their characteristics, preparation, time, place, or quantity. 

    The ancient Ayurvedic scholars12 have listed health concerns occuring due to this habit -

    • Digestive disorders - Bloating, constipation, acidity etc
    • Skin conditions - Psoriasis, urticaria etc
    • Weakness of senses
    • Reproductive issues (santana dosha)

     

    READ MORE: 

    10 Surprising Foods You Should Never Consume With Milk

    How To Combine Food Items: An Ayurvedic Guide For Food Combining

    1. Ishtadeshe Ishtasarvopkarnam chashniyat13 (Consuming food in places that are pleasant to mind and with required cookery)

    Have you ever noticed this? A dinner at a loud, noisy place like a Pub and a meal at a serene place or even the comfort of your home makes a subtle impact on your physical and mental health ?  

    Well, let's explore why mindful eating is important and its impact on our mental and physical well-being.

    • Eating in a proper place with clean utensils ensures hygiene, reducing the risk of foodborne illnesses. 
    • Stressful conditions cause an increase in cortisol levels and can influence eating behavior like increased calorie consumption, particularly of sweet foods, due to the body's stress response.
    1. Naatidrutamashniyat14 (Not consuming food too fast)

    Always late for the office? Do you gobble up your breakfast? Let's see how it impacts your health and understand how eating at an optimal speed can positively impact our digestion. 

    • Eating too fast can lead to food particles entering the respiratory tract, causing choking or respiratory infections, including GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).
    • When we eat at a moderate pace, enzymatic juices mix properly with the food, aiding in effective digestion.
    • The brain takes about 20 minutes to register the feeling of fullness in the stomach. Eating too fast can lead to overeating as the brain may not recognize the fullness signal in time.
    1. Naativilambitamashniyat15 (Not consuming food too slow)

    Have you noticed how kids and teenagers who hover over their food always end up looking malnourished and are more prone to illness? Dear readers, there's a fine line between mindful eating and lingering at the dinner table for hours and here's why -

    • Eating too slowly can hinder the proper mixing of enzymatic secretions with the food, leading to inefficient digestion.
    • Lingering too long over a meal can cause the food to cool down, impacting both the taste and the digestion process.
    • Remember, the time taken to finish a meal varies from person to person. Some may relish their food slowly, savoring every flavor, while others may prefer a quicker pace. There's no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to the ideal time for eating.
    1. Ajalpanahassan tanmanabhunjeet16 (Not speaking or laughing while having food- mindful eating)

    I remember an incident from my college days where during the lunch hours we friends would sit together, share our tiffins and stories, laughing and chatting. One afternoon one of my friends choked over a piece of sandwich while laughing and eating simultaneously. Which reminded all of us why our elders always advised us to eat with full concentration and avoid talking or laughing during meals? Well, there's wisdom in this practice -  

    • Acharya Charaka mentions that even a healthy and balanced diet may not get properly digested if consumed with worries, sorrows, fears, anger, sadness, and during improper bedding or sleep. 
    • Eating with full concentration allows the body to focus on digestion without being disturbed by external factors. Also, when we are mindful we are much more aware about what and how much of what is going inside our body.
    1. Atmanamabhisamikshya bhunjeet17 (Consuming food after due consideration of one's needs)

    This is a reminder for the importance of tailoring our diet according to individual needs, considering factors like satmya (compatibility), prakruti (constitution), agni (digestive fire), and bala (strength). 

    • Specific nutrient requirements: Different life stages and conditions demand specific nutrient requirements.

    For example, pregnant and lactating women, children, laborers, intellectuals, older individuals, and sick people need tailored diets to meet their unique needs and promote overall health. 

    • Nutrient-Dense Diet for Older People: Though older people may have a smaller appetite, their nutritional needs remain crucial. Providing nutrient-dense foods ensures they receive essential nutrients for vitality and well-being.

    READ MORE: 

    10 Principles For A Wholesome Diet

    Know Your Body Constitution To Attain The Best Of Health

    Food items that you should consume daily according to Ayurveda

    Now that you know how to eat, Let’s take you a step ahead about what you can eat on a daily basis to boost your well-being and nourish your body from within. 

    Ayurveda's got you covered with its list of "Nitya Sevaniya Ahara18" 

    • Cow’s ghee (Go ghrita)
    • Rice (Shashtika shali)
    • Mung beans (Mudga)
    • Cow’s Milk (Go dugdha)
    • Honey (Madhu)
    • Yava (Barley)
    • Pink salt (Saindhava lavana)
    • Amla (Amalaki)

    From the golden elixir of ghee to the protein-packed mung beans, each food item in our daily diet brings its unique contribution to balancing our doshas and revitalizing our systems.  

    By savoring these nourishing delights mindfully, we not only delight our taste buds but also embark on a journey towards a healthier and happier life. 

    READ MORE: What Is 'Super' In Superfoods? : An Ayurvedic Perspective

    As we bid adieu to this delightful exploration, let's remember the age-old wisdom of our ancestors – eat warm food for a happy agni, choose the right fats for glowing health, consume food in harmony with your body and in sync with the Sun, and savor each bite mindfully without distractions.  

    See you on the healthier side, folks! 

    Written by: Dr. Palak Garg

    Dr. Palak Garg is a practicing Ayurveda Doctor with an experience of 7 years in the field of Ayurveda. She has been actively consulting patients online all over the globe. She is on the expert panel of leading Ayurveda startups for product formulation. She aims at incorporating Ayurveda in the uber cool millennial lifestyles!

    Reference:

    1. Charak Viman 1/24, Charaka Samhita with “Ayurvedeepika” commentary by Chakrapanidutta, Edi. By Vd. Acharya, Chaukhambha Samskrit Sansthana, Varanasi, 2001
    2. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/307559350_AHARA_VIDHI_CONCEPTS_OF_FOOD_INTAKE_IN_AYURVEDA_WITH_COMPARISON_TO_PRESENT_ERA
    3. https://jaims.in/jaims/article/view/1575
    4. https://jaims.in/jaims/article/view/1575
    5. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/353514888_SCIENTIFIC_EXPLANATION_OF_CHARAK%27S_AHARA_-VIDHI_VIDHAN_DIETARY_GUIDELINES
    6. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/353514888_SCIENTIFIC_EXPLANATION_OF_CHARAK%27S_AHARA_-VIDHI_VIDHAN_DIETARY_GUIDELINES
    7. Agnivesha. Charaka Samhita, Agnivesha’s treatise refined and annotated by Charaka and redacted by Drudabala, with Ayurveda deepika commentary by chakrapani Varanasi, Chaukamba Sanskrit sansthan; reprint, 2004, Viman Sthana 2. ; https://ijcrt.org/papers/IJCRT2107683.pdf
    8. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/353514888_SCIENTIFIC_EXPLANATION_OF_CHARAK%27S_AHARA_-VIDHI_VIDHAN_DIETARY_GUIDELINES
    9. Charak Sutra 25/40, Charaka Samhita with “Ayurvedeepika” commentary by Chakrapanidutta, Edi. By Vd. Acharya, Chaukhambha Samskrit Sansthana, Varanasi, 2001 ; (PDF) UNDERSTANDING SYMPTOMS OF DIGESTION IN AYURVEDIC PERSPECTIVE (researchgate.net)c
    10. https://www.joinsysmed.com/article.asp?issn=2320-4419;year=2021;volume=9;issue=3;spage=161;epage=165;aulast=Jinu
    11. Charak Sutra 26/102-103, Charaka Samhita with “Ayurvedeepika” com-mentary by Chakrapanidutta, Edi. By Vd. Acharya, Chaukhambha Samskrit Sansthana, Varanasi, 2001
    12. Charak Sutra 26/102-103, Charaka Samhita with “Ayurvedeepika” com-mentary by Chakrapanidutta, Edi. By Vd. Acharya, Chaukhambha Samskrit Sansthana, Varanasi, 2001
    13. https://www.joinsysmed.com/article.asp?issn=2320-4419;year=2021;volume=9;issue=3;spage=161;epage=165;aulast=Jinu
    14. https://www.joinsysmed.com/article.asp?issn=2320-4419;year=2021;volume=9;issue=3;spage=161;epage=165;aulast=Jinu
    15. https://www.joinsysmed.com/article.asp?issn=2320-4419;year=2021;volume=9;issue=3;spage=161;epage=165;aulast=Jinu ; http://iamj.in/posts/images/upload/966_969_1.pdf
    16. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/307559350_AHARA_VIDHI_CONCEPTS_OF_FOOD_INTAKE_IN_AYURVEDA_WITH_COMPARISON_TO_PRESENT_ERA ; http://iamj.in/posts/images/upload/966_969_1.pdf
    17. https://www.joinsysmed.com/article.asp?issn=2320-4419;year=2021;volume=9;issue=3;spage=161;epage=165;aulast=Jinu ; http://iamj.in/posts/images/upload/966_969_1.pdf
    18. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/338108881_NITYA_SEVANIYA_AAHARA_WHOLESOME_DAILY_FOOD_IN 

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