Ayurvedic Food Concept


The order in which we eat different classes of foods, how we combine them, and the amounts we consume will determine how well we digest and assimilate our vital nutrients. The better we digest and assimilate our foods, the less likely we are to form toxic substances, accumulate excess fat, and crave unhealthy food articles.
Within the various factions of both conventional and alternative medical nutrition there is a great deal of controversy regarding food combining. This has led to a growing confusion among consumers as to which, if any, foods are best taken together or separately.

Ayurveda offers a rational and scientific approach for determining correct diet which is based upon an individual's constitution. Vata, Pitta and Kapha (the tri-dosha) are the energies from which human beings are constituted. This energetic constitution is the basis of determining which foods are best for maintaining physiological balance for a given individual. This approach is quite different from the conventional view of a balanced diet which exhorts us all--despite our individual differences--to eat from the same basic food groups: meat, dairy, fruit, grains and vegetables and achieve the same "standard" levels of vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients. According to Ayurvedic wisdom this approach is insufficiently individualized and ignores factors such as age, sex, race, climate, digestive capacity, stress, immune status, strength, illness, emotions, and adaptability.

In the Ayurvedic literature there are six types of nutritional imbalances

1. Quantitative deficiency. This includes under-nutrition due to insufficient food, and even starvation.
2. Quantitative excess. Includes excessive amounts of both health foods and even water.
3. Qualitative deficiency. This includes wrong food combination which results in malnutrition, toxic condition and lack of essential nutrients.
4. Qualitative excess. This includes emotional overeating of rich or high fat foods which can result in obesity and/or high cholesterol which and promote hypertension, coronary vessel disease, and stroke.
5. Ama-producing. Certain foods and food combinations lead to toxemia and to certain digestive disorders.
6. Prakriti. Foods not appropriate for one's constitution may reduce immunity and cause disease.These six factors are closely correlated with the strength of agni (the gastric fire).

There are four types of agni

1. MANDAGNI. This is due to an excess kapha condition, leading to slow metabolism, overweight, allergies and congestive diseases.
2. TIKSHNAGNI. Pitta dosha is responsible for this type of agni disorder. It may cause hyper-metabolism, hyperacidity, heartburn and hypoglycemia leading to inflammatory diseases.
3. VISHAMAGNI. Due to vata dosha the gastric fire becomes vitiated, causing irregular appetite, indigestion and gases. Emotionally this can result in anxiety, insecurity, fear, and neurological or mental problems.
4. SAMAGNI. This type of agni is the result of balanced tri-dosha. A person having this type of agni can eat almost any type of food without difficulty. Digestion, absorption and elimination are all normal.

According to Ayurveda, every food has its own taste (rasa), a heating or cooling energy (virya) and post-digestive effect (vipaka). When two or three different food substances of different taste, energy and post-digestive effect are combined together agni can become overloaded inhibiting the enzyme system and resulting in production of toxins in the system. While it is true that an individual's agni largely determines how well or poorly food is digested, food combinations are also of great importance. When foods, (proteins, carbohydrates and fats) having different attributes, tastes, heating or cooling properties, and post-digestive effects are eaten together, agni will be slowed down. The foods can then remain in the stomach for seven to eight hours. These same foods, if eaten separately might well stimulate agni, be digested more quickly and even help to burn ama. Thus, according to Ayurveda, one should eat according to one's constitution and take fruits, starches, proteins and fats separately at different times of the day. Combining foods improperly can produce indigestion, fermentation, putrefaction and gas formation. This condition, if prolonged, can lead to toxemia and disease complex. For example, eating bananas with milk can diminish agni, change the intestinal flora producing toxins and may cause sinus congestion, cold, cough and allergies.

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