Diet is an important aspect of our daily life. In fact, it can be said that we do
the entire running around only to feed the stomach. This also indicates the importance
attached to the diet. It is a fact that our body grows and is fed through the medium
of diet only. Growth of the body and maintenance of its health is the aim of the
diet. Even if this is true, our experience in the day-to-day life is that we accept
such diets, which endanger the health of our body. Proper diet improves the health,
so also it is true that improper diet brings about ill health. Hence, one should
have firm and clear-cut ideas about which diet is proper and which is improper.
We shall study about this in this chapter. Even if everyone approves the basic concepts,
there are differences of opinions between the experts when one goes into the details.
However, instead of analyzing the differences, we shall learn about important and
useful matters, which are fairly accepted by all.
There are no two opinions about the fact that diet should improve the health of the body as well as the mind. We shall go into the details about what is the health of the body. Many people do not have clear idea as to who should be called healthy. In fact, they think that absence of the diseases can be termed as health. But that is not so. When we suffer from ailments, we go to the doctor, however none goes to the doctor while being well to ask for the advice how he will continue to stay that way. We believe that healthy body is a natural process to happen. We never feel like striving for it. It is doubtless that a human being is born to stay healthy. God has made arrangements for a human body to stay healthy. But the abilities and strengths endowed by God to the human body so that it stays healthy are used at times to gain ill health. So the patients are more in number. The definition of health states that diseases are an outward symptom, so the absence of diseases cannot be termed as health. Ayurveda has defined healthy state in the following appropriate words :
Samdoshah Samagnischa samadhatumalkriyah
Prasannatmendriyamanah swasthaityabhidhiyate ||
The body in which the controlling powers - tridoshas - vat, kapha, pitta are in a balanced state, the fire in the stomach is well ignited that means the digestion system is working properly, the strength of all the dhatus is excellent and all are working efficiently, can be defined as healthy body. Ayurveda here has stated the key to good health in the following line. Apart form the symptoms described in the first line, the human being whose soul, organs and mind are fresh and cheerful is termed as healthy. Thus, Ayurveda has considered being healthy on a wider scale. The definition of health includes not only healthy body but also the cheerfulness of mind and the soul. Everyone should think and consider for himself whether he is healthy according to this definition.
If one is healthy, one finds that all the daily body activities are carried out in a natural manner. But the experience is the other way round. Many do not know what is the natural excretion tendency. They never experience it. In fact, it is not even noticed that it has turned unnatural. The ignorance is so high that the unnaturality does not seem unnatural. But since the action is unnatural, after continuation for a few days, it crosses the limit and lands into the category of diseases. That means, the time when a disease is diagnosed is not the actual time when the body is affected, the preparation for it is laid down for many days. So even if the disease is not visible, the body cannot be termed as healthy. Another symptom of a healthy body is feeling hungry at the time of meals, or falling fast asleep at the time of sleep. If one does not experience this, the body cannot be termed as healthy.
If the body has to carry out any work, it has to be healthy. Hence it is said that "Dharmarthakammokshanam aarogyam mulamuttamam" (health is the root cause of gaining dharm, artha, kam, moksha). That means the basics of all the four purusharthas is in health. If there is no health the purshartha cannot be achieved. All experience this. But even if all know and understand this, no one considers maintaining the health of the body. In fact, the health of the body is felt every second in the day-to-day life. Hence, the daily lifestyle should be such as to preserve the health. The long duration of the life depends on the health of the body.
We hear about untimely death of a normally strong person and feel that the unnatural death was accidental. In fact it is not an accident. The death encountered in a real accident can be termed as accident. All other untimely deaths are not accidental. It is the eventual effect after neglecting the health either deliberately or inadvertently. The neglect is due to two reasons. Ayurveda states that the neglect arises due to moha (temptation) or pramad (mistake).
When there is an ignorance that of a particular action being detrimental to health, then the committing of that act is due to moha. Of course, it does not mean that committing such thing due to ignorance does not have its own effects. The ill effects are bound to be there. Pleading ignorance also cannot break the man made laws in the daily life. Ignorance of law cannot be an excuse. When the law is broken, the punishment has to be borne. So also, when the laws of the nature are broken, the ill effects are bound to be experienced. If there is some breakage of such natural laws due to ignorance at a particular time, there may not be severe ill effects, but there is bound to be suggestive effects. If we ignore the suggestions and keep on breaking the law, then at some point of time or the other, they are exhibited on a fearsome scale. Acidity is one disease like this. It is a stubborn and sticky disease. Some feel its presence after crossing thirty years of age. It is expressed through symptoms such as burning sensation, burping etc. It is not a disease formed in a day. It takes too many days for this disease to develop. Even when the symptoms are felt in a miniscule way, they are ignored and the practice is continued. The disease goes on spreading. Moha is then transformed into pramad. When it is known that a particular action causes trouble, the effects are ignored. When it is known that regular late nights cause trouble, no one bothers to avoid them. In fact, the sleep is averted with continuous drinks such as tea. But the ill effect of this is that the disease permanently follows you. This is pramad. It is stated that one should not eat while standing. Eating while standing has an effect on the muscles of the stomach and affects digestive system. When this is known, then at least it should be avoided, but yet it does not happen. Many parties and feasts are arranged where the arrangements are made so that people have to eat standing. This affects the tension in the stomach as well as the digestive system. It is taught in schools how the bacteria and the germs affect the body. The main places for catching the bacteria or the germs are hotels. And yet one finds hotels running very well at all places. This is pramad.
Leave alone the common people but even the doctors who propagate that cigarette causes cancer do not stop smoking themselves. Then what can a common man say? Thus, due to pramad, one finds young people committing these actions, and yet boasting that they do not suffer from it at all. The age twenty to thirty is such that any bad action does not show its symptoms, but this does not mean that one should continue repeating bad actions. It does not mean that there are no ill effects, but it can be said that they are not felt much at this age. But at some point of time or the other, they will be definitely felt. In fact, bad actions cannot be said to be not bad, just because the effects are not reflected. We keep on doing them by asking what happens if the rules are broken. In fact, all these rules are embedded into the traditional pattern, but we on the basis of our intellectual knowledge dare them and ask to prove them. The rules cannot be proved so easily. In fact, it is very difficult to prove the ill effects of the breakage of the rules in a lab. To establish whether a particular thing is proper or improper, the experiments must be carried out on a very wide scale. The body changes with each person, so one should give due respects to the rules of the diet and observe them honestly.
Even Lord Shrikrishna has stated in Gita as to whom the yoga is beneficial.
Yuktaharviharsya yuktacheshtasya karmasu |
Yuktaswapnavabodhasya yogo bhavati dukkhaha ||
For those whose diet, lifestyle and swapnavastha is yukta (subconcious state of mind is appropriate), will benefit from yoga, which removes troubles. We will emphasize more on the diet than the lifestyle because lifestyle is more dependent and the diet is in our hands. The lifestyle has to be changed due to circumstances and the needs. Hence, we will consider the diet first which can be controlled by us only. Of course, one has to remember that these rules are general and may not apply to all on equal basis. Each one is different from the health angle, hence while considering the diet one has to consider two things: the location and the time. While considering location, both the place as well the body should be considered. These two things must be borne in mind while formulating rules about diet. People staying at muddy places full of mire, on hills, in humid climate, rainy areas will have different diets. In fact, it has to be different. All will not benefit from a single type of diet. Ayurveda has defined a principle that whatever grows naturally at a place, is useful for the population residing at that location.
Yasya deshasya jantuh tatjannou tasyoshadhim matam |
Here, the term medicine is used as diet and the restricted meaning that the medicine given or prescribed by a doctor is medicine, is not expected. Now a days, with the help of chemical fertilizers, people can grow any grains anywhere, so on the basis of this sutra, it should not be said any one could consume any type of grain. However, it can be clearly stated that whatever grows naturally at a place is suitable for the diet of the population there. Of course, this rule cannot be strictly observed every time, but as far as possible it should be observed.
Another matter to be remembered before going into the details of the diet rules, that it does not mean that limiting the diet means gaining all means of guarding health. It cannot be guaranteed that restricting diet will keep away all the diseases. The health gets affected due to various other reasons. A simple example is if one observes the rule of not eating sour curds to avoid cold, but if one continues to sit below a fan all the time, he may suffer from the cold ultimately. That means the diet is controlled though the lifestyle is not. So everything cannot be controlled due to control of diet. Yet, the control of the diet is essential. There are certain general rules in Ayurveda, which we shall study first.
The first rule is the intake of food should be at a particular time. That means the daily meal times should be fixed. The timings should not be changed daily. Many times, this particular time is not observed inadvertently. We observe the time for six days a week due to the office time. However on a holiday the time is not observed. In fact, the usual time is avoided on a holiday; this is when we do not follow the diet. Generally the afternoon time is observed, but the dinnertime is changed daily. In fact, before retiring to bed at night, the meal should be taken at least three hours prior to that time. No one observes this rule. When one comes home from office, some snacks, drinks, then viewing programs on television, cooking and then dinner at 10:00 p.m. and sleep at 10.30 p.m. This is the normal daily routine. Hence along with Niyatkalikatva, there is another rule that is
Dwou kalou bhunjit agnihotrasamoditah |
Those who follow agnihotra, know that agni is to be offered aahuti (sacrifice) twice daily. So also, the fire in the stomach should be offered aahuti by way of food twice daily. If one keeps on eating throughout the day, then the digestive system will collapse. If we eat snacks such as pohe and sheera, we do not consider it as a meal. But if the same ingredients i.e. rice and wheat are eaten by way of rice and chapati then that is termed as meal. We have two meals, but we eat the snacks in the form of sheera and pohe three / four times. It is inappropriate to think that the food in the form of chapati is meal and not in the form of sheera. If we eat sheera and pohe in the evening, then we should bypass the evening meal, considering those snacks as meals. Excess or frequent intake creates unnecessary strain on the digestive system, this weakens the fire in the stomach and the disease of dyspepsia starts root. Of course, if one has to exercise a lot or has to undertake work involving of lot of physical efforts, then the two meals may not be enough for them. Such people can have breakfast too along with the two meals. But the time must be fixed. We have to observe customs while observing the diet rules. If we visit others or if others come to our place, we have to entertain them. One should resort to drinks at such time, so that there is no breakage of rules. The eatables that do not have to be chewed by teeth while eating fall under drinks. Such drinks may be consumed but if solid food is to be had, then one must avoid meal after that so that there is no dyspepsia. The complaints related to dyspepsia will not arise and the customs too will be followed.
The next rule regarding the diet is that the diet should be "Prakrutivayovasthanukulit" that is commensurate with the health, age group and body status. That means while determining if the diet is proper or improper, the health, age and the state should be considered. The health is of three types: vat prakruti, pitta prakruti and kapha prakruti. Whatever is suitable for vat prakruti people may not be suitable for others. So also, one diet may not be suitable for all - children to old people. Also, the diet which is suitable in a healthy state, may prove poisonous for unhealthy. So it is must that the health, age and the state of the body be considered while thinking about diet. Actually young people should not eat more of pungent items, but the reality is different. Little children are scolded to control their eating of hot items, but the young generation eats too many of them as such items are deliciously spicy. Youth is a state involving pitta. If such items are consumed in excess, then there are adverse effects. Pitta does transformation. One should pay attention to not spending more than one earns. If these items involving pitta are consumed, then the spending becomes more, which results in attracting old age even in youth. Such diet reduces the efficiency of young men. The work that father or father-in-law can do, that the son or son-in-law cannot or whatever mother or mother-in-law can do, the daughter or daughter-in-law cannot do. This is the picture of young generation. The reason is consuming the diet without considering health, age or state.
Another important thing in the diet is that the diet should contain (tushtikar and pushtikar) satisfying and growth related elements. Tushitikar means satisfying and pushtikar means related to growth. One should confirm that both these qualities exist in the diet before consuming it. Items, which are tasty, may not be growth promoting. Nowadays, our diet mainly consists of items, which are tasty and spicy. Items such as bhel, bhajji, chiwada etc are consumed more these days. They are quite tasty and spicy, but are not tushitkar or pushtikar. Eating bhel or chiwada does not give the feeling of having a full meal. These items yield satisfaction only to the tongue and not to the stomach or the body. Grains consisting both the elements are wheat, moong, urad etc. Idli is both satisfying as well as growth promoting, but its accompaniments i.e. sambhar or chatni fall only in the tasty category. No one eats mere idli as it is not felt tasty by the tongue.
Diet should consist of all the six rasas (juices or flavours), Madhur (sweet), Aamla (sour), Lavan (salty), Tikta (spicy), Katu (bitter) and Kashay (astringent). All these six rasas must be there in the diet. Diet with prominence of only one rasa will not be able to satisfy the needs of the body. Diet should be more sweet i e it should contain sweet rasa a bit more. That does not mean it should contain more sugar or gur. Items such as wheat, rice, jowar etc contain sweet rasas. They should be included in the diet. No particular rasa should be cut off completely. Generally, kashay and bitter rasas are not present in the diet; hence they should be included deliberately.
While stating how the diet should be, it is said that it should be "anatisanskritam". Considering the science of the diet generally, it is felt that this word is quiet correct and appropriate. It is said that the diet should not be processed too much. It also means that limited processing is acceptable. In one single word, it is stated that over processed food is not acceptable, so also, totally unprocessed food is also not acceptable. Persons recommending natural food should learn from this. The diet, which does not require much processing, that is, which is anatisanskritam is the best. That means one should consume the items as are available naturally without processing them much. Certain processing is required so that the diet becomes digestible, so that must be done. Hence, it is said that diet without much processing is good. Now a day, the items, which are stamped as good by us, are all over processed. When the affording level rises, the items get processed more, which causes ill health. The ill health of the rich is due to this over processed food.
Considering the effects, it is said that the diet should be promotional to the sapta dhatus. The sapta dhatus are Ras (fluids), Rakta (blood), Mansa (muscle tissues), Meda (adipose tissues), Asthi (bones), Majja (bone marrow) and Shukra (generative tissues). Ras and Rakta are fluids, Mansa and Asthi are solids and fats, Majja and Shukra are fatty substances. The diet should be such that it should promote all the sapta dhatus in proper proportion. Generally, the weight increases due to growth of fats and flesh. But that does not mean that diet causes the growth of fats and flesh alone. The diet should not aim at only this. The weight starts growing from the age of forty. This is due to the fact that the one is properly established by this time and hence there is no control over the diet. This causes growth of only fats and flesh. This growth causes setback in hunger If the fire is strong, then that weakens the dhatus, if the fire is weakened then this facilitates the growth of the dhatus. The growth here is meant to be uncontrolled growth beyond the limits, and not the normal growth. Hence, the diet should be such that it should cause growth in proper proportion for all the dhatus. Accordingly the contents of the diet should be changed.
Ayurveda while stating that excess intake is harmful, has also said that there should not be inadequate intake. This type of intake is termed as " alpashan" and that is also a bad diet. Intake less than that is beneficial for the body is alpashan. While trying to reduce weight, alpashan results, causing weakness thereby. During such weak state, diseases can occur. Hence, one should always have adequate intake. Whenever there is some restriction on diet, fewer intakes may do, but not always.
As alpashan is to be avoided, addhashan is also to be avoided. Addhashan means eating before the first intake is digested. In common parlance, addhashan means continual eating, but this is not proper. This does create a strain on the digestive system and the digestion weakens out and results in dyspepsia. If the noon meal is heavy with sweets added into it, then eating at dinnertime is also addhashan. It is detrimental to health. Similarly, ajirnashan is also detrimental to health. Ajirnashan means while suffering from indigestion due to earlier intake, having food again. Even when there are symptoms of indigestion, tasty items are consumed just to satisfy the tongue. But this hurts the health without doubt.
While consuming food, intake of a particular item in excess without any restrictions, and not consuming the much-needed items is known as Vishamshan that is not a proper diet. The daily diet should have typical items with measured quantities. There should not be uncontrolled change. That does not mean everyday one has to take the same diet. The change in the diet should be thoughtful and controlled. To eat without control just because one feels like it is not correct. The diet should be a square meal suitable to the body state and health.
Mixing up items of opposite types is Viruddhashan, that is also not correct. Curds and hot rice is an example of viruddhashan. The best example of viruddhashan is the fruits salad in milk, which is very popular today. If sour tasting fruits are mixed up with milk, the milk will turn sour and the items wasted. If the fruits are mixed with curd, it is better because the acidity of the fruits does not have bad effects on curd. Without thinking we have imported this foreign fruit salad into our country. In foreign countries, due to the temperature, the milk does not turn sour generally. Also, they put in cream into the fruit salad instead of milk. Since we fall into hot climate region, the milk does not stay good for a long time, so we have the practice of putting curds into the salads. To temper the buttermilk with oil is also viruddhashan. Buttermilk must be tempered with ghee. Other examples of viruddhashan are mixing buttermilk with milk and rice, or mixing milk with buttermilk rice, drinking milk, tea and coffee after having spicy food, drinking milk after having salty items etc. The milk should be drunk after an hour after intake of salt.
Another important factor is yatyamta of the food i.e. staleness of food. The items turn stale after three hours of preparation. This is the real scientific definition of staleness. We consider the food items cooked at night as stale in the morning, but do not consider the morning food as stale at night. It is erroneous to believe that the cold items become fresh after having been warmed up properly. The items remain fresh only till three hours. Then they start turning unfit to eat. Items such as laddu and pooris are not considered stale till they start smelling.
Eating too many sweet things is also harmful to health. Eating sweets frequently, involves strain on the digestive system and its efficiency starts reducing at an early stage. It is stated in the religious scriptures, that sweets should be consumed at festival time and simple food daily. Earlier due to the concepts of papa and punya, these rules of health were observed; nowadays they are not even considered.
Thinking about the temperature of the food, it should be warm. It should not be too hot or too cold. When the food cooked once gets cold, it should not be heated again. The main important ingredients disappear by such an action. Take example of tea. A gourmet will state that the tea, having turned cold once, if heated again loses its taste. The same thing happens with other food. The tongue notes the difference in the taste too. Then such gross deterioration affects the sensitive organs in the stomach in a bad way.
Another rule about the diet is laghuashnita, that means food should be easy to digest and not difficult. Our lunch includes rice at the beginning of the meal and at the end of the meal. This is to retain the interest in the diet. There is another rule in case of hard to digest food that is "gurunam ardhasamhitya". That means they should be consumed in half quantities. After the meal, the body should feel so light that one should be able to walk for two miles with ease. That does not mean one has to walk two miles after heavy food, but to eat so much that even getting up becomes difficult is definitely detrimental to health.
Another rule is diet should be matravat. Matravat means little or measured. The proportion cannot be decided with a weighing scale. Ayurveda has stated that one should eat that much which one can digest easily without having any ill effects on the health. If one consumes more than this, the first symptom is a burp. In English mannerisms, burping is considered as unmannerly. Here in our country, the request for heavy food starts after burping starts. Such a custom may be good as hospitality but very harmful to the health. First the stomach must be consulted while deciding the intake of the food. But generally, the stomach is ignored and the tongue is consulted first. The items, which are tasteless but useful, are ignored. When an item is put into the mouth, the tongue can narrate its taste, but not the measure in which it is to be eaten. The stomach defines the measure, but we generally ignore it and go by the say of the tongue. This creates problems in the digestion. So while deciding the measure of the diet, one should consult the stomach and not the tongue.
Patients suffering from blood pressure are asked to consume low quantities of salt. Such items with low salt are consumed in fewer quantities and then weakness is felt. There is no mental preparation to eat such low salt food items. Actually, there is no difficulty in chewing and digesting low salt items. But it is difficult to eat them due to the habit. This does not mean that one should ignore taste or should reduce the sensory perceptions of the tongue. In fact certain sharpness of the taste reduces the sensory perceptions of the tongue and the taste demands more spicy items. However, this hardens the taste buds on the tongue and one cannot make out the mild tastes of the natural food, hence the tongue must be controlled. It should be consulted, but the measure of the diet should not be under its control.
Even if this is so, it is very difficult to determine as to how much diet should be taken and how much exactly is matravat. When one is accustomed to eating more, one does not feel full by eating less. When one gets accustomed to eating less, even if there is need it is not possible to take diet in proper proportion. One should experiment like this. For a period of one month, one should totally omit sweet, sour and salt rasas from the diet. Initially, it is difficult to consume such food in proper quantity and one feels hungry within an hour of eating. But then once the habit is formed, one can eat properly. When such a diet is consumed for one month, the measure that is consumed at the end of the month is the true measure. From this, the required quantities can be determined.
One shloka describes the measure of the diet beautifully :
Annen purayet ardham toyen cha tritiyakam |
Udarasya turiyamsham cha samrakshet vayudharanan ||
Half of the stomach should be filled with food; third part (¼th) with liquid and then the fourth part should be left free for gases to move around. Food stays in the stomach for three to four hours. During this period, it is churned due to the expansion and contraction movements of the stomach. The juices are mixed up and then the process of digestion starts. For this movement, there should be empty area in the stomach. If the stomach is filled with food completely, there is no space for proper movement and then the food will not be digested properly. This will be the beginning of indigestion. One day, one should eat till one feels totally full, so one will realize how much food is needed to fill the stomach. Then one should consume half of such quantity regularly.
The shloka recited hereinabove states that ¼ th of the stomach should be filled with liquid. We intake liquids in different forms at any time. There is another beautiful shloka which states which liquid should be consumed and when it should be consumed.
Bhojanante pibet takram dinante cha pibet payah |
Nishante cha pibet vari, that vaidhyasya kim prayojanam ||
The meaning is quite clear. After meal, one should drink buttermilk. At the end of the day, i e at night, one should drink milk and at the end of the night, one should drink water. If drinks are consumed in this manner, the health will be so strong that no one would require the services of a doctor. There is tremendous importance of buttermilk in the diet. Daily one should consume buttermilk out of quarter liter of curds fully set. Such buttermilk, which has not turned sour, should be drunk after both the meals. A churned curd does not mean buttermilk. One should mix up equal quantity of water with the curds and then churn it properly till both are mixed thoroughly. People with vat prakruti should consume buttermilk with butter; kapha prakruti people should consume buttermilk after removing the butter. Using milk before formation of crème on top, making curds out of it and then buttermilk by churning it, is the buttermilk with butter inside. Buttermilk made out of milk after removal of crème is the buttermilk without butter. That is good for kapha prakruti people. Like buttermilk, milk is also good for health. One should consume half a liter of milk daily. It is beneficial for the yoga students to consume more milk. Vat prakruti people should consume milk with cream and kapha prakruti people should consume milk without cream. The shloka states that the milk should be consumed before one sleeps.
After stating the period of consumption of buttermilk and milk, the time of consumption of water is given as the dawn time. After getting up in the morning, one should consume water kept in a covered copper utensil. It improves the excretion tendency, urination tendency and ignition of fires.
While narrating the importance of the milk, Ayurveda has also considered the items such as ghee and butter. If common people consume good milk daily, then there is no need to consume ghee or butter separately. But those who have to undertake work-involving use of intelligence need butter and ghee. The body does not require it, but their intelligence needs it badly. Nowadays, with growing age the physical exercise becomes less, but the mental strain goes on increasing. The brain requires rest. Then at such times, one should not play games such as chess, bridge etc which cause more strain to the brains. Pure ghee is best for offering strength and peace to the intelligence. If people using intelligence do not consume ghee, then the capacity of their intelligence goes on decreasing.
Generally, ghee is considered harmful for the patients of blood pressure or heart diseases. Western dieticians include ghee under fats. But they have also now agreed that the effects of the fats and the ghee are different, so one should consume at least 10 gms. of ghee daily. If the ghee is made up of cow's milk, it is better. If the cow fodder includes more cottonseed or if the cow is restrained at one place, then also the characteristics of the milk change. But whatever it is, diet does need milk and ghee.
Ghee should be included in the daily diet, but one should exclude dalda (vanaspati ghee) purposefully. Oil or ghee thickened artificially should be avoided. The chemical process involved in such an action makes it poisonous. The consumption of it increases cholesterol, which rests in layers inside the blood vessels. This causes heart disease. Hence, if it is not possible to use ghee, then one should use oil. Oil of til (sesame) is the best and then groundnut oil and then kardai oil. It is not good to offer tempering with oil. As the temperature of the oil is too hot, many useful ingredients get burnt. Actually, the materials used for tempering such as hing (asaefoetida) and rai (mustard seeds), are medicines in Ayurveda, but since they are used daily they do not serve the purpose of medicines. The body due to the regular consumption does not treat them as such. These items entered the diet so as to save the body from harmful effects of consuming sweets, but they secured their place in the daily diet. The spices and the oil create disturbances in the functioning of the liver and cause disturbance in the circulation of the blood and digestion. This creates disturbance in the entire body. To safeguard the liver, one should reduce spices in the diet. Another reason for the disturbance in the liver is the chlorine gas, which is mixed up in water. If the proportion of the chlorine is higher, then one should boil the water before drinking, so that the liver is not disturbed.
A stream of thought that the diet should consist of more leafy vegetables, has gained roots in the modern science of diet. Ayurveda has exactly opposite thought style. The diet should be "hitbhuk", "mitbhuk" and "ashakbhut". Hitbhuk means the diet should be for betterment, mit means in measured quanity, and ashakbhut means without leafy vegetables. The person following these three points is a healthy person. Ayurveda principally is against eating leafy vegetables. But the time, at which the principle was laid down, was such that the other sattavyukta diet was easily available. Rice, which was husked at home, was available. The grinding was done at home; hence the much-needed vitamins and cellulose were in tact. Hence it was possible to say to omit the leafy vegetables completely from the diet. Today all these things are not followed so one has to eat leafy vegetables. They make the excretion easy, but then it is not proper to consume prickly items and then push them further by eating leafy vegetables. Hence, instead of food getting pushed forward naturally, it is pushed due to prodding. It involves strain on the intestines and increases indigestion. Indigestion due to leafy vegetables is bad, as there is very little material in the leafy vegetables, which is absorbed in the body. The part that is not absorbed lies into the intestines and weakens the system of digestion.
The rice known as basmati rice which is the number one rice today is actually the last if viewed from the health point of view. This type of rice is good once in a while at the time of feast, but for daily use, the thick rice husked with hands is the best. Daily diet should include jowar, bajra, wheat etc. People with vat and pitta prakruti should exclude bajra. Kapha prakruti people should avoid wheat. Jowar is generally good for everyone. The generally healthy person should include all the three in the diet. While selecting leafy vegetables, vegetables such as tandulja, math, pokla are good. In fruit vegetables, doodhi (gourd), bhendi (okra) , dodka (ghosby), padwal (snake gourd) are better. Cobi (cabbage) is useless with the point of view of health. The food grown on artificial fertilizers is considered bad than the food grown in the land without fertilizers. The food grown in the jirayati land is full of health as compared to the bagayati land.
After considering about the elements of the diet in such detail, Ayurveda specifies the circumstances under which the diet is to be consumed :
Ishtadeshe ishtasarvopakaranam |
Ajalpan ahasan tanmana bhunjit ||
At the time of the meal, the general atmosphere must be cheerful. The utensils used in the preparation of the diet should be clean and proper. The utensils of brass with kalayi are better than the steel ones. Ajalpan that means one should not talk too much; Ahasan means one should not laugh. While talking or laughing, the windpipe remains open. If one swallows the food at the same time, then the food particles may go into the trachea and cause disturbance. So also, while laughing or talking one cannot concentrate on the meal. Hence, one should eat with tanman i.e. with utmost concentration. If one does not pay attention to the meals, then one tends to eat unwanted items and that too in unwanted quantities. These are obstacles to the digestion.
The diet affects the mind as well as the body. The mind works as per the diet. Shrimadbhagwad Geeta has classified the diet into three categories: Sattvic, Rajas and Tamas. They are described in detail.
Aayuh satavabalarogyasukhapreetivivardhanah |
Rasyah snigdhah sthirah hridhya aaharah sattvicpriyah || 17.8
Sattvic diet means one which increases the life, intelligence, strength, health, pleasure, love and which is tasty, fatty, stable, and keeps the mind cheerful.
Aahara rajsyestha dukkhashokamayaprada || 17.9
Rajas diet means one, which is pungent, sour, salty, very hot, spicy, tasteless, which causes inflamation, which generates grief, mourning or diseases.
Tamas diet has been described in the following shloka :
Yatayamam gatarasam puni paryushitam cha yat |
Uchishtamapi chamedhyam bhojanma tamaraspriyam || 17.10
Tamas diet means yatyam that means after the preparation of which one prahar has elapsed, one from which all rasas have vanished, one which stinks, one that is tasted by someone else, and is not holy.
The classification of the diet in three categories, sattvic, rajas and tamas has been done with specific aim. Diet affects mind as well as the body. The diet also controls the pravruti of the people. Diet, which causes sattvic pravrutis, is sattvic diet; causing rajas pravrutis is rajas diet and causing tamas pravrutis is tamas diet. The virtues of each diet are also specified, which clearly lay down the effects of these diets too.
Various texts of yoga have not discussed the diet in detail. Yoga has not laid emphasis on the diet since there are other sciences laying down the rules of the diet.
However Hathapradeepika and Gherandsamhita, both the yoga texts have laid down the rule of mitahar. None concurs with the low intake diet or fasting. At some places, there is a description of certain diet elements along with their usefulness. However, most of the elements are not available today.
Nisargopachar is a science, which considers diet in detail. It lays down 50 % emphasis on proper diet, 25 % on not consuming diet (langhan), and 25 % on various therapies. Thus, so much importance is given to the diet. However, nothing additional than what we have not seen earlier is laid down there. The same points are laid down in a different terminology.
The modern western dieticians view the diet with a different angle. That angle is totally different from all the above thoughts. The diet is divided into Carbohydrates, Fats, Vitamins A, B, C, D, E. Minerals and water. The value of the diet is measured in terms of calories generated from it. The need of the body for the diet is also measured in the calories and associated with consumption. The need for the calories of a person can be met through a single preparation, but since that is not feasible, all the above elements must be consumed proportionately. In short, these scientists have tried to solve the problem of the diet with the modern lab equipment and the knowledge. They have succeeded to an extent. But the human life is so complicated that such experiments do not resolve the problems, but make them more complex. Hence, instead of studying this method in detail, we considered diet from the view of Ayurveda, which is complimentary to yoga. This is enough and useful for the yoga sadhaka.