Proper Eating Behavior for Good Digestion
Fundamentals of Healthy Eating Behavior
“Without proper diet, medicine is of no use. With proper diet, medicine is of no need.”
~ Ancient Ayurvedic proverb
How we digest and assimilate our food is just as important as what we eat. If digestion is disturbed, even the best diet will not provide proper nutrition. The following points include a variety of recommendations to aid in the most complete digestion of food.
- Eat according to your hunger level. Avoid eating when not hungry and do not delay eating when hungry.
- Eat at approximately the same time every day.
- Don’t eat too quickly or too slowly.
- Do not overeat. Eat to about 3/4 capacity. Do not leave the table very hungry or very full.
- Allow 3 – 6 hours between meals. Do not eat before the previous meal is properly digested.
- Eat a balanced meal with all six tastes.
- Eat sitting down and in a settled environment. Do not read, watch TV or drive while eating.
- Sip warm or room temperature liquids during the meal. This enlivens digestion and helps the food be better dissolved and absorbed. Do not take ice cold liquids and foods with a meal as they suppress digestion.
- Sit comfortably for five to ten minutes after finishing the meal. This allows the digestive process to get well underway. If you immediately jump up from the meal, digestion will be disrupted and the food will be improperly processed.
- Chew the food well. Digestion starts in the mouth.
- Milk should be taken alone or with other sweet tastes. Milk should not be taken with vegetables, meat, fish, sour foods, salt or eggs.
- Eat fresh foods freshly prepared. Avoid leftovers.
- Avoid artificial foods, colors and preservatives.
- Fresh fruit and vegetable juices are recommended as part of your daily diet.
- Honey should not be heated in any way such as by cooking, baking or by adding it to hot beverages. Ayurvedic theory says that when heated honey is ingested it creates a toxic effect in the body. It can be added to tea or hot milk once the beverage has cooled down to body temperature.
- Eat organic food whenever possible. Strictly avoid genetically engineered or genetically modified food.
- Do not use a microwave as it can aggravate Vata in the food.
- Ayurveda recommends a vegetarian diet as ideal but if you have been eating meat for many years the transition should be made gradually with great attention placed on having a balanced diet and enough milk products to get the proper amount of vitamin B12.
- For the best health it is good to AVOID the following:
- Avoid snacks containing refined sugar. Have sweet juicy fruits, dried fruits, hot milk alone or with spices, dates, nuts and other wholesome foods instead.
- Avoid lunches of only raw salad. Raw vegetables are not a balanced diet at lunch, the most important meal of the day. Raw vegetables are too Vata aggravating to be eaten as the only item on the menu at lunch.
- Avoid carbonated beverages. They aggravate Vata being filled with air and destroy the foundation of “ojas”, the chemical that contributes most to the immunity and vigor of the body.
- Avoid cold foods. Cold food depresses digestion and clogs the physiology.
- Avoid caffeine. Caffeine is very aggravating to Vata and Pitta and can significantly imbalance the physiology with overuse.
Nancy Lonsdorf, MD is a prominent Ayurvedic physician, speaker and author of The Ageless Woman: Natural Health and Beauty After Forty with Maharishi Ayurveda (MCD Century, 2004).