By Dr. Regina Antony
Ayurveda believes that food should have a healthy combination of all six tastes. Food should be
Pratyagram – freshly made,
Ushna – served in hot condition,
Snigdha – unctuous – containing some amounts of fats and oils
Dravottara – moderately moist and
containing all the six tastes.
(Reference – Sushruta Samhita, Sutrasthana 46/ 459-465)
Read related – Six Tastes Of Ayurveda: Qualities, Benefits, Therapeutic Action (Shad Rasa)
As far as possible, easily perishable fruits and vegetables should be collected locally. The shelf life of such fruits and vegetables is only a few days. Fruits and vegetables help to enjoy the full nutritional benefits, when procured locally.
Disadvantages of distant foods
Disadvantages of procuring food from distant places:
In today’s world that is well connected by different means of transport and communication, import and export of foods has become very common. In order to increase the shelf life of these foods, refrigeration and artificial preservation techniques are utilised which are harmful to health.
Read related – Collection And Preservation Of Ayurvedic Herbs
Also, to meet the needs of the growing population, artificial methods of growth and cultivation of foods are also in practice, like the use of artificial fertilisers and pesticides. Commercial farming has also become widespread, destroying natural rain forests and turning them into farmlands. Hence foods procured from distant places, grown with the help of artificial fertilisers and pesticides, preserved using chemicals and refrigerated and transported are not considered good for health.
Rule of local foods applies only for short shelf-life ingredients:
The rule of local foods is not strict to types of food ingredients with longer shelf life.
In places of long winters, deserts, excessively hot and sunny countries, only one or two types of seasons exist throughout the year. Here, it is very difficult to grow full range of food ingredients.
Read related – Various Methods of Ayurvedic Food Processing – Ahara Samskara
Three types of lands are explained in Ayurveda.
Jangala – Arid land. This place naturally promotes Vata dosha. Foods that are grown here usually are light and Vata promoting.
Sadharana – Moderate land.
Anupa – Marshy lands – Foods that are grown here can promote Kapha.
So, a person living in marshy lands has Kapha increase in him and the local foods might also have Kapha promoting action due to the influence of moistness and soil quality.
For him, some long shelf-life food ingredients brought from Arid (Jangala) or normal places (Sadharana) is beneficial.
Ideal food ingredients that can be imported:
Ingredients that hold a long shelf life. Qualities of which do not get afflicted with the change in locality. Foods that can be transported to other places without requiring artificial / chemical preservation techniques.
Stable ingredients that can withstand variation of temperature and humidity without losing their nutritional values.
Read related – Classification Of Foods And Drinks – Charaka Samhita Sutrasthana 27
Locally available fruits and vegetables are preferred because of its short shelf life.
It is fine to collect food ingredients from distant places as long as there is no compromise in their nutritional values.
Cooked and Raw foods
Ayurveda mentions various methods of food processing. These include altering the form and consistency of foods so as to make them compatible and easy to digest.
Many times the foods cannot be consumed directly, as such. The inherent characters / qualities of the food substances or their form should be changed so as to make them suitable for consumption. In order to change the characters or form of foods, they need to be transformed or processed into a different form, i.e. they should be converted into usable forms using various methods. This would make the consumption and digestion of food substances easier.
Ayurveda mentions a group of food substances called ‘kritanna varga’ which means ‘group of cooked foods’.
One commonly used method of food transformation is the usage of fire for cooking foods. Food substances that cannot be consumed raw because of heaviness is cooked over fire and made light for digestion. For example, rice when raw is heavy (guru). Once it is cooked over fire, it becomes light for digestion (laghu).
Meat cannot be consumed without cooking as it is heavy. It has to be cooked well over fire and made soft before digestion. Cooking over fire also improves the palatability of foods.
Usually, only fruits are consumed raw. Even spices need not be cooked before consumption as contact with heat may result in loss of volatile principles in them.
But if the digestive power (Agni) in an individual is poor, then raw foods are not advised. This is because raw foods tend to be heavier than cooked foods for digestion.
Liquid and Solid foods
Ayurveda considers solid foods to be heavier that liquid foods for digestion. Master Sushruta mentions that the food we consume should ideally be ‘dravottara’ which means ‘moderately moist’.
According to Charaka Samhita Vimanasthana 2/3, stomach should be divided into three equal portions. Out of this,
One third of stomach should be reserved for solid foods.
One third of stomach should be reserved for liquid foods.
One third of stomach should be left vacant for action of Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
If one consumes food in this pattern, he will not become victim of diseases and other bad impacts caused by improper consumption of food. This capacity differs from person to person and between different body types. Samsarjana Krama is a special type of dietetic regimen explained in Ayurveda.
Read related – Understanding Digestion Process From An Ayurveda View
It is a graduated form of dietetic protocol in which, form of food is gradually graduated from liquid to semisolid form and from semisolid to solid food. In other terms, diet is graduated from light to heavy foods and later to normal and regular food.
Such type of diet is explained in context of post-treatment protocol of cleansing treatments especially after completion of therapeutic emesis and purgation. These cleansing procedures make the digestive fire very weak. So consuming a normal diet soon after these procedures would definitely lead to indigestion.
Liquid diet (peya) at the beginning of Samsarjana Krama is the easiest to get digested. This will kindle digestive fire to an extent and make it strong enough to digest semisolid food. Therefore in next schedule, semisolid diet is introduced. This further kindles digestive fire so that is becomes capable of digesting normal solid food. Therefore at end of Samsarjana Krama, digestive fire would have been kindled to its maximum strength and the patient is given a normal diet.
Read related – Samsarjana Krama – Graduated Dietetic Protocol After Cleansing Treatments