Dietetics is the science of applying knowledge in food and nutrition for improving and maintaining good health. According to Ayurveda, health depends upon food. But there are certain dos and don’ts for it. Body is nourished by food. Disease is also due to (faulty) food. Almost all the diseases can be managed well with proper food alone. Ayurvedic dietetics is exceptionally scientific. It stands for positive health which is desired by all.
Food may be defined as any substance when taken into the body can be utilized to yield heat or energy to build up new tissues, repair worn- out tissues, regulate body processes and aid in the production of important body compounds. Food materials, doshas, dhathus and even our whole body are having the same qualities. Hence food can be used for regulating all the body functions. Action of food on our body depends upon its taste.
Six tastes (shad-rasas)
Tastes are 6 in number and these are having different panchabhouthika constitution. ie; madhura (sweet) – earth & water, amla (Sour)- fire & earth, lavana (salt)- water & fire, katu (pungent) -air & fire, thikta (bitter) – air & space, kashaya (astringent) – air & earth. Tastes act on tridoshas in several ways.
Sweet taste increases Kapha, decreases Vata and Pitta. Example – Milk, jaggery, cream, ghee, fat, banana, dates, grapes, rice. It is accustomed since birth, promotes growth and stability, good for aged and children, and provides color complexion and strength. Also it is snigdha (oily), sheeta (cool), mrdu(soft) & guru (heavy to digest).If used in excess produces obesity, weak digestion, excess sleep, diabetes, cough, cold, dyspnoea, diseases of throat, tumors, lymphatic diseases. Psychologically it will produce dullness sluggishness, congestion, greed and complacency.
:Sour taste decreases Vata and increases Pitta and Kapha. Example – lemon, tomato, vinegar, gooseberry, butter milk, curd, wine, and pomegranate. It kindles hunger, produces stoutness, satisfaction, nourishment, moistness and good for heart. In excess it produces burning, bleeding, severe thirst, giddiness, edema, skin diseases, looseness of joints, liquefaction of Kapha, defect of vision, ulcers and paleness. It is light, oily, and hot. Salt taste increases Kapha and Pitta, decreases Vata. It removes stiffness, obstruction, increases appetite, helps in digestion, and produces moistness, dryness, retention, not very heavy or oily, penetrating, hot in potency.
In excess it will produce baldness, grey hair, thirst, skin diseases, rheumatism, bleeding, etc. Also it will reduce strength and ojas.
Bitter taste increases Vata, decreases Pitta and Kapha. Example – bitter gourd, spinach, sandal, neem tree etc. It cures anorexia, poison, worms, fainting, fever, burning sensation, skin diseases, itching. It will decrease fat, feces and urine .If used in excess it will produce weakness, debility and diseases related to Vata.
Pungent taste increases Vata and Pitta, reduces Kapha. Example – garlic, ginger, onion and all spicy foods. It will cure indigestion, dropsy, obesity, it cleans the body, removes clotting, and dries up the system. In excess it produces weakness, thirst, dizziness, tremor, emaciation, neuritis, pain, acidity, and all diseases related to vayu and agni.
Astringent taste increases Vata, decreases Pitta and Kapha. Example – Beans, lentils, tea, unripe vegetables. Good for blood, heals the ulcers, stops bleeding and discharge. If used in excess it will produce.all Vata- related diseases like tremor, constipation, pain, decrease sexual secretion, flatulence.
Undesirable eating patterns
samasana, adhyasana and vishamasana are three types of eatin g patterns which are highly undesirable and will lead to so many chronic diseases and metabolic disorders. Samasana is the combination of desirable and undesirable food. Adhyasana is eating before 3 hours from the last food and vishamasana is the untimely food irrespective of quantity.
The Ten Commandments
Ten Commandments of eating food according to Ayurveda are very important now-a- days as dietetics is concerned.
These are :
1. Ushnam asneeyal – take fresh food
2. Mathravad asneeyal- stop before you feel full
3. Snigdham asneeyal- take good quality fat like cow’s milk & ghee regularly,
4. Jeerne asneeyal- consume food only when you are hungry,
5. Veeryavirudham asneeyal- take only compatible food ,
6. Ishtadese asneeyal- select neat and suitable place for eating,
7. Nathidrutham asneeyal- avoid very fast eating,
8. Nathivilambitham asneeyal-avoid very slow eating
9. Ajalpan ahasan thanmana Bhunjeetha- take food without speaking, laughing and with concentration,
10. Athmanam abhisameekshya bhunjeetha- realise self.
Ashtavidha samskara (Eight special dietetic norms)
Ayurveda has also given importance to eight factors regarding food, which are called ashtavidha samskara. According to Ayurveda, if a person follows these norms, he will never have any digestive problems, and associated diseases.
1.Prakriti (Nature of Food) It may be light or heavy. We should select the desired food according to the body constitution.
2.Karana ( Processing) The quality of food changes according to the method of processing. It can be light or heavy for digestion.
3.Samyoga (combinations) While preparing any food the ingredients must be compatible. Combining sour fruits and milk is harmful
4.Rashi (quantity) Quantity should be according to your digestive fire (jatharagni)
5.Desha (place) If the surrounding is good and pleasant, the food is better absorbed and has favorable effects on body, mind & soul.
6.Kala (time or period) When the previous food has been properly digested and when you are hungry, that is the time of next food.
7.Upayoga sanstha (rules for eating) Food must be consumed while it is hot, as it naturally increases digestive fire. Eat in relaxed, Calm and Cheerful Atmosphere. Never eat too fast or slow. Eating while talking, laughing, thinking or watching television is not advisable. It is better to concentrate on food only with the thought that this food is going to benefit my mind and body.
8.Upabhokta (person who takes the food) Everyone must see his body constitution, capacity of digestive fire, season, time of the day, and don’t eat if the previous food is not digested.
Some common foods and their effects
Cow’s milk is Sweet, cooling, heavy, oily, and smooth. Increases Kapha, decreases Vata and Pitta. Milk is more easily digested if boiled and allowed to cool to a warm temperature before drinking. It is rasayana. Removes fatigue, giddiness, toxicity, thirst, fever of long duration and dysuria.
Goat’s milk is Sweet, astringent, cooling, light, increases Vata, decreases Pitta and Kapha. Usually it is given in children and effective in tuberculosis, bleeding diseases and diarrhea. Ghee (clarified butter) is Sweet, cool, heavy, oily, Promotes higher mental functions, digestion, vigor, eyesight and complexion. It is good for children and old people and possesses many good qualities and many actions when used properly.
Curd – Yoghurt is Sour, hot, oily, etc., reduces Vata increases Kapha and Pitta, used in intermittent fever, dysuria and chronic rhinitis. It is usually avoided in night and not to be heated. It is given with honey, sugar and sugar candy