How to eat according to Ayurveda…Part I

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How often have you delayed lunch until evening just so you could complete your boss’s assignment? Or how many times have you had a heavy dinner only to wake up groggy the next day! Well, we all are guilty of doing these things.

In the fast-paced digital age that we live in, productivity takes precedence over personal pleasures and self-sabotage is seen as a measure of success. Therefore, it can be almost unimaginable to postpone every task at hand and eat or sleep just when your body feels like it.

Unfortunately, the body doesn’t tolerate that for too long. Every time you choose to ignore Mother Nature’s rhythms and decide to go by your own clock, your body bears the brunt of it and over time, this accumulates, giving rise to doshas and diseases.

How to eat according to Ayurveda?

Thankfully, Ayurvedic scriptures dating back to 5000 years ago have laid down specific guidelines for how to eat at different times of the day, and even what to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

In this post, we’ll attempt to shed light on these principles. I strongly recommend you to take this quiz before moving over to read the full post because only when you know your particular body type (Vata, Pitta or Kapha), can you fully comprehend this post and use it to your advantage.

Best Ayurvedic morning drinks

Time: 7:00 – 9:00 am, Active dosha: Kapha

The morning time is the most precious time of the day, according to Ayurveda. Whatever you eat empty stomach is likely to be absorbed best by your body. Yet, since morning is the time of Kapha, the digestive fire (agni) is low, hence small, light meals are recommended

The adage that “Have breakfast like a king” doesn’t hold true!

Before your breakfast, it’s advisable to take detox water. Some options are herb-infused water, lemon-ginger tea, fruit-infused water, moon-charged water, or even fresh green vegetable juices.

Consider the following:

Seed-infused water:

According to Ayurveda, soaking seeds in water overnight makes their nutrients more bioavailable and easier to assimilate into the body. Consider the following seeds for your morning drink:

  1. Fenugreek seeds

Recipe: Soak 1 tsp of fenugreek seeds in half-glass water overnight and drink the water the next morning

Benefits: Anti-inflammatory, balances female hormones, promotes digestion and blood sugar control

Best for: Reducing hair-fall, high-fiber diet, recovering from chronic ailment, restoring skin glow

  • Coriander seeds

Recipe: Soak 1 tsp of coriander seeds in 2 cups water overnight and boil the mixture over low flame. Strain and sip slowly

Benefits: Rich in immune-boosting antioxidants, reduces anxiety and improves memory

Best for: Balancing thyroid dysfunction, fighting foodborne allergies, reducing bloating/acidity

Diseases/conditions: Hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, hypothyroidism

  • Fennel seeds

Recipe: Soak 1 tsp fennel seeds in 1 glass water overnight and drink it the next morning. DO NOT BOIL

Benefits: Promotes healthy bowel movement, calms down seasonal allergies, regularizes menses

Best for: Eye health, purifying blood to increase skin glow, reducing period pain

Diseases/conditions: Obesity, PCOD, acne, constipation

  • Triphala

Recipe: Soak two tsp of triphala powder in 1 glass water overnight. Strain and sip, or wash your eyes with this water

Benefits: Boosts liver function, cleanses the lungs, strengthens the immunity, calms strained eyes

Best for: liver detoxification, reducing sugar cravings, weight loss, healing mouth ulcers and eye infections

Diseases/conditions: Bacterial infections, obesity, gingivitis, acute constipation, glaucoma, or computer vision syndrome

Fruit-infused water:

Drinking water soaked in fruits is a great way to get nutrition on the go. Not only is it rich in vitamins and minerals but also keeps your system hydrated and nourished. When taken in the morning, it revs up your metabolism and induces a feeling of satiety, thereby helping in portion control.

Caution: Ayurveda recommends drinking water at room temperature only, especially in the morning when metabolism is already low. Hence, do not refrigerate your fruit-infused water, rather you can keep it in a small earthen pot by your bedside and drink it right after waking up.

Fruits to add:

  • Tropical fruits like watermelon and mango
  • Lemon, limes and oranges for a boost of freshness
  • Kiwis, pineapple and coconut for good fats
Fruit-infused water

Do take a look at this fruit-combining guide to understand which fruits are compatible and can be eaten together

Ayurvedic morning teas

In Ayurveda, the purpose of morning tea is to energize you and equip you to meet the rigors of the day. Additionally, you should feel hydrated and your digestive fire should feel well-supported to renew its metabolic action.

When to drink: Morning teas should be taken empty stomach but preferably after emptying your bowels

Basic recipe: A combination of whole spices, such as cardamom (elaichi), cloves (laung), cinnamon (dalchini) with seeds like fennel (sauf) and herbs such as tulsi (basil) and mint.

You can choose any of the following teas for a refreshing start to the day:

1.)Vata tea

  • Herbs: freshly grated ginger
  • Whole spices: ground cardamom and cinnamon
  • Seeds: ground or whole carom (ajwain)
  • Recipe: Boil the abovementioned ingredients till the water is reduced to half. Strain and sip slowly
  • Best for: Vata dosha people
  • Best season: Kapha months when stomach agni is low, i.e. from November to February

2.) Pitta tea

  • Herbs: Fresh cilantro, rose petals
  • Seeds: Cumin, coriander, fennel
  • Recipe: Boil together all the ingredients for 15 minutes. Strain and serve cool for maximum benefits
  • Best for: Providing instant relief from acidity/indigestion
  • Best season: Pitta months when stomach fire is high, i.e. from March to June

3.) Kapha tea

  • Herbs: freshly grated ginger, turmeric
  • Whole spices: clove, cinnamon, black pepper
  • Seeds: Fenugreek seeds
  • Recipe: Add boiling water to the ingredients in a glass; let it steep for 15 minutes, then strain and sip
  • Best for: People who feel tired and sluggish to wake up
  • Best season: Autumn/winter, i.e. months of Vata and Kapha

Fresh vegetable juices:

Ash gourd juice

Cucumber-mint-coriander juice

Water-melon juice

What to eat for breakfast according to Ayurveda?

According to Ayurveda, the stomach’s digestive capacity runs parallel with the intensity of the sun through the day. In the morning, between 8:00 to 10:00 am, the sun has not yet reached its peak hence the digestive fire in the stomach is low.

You can think of your stomach as a furnace. Your breakfast should be such that it ignites the fire to an extent that it keeps burning like a slow flame through the day yet not so much that it goes out of control.  Eating cold, uncooked breakfasts like smoothies, juices, raw fruits, unsoaked nuts would be like throwing water into that furnace.

Eating cold, uncooked breakfasts like smoothies, juices, raw fruits, unsoaked nuts would be like throwing water into that furnace.

A good breakfast should fulfil the following characteristics:

  • Warm and well-cooked
  • Mushy and soft in texture
  • Made with minimum ingredients
  • Devoid of milk or fortified cereals

Ayurvedic breakfast ideas:

  • Alkaline foods, such as beetroot-yogurt, pomegranate, citrus fruits (single fruit serving)
  • Hot oatmeal with bran flakes/oat bran or jowar flakes
  • Mono-fruit meals
  • Probiotic fruits such as apple or banana taken singly
  • Vegetable soup cooked with seasonal vegetables and whole spices
  • Ragi malt
  • Barley soup
  • Handful of pre-soaked, lightly roasted and peeled nuts

Which foods to avoid?

  • Raw food combinations, such as vegetable salads
  • Meat
  • Dairy products with the exception of yogurt
  • Eggs
  • Roasted nuts (unsoaked), dried fruit

In short, you should avoid eating any food that is dry in texture, raw and has animal origins to ensure proper assimilation of nutrients from your breakfast.

Mid-morning (11:00 am to 12:00 pm)

Between breakfast and lunch, there should be a minimum 4-hour gap. If, in between, you feel the urge to snack, opt for positive prana foods only. Positive pranic foods are high in life-giving energy, as they are living foods, e.g: fresh fruit, sprouts, honey, and coconut. Having these foods at 11:00 to 12:00 pm greatly boosts their absorption into the system because that’s when the sun’s intensity is closest to its peak. Tea and coffee are negative pranic foods. However, having one cup in mid-morning and one in the evening is acceptable. Spicy tea blends and acidic fruits like pineapples and limes are easiest to digest when taken at this time. Another option is to drink coconut water or sugarcane juice during this time of the day, especially in the months of Pitta (July to October).

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