Dr.Harinee S, B.A.M.S., M.D.(Ayu.)

Updated On Aug 08,2023

Many classical Ayurvedic texts opine that optimal health relies on our ability to effectively work in accordance with the metabolic information our body receives. For example, the food items we eat and digest, the way we process our thoughts and emotions, or how our sensory organs stimulate the various systems of our body.

What truly matters is not the food we eat, rather our capacity to efficiently digest and absorb it. All the nutritive ingredients of fresh and healthy food will not deliver the desired effect on the body if the individual is not able to assimilate these nutrients and nourish the body. That is the reason why the basics of Ayurveda emphasize the digestive power (Agni) and not greatly on the nutritional value of the food substances.

The food substances mentioned in Ayurveda are not any unusual or different in their kind, but what is given the utmost importance is the comprehensive inclusion of all essential nutrients cooked well to go well with tastes that the individual requires accordingly, accompanied by a thorough understanding of its impact on the body.

Unlike modern science, Ayurveda does not prioritize the “calorie content” of each food item in a meal. Instead, it focuses on taste, characteristics such as potency, peculiar quality, etc., specifically along with its action related to the digestive fire. The nutritive value of food is inappropriate if the body cannot properly assimilate it.

Ayurvedic outlook on digestion is that: Similar to cooking food on a stove, our digestion involves chopping the food (thorough chewing), adding fluids (salivary and gastric enzymes), and then turning on the flame or heat for proper cooking (supplying energy and enzymatic action). This internal fire within human beings is Agni that drives all metabolic functions.

Thus, the primary concern is to support Agni, the digestive power. When Agni functions optimally, even the most nutrient-rich food can effectively benefit normal bodily processes by being fully absorbed into the system. Factors such as increased physical activity, disturbed/inadequate sleep, stress, and overeating or decreased intake of food weaken the Agni.

By consciously engaging oneself during the meals, one can discover and appreciate the qualities of the food i.e. sense, taste, smell, color, textures, and appearance, that were overlooked earlier, therefore enjoying the food completely.

According to Ayurveda, the stomach should be filled with two-fourths solid food, one-fourth liquid, and leaving one-fourth empty to allow for the appropriate movements to promote proper digestion. Freshly cooked food is preferred over chemically processed products, including canned and frozen foods.

Therefore, it is crucial to listen to our body's requirements, practice a regular daily routine, respect meal times, and ensure Agni (digestive fire) functions properly.

Adhering to an Ayurvedic diet plan and dietary regimen leads to overall health and well-being, with a sense of satisfaction.It is advisable, however, to gradually incorporate Ayurvedic principles and amend them based on the health requirements of the individual, taking into consideration the timing of the meal, flavors, characteristics of the food items, and climatic changes.