We are all aware of the importance of eating the right food to maintain good health. But most of us don’t realize that a diet made up of very healthy foods need not always be a healthy diet. The most healthy foods, can be unhealthy and can lead to disease if not consumed the right way, at the right time, at the right quantity in the right mix etc. The anient science of Ayurveda has dealt extensively with the impact of food in the body in various states.
According to Ayurveda there are seven factors that determine whether a food will benefit the body or will be harmful to it. They are–
- Svabhava or natural qualities of the food like nourishing, cooling, digestive etc..
- Samyoga or the combination of other foods with which it is taken. Two healthy foods can combine to form a toxic food which can lead to ill health. Given below are some examples of incorrect food combinations. According to Ayurveda, these combinations, if persisted in dietary habits, create vitiation of doshas, bodily tissues (dhatus) and bodily wastes.
- a. Milk followed by fruits and vice versa
- b. Cold and hot substances together
- c. Taking sour substances like bread (fermented with yeast) along with milk.
- d. Cold water after a hot meal
- e. Honey in hot water
- f. Milk with salt
- g. Banana with milk, yogurt or buttermilk
- h. Milk with meat of any kind
- i. Chicken with yogurt
- j. Clarified butter kept in a bronze vessel
- k. Fish with sugar
- l. Hot drinks after alcohol, yogurt or honey
- m. Cucumber or tomatoes with lemon.
- Samskara or processing like preparing or cooking or preserving the food. Processing can transform the inherent qualities of a food substance. Ayurveda mentions the below listed ten procedures which can change the qualities of a food item.
- a. contact with water
- b. contact with fire or heat
- c. washing and cleaning
- d. place of storage
- e. churning
- f. time its stored
- g. flavouring
- h. impregnation
- i. presentation
- j. container and vessels used
- Matra or quantity of the food consumed. Even the most healthy food consumed in excess can be unhealthy for the body.
- Desa or the habitat and body type of the person consuming. A food that may be beneficial to people staying in dry and hot regions may not be so for those in cold and humid regions. The same way foods that are beneficial to a vata type may be unhealthy to a kapha type body.
- Kala or the time of the day, season etc that the food is consumed and the age of the person consuming the food. For example certain foods which are very good when taken in the day may not be beneficial when taken at night.
- Upayoga vyavastha or the manner its eaten like well chewed or swallowed etc.. Improper manner of eating can lead to indigestion. Undigested food clogs the intestines, ferments, putrefies and eventually build up toxins in the body.
To conclude, a food that enters the body goes through a series of processes where its broken down and converted into different forms. There are several factors that can influence whether the final result or the impact the food one consumes is going to be beneficial or toxic on the body. So it becomes as much important to take care of the above factors, as it is to choose good quality healthy food item.