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The Ayurvedic Diet: A Guide to Optimal Health and Wellness

Introduction

Diet plays a very important role in the maintenance of good health and prevention of the diseases. In Ayurveda, it is believed that human beings are what, when, how, and where they eat. Thus, there have been principles laid regarding the diet in Ayurveda, for a balanced lifestyle. These rules and regulations help in maintaining an equilibrium of dosha, dhatu, and mala, thus preventing the occurrence of diseases. Thus, a balanced diet is very important to achieve benefits of health like Jeevaniya (energy-yielding), Brimhaniya (structure-building), Lekhaniya (removing excess fat accumulation), Bhedaniya (elimination of waste products), Sandhaniya (wear and tear of the tissues), and Deepaniya (promoting the digestion).

Ayurvedic Diet A Path to Health and Wellness

Nitya Sheelaniya Dravya:

The food items that are to be consumed regularly and are healthy. These food items are Shashtika shali (variety of the rice grown in sixty days), Godhuma (wheat), Yava (barley), Mudga (green gram), Balamulaka (tender raddish), Patola (Trichosanthes dioica), Mrudwika (Vitis vinifera), Amalaki (Emblica officinalis), Pathya (Terminalia chebula), Dadima (pomegranate), Sharkara (sugar), Saindhava lavana (rock salt), Go ghritha (cow’s ghee), Go dugdha (cow’s milk), Jangala mamsa (meat of the animals from the arid regions), Madhu (honey), Antariksha jala (rainwater), etc. These can be consumed habitually as a part of a regular balanced diet. 

There is a classification of food done for different varieties in Ayurveda. These have an impact on dosha, can be included in the regular diet, and are advisable for various conditions.

  1. Shuka dhanya – grains
    Ex: wheat, barley, rice, etc.
  2. Shami dhanya – pulses
    Ex: green gram, red lentils, black gram, etc.
  3. Mamsa varga – meat and fish
  4. Shaka varga – vegetables
    Ex: potatoes, ladiesfinger, ridge gourd, etc.
  5. Phala varga – fruits
    Ex: mango, pomegranate, banana, etc.
  6. Harita varga – greens and salads
  7. Ambu varga – different sources of water
  8. Madya varga – different preparations of wines
  9. Gorasa varga – milk and milk products
  10. Ikshu varga – sugarcane and its products
    Ex: sugarcane, jaggery, etc.
  11. Kritanna varga – cooked food items
  12. Ahara upayogi varga – food adjuvants or spices.
  13. Sneha or Taila Varga – the various oils and fats.
    Ex: sunflower oil, coconut oil, groundnut oil, etc.
  14. Beeja Varga – the various seeds.
    Ex: sunflower, pumpkin seeds, etc.
  15. Shushka phala Varga– the dry fruits

Significance of six tastes in the Ayurvedic Diet: 

The six tastes explained in Ayurveda have their effects on dosha.

  1. Madhura rasa – The food having Madhura rasa pacifies vata and pitta dosha while increasing the Kapha dosha.
    Ex: milk, sugarcane, rice, etc.
  2. Amla rasa – Foods having a sour taste increase pitta and kapha dosha, decrease vata dosha.
    Ex: tamarind, fermented products, etc.
  3. Lavana rasa – Foods having a salt taste decrease vata and increase kapha-pitta dosha.
    Ex: salt, rock salt, black salt, etc.
  4. Katu rasa – The food items having a pungent taste decrease kapha dosha and increase vata-pitta dosha.
    Ex: pepper, chilies, etc.
  5. Tikta rasa – Foods that are bitter in taste increase vata dosha and decrease pitta-kapha dosha.
    Ex: bittergourd, etc.
  6. Kashaya rasa – The food items that are astringent in taste decrease kapha-pitta dosha and increase vata dosha.

Significance of qualities in the Ayurvedic Diet:

There are six major qualities of the food that are important to be considered in the diet.

  1. Ushna – The hot quality of the food means the food which is hot in potency. These decrease vata and kapha and increase pitta dosha.
    Ex: warm cooked food.
  2. Sheeta – The cold-potency food items decrease pitta and increase kapha and vata dosha.
    Ex: cold food items like milk, coconut, etc.
  3. Guru – The food items that are heavy in digestion increase kapha dosha and reduce vata and pitta.
    Ex: ghee, butter, sweet dishes, etc.
  4. Laghu – The food that is light in digestion increases vata and pitta dosha and decreases the kapha dosha.
    Ex: wheat, barley, an old variety of rice, etc.
  5. Ruksha – the dry potency food increases vata and pitta dosha and decreases kapha.
    Ex: potatoes, barley, etc.
  6. Snigdha – the food that is unctuous in nature increases kapha dosha and decreases vata and pitta dosha.
    Ex: oily food eatables, wheat, etc.

Selection of Ayurvedic Diet according to Prakruti

  1. Vata prakruti – People of Vata Prakruti should have ushna (hot), guru (heavy), snigdha (unctuous), madhura (sweet), amla (sour), lavana (salt) ahara, etc.
  2. Pitta prakrutiPiita Prakruti people should have sheeta (cold), laghu (light), madhura (sweet), tikta (bitter) and kashaya (astringent), etc food.
  3. Kapha prakruti – The food that are ruksha (dry), ushna (hot), laghu (light), katu (pungent), tikta (bitter) and kashaya (astringent), etc.

Ayurvedic Diet according to season

  1. Hemanta and Shishira rutu – the appetite is increased in the winter and pre-winter season and therefore food like rice, wheat, ghee, milk, and warm food is indicated.
  2. Vasanta rutu – The sun rays liquify kapha dosha during the spring season and hence kapha aggravates. The food that is warm, bitter, pungent, and astringent food is indicated.
  3. Greeshma rutu – The sun is very hot, the body fluid gets dried up and hence there is a need for cold, sweet food, plenty of fluids to be taken to combat the heat of the sun.
  4. Varsha rutu – The digestion is hampered in the rainy season, so food that is easy for digestion, and warm and light food is to be given. As the water is contaminated during the rainy season, boiled water is beneficial.
  5. Sharad rutu – The heat is increased in the autumn season, and pitta is increased, so, ghee and bitter food is healthy.

Ayurvedic Diet in disease and its management

The diet plan holds good when it comes to the disease, its prognosis, and the treatment. The diseases occur when there is an unwholesome diet taken. Diet is important when treating diseases as it is also a treatment. Aahara is said to be Mahabheshaja (the great medicine) by Ayurveda experts. Other than the treatment modalities indicated in the diseases, diet has a major role. In addition to this, even during certain Panchakarma (purificatory procedures), a specific diet is advised to combat the morbid dosha and facilitate the treatment procedures.

Conclusion

The diet in Ayurveda has its unique place. The diet mentioned in the classics of Ayurveda influences the body, mind, and soul. The proper nourishment of the body occurs when there is a balanced diet. Malnourishment occurs when the diet taken is not in accordance with the constitution, digestion capacity, dosha, season, etc. The taste of the food and the quality of the food are recommended in the diet. Disease, prognosis, and treatment are also dependent on a proper diet.

 

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References
  1. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/342877371_A_critical_review_on_Ayurvedic_principles_of_Diet_Nutrition_with_special_reference_to_prevention_management_of_lifestyle_diseases_Division_of_Manas_chikitsa
  2. https://wbuhs.ac.in/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Review-Article-Badal-Chandra-Jana.pdf
  3. https://www.ijhsr.org/IJHSR_Vol.9_Issue.8_Aug2019/63.pdf 

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