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Ayurvedic Diet Principles: Healthy Eating Habits

One of the most important sections of Ayurveda is the Ayurvedic diet. People often call it an ayurvedic balanced diet and sometimes a sattvic diet. Ayurvedic diet is the method of eating wisely because food is considered more important than medicines. We will not need any medicines if we take the right foods at the right time every day.

Ayurvedic diet principles are basic dietary guidelines for living a healthier, happier, and longer life. Ayurveda is a stable science. Whatever it recommends keeping you healthy, it is still valid. In this article, we will discuss healthy eating habits based on ayurvedic principles of eating. These healthy eating habits will help you to prevent and get rid of almost all diseases in your life.

1. Food Ratio

अन्नेन कुक्षेठ्ठवंशौ पानेनैकं प्रपूरयेत्।।४६॥ आश्रयं पवनादीनां चतुर्थमवशेषयेत्।। (AH.S.Ch.8, Verse 46-47)

Solid Foods1/2 part of the stomach
Liquid Foods1/4 part of the stomach
Keep Stomach Empty1/4 part of the stomach
  1. Solid Foods: Whole grains, lentils, fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts are solid foods.
  2. Liquid foods: Fruit juice, vegetable juice, lemon water, coconut water, coconut milk, water, etc. are liquid foods.
  3. Keep Stomach Empty: You should always eat less than your appetite. It means you must keep 1/4th part of your stomach empty.

Note: You should not take liquid foods with fruits and raw vegetables because they are already water-rich foods fulfilling the criteria for both solid and liquid foods. During the main meals, you should adjust liquid intake accordingly.

Sometimes, it is difficult to judge the quantity of food. You should always check the signs of healthy eating.

Signs of Healthy Eating

  1. Focus on your feelings after having a meal. You will feel fresh and active after eating healthy food. You will feel restless, nauseous, and uncomfortable with the abdomen after eating junk and unhealthy food.
  2. You still feel lightness in the abdomen even after eating.
  3. You are comfortable with your stomach.
  4. Your stomach never reminds you that something went wrong, or you have overeaten.
  5. You do not experience any fullness or heaviness in the abdomen after eating.

2. Ayurveda Mealtimes

Ayurveda recommends two types of meal plans:

Meal PlanBest Timings
One Main Meal12:00 pm to 2:00 pm
Two Main MealsFirst Meal: 8:00 am to 10:00 am &
Second Meal: 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm

Ayurvedic texts also suggest eating whenever you feel hungry. So, you can also eat fresh fruits and raw vegetables any time whenever you feel hungry in addition to scheduled timings.

  • The above timings apply to the main meals only.
  • This rule applies to grains, lentils (beans), and cooked foods (including cooked vegetables). You can eat fruits and vegetable salad any time whenever you feel appetite. You can also drink water whenever you feel thirsty.
  • In a one-time meal plan, you can eat cooked food one time a day.
  • In two times meal plan, you can eat cooked food 2 times a day.

Learn More: Mealtimes in Ayurveda.

Ashtanga Sangrah has not given any timing for a meal, but it has only mentioned morning meal and evening meal. The above timings are recommended by Sushruta Samhita.

One Main Meal Diet Plan

8:00 am to 9:00 amFruits
12:00 pm to 2:00 pm (main meal)Raw Vegetable Salad, Grains, Lentils, Seeds and Nuts

Two Main Meals Diet Plan

8:00 am to 9:00 amFruits
9:00 am to 10:00 am (main meal)Grains with Steamed Vegetables
3:00 pm to 5:00 pm (main meal)Raw Vegetable Salad, Grains, Lentils, Seeds and Nuts

You need to select a suitable meal plan for you. So, your body adjusts its biological clock according to your circumstances.

What should I do if I do not feel an appetite for the second meal?

Ayurveda recommends:

प्रातराशे त्वजीर्णेऽपि सायमाशो न दुष्यति। अजीर्णे सायमाशे तु प्रातराशो हि दुप्यति॥३९॥ (AS.S.Ch 11)

It is okay to eat an evening meal at the scheduled time even if you have not digested the morning meal. But you must not eat the morning meal if you have not digested the previous day’s evening meal. Because during nighttime, digestion capacity reduces. 3 hours after sunrise, digestive capacity increases. So, if you fast for a few hours in the morning, then it will help to digest the food properly. Eat when you feel appetite in the morning and your bowel gets clear.

You can take your evening meal as per your scheduled time. But remember the following things:

  1. Do not eat before the scheduled time.
  2. Do not overeat.
  3. Eat less keeping at least ¼ part of the stomach empty.
  4. Keep a minimum of 16 hours fasting period after the evening meal. So, you must not eat anything after taking the evening meal. It will help to digest the food taken in the day properly.

If you follow the above points, then there is no harm to eat the second meal at the scheduled time.

What should I do if I feel appetite after eating the main meal?

Some people feel appetite again after eating a primary meal. In most cases, it occurs within the first 2 hours after eating a primary meal.

Pitta dosha increases after eating food. It is a natural pitta cycle in your body. It is a false appetite. In reality, Pitta is digesting the food previously eaten.

If you feel appetite even after eating a good amount of food, then it could be a false appetite. False appetite pacifies itself after a few minutes.

If it is not a false appetite, as discussed in the previous question above, then you can eat the healthiest foods keeping a minimum of two hours’ gap from a primary meal. The healthiest foods include:

  1. Fruits.
  2. Uncooked vegetables (raw vegetables or salad).
  3. Fresh vegetable juice. (Do not take fruit juice, instead eat fruits).

These foods are easy to digest, full of nutrients, and suitable for all people.

What do research studies say about 2 times meals a day?

Research studies have shown that eating frequent meals causes insulin resistance and people who eat frequent meals will develop diabetes and other lifestyle diseases later in their life. People who eat 2 times a day have no insulin resistance in their body.

Another study also confirms this. According to the study, the secretion of gastric acid decreases during sleep. Sleep is directly linked with low production of acid secretion in the stomach. Waking in the morning is linked with an increase in gastric acid output. (Ref)

Most people suffering from the acid peptic disease have aggravated symptoms in the morning and evening. It indicates an increase in acid secretion in the stomach in the morning and evening. They also feel significant relief from symptoms at night. So, acid secretion diminishes at night. (Ref)

Therefore, you should eat 2 primary meals a day. 2 primary meals a day is an ancient concept of ayurveda. In India, taking meals is compared with Agnihotra Yagya, which is done two times a day. Yoga Ratnakar has given its reference. He says as Agnihotra Yagya is done two times a day, you should also take food 2 times a day.

In villages in Punjab, India, some families still follow this tradition. They eat only 2 times a day. They are healthier than people who are eating 3 to 6 times a day. However, 2 times the meal tradition is disappearing because of the adoption of western culture – breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This was not our culture.

3. Appetite Rule

You should respect your appetite and hunger and eat food accordingly.

  1. Do not suppress appetite.
  2. Eat whenever you feel hungry.
  3. Do not overeat.

Do not Suppress Appetite

Do not suppress your appetite. If you suppress appetite, the following disease may occur:

  1. Body ache.
  2. Loss of interest in food.
  3. Fatigue.
  4. Laziness.
  5. Vision Weakness.
  6. Loss of tissues.
  7. Loss of strength.
  8. Loss of Appetite.

A few health conditions are given above. But if you suppress appetite and do not eat when you are hungry, it is dangerous for your overall health.

What should I do if I still feel hungry even after eating one or two main meals a day?

You should eat fresh and healthy foods – fruits, uncooked vegetables, salad and nuts, and seeds. You can eat coconut and drink coconut water or vegetable juice.

Eat Whenever You Feel Hungry

After proper digestion and utilization of food in your body, you also require eating food. Your body itself tells you when you need to eat. When you need to eat, your stomach will ask for it. So, eat whenever you feel a real appetite. Eat whenever your stomach asks you to eat. Do not listen to your tongue. Do not eat just for taste. Of course, eat delicious food, but when you feel a real appetite.

  • The golden role of healthy eating and stay healthy is to eat only when you are hungry. Drink water only when you are thirsty.
  • When you are thirsty, do not eat food. You should drink water at this time.
  • When you are hungry, do not drink water. You should eat food at that time.

Benefits of Eating Food When You Feel Appetite

If you eat when you have an appetite, it provides the following things to your mind and body:

  • Joyfulness.
  • Strength.
  • Excellent Memory.
  • Longevity.
  • Endurance and Tolerance.
  • Good Complexion and Glowing Skin.
  • Immunity.
  • Vitality.
  • Gracefulness.

Difference Between Real Appetite and Food Craving

You also need to understand what appetite is and what food craving is. What are the differences between real appetite and food craving?

Real AppetiteFood Craving
Your stomach demands food. It is empty and you have not eaten anything for hours.Your tongue demands food even when your stomach is full and satisfied.
You never overeat.You overeat.
You eat for energy as per your physical and mental requirements.You do not need to eat for energy. You just eat for taste.
You stop when you feel full.You continue to eat regardless of the stomach is full or not.
Your abdomen has a feeling of lightness even after eating.You feel heaviness in the abdomen after eating.

It is the main and first most important principle of the ayurvedic diet – eat when you feel appetite and avoid eating when you do not have hunger. All other principles come after this. If you are healthy, you will feel appetite after digestion and utilization of the previous meal.

So, do not eat if you don’t feel appetite. Eat when your stomach asks for food.

Signs of Proper Digestion of Previous Meal

  • Proper evacuation of bowel and urinary bladder.
  • Clear burp. Or no burp or belching with abnormal taste or taste of food previously eaten.
  • Lightness in the body.
  • Feeling thirst and appetite or hunger.
  • Feeling of lightness in the heart, chest, and abdomen.
  • Feeling an increase in digestive fire and your stomach ask for food.
  • The clarity in senses and mind.

Do Not Overeat

Keep your abdomen ¼ part empty. Avoid overeating. You should not feel heaviness in the abdomen after eating any food. However, eat in a sufficient amount that satisfies your hunger.

Ayurveda also recommends keeping ¼ part of the stomach empty. It provides a ratio according to solid and liquid foods and an empty part of the stomach.

4. Eat Food in their Natural Form

Eat foods in their natural form as you get from nature. Do not cook foods, which you can eat without cooking. It includes fruits, vegetables, nuts, and some seeds. Eat them in their natural form.

Foods that are cooked excessively have no life in them. It means that cooked foods have fewer nutrients than uncooked foods.

  • Eat food based on quality, not quantity.
  • Meals should be juicy and there should not be an excess of oil to improve the absorption rate of nutrients.
  • One should avoid too dry food items.
  • Cooking should be lighter as much as possible.

Balanced Ayurvedic Diet According to taste

Ayurvedic diet does not mean eating only rice, boiled vegetables, and salad, it follows specific principles and can be applied to any type of cuisine. Ayurveda recognizes mainly six tastes and these tastes include sweet, salty, pungent, sour, astringent, and bitter.

Sweet tasteFruits
Salty tasteSeaweed, Sea Vegetables, Salty foods
Pungent tasteChili and ginger
Sour tasteLemons and vinegar
Astringent tastePomegranate and lentils
Bitter tasteTurmeric (Curcuma Longa).

Food is digested in a particular order and these six tastes should be included in your daily diet to feel satisfied. So, you should add some spices like turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, cardamom and fresh spices like fresh ginger, fresh coriander or cilantro in each recipe.

The foremost step towards following Ayurvedic Diet is to get to know your constitutional type or dosha with the help of the Ayurvedic Dosha TestVatapitta, and kapha dosha are the energies responsible for various physiological functions in the body of an individual. Take your time to set a particular schedule for meals every day.

5. Eat Sattvic Foods

It is time to be familiar with the principle of ‘GUNAS’ and to know the difference between SATTVIC, RAJASIC, and TAMASIC foods.

  1. Generally, SATTVIC foods are juicy, tasty, organic, and easy to digest.
  2. RAJASIC foods are freshly canned foods, cooked foods, eggs, caffeine, etc.
  3. TAMASIC foods are leftovers, frozen foods, fermented foods, and all food items obtained from animals including meat and milk products etc.

You should include more sattvic foods in your daily diet to live a healthy life.

Note: Many people include cow’s milk and ghee in Sattvic foods, but I disagree with them. Sattvic foods always come from plant sources with the absence of five evils –

  1. Kama (lust).
  2. Kroth (anger).
  3. Lobh (greed).
  4. Moh (attachment).
  5. Ahankar (ego).

Around 95% of plants have no such evil and all animals including cows have the first four evils in them. If you consume any food products from animals, they will contribute to the manifestations of these evils in you. Therefore, these foods should be considered Tamasic foods.

However, plants also have Kama characteristics for reproduction, but it is different from animals because they do not have lust and desire. Their reproduction is very natural, and nature assists them to reproduce.

6. Eat Fresh

  1. Eat food within 48 minutes of cooking.
  2. Eat food cooked at home.

Eat food within 48 minutes of cooking

Ayurveda recommends eating foods within 48 minutes of cooking them. You can maximum store food for 3 hours.

Shree Krishna in Bhagavad Gita says food should not be kept more than 3 hours. After three hours, food is considered stale food. You must eat within 3 hours.

Do not keep them in the refrigerator for the next time or the next day. Cook the food amount, which you and your family can easily consume immediately.

Eat Food Cooked at Home

Eat food cooked at home. Do not eat readymade food sold in shops and restaurants.

Cook food for yourself and your family at home. You should not eat food that is sold in restaurants, shops, and packaged foods.

7. Eat Food with a Calm Mind

Do not eat in a hurry. In ayurveda, taking a meal is like worship.

  • Your mind should be calm.
  • You should sit in a cross-legged posture on the floor. You can sit on the floor mat.
  • Before start eating, express gratitude toward nature for food. Feel joyfulness, calmness, and kindness in your mind.
  • Before you eat food, first provide food to poor people if they are on the door to asking for food. Then serve foods to guests, elders, and children. Then you should eat food. You should eat food with your family members.
  • Always eat in a calm and comfortable environment.
  • Stay away from distractions like TV and mobile phone while having food.
  • It is important to be present while eating. This means one should take time to appreciate the taste, look, texture, flavor, and smell of food using all five senses.

All these rituals help in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease, depression, anxiety, and other psychological diseases. It is most important to eat with your family members.

Research studies concluded people who eat a meal with their parents and children are less likely to suffer from mental diseases later in their life.

8. Rules for Drinking Water

Always drink water either at room temperate or a little warm if you have Vata Body Type or Kapha Body Type.

If you have Pitta Body Type, you can drink cold water kept in an earthen pot. You should keep this earthen pot in an open space where natural air circulates and touches the earthen pot.

Check Your Body Type Here: Ayurvedic Prakriti Dosha Test.

References

  1. Yoga Ratnakar, Nitya Prabriti Prakar Maah.
  2. Ashtanga Sangraha, Chapter 3, Dinacharya.
  3. Ashtanga Hridaya, Sutra Sthana, Chapter 2, Dinacharya.
  4. Sushruta Samhita, Sutra Sthana, Chapter 46, Annpaanvidhhi.
  5. Bhava Prakash.

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Dr. Jagdev Singh

Dr. Jagdev Singh (B.A.M.S., M. Sc. in Medicinal Plants) is an Ayurvedic Practitioner and Herbalist. He has successfully treated thousands of patients with Ayurveda (including Herbal Ayurvedic Medicine and Ayurvedic Diet). Ayur Times is an initiative of his efforts to bring quality information on Indian Medicine with the highest level of relevancy and scientific evidence.

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