Ayurvedic Diet

When should we eat? (Mealtimes in Ayurveda)

Ayurveda has two provisions for mealtimes. It recommends:

  1. One Time a Day Meal Plan.
  2. Two Times a Day Meal Plan.

So, you need to choose which plan is best for you. It is entirely your own choice.

In addition to main mealtimes, ayurvedic texts also suggest eating whenever you feel appetite and drink water whenever you feel thirsty. So, you can also eat fresh fruits and raw vegetables any time whenever you feel hungry. But you should not take grains, lentils and cooked foods including cooked vegetables other than fixed mealtime.

One Time A Day Meal Plan

This diet plan is explained by Sushruta Samhita.

When to Eat

If you follow the One Time A Day Meal Plan, Sushruta Samhita describes the different times to eat according to the difference between day and night hours (seasons).

अतीवायतयामास्तु क्षपा येष्वृतुषु स्मृताः।। ४६७ ।। तेषु तत्प्त्यनीकाढ्यं भुञ्जीत प्रातरेव तु । येषु चापि भवेयुश्च दिवसा भृशमायताः ॥ ४६८।। तेषु तत्कालविहितमपराह्ले प्रशस्यते। रजन्यो दिवसाश्रैव येषु चापि समाः स्मृताः ।॥ ४६९ ॥ कृत्वा सममहोरात्रं तेषु भुजीत भोजनम्। (SS.S.Ch 46)

Seasons withTime to Eat
Long Nights & Short DaysPurvanha (पूर्वान्ह)
Short Nights & Long DaysAparanha (अपरान्ह)
Equal Nights & Equal DaysMadhyanha (मध्यान्ह)

Because Pahar time change according to sunrise and sunset each day, you need to check it in each season and in your place of living.

  • During Long Nights and Short Days, Days’ Pahar are shorter.
  • During Short Nights and Long Days, Days’ Pahar are longer.
  • During Equal Nights and Equal Days, Days’ Pahar are equal.

Therefore, nowadays it is not practicable. The time should remain the same. So, your body clock adjusts accordingly.

Which time should be best for one mealtime?

In my opinion, 12:00 pm to 3:00 pm is the best time for one mealtime. It fits almost every season. You should fix a time to eat main meal.

The main meal consists of cooked foods (wholegrains, legumes, nuts, seeds and cooked vegetables). This rule does not apply for taking fruits and raw vegetables salad.

Indications

One Time A Day Meal Plan is best for people:

  1. People who want more mental clarity and have a goal to achieve a high level of spiritual insight.
  2. People suffering from Lifestyle Disorders and Kapha Diseases.

Lifestyle disorders include:

  • Obesity.
  • Heart diseases.
  • Hypothyroidism.
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
  • Atherosclerosis.
  • Stroke.
  • Diabetes.
  • Hypertension.
  • Colon cancer.
  • Blockage in blood vessels.

Contraindication

You should not follow this plan if you suffer from any of the following:

  • Malnutrition.
  • Underweight.
  • Vata Diseases.
  • Increased Pitta Disorders.
  • Children.
  • Pregnant women.

Two Times A Day Meal Plan

Two Times A Day Meal Plan is also described by Sushruta Samhita. It is also indicated in Ashtanga Hridaya. It is well-explained in Bhava Prakash and Yoga Ratnakara.

हीनमात्रमसन्तोषं करोति च बलक्षयम्। आलस्यगौरवाटोपसादांश्च कुरुतेऽधिकम्॥४७३॥ तस्मात् सुसंस्कृतं युक्त्या दोषैरेतैर्विवर्जितम्। यथोक्त गुण सम्पन्नमुपसेवेत भोजनम् ॥। ४७४॥ विभज्य दोषकालादीन् कालयोरुभयोरपि । (SS.S.Ch 46)

(Meanings: Taking foods less than the required quantity causes loss of strength and you will not get a feeling of satiety. If you take food in excess than required, it causes laziness, bloating, and loss of digestive fire. Thus, you should take food in the proper amount two times in the morning and evening considering Dosha and Kala – time).

When to Eat 2 Meals

According to Ayurvedic literature, timings for morning and evening mealtimes should be:

  1. At One and quarter Pahar in the morning (i.e. approx. 3 hours 45 minutes after sunrise).
  2. Between the 3rd and 4th Pahar of day in the afternoon or approx. 3 hours before sunset. (i.e. around and after 3:00 pm).

(Reference: An English Translation of The Sushruta Samhita, Part 1, Sutra Sthana, Chapter 46, Page No. 558 (bottom comment by author), edited and published by Kaviraj Kunjalal Bhishagratna).

According to the above points, Ayurveda does not recommend eating food before sunrise and after sunset.

Which time should be best for 2 Mealtimes?

In my opinion, the following schedule should be best for Two Times a Day Meal Plan.

First Mealtime8:00 am to 10:00 am
Second Mealtime3:00 pm to 5:00 pm

The main meal consists of cooked foods (wholegrains, legumes, nuts, seeds and cooked vegetables). This rule does not apply for taking fruits and raw vegetables salad.

What if food is not properly digested?

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

According to Ashtang Sangraha, there is no problem if you eat an evening meal on schedule time though your morning meal is not properly digested. But you should never eat a morning meal until you have digested the previous day’s evening meal. In the morning, you should eat when you feel appetite and your bowel gets clear.

Indications

Two Times A Day Meal Plan is best for people:

  1. All healthy people.
  2. Children.
  3. Pregnant women.
  4. People who want to avoid diseases.
  5. People suffer from any disease – Vata Diseases, Pitta Diseases or Kapha Diseases.

So, this diet plan can be followed by anyone regardless any diseases or health condition.

Note: These rules apply to eating grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, cooked foods and heavy foods. So, you can drink water and eat fruits and uncooked raw vegetables any time during the day.

Learn More: Types of Foods in terms of Ease of Digestion.

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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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