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Ayurvedic Eating Habits for Optimal Health

According to Ayurveda, other than accidents or injuries, most diseases begin with gut health. Your digestive system processes the food and drink that you consume, and breaks it down into essential nutrients. The nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream, where the body will then create new tissue with these nutrients; and the waste will then be eliminated. For the digestive system to do this properly, there are some basic rules of eating that will make a huge difference to your health. Even if you eat a healthy diet, if your digestive system can’t break down the food properly, or absorb the nutrients, then you will develop health issues. So, here are some of Ayurveda’s eating practices:

  1. Chew food thoroughly, about 35 times or more for each bite. Heavy foods such as meat and nuts need to be chewed about 50 times per bite. Chew until each little bit is covered with saliva. Saliva contains enzymes that help digest food and it fights bacteria. If food isn’t chewed thoroughly, when it gets to the gut, digestion will be delayed because the stomach will have to break down the large chunks of food with acid. Any delay in digestion will lead to fermentation and then gas and bloating will occur. This takes time to really get down; so be patient with yourself. We live in such a fast-paced society, and we eat on the run, so we’re not used to taking our time to eat.

  2. Eat in a calm place and be mindful when eating. Avoid watching TV, reading, playing on your computer, or driving. Your gut uses about 60% of your body’s energy to do its job, so when you do other activities while eating, it takes energy from your gut and sends it to your brain and/or muscles. Pleasant conversation is fine but avoid politics or other emotionally charged topics.

  3. Stimulate your digestive juices 20-30 minutes before eating by drinking warm water, which will improve digestion up to 24%. You can also add a few drops of lemon juice or lime juice to the warm water, because they improve digestion by stimulating digestive juices. I sip on lemon water while preparing a meal. Also, during a meal only take a few sips of warm water or hot tea; but after a meal, wait an hour before consuming any beverages because this will dilute the stomach acids.

  4. Practice proper food combining; don’t mix fresh fruit or dairy with any other foods. Raw fruit breaks down much faster than other foods, so the processed fruit will sit in your gut and begin to ferment and rot while your gut is busy dealing with the other foods. Dairy is heavy and difficult to digest, so it can also cause stagnation, indigestion, and fermentation. An exception is dried fruit or cooking fruit with other ingredients. For example, add dried fruit, such as raisins, apricots, or dates, in your oatmeal, or cook the fresh fruit with the oatmeal.

  5. Make lunch your main meal of the day. Digestive fire is called “agni” in Ayurveda, and it follows the sun’s movement throughout the day. So as the sun is rising, agni is not very strong; therefore, breakfast should be light. The sun peaks at noon, so between 12:00 noon and 1:00 pm, you should eat your main meal. The sun’s energy then begins to wane until it sets in the evening. Dinner should be light and eaten around 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm. Avoid eating anything two hours before going to bed. I know this is difficult for people who work full-time; but if you do this a few times a week to start, it will help. For example, what you make for Monday night dinner, you can take to work for lunch the next day.

  6. Eat smaller portions, such as two handfuls at a meal; and eat until you’re 75% full.

  7. If you have weak digestion, then avoid raw, cold foods and drinks because they slow down the digestive process. Cold makes blood vessels constrict, so this will slow down digestion. Eat cooked food as much as possible because they’re easier to digest. Those with healthy digestion can eat some raw foods, as long as the food is chewed very well.

  8. Eat for your dosha (constitution). If you don’t know you’re prevalent dosha, visit my page “About Ayurveda” or you can contact me.

If you only follow one of these tips to begin with (especially #1), you’ll begin to feel better rather quickly.

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