Various factors decide how much food you need, two of them are the most important – Quality of food, and quality of digestive system. And it is not about calories. You see, a sea shell contains an incredible amount of calcium, but I cannot eat it, except for Ayurvedic kapardaka bhasma. Likewise, calories are the amount of energy that a food substance can release. It does not promise the amount that can be actually digested and absorbed. It differs from person to person. So, a food that contains 100 calories might release 90 or 50 or even 2 calories after digestion.
Ayurveda also considers the energy required to digest and absorb the food. Therefore, if your food releases 90 calories after digestion, but consumes 70 calories for the entire process, then it brings little profit to the body. And what if it releases 2 calories after the whole process. It is a massive loss for the body.
And you will find many people who eat a lot of food but always feel short of energy. They feel weak and lethargic. However, a poor person eating half the amount might have more vitality.
So, the first thing, food is not about calories, neither about the amount of nutrition it might contain. Nutrition is about how much you can absorb from it. Rest is waste.
Quality of food
This is an important factor. Let us take the example of a hybrid car that can run on petrol and electricity. Electricity is a more efficient fuel, it produces no unnecessary heat or combustion , therefore wear and tear is much less when the car runs on electricity. On the other hand, petrol produces energy through combustion and heat and the rate of deterioration in petrol mode will be much higher.
For a perfect metabolic balance, we need to eat food that produces more energy with less effort. Food that contributes to health and not to diseases.
Step 1- Increase the Prana
According to Ayurveda, every food that you eat has prana or the life force. And this prana is absorbed via food. So basically food is like a fuel for the body. According to Ayurveda, hunger, thirst and sleep are three natural diseases that can be cured and probably we don’t even need to eat, however that another topic.
We should eat food that has prana or the life force. And accordingly, your food can be full of prana or completely devoid of it. How you earn and the way you procure your food also makes a difference.
In short, your food should be procured with benevolence, hard work and through non- violent means.
There are many ways to do it. But the best always through the nature. Organivally grown and naturally ripened fruits are the best because they have the best digestibility in the body. Besides, fruits have minimum fire element or agni tatva, because they are not cooked. They are more stable and bring their stability to the body also.
Other means is cooking. In terms of cooking, food should ideally be cooked slowly. I always prefer solar cooked food. Its aroma and taste is incredible too.
Larger surface area
This is a very important factor in Ayurved. That’s why most of the medicines are ground to a very fine powder or paste. Larger surface area provides bigger opportunity for enzymes to act.
Therefore, my grandma used to tell me to chew the almonds for a long time. I guess the persistent action of saliva makes the nutrients more bio-available.
Besides, traditionally in India, almonds are soaked in water overnight for better absorption. Also, soaked almonds are made into a very fine paste to ensure more surface area for absorption. And that’s the key to the amount of food that we need. I know a master who can survive on one meal(lunch) in 24 hours, and he never stuffs himself! I assume that his body can absorb more than 90% of the food he eats.
Typically, if we have low absorption capacity, we won’t absorb much from the food we eat, no matter how nutritious it is. Sometimes, nothing at all. The modern treatment approach focuses on multiplying nutrition, for example, we have fortified milk, butter, bread, in fact, everything. But does it solves the problem?
There is a child who is just not interested in studying. How will it help if you fortify his resources by adding graduation textbooks? And what we do to the body by fortifying food is worse than this.
Ayurveda says that intake of heavy food or difficult to digest food is akin to pouring massive logs of wood on a small fire. And guess what happens! When we expose more fortified food to a weakened digestive system, we tax it to digest something heavier than average food. And gradually, the fire gives up. This may lead to a host of digestive problems – chronic indigestion, constipation, burping, bloating, and so on.
If you have lousy digestion or absorption, then the solution is not in giving more fortified food. Now if a child is not interested in studies, the answer is not in getting him more books, but to inspire him to learn. When someone is willing to learn, he can create his own resources. So, the solution is in making the body hungry and ready for food, instead of supplying heavy doses of indigestible food.
Precaution for anorexia
Here, the recommendation to eat only when hungry does not apply to people with anorexia. Instead, they can try eating Ayurvedic digestives that can help to remove the toxins from the system and bring back healthy hunger.
How to kindle real hunger?
Hunger varies according to the climatic conditions, age, physical activity, and state of mind.
If you stay in a cold climate, your body will require more heat-producing activity. And the most prominent heat-producing event is digestion. Therefore all people living in cold weather usually have good digestion, unless they stretch their physiology with wrong food and lifestyle.
And if you can, you can shift to a colder location for some time to improve your overall metabolism.
Hunger typically diminishes with age. It is a natural phenomenon. We can assist the body by reducing the load of digestion. Therefore, we must modify our food according to our age, and this is esp very important after 35 or 40 years of age. Ideally, a person beyond 60 years should stop eating oily, heavy, and spicy food.
Ideally, such a person should try to consume mostly fruits and vegetables. Vegetables can be roasted, baked, or boiled. Elderly people should refrain from grain consumption after the sunset. However, due to rapid degradation in community health, we should follow these rules right after we turn 40. In fact, I have practically started living solely on fruits and vegetables, and it does make you feel more alive, try it!!!
One of the surprising facts is that you do not gain weight if you are physically inactive, and also you do not lose weight by exercise. These are just market making concepts, they help in selling weight loss products and gym memberships. The only thing that can make you fat is eating more than required food, nothing else. If you are sensitive towards your body, it will tell you when it is enough or when food is not needed. However, unfortunately, these recommendations are overruled in favor of taste sensations.
State of mind seriously affects hunger. Sadness, anxiety, stress, anger, hatred, etc. can kill the natural appetite. You can have the best hunger and effortless digestion when you are neither too happy or too sad, but at peace with yourself.
In fact, a peaceful mind is the most fundamental requirement for healthy digestion. A tranquil state of mind does not interfere with the regular hormonal system. Peace in mind stimulates the parasympathetic system and ensures the best digestion.
That’s why Ayurveda recommends that if you are not peaceful, skip the meal but do not eat. The food consumed with an imbalanced state of mind is no less than toxin for the body.
So, the essential requirement of healthy digestion is –
Fruits (fruits grow on trees and do not require any human effort except planting, sometimes not even that)
If you don’t have fruits, eat very less amount of whatever you have. The great sage and Ayurveda pioneer Vagbhatt said: “eat healthy, eat less and eat according to the season.”
And that’s the reason why poor are the blessed ones. They are in the hands of God, and God does not allow them to ruin their health by eating useless fancy food.
Let us be in God’s hands and have a great, healthy, and fulfilling life!
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