Toxic Food According to Ayurveda

One famous Ayurvedic proverb states –
“The one who eats proper food does not need any medicine
The one who eats improper food will not benefit from any medicine”

According to Ayurveda, digestion is the key to strong immunity and healthy metabolism. When we eat improper food, it first affects the most important pillar of our health – our digestion.
Therefore good food is the basis of all health. Ayurveda states that food in its most natural form is the most nutritious, but food which is environmentally incompatible is toxic for the human body too. According to the above rule, the modern Ayurvedic standards for non-consumable food are defined as follows –

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Non-Organic Food

Vedas state that the food and water available to all human beings should be the same. Today this statement is so relevant in terms of non-organic food. Non-organic grains and vegetables are grown with the help of a bulk of pesticides and insecticides. These food items are hardly suitable for consumption. They can cause a variety of health issues, including multiple types of cancers. Therefore the new mantra for the Ayurvedic life is the organic food.
Most of the people are unaware that some of the pesticides and insecticides are designed to disrupt the physiological functions of the insects/pests. For example, an insecticide called “Roundup” acts on the intestines of the insects and tear the internal linings of their intestines. The insect population soon dies and the crops are thus saved. However, imagine what will happen when such food is ingested by the human. When we eat food that is sprayed with such pesticides, it affects our intestines in a similar way it affects the pests. Now it is scientifically proven that these chemicals cause severe damage to the intestines. They can make the intestines leaky after regular use for a long term. When the undigested food material oozes out of the leaky intestines into the abdominal cavity, it can cause severe allergies. Interestingly, a few decades back very few people would be suffering from allergies but nowadays people can develop an allergy to almost anything, right from peanuts to pollen, thanks to the non-organic food.

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Genetically Modified Food

The newest and the most overlooked health threat is the Genetically modified food. This is a more serious threat than the use of pesticides and insecticides. In case of genetically modified food, the genes of one organism are planted in the DNA of another organism, for example, genes of fish are planted in the DNA of rice so that the genetically modified rice crops will not rot in the case of floods. But this is good only for the farmers and more so for the seed manufacturing companies. It is neither good for the consumers or for the environment.

The Myth of GM Food

For a long time, it was propagated that genetically modified food is crucial to bring an end to the food security in the poor populations of the world. Therefore for decades, there was no open opposition against GM food, but Gm food does not solve any problem of the world. In fact it has added many severe problems that are more complicated than the food crises. What good is the food but that causes diseases when consumed?
The body has the natural potential to determine foreign objects and expel or kill them. Genetically modified food is not natural in its constitution. When it is consumed, the body fails to identify it as a nutritional substance. Genetically modified food is different in constitution than its natural counterpart. For example, if you see a person who has 3 eyes and 2 noses, you would definitely be scared and would run for protection. The body produces a similar response when it sees an unidentifiable object, which is basically a genetically modified food item. The body tends to attack the GM food and get it out of the body, instead of trying to absorb nutrition from it. Just imagine what will be the state of your health if your body is trying to kill your food!

The list of diseases that genetically modified food can produce is very long. The health problems caused by genetically modified food are –

  • Cancer
  • Allergies
  • Obesity
  • Hypertension
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Intestinal Infections
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Auto-immune disorders (Rheumatoid Arthritis, type 1 diabetes, autoimmune hepatitis, scleroderma, celiac disease and many more)
  • Inflammatory disorders (asthma, peptic ulcers, tuberculosis, sinusitis, Crohn’s disease etc.)
  • Dementia
  • Autism
  • Developmental delay

For more information, please visit the link – Genetically Modified Food – The New Poison

2000px-Dharma_Wheel.svg.pngUnhealthy Karma

According to Ayurveda, the source of the food is very important. If the source of food is corrupt and evil, the food will bring the consequences in terms of karma. Because of this reason, in earlier times people refrained from eating in the house of anyone who is evil and corrupt.

In case of genetically modified, non-organic food, the farmers who buy the genetically modified seeds are forced to buy them again and again because genetically modified crops fail to produce seeds with similar qualities, as their parents. These genetically modified seeds not only require more fertilizers and other chemicals, they also consume more water than the natural seeds. Thus after a few years, the fields under farming for genetically modified food become infertile and the region faces the drought problem. Therefore we must stay reminded that if we are buying non-organic food, we are contributing to the problems of large-scale farmer suicide in our country.
It is important that all ardent supporters of Ayurveda should say no to non-organic and genetically modified for the sake of their health as well as for nature. What is Evil, is evil for all. It does not bring good to anyone. Let’s save ourselves and our environment from the evil GM food, generated out the greed of few people.

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Non Seasonal Food

Today we find almost all vegetables and fruits in almost all the seasons; we find greens around the year, which were naturally available only in winter. However, according to Ayurveda, this is a completely unhealthy trend. Ayurveda strictly prohibits one from consuming non-seasonal food. Non-seasonal food is considered to be unnatural and devoid of its original nutritional value. But unfortunately, because of the use of chemicals and genetical modification, many original and naturally occurring species of edible plants have become extinct. What we eat today might not exactly be food, it is “FOOD LIKE SUBSTANCE”.
Let us take the example of green leafy vegetables. Greens, unlike general knowledge, are hard to digest and cause a lot of digestive problems if not digested properly. The greens are naturally produced in winter, and winter is the season when the digestion is at its best. Therefore, the greens are full of their best nutritional qualities and also, the body is able to extract the best nutrition from them. Thus the perfect match of digestive power and nourishment is naturally achieved. On the other hand, digestive power if the weakest in the rainy season and thus not many food options are available in terms of vegetables and also fruits which can be consumed raw.  Watermelons are naturally produced in summer and help to prevent dehydration. Coconuts grow in hot and humid weather and are cool in temperament. Nature has a perfect match for all our nutritional requirements. Therefore, let’s follow nature for a perfect health.

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Global Food

According to Ayurveda, locally grown fruits, vegetables, and grains are best suitable for the native people. For example, Kesar (saffron) is a spice that is abundantly found in the cold regions of Kashmir. Kesar is a hot temperament herb according to Ayurveda and is naturally good for the local people. Dates are naturally found in the desert area and they are sweet and provide instant energy to the local people, where other kinds of vegetation might be scare. Therefore, according to the law of nature, everything grows naturally in the place where it is most required. Ssomething that is grown in a different climate than that of the place where you live, is not naturally compatible with your health. Therefore, if you do not have the money to buy exotic vegetables like zucchini or squash in India, or Quinoa in the USA, or Basmati rice in Canada’ consider yourself lucky! Local food is the best for you.

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Packaged/Junk Food

The packaged food contains dried vegetables, preservatives, acidity regulators, stabilizers, and a host of other chemicals apart from the real food substance. Packaged fast food also contains a lot of excess fat, sugar, and unwanted chemicals.

If we can avoid all of the above food items, then there is a huge possibility of our staying alive and active for a minimum of 100 years. Besides, we will save a lot of pollution caused by unnecessary transportation.


Jivem Shardah Shatam!
(May we live a 100 years)

Good Food and Bad Food According to Ayurveda – Food that should be consumed rarely I

The ayurvedic hypothesis is that the food items listed above diminish digestive fire and release more toxins than nutrients during their digestion. The only person with extremely good digestion power is able to absorb proper nutrition from them. Let us assume that consuming the above-listed food is like putting damp wood in the fire, which takes a long time to get burnt, produces a lot of smoke while burning and still might not get burnt properly. Only a very strong fire can burn the damp logs. A weak fire will get extinguished by them.

Food that should be used rarely

  1. Food cooked in a mixture of milk and curd/yogurt etc.

  2. Cheese

  3. Pork (Red meat)

  4. Beef (Red meat)

  5. Fish

  6. Curd

  7. Buffalo meat (Red meat)

  8. Urad Dal ( Black gram)

  9. Sorghum(Jowar)

Also, it is important to note that according to Sutra rule, the foods listed above are more harmful than the foods listed below. That means a mixture of milk and curd is the most dangerous in the entire list, worse than even beef and pork.

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Milk and Curd (yogurt) Mixture

According to Ayurveda, milk and curd are different in the constitution and so is their digestion process. Milk is sheeta virya (cool temperament) and curd is ushna virya (hot in nature). Milk is an almost neutral emulsion and curd is acidic.

Let us imagine the cooking (digestion) of rice in two different forms. If we cook completely raw rice, mixed with already cooked rice then the cooked rice will get overcooked and lose its nutrition. If we focus on the cooked rice, the raw rice will not get cooked properly and will not be absorbed if consumed.

When something does not get properly absorbed in the body, it starts to putrefy and produce contaminants. Thus, digestion of milk and curd together produces incompatible substances, which might not be easily absorbed, thus producing more toxins.

This mixture should not be consumed at all. If consumed, it should not be more than once a month for a young and healthy person.

Cottage cheese

Cheese

Cheese is made from adding acid(for example – lemon) to the milk.

According to Ayurveda, Cheese (Sanskrit – Kilat, Hindi – Paneer) is a good food for people suffering from insomnia (with good digestion). Cheese is heavy to digest but nutritious. It promotes semen and muscle formation and balances the vata dosha.

According to Charak, colostrum, cottage cheese water, or cottage cheese is for the people who have EXCELLENT digestion. There are very few people who can claim that today. Therefore, you should think twice before you consume cheese.  Besides, even if you have a great digestion, cottage cheese should not be consumed every day.

Consumption of other types of cheese that are aged is better than eating cottage cheese. But even the aged cheese (like Cheddar, Mozzarella. Parmigiano-Reggiano (Parmesan) Pecorino etc.) should not be consumed in heavy quantity (example: pizza, cheeseburger etc.)every day. No wonder, the cheese was rarely used in earlier days. Now-a-day, in any party or celebration I can find cottage cheese in almost half of the menu. Such food is the cause of our low immunity towards all diseases.

Ideally, you should consume cottage cheese only once or twice in a month if you are young and healthy.

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Red Meat

Consumption of beef is highly restricted in Ayurveda. It is important to note that beef is mentioned to be used only in specific diseases like the vataj disease, chronic coryza, recurrent fever, dry cough, weakness, excessive digestive juices in the body or certain muscular disorders (Charak Samhita – S.S-17/19). However, the word “only” is very important here. It should be used “only” in the above diseases.

Pork is considered “guru” or hard to digest. This single quality should make it a fairly undesirable food for most of the population. It is not dry in nature like the Urad dal, but if we have to compare the 2, pork will be at least a 100 times harder than Urad dal to digest! Again, it is can be used in certain diseased conditions but definitely not every day.

Buffalo meat is again Guru or very hard to digest. Besides, it causes excessive sleep and obesity. Similar to beef and pork, it has many good qualities. It is unctuous, hot temperament and gives strength and stability to the body. It endows enthusiasm to the mind. But because it is hard to digest, it should be consumed only once in a while.

These foods are like medicine, they help when consumed in some specific conditions and kill when consumed every day. Consider antibiotics, they are good, but you cannot eat them every day!  According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a part of the World Health Organization, red meat like beef and pork might have a carcinogenic effect on humans, with possible risks for colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, Gastric cancer, and prostate cancer.

You should consume any kind of red meat once or twice in a month if you are young and healthy. Also, you should refrain from red meat during the rainy season. Red meat soup with few meat pieces is the best preparation that is the easiest to digest in all seasons.

Digestion is the door to health or disease

According to Ayurveda, digestion is the key to health as well as disease. Digestion is the main route through which the nutrition can enter the body. It is like the assembly line which processes the raw material to the finished product. But if the raw material has defects, it will not only produce an imperfect end product but also derail the normal functioning of the assembly line.

Heavy food is like an impure raw material that requires more resources and time to produce the same end product – energy and nutrition. This naturally makes the heavy food a low-profit bargain for the body. You should not stay in a low margin business if you have to thrive. In fact, it has more possibilities to be a loss-making transaction for the body (toxins from undigested food).  Therefore, we should make sure that only the most profitable food goes into our mouths.

This is a hypothesis according to Ayurveda and more research is invited to verify the truth.

Please find the details on curd, fish, urad dal and sorghum in the next blog.

Good Food and Bad Food According to Ayurveda – I : Food that should not be consumed

Keeping in mind that food cannot be cooked separately for all persons in a house, Acharya Charak describes the food quality that should be taken regularly for all seasons and all prakrati, along with food that should be used very rarely by all prakrati individuals. However, it is particularly important to refrain from the bad food even if you have to stay hungry, as it is said that one should not eat poison even if he has nothing left to eat!

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Food that should not be eaten regularly (occasionally, once or twice a year or for the medicinal purpose)

  • Dried Meat
  • Dried Vegetables
  • Lotus roots
  • Non-vegetarian diet for the weak

Dried Meat and Vegetables

It is very convenient and sometimes cheap to store dried meat or vegetables for easy use later. Many times people store dried vegetables to be used during the offseason. Dried or dehydrated meat/vegetables are now being frequently used in “Ready to cook” food. But such products should not be used every day.

The food should be consumed in its fresh or natural form as much as possible. According to my personal hypothesis, food that is naturally juicy, like most of the meat and vegetables, when consumed in dried form,  tends to absorb extra water from the intestines for getting into its original digestible form. It might swell in the intestines. If the adequate amount of moisture is not available, it might not be digested properly. Such food might create toxins due to incomplete digestion.

Dried Vegetables

Most of the vegetables that grow above the ground like cabbage, cauliflower, brinjal, beans, peas, bottle gourds,  etc. are dry in nature and they cause Vata imbalance(dryness in the body) when consumed without hot spices/oil etc. Also, most of the green leafy vegetables are heavy, dry and have a tendency to cause bloating (esp during the rains) if not cooked along with proper spices. When these vegetables are used in the dried form, the dryness produced in the body is multifold. Besides, it can seriously derail the digestive system. This is true for almost all the vegetables.

Therefore, if you have the option of using dried red chilies for the fresh green ones, please choose the fresh green chillis. Dried methi leaves, normally used as a flavor enhancing agent in Indian cooking, also should be used once in a while.

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Meat, esp pork is supposed to be extremely heavy in nature and can cause severe digestive problems (Vata derangement) if consumed in the dried form. Beef is recommended only in diseased conditions, not otherwise. Most of the meat is heavy to digest. Dehydrated meat is harder to digest and can cause severe Vata vitiation in the body.

It is said that such food takes a long time to get digested and after digestion does not fuel the digestive fire, instead leaves it weakened. Therefore such food is classified as Dhatupradushak or contaminator of the metabolism/tissue systems. In order to understand this concept, let us take the example of throwing sand on the fire. The sand does not get burnt but brings down the intensity of the fire. It might even extinguish a weak fire!

Ideally, we should stop using the packaged ready to cook masalas which contain dried vegetables like onion, garlic, or dried chicken pieces.

dosakaya-pickle-recipe.jpgInstead, meat or vegetables stored in pickled form are oiled, tender and better option for easy cooking than the dried ones.

However, dried meat and vegetables, even when used rarely, should be cooked in water/moisture/oil in order to make them soft and easily digestible. They should be served hot in order to stimulate the digestion. Digestive herbs like ginger, black pepper, asafoetida, cumin etc. should be used to make them easy to digest and absorb.

ginger-1191945_960_720That reminds me about dried ginger powder! There are some exceptions to everything. Dried root vegetables like potato chips can be kept for long duration and consumed after frying. The use of water or oil for proper cooking is indispensable. Still, a fresh potato is a 1000 times better than the dried potato. The dried ginger powder is an Ayurvedic medicine, easy to digest and produces heat in the body and therefore is not a bad food choice. Pumpkin in dried form is not damaging to health, therefore Vadi(a dried Indian curry material) made by sun-drying the chunks of pumpkin paste and spices, are not harmful.

Also, this concept is not applicable to the medicinal herbs(aushadhi) like Ashwagandha to coriander seeds. They can be stored in the dried powdered form of at least one year. However, their other preparations like jam (chavanprash), tablets, alcohols are more useful and have a longer shelf life.

Dried meat and vegetables are not great everyday food, but they might be used for medicinal purposes, as according to Ayurveda, everything in the universe can be used as a medicine. For example, dried radish soup is used to relieve severe bronchitis.

Considering all the health dimensions of dried vegetables and meat, it is best to avoid most of the dried vegetables and meat, unless prescribed by a trained physician.

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Lotus Roots

Lotus roots are considered to be very heavy and not digestible in the human system. Therefore they should not be consumed at all.

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Non-vegetarian diet for the weak

Normally a person who is weak and thin is advised to consume a non-vegetarian diet, as according to Ayurveda also, flesh is the best diet to increase flesh. However, a weak person with a bad digestion should never consume non-vegetarian diet, as it can seriously hamper his digestion capacity. Ideally, according to the Ayurvedic procedure of weight gain, a very weak person should improve his digestion and health primarily on a vegetarian diet and digestive medicines. After that, he should gradually move to a non-vegetarian diet. A non-vegetarian diet for a weak person with retarded digestion is like a college assignment for a school kid. The chances of successful completion are almost nil. Besides, such a diet will cause further retardation of the already weak digestion.

The central idea of the above guidelines is to preserve the digestion. Digestion is the fuels the life-force in the body and anything that hampers digestion should be avoided at all cost.

 

Know thy food – Basic Ayurvedic Classification of Food

According to Ayurveda, the one who eats healthy food will never need any medicine; and the one who eats unhealthy food will never benefit from any medicine. Therefore it is important to know thy food!

According to Ayurveda, every edible substance on earth has 3 properties –

Doshashamak (Pacifier of Dosha)- It balances the dosha (physiological systems of the body). Herbs like turmeric, ginger, black pepper can be classified as Doshashamak. Turmeric balances Kapha and Pitta, ginger and black pepper balances Vata and Kapha.

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Dhatupradushak( Contaminator of Dhatu)- It contaminates the vital tissue systems. Ayurveda believes that the diseases can occur only when there is a suitable environment for their incubation inside the body system. A contaminated dhatu is the ignorant king who unsuspectingly allows the trojan horse of diseases inside the body. It is like the traitor of Sparta who gave away the strategic secrets and led to the defeat of his kingdom. Therefore, all diseases have roots inside the body and these roots are formed by the Dhatupradushak food and lifestyle habits we practice.

Onion can be considered as an example of Dhatupradushak, as it is Guru (heavy to digest). Anything that is heavy to digest is taxing for the digestive system to absorb. It has a hot temperament and helps to balance Vata. However, it is heavy, sweet in taste, and unctuous. Therefore, onion has a tendency to vitiate Kapha Dosha. Onion is also sharp in action and has bitter as its secondary taste. Therefore, it can vitiate pitta dosha by disturbing the physiological processes.

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Swasthyahitkarak(Beneficial for Health) – It is the substance that is indisputably good for health. It is important to note that all Ayurvedic guidelines should be considered in a context. Sutra is the system that provides a comprehensive context for all rules. Ghee, Honey, rice, moong dal are some of the swasthyahitkarak foods, that cause almost no harm to the body in the widest range of situations.

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Now, there is no physical substance that when taken in any quantity, any time and in any manner will be incontestably good for health. For example, rice is considered good for health and according to Ayurveda, one should have it every day. But uncooked rice is disastrous if consumed, an excessive amount of cooked rice is not good, polished rice is unhealthy etc. Therefore, there is a context where a substance is doshashamak, dhatupradoshak or Swasthyahitkarak. This is the broad view.

Now for practical purposes, how can we classify day to day objects in these 3 categories? Well, we can do that in the same way as we classify the solid, liquid and gas. Everything that exists on this earth can acquire any of the 3 states of physical existence, in specific conditions. For example, oxygen is a gas in normal circumstances. However, it can be transformed to liquid when compressed, or even solid. But still, for all practical purposes, it is classified as a gas, because that is its natural form of existence. In the same way, even arsenic can be good for the body. It is actually used in many of the Rasa Shastra medicines. But, for all practical purposes, it is classified as a toxin. Because it has a natural toxic effect on the body. Similarly, haritaki (Terminelia chebula) is extolled to be as benevolent as a mother towards the stomach but it is not supposed to be consumed more than a specific period of time. Still, for all practical purposes, it is a swasthyahitkarak herb.

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Besides, it is important to note that each human body is different. What is good for one person might not be good for the other. For example, eating curd might be good for a person with good digestion, but buttermilk is better for a person with weak digestion. But this classification is still applicable for everyone. For example, as swasthyahitkarak substance, Ghee is invariably good for all humans, (pure and natural) milk is nourishing for all children. Similarly, too much acid like vinegar is dhatupradushak for all people. And Amla is pitta doshashamak for everyone.

Therefore, irrespective of the body type, this classification is the basis on which we can choose the food that we should eat or the food that we should avoid, in general.

  • Swasthyahitkarak food items should be consumed every day.
  • Doshashamak food items should be consumed according to requirement.
  • Dhatupradushak food items should be consumed rarely or not at all.

If we follow these plain and simple rules of eating, we will never fall sick.

The most interesting thing about substance(dravya) as described in Ayurveda is Kal (time), Disha(dimension), Mana(mind) and Atma (soul) are classified as substances. Therefore the above 3 classifications are applicable to the lifestyle and the thought process also.

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