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.

healthy drink glass milk
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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!

chili lot
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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.

chicken close up dish food
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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.