Ayurvedic Principles of Eating (Eating Rules as per Ayurveda)
How to Eat Food for Proper Digestion? - A Complete Ayurvedic Guide
In the Modern era, health disorders are increasing and the primary reason for this is improper and unorganized dietary habits. Intake of canned food, frozen food, cold food, processed food, or eating food along with watching tv, doing work, in hurry due to a busy schedule plays an important role in causing different types of diseases. In Ayurvedic classical literature, a complete guide is given about how to eat a portion of food or rules are given for eating food along with other disciplines regarding consumption of food and food habits. So let us find out what is food, and what are methods for eating food so that it gives maximum benefits to your body without vitiating Dosha which results in various disorders.
Goal of Ayurveda
The ultimate goal of Ayurveda is always “Swasthsya Swasthya Rakshnama” i.e to maintain the health of an individual. When food is taken with proper methods or discipline, it can be a major success towards achieving the goal of Ayurveda i.e healthy and disease-free life.
What is Aahara (Food)?
Aahara is considered as Upstambha (pillar) of life and as per Ayurveda classical texts, it is one of the three pillars i.e Traya Upstambha. The Trayopasthmbhas are the subsidiary pillars, which support the body throughout the lifespan, by providing the qualities like Bala, Varna, and Upachaya, etc., the Traya Upstambha supports the body throughout life span that’s why known as the subsidiary pillars as principal pillars of life are the three Doshas i.e Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. But their importance in the normal functioning of the body cannot be overlooked. The Trayopastmbhas are Ahara, Nidra and Brahmacharya.
त्रय उपस्तम्भाइति- आहार स्वप्नों ब्रह्मचर्यामिति ।
(Charaka Samhita Sutra Sthana. 11/ 35)
Each one of these deserves due importance because these factors are concerned with the basic needs of the living system and overindulgence or total abstinence of any of these may be harmful to life. The food i.e Aahara is mainly concerned with the maintenance of living tissues and energy production. Sleep i.e Nidra is the one that restores the potential of the individual and provides complete relaxation to the mind and body. The Brahmacharya is concerned with a disciplined mode of reproduction and sexual life. As per Ayurvedic classical literature, Aahara i.e food is regarded as Maha Bhaishjya and helps to prevent diseases, and maintain health. Conducive food to the body is known as Pathya. The practical application of the principles of Nutrition is known as dietetics. In dietetics, the meal is planned for both normal and sick individuals. In Ayurvedic classical texts, a set of dietetic codes has been prescribed and it is also mentioned that Yukti Yukta and Matra Vata Aahara (food as prescribed in dosage) is the only means of survival and fault in preparation and intake of diet may lead to ill health.
Dictionary Meaning of Aahara (Food)
Shabda Kalpa Druma:
आहियतेइति आहार: अन्नपादादि सर्व ।
Aahara is a substance that is swallowed through the throat after eating. (Raja Radhakanta Devam, Sabda kalpa druma, Chaukhamba publications, Varanasi, 2006)
Vachaspatyam: Aahara is food.
Acharya Chakrapani: As per Acharya Chakrapani, anything which is ingested is known as Ahara. So, Aahara can be a diet or drug.
Acharya Dalhana: The substance that is swallowed by Anna Nalika is known as Aahara.
Acharya Gangadhara: Aahara is anything that can be ingested by the tongue down to the throat.
Therefore, the drug is also considered under Aahara.
According to Taber’s dictionary: Any material that provides the nutritive requirements of an organism to maintain growth and physical well-being is known as food.
According to Collin’s dictionary: Any substance that can be ingested by a living organism and metabolized into energy and body tissue is known as food.
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Derivation of Aahara (Food)
हनेहरणे means to be taken in.
Shabdastoma Mahanidhi – The Aahara is the substance that builds up the body.
Vaidyaka Shabdashindhu – Any substance which passes through the throat is called Aahara.
यजुर्वेद – अन्नपते अन्नस्यनो देहि अतमिवस्यशुष्मिण ।
In Yajur Veda there is a saying about Aahara, “Oh, God, give us food which does not cause any disease and also gives us strength.”
In Bhagavata Purana
नाश्वात पथ्यमेवान्र॑ व्याधयोभिभवाभि: ।
The importance of Pathya is told.
पुजयेदशनं नित्यमद्याचैतकुत्स्ययन । (Manu Samriti)
One should respect the food every day and one should not criticize it.
नभुज्जितोदघुतस्नेहं नातिसौहितमाचरेत । नतिपगेनतिसार्यन सायं प्रातरशित ॥
Manu says that food should not be taken without Ghrita and Taila and should not over food; one should not eat food before sunrise, or after sunset and also not eat in Sandhya Kala. If somebody has taken Guru Bhojana (heavy food) at noon, he should not eat in the Sanya Kaala (evening).
जठरं पुरण्येदर्धमन्नै जलेनच । वायो: संचरणार्यायचतुर्थभवशेषयेत ॥
One should take half part of the stomach with solid foods, one-fourth part with liquid and the remaining one-fourth parts should be kept empty for Vata.
In Bhagavat Geeta, the description of Satvika, Rajasika, Tamasika Ahara.
Bhagvata Geeta 17/ 8
आयुः सत्व बलारोग्य सुखप्रितिवि वर्धना: रस्या: । स्निग्धा: स्थिरा: हद्या आहारा सात्विकप्रिया: ।
Bhagvata Geeta 17/ 9
कटवाम्ललवणात्युष्णाति क्षार तक्ष विदाहिन: । आहार राजस स्येष्टा दुःख शोका भयप्रदा॥
Bhagvata Geeta 17/ 10
नामसिक: यात यामगतर संपुत्ति पर्युषितंचव्यत । ऊच्छिप्टम्पिचा मेध्यं भोजनतानम प्रियम॥
In Great Hindu mythology, Ramayana, the diet has been classified into two types:
Vachaspatyam – आहियतेइत्याहार means which is to be swallowed is called Ahara.
Anna is a popular and widely used synonym of Ahara. The word Anna means “to be taken in” or “which nourishes the body”.
आहियत इत्याहारो भेषजमपि ।
(Charaka Samhita. Sutra Sthana. 6/ 85, Chakrapani commentary)
While commenting on the description of Ahita, Chakrapani has said that Ahara means which is ingested and thus it includes in itself both diet and drugs.
जिव्हा ह्यहरणं आहार: ।
(Charaka Samhita Sutra Sthana. 11/ 15, Gangadhra Commentary)
Which is ingested by the tongue down to the throat and is called Ahara.
Ayurvedic Principles of Eating
Importance of Aahara (Food)
Aahara is directly related to our Sharirika (physical), Mansika (mental), and Samajika (Social) health. Food with its nutrients helps to replace, develop, and repair cells and tissues of the body. Aahara or food provides us with energy and nutrients that make us healthy and active but all the Aahara i.e., the food we eat do not have any nutritional value. Therefore, choose your food (Aahara) wisely, so that it can provide enough nutritional value to the body.
Importance of Food as per Ayurvedic Classical Texts
Charaka Samhita Sutra Sthana. 28/ 45
आहार संभवं वस्तुरोगश्चाहार संभव: । हिताहित विशेषात्तुविशेषोसुख दु:खयो: ॥
The human body is born from food and diseases are also produced by food; happiness and unhappiness depend on the use of suitable and unsuitable foods respectively.
Charaka Samhita Sutra Sthana. 25/ 40
Agarya (the best one) in Vrittikara (which helps to do work)
अन्नम वृत्तिकराणां श्रेष्ठ ।
Anna is best among things which help to do work.
Kashyapa Samhita Khila Sthana. 4/ 5
न च आहारसमंकिशित भैषज्यामुपलभ्यते। शक्यते अ प्यन्नमात्रेण नरः कर्तुनिरमय॥
No medicine is equivalent to food. It is possibly making people disease free with just a proper diet.
Kashyapa Samhita Khila Sthana. 5/ 9
Health is dependent on food.
Sushruta Samhita Chikitsa Sthana. 24/ 68
आहारः प्रीणनोसद्यो बलकृद्देदधारक: । आयुस्तेज: समुत्साहस्पृत्योजो: अग्नि विवर्धनम॥
The food enhances vitality, strength and makes the body study. Food increases enthusiasm, memory, Agni, life span, luster and Ojus.
Charaka Samhita Sutra Sthana. 11/ 23
त्रय; ओपस्तम्भा: इत्याहार: स्वप्नो ब्रह्नचर्यमित्ति ।
Food is one among the three sub pillars supporting life.
Charaka Samhita Sutra Sthana. 27/ 349- 350
प्राणाः प्राण भ्रृतामन्नमन्नं लोको अभिधावति । वर्ण: प्रसाद: सौस्वर्य जीवितं प्रतिभासुखम।। तुष्टि: पुष्टि बल॑ मेधा सर्वमन्ने प्रतिष्ठितम । लौकिकं कर्मयद्धत्तौस्वर्गतौयच्च वैदिकम ॥ कर्मापवर्गेयच्चोक्तंतच्चाप्यन्ने प्रतिष्ठितम ॥
For all living beings food is the sustainer of life, the whole world of living beings craves for food only; color, complexion, tranquility, good voice, a span of life, ingenuity, happiness, contentment, nourishment, strength, intelligence all these are dependent on food. Social and vocational activities, Vedic Rituals, leading to heaven and salvation even these are dependent on the food itself.
Charaka Samhita Nidana Sthana. 6/ 11
हिताशिस्वान्मिताशिस्यातकालभोजीजितेन्द्रिय: । पश्यनरोगानबहुन कष्टान बुद्धिमानविषमाशनात ॥
Most of the incurable diseases are produced due to improper food. So intelligent and self-controlled man should consume conducive food in the right quality, at the right time to prevent diseases.
Charaka Samhita Sutra Sthana. 27/ 3
इष्ट वर्ण गन्धरसस्पर्श विधिविहितमन्नपान॑ प्राणिनां प्राणिसंज्ञकानां प्राणमाचक्षते कुशलाः, प्रत्यक्ष- फलदर्शनात; तदिन्धना हान्तरमग्ने: स्थिति:, तत सत्वमूर्जयति, तच्छरीर धातुव्यूह बलवर्णेन्दिय प्रसादकरं व्योक्तमुपर सेव्यमानं, विपरितमहिताय संद्यते।।
Food and drinks with desirable smell, taste, and touch that have been taken according to the prescribed method are said as vital strengths by the experts based on observing their results directly because the condition of internal fire depends on their fuel. They produce energy in the mind, the constitution of Dhatus, strength, complexion, and clarity of the sense organs if properly taken, otherwise they become harmful.
Classification of Food (Aahara Dravya Vargikarana)
Classification of food is described in respect of their Rasa, Virya, Vipaka, Prabhava, etc. by different Acharya in Ayurvedic classical literature.
|Charaka Samhita Sutra Sthana Annapana Vidhi Adhayaya||Sushruta Samhita Drava Dravya Viddhi Adhaya||Ashtanga Hridya 6th and 7th chapter Anaswarupa Vijnaneeya||Ashtanga Sangreha 5th and 6th chapter Drava Dravya Vijnaneeya||Bhava Parkasha Chapter 6/ 9/ 1|
|Shuka Dhanya||Paaneya Varga||Shuka Dhanya||Jala Varga||Shaka Varga|
|Shami Dhanya||Ksheera Varga||Shimbi Dhanya||Ksheera Varga||Mansa Varga|
|Mansa Varga||Dadhi Varga||Kritana Varga||Ikshu Varga||Krittana Varga|
|Shaka Varga||Takra Varga||Mansa Varga||Madhu Varga||Vari varga|
|Phala Varga||Ghrita Varga||Shaka Varga||Taila Varga||Dadhi Varga|
|Harita Varga||Taila Varga||Phala Varga||Mutra Varga||Takra Varga|
|Madya Varga||Madhu Varga||Aushadha Varga||Madya Varga (A.H)||Navneeta Varga|
|Ambu Varga||Ikshu Varga||Ghrita Varga|
|Gorasa Varga||Madya Varga||Mutra Varga|
|Ikshu Vikara Varga||Mutra Varga||Taila Varga|
|Kritaan Varga||Mudgadi Varga||Sandhana Varga|
|Aahara Yogi Varga||Mansa Varga||Ikshu Varga|
The Proper Method of Intake of Food (Aahara Vidhi Vidhana)
Ahara is not only needed for the continuity of Jeevana (Life) but for Bala (Strength), Varna (good complexion), Upacaya, etc. also. The Aahara Vidhi is if proper diet, in the proper manner can lead to better Swasthya (health). On the other hand, even a proper diet if not taken properly can lead to various Vyadhi (diseases). As per Ayurvedic classical literature, Ahara, as well as the Aahara Vidhi Vidhana (method of its intake) both, have equal importance. In other medical sciences, food is considered important, but not the manner of eating (Aahara Viddhi Vidhana). In Ayurvedic classical texts, Aahara Vidhi Vidhan (proper methods of intake of food) as well as the effects of improper methods of intake on the body are mentioned.
Proper Methods of Intake of Food / Eating Etiquette as per Acharya Charaka (Father of Medicine)
Charaka Samhita Vimana Sthana, 1/ 24
तत्रेदा आहार विधि विधानम रोगाणांचापिकेषाश्चित काले प्रकृत्यैवहिततमंभुज्ञाना भवति- उष्णं, स्निग्धं मात्रावत जीर्णे वीर्याविरुद्धम इष्टे देशे इष्ट सर्वोपकरणं नाति द्रुतं नातिविलम्बितम अजल्पन् अहसन् तन्मना भुञ्ज्जित, आत्मानमभि समीक्ष्यसम्यक ।
As per Ayurvedic classical texts, one should eat only that Aahara (food) which is:-
- Ushna (Warm)
- Snigdha (Unctuous)
- Matravata (In proper quantity)
- Jeerna Ahara (After the digestion of the previous meal)
- Viruddha Ahara (Not contradictory in potency)
- Ishta Desha and Ishtar Upakarana (In the proper place equipped with all the accessories)
- Naati Drutam (not very fast)
- Naati Vilambnam (not very slow)
- Ajalpnm (Without talking)
- Ahasnm (Without laughing)
- Tanmana Bhunjjitam (With the concentration of mind)
- Aatamna Abhisamikshya (With paying due regard to oneself)
तस्य सादागुण्यमुपदेक्ष्यामः- उष्णमश्नीयात: उष्णंहिभुज्यमान॑स्वदते, भुक्तंचाग्निमौर्चमुदीरयति, क्षिप्रंजरांगच्छति, वातमनुलोमयति, श्लेष्माणंच परिहासयति: तस्मादुष्णमश्नीयात् ॥
One should take warm food. The advantages of taking Ushna Ahara are:-
- When taken warm, it is delicious
- The abdomen provokes the factors (enzymes) responsible for digestion
- Gets digested quickly because it helps the secretion of saliva and secretion of Gastric juice.
- Helps in the downward passage of Vata and detachment of Kapha
- Helps in detachment of Kapha
- Lightness in body
Charaka Samhita Vimana Sthana. 1/ 25/ 2
स्नग्धमश्नीयत: स्निग्धंहि भुज्यमान॑ स्वदते, भुक्तंचानुदीर्णमग्निमुदीरयति, क्षिप्रंजरां गच्छति, वातमनुलोमयति, शरिरमुपचिनोति, दृढीकरोति इन्द्रयाणि, बलाभि वृद्धिमुपजयति, वर्ण प्रसादंचाभि निर्वर्त्यति तस्मात्त स्निग्धमश्नीयात ।
One should take unctuous food. The advantages of taking Snigdha Ahara are:
- Unctuous food is delicious
- Provokes the power of digestion in such a way so that it gets digested quickly
- Helps in the Adho Gati (downward movement) of Vata
- Increases the plumpness of the body
- Strengthens the sense faculties
- Brings out the brightness of the complexion
- Promotes strength
Matra Vata Aahara (Food in proper quantity)
Charaka Samhita Vimana Sthana. 1/ 25/ 3
मात्रवश्नीयात: मात्रा वद्धिभुक्तं वात पित्त कफानपीदायुरेवविर्धयति केवलं, सुखंसुदमनुपर्येति, नचोष्माणमुपहन्ति, अव्यथंच परिपाकमेति: तस्मान्मात्रावदश्नीयात।
One should take food in the proper quantity. The advantages of taking food in proper quantity are:
- Promotes Aayu (longevity) without afflicting Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
- Easily passes downward
- If food is taken in proper quantity, then it does not impair the power of digestion
- Gets digested without any difficulty
- Intake after digestion of the previous meal
Jeerna Ahara (After the digestion of the previous meal)
Charaka Samhita Vimana Sthana. 1/ 25/ 4
जीर्णे अश्नीयात: अजीर्णहि भुज्जन्नस्याभ्यवह्वतमाहार जात॑ पूर्वस्याहारस्य रसम परिणतमुत्तरेणाहार रसेसेनींपसृजत सर्वान दोषान प्रकोपयत्याशु, जीर्णेतु भुज्जन्स्य स्वस्थानस्थेषु दोषेष्वग्नौचोदीर्ण जाताय॑ च बुभुक्षयां विवृतेषुच स्त्रोतसां मुखेषुचोद्वार विशुद्धे, विशुद्धेच हृद्ये वातानुलोम्ये विसृष्टेषु च वातमुत्रयुरिषवेगेष्वभ्यवहृतमाहार जातं सर्व शरिर धातून प्रदूषयदायुरेवाभिवर्धयति केवलं तस्माद जीर्णे अश्नियात।
If the food is taken after the digestion of the previous food at a time when Doshas are at their proper places and Agni is provoked, there is a good appetite, the entrance of the channels of circulation is open, proper cardiac function, the downward passage of wind and the proper manifestation of the urges for voiding flatus, urine, and stool, then the product of the food does not vitiate the Dhatus of the body, but on the other hand, promotes longevity in its entirety.
Virya Aviruddha (No contradictory potencies)
Charaka Samhita Vimana Sthana. 1/ 25/ 5
वीर्याविरुद्धमश्नीयात: अविरुद्ध वीर्यमश्ननहि विरुद्ध वीर्याहारजै र्विकारैनोसृज्यते; तस्मादिर्यादिरुद्धमश्नीयात।
One should take food having no contradictory potencies. By taking such food one does not get afflicted with such diseases as may arise from the intake of food having mutually contradictory potencies. Therefore, one should take food having no contradictory potencies.
Ishta Desh, Isht Sarvopkrane (In Proper place with all accessories)
Charaka Samhita Vimana Sthana. 1/ 25/ 6
इष्टे देशे इष्ट सर्वोपकरणं चाश्चीयात: इष्ट हिदेशे भुन्ञ्जनो नानिष्टदेशजैर्मना विघातकरैभाविर्मनो विघात॑ प्राप्नोति तथै वेष्टे: सर्वोपकरणौः तस्मादिष्टे देशे तथेष्ट सर्वोपकरणंचाश्चियात ।
One should take food in a proper place equipped with all the accessories. By doing so a person does not get afflicted with such factors as would result in an emotional strain which occurs when one takes his food in the wrong places without the required accessories.
Na Ati Drutam (Not in hurry)
Charaka Samhita Vimana Sthana. 1/ 25/ 7
नातिद्रुतम्न्षियात: अति द्रुतंहि भुजानो स्योत्स्नेहनमवसादन न भोजनस्याप्रतिष्ठाम॑च, भोज्यदोषसाद गुण्योपलब्धिश्वननियता: तस्मादन्नातिद्रतश्नीयात ॥
One should not take food too hurriedly. Disadvantages of taking food hurriedly:
- Enter into a wrong passage
- It gets depressed and does not enter the stomach properly.
- One can never determine the taste of food articles and detect foreign bodies like hair etc., mixed with them.
- One can’t decide the things to be eaten first
- Doesn’t get complete perspicuity of Indriyas
- Doesn’t get the downward passage of Vata
Na Ati- Vilambnam (not too slowly)
Charaka Samhita Vimana Sthana. 1/ 25/ 8
नातिविलम्बितमश्नीयात्त: अतिविलम्बितं भुञ्ज्जित्म न तृप्तिमधिगच्छति, बहु भुङ्क्ते, शीत भवत्या आहार जातं ही विषमंचपच्यते: तस्मान्नाति विलम्बितमश्नीयात॥
One should not take food very slowly. Disadvantages of slow intake of food:
- Do not give satisfaction to the individual.
- In this situation, he would take more than what is required.
- The food would become cold.
- There will be irregularity in digestion.
Ajalpanam, Ahasnam, Tanmana (with concentration)
Charaka Samhita Vimana Sthana. 1/ 25/ 9
अजल्पन्नहसन तन्मना भुञ्ज्जित्म जल्पतोहसतो अन्यमनसोवा भुजानस्तयएवहि दोषा भवन्ति, यएवतिदृतमश्रतः तस्माद जल्पन्नहसंस्तन्मना भुञ्ज्जित्म ॥
One should not talk or laugh or take food. The disadvantages are the same as intake hurriedly. A person taking Tanmana Bhojana i.e., with full concentration knows about quantity, digestive power, and procedure. Nowadays this is the most common reason for Agnimandya. People do not concentrate on the food. Instead of that, they are busy Watching TV, Phone calls, Computer operations, Chatting, Talking, and Laughing, etc. Due to this, they can’t decide the exact quantity of food needed. Overeating badly affects their digestive power which leads to Agnimandya and ultimately many diseases like Obesity etc.
Atmana Abhisamikshya (with paying due regard to oneself)
Charaka Samhita Vimana Sthana. 1/ 25
आत्मानमभि समीक्ष्य भुञ्ज्जि सम्यक, इदं ममोपशेते इदं नोपशेतेइत्येवंविदित॑ ह्वास्यात्मन आत्म सात्म्य भवति तस्मादात्मानमभिसमीक्ष्यभुझ्लीतसम्यगित्ति ॥
One should take food in a prescribed manner, with due regard to his own self. Considering his body constitution, he should be able to decide the usefulness or Harmfulness of a substance.
Proper Methods of Intake of Food / Eating Etiquette as per Acharya Acharya Vagbhata
Ashtanga Hridya Sutra Sthana. 8/ 35- 38
काले सात्म्यं शुचि हित॑ स्निग्धोष्ण॑ लघु तन्मनाः || षड़ रसं मधुरप्रायं नाति द्रुतम विलम्बितम् । स्नातः क्षुद्वान् विविक्तस्थो धौतपादकराननः || तर्पयित्वा पित्तरन् देवानतिथीन् बालकान् गुरून् । प्रत्यवेक्ष्य तिर श्चौ अपि प्रतिपन्नपरिग्रहान || समीक्ष्य सम्यगात्मानम निन्द ब्रुवन द्रवम् । इष्ट मिष्टैः सहाश्नीयाच्छुचिभक्तजनाहतम् ||
- The food should be taken at the proper time only.
- It should be habituated, and clean
- Food should be wholesome, unctuous, hot, and light.
- Have food with a pleasant mind.
- It should contain all six tastes, especially sweet.
- Food should be consumed neither too fast nor too slow.
- One should take food after having a bath, and whenever he feels hungry only.
- Privacy is essential while taking food.
- Wash hands, feet, and mouth before taking food.
The food should be taken at the proper time only: According to Acharya Vagbhata food should be taken at a proper time i.e Kale Satmya. After following the procedures of taking food and observing the rules of taking food the food should be consumed at the proper time. The proper time of food consumption are as follows:
- After the elimination of feces and urine
- When belching is pure (without any foul smell or taste)
- When hunger is well manifest
- When the mind is clear (devoid of emotions)
- When the Doshas are moving in their natural paths (functioning normally)
- When the flatus is moving downward easily
- When digestive activity is keen
- When the sense organs are clear (properly functioning)
- When the body is light
It should be habituated, clean, wholesome, unctuous, hot, and light: Hygiene should be practiced properly during the consumption of food i.e Suchi.
The ways of maintaining hygiene:
- Food cooked in a hygienic and clean atmosphere, under all septic precautions is worthy of consumption.
- Hygiene should also be maintained by the chef.
- Food, which is contaminated with grass, hair, etc different adulterants should be avoided.
Food should be wholesome, unctuous, hot, and light:
- Ushana Aahara i.e warm and fresh food without contamination has the highest bioavailability of nutrients and will give suitable nourishment for the body.
- Avoid eating dry food (Ruksha), roasted and hard-to-eat food as they are unhealthy with less nutritive value, not fresh, and hamper digestive activities because they are hard to digest.
Have food with a pleasant mind: Consuming food with a pleasant mind i.e when the mind is clear and devoid of emotions means Tanmana. In the modern era, it is known as mindful eating means the act of savoring the taste and smell of food that is freshly prepared and being thankful for what is served on your plate, and appreciating each moment when consuming food.
Food should be consumed in good company: Food should be eaten either in solitude or in good company. Food should be made with all safety and precaution of cleanliness; the server should be faithful and clean. Eating food with good company, that is with people who love you, and care about you, in a clean place is very satisfying and indicates good digestion and a happy stomach.
It should contain all six tastes especially sweet: As per Ayurvedic classical literature, it is very important to activate all the organs equally for them and the body to function properly. The best method to stimulate the internal organs is by activating the taste buds that is corresponded to a particular organ and these taste buds are activated by taste (Rasa) that are corresponded to them. The total rasa (taste) is six and the food we have to consume should contain all three six tastes. If we take the Madhura taste i.e sweet taste it is Snigdha (unctuous) and helps to eliminate urine (Mutra), feces (Pureesha), and flatus (Apana Vayu) properly.
Food should be consumed neither Ati Drutam (too fast) nor Ati Vilambitam (too slow):
- Today with hectic schedules and busy lifestyles most people are eating in an emergency or hurry. Always avoid eating too fast i.e Ati Drutam i.e without paying attention to how much you are eating and what you are eating. As we all know fight and fright responses are predominantly mediated to sympathetic activity and are the main responses in an emergency. When the sympathetic system is active, blood circulation is shifted from the central pool to the periphery, secretion is lowered, and a person becomes tense. And in such a kind situation eating food is not favorable.
- On the other hand, when people eat food too slowly this indicates their lack of interest and attention to food. In such a situation, an individual might take in excess food which is inappropriate.
One should take food after having a bath: Snana (bath) is very important to ensure easy and good digestion of food. Snana i.e bath is the healthy ritual to purify and cleanse the body. If we eat healthy food after a bath then it nourishes the body through smooth, sound, and easy digestion.
Eating food when hungry (Kshutvana): Each individual has their digestive cycle, digestive biological clock, and timing of hunger that are as per the individual’s habits. So food should only be consumed after having good hunger to ensure effective and smooth functioning of the body.
Privacy is essential while taking food: Eating in solitude is known as Vivikatstha which is suggested by Acharya Vagbhata. Viviktstha means we are detaching ourselves from the rest of the world and focusing on what is ahead of us. It promotes mindful eating and helps to destress.
Wash hands, feet, and mouth before taking food: In today’s era of COVID- 19, maintaining proper hygiene is very important. So to avoid any kind of infection, or stomach upset, food must be consumed after properly washing hands, mouth, and food.
Eat food without complaining: If the person abuses or scolds the food before eating, it hampers the state of mind to dislike the food that is being served to you on a plate. Eating in such kind of situation is not beneficial for digestion as well as for the body.
Eat food after satisfying elders, guests, children, and all those who depend on you (तर्पयित्वा पित्तरन् देवानतिथीन् बालकान् गुरून्): Eating food is the happy state of mind is key of happiness and healthy stomach. Only by sharing your food with the one who depends on you like your children, your pets, and even your servant, etc, you can truly enjoy your meal with satisfaction.
Eat food after considering your constitution (Prakriti), likes and dislikes: Eating food after considering your Prakriti (constitution), likes and dislikes helps in mindful eating and enhances your state of mind.
Partaking more of a liquid diet: In Ayurvedic classical texts partaking of more Drava i.e, liquid food is suggested, as it prevents dehydration, easy digestion, and provides instant nourishment. This type of method of intake of food is not only beneficial for a healthy person but also for a diseased person.
Eating in silence: Food must be consumed in silence i.e Abruvana without laughing, talking, etc. This will help to avoid engulfing of air (aerophagia) and ensure proper digestion, early satisfaction, and proper eating.
The Eight Factors Determining the Utility of Food (Ashta Aahara Viddhi Vishesha Aaytana)
Chakrapani Dutta in Ayurveda Dipika explains that Ashta Viddhi Vishesha Aayatna explains the आहार विधि: प्रकायो विधान वा इत्याहारविधिः i.e The method or way to consume food is mentioned in Aahara Viddhi Vishesha Aaytana, तस्य विशेष i.e the benefits and non-benefits of Aahara and तस्वायतनानि i.e the cause for the benefits and non-benefits of Ahara that are eight in number.
Charaka Samhita Vimana Sthana 1/ 21
तत्र खलिवमान्य अष्टावाहरविधिविशेषायतनानि भवन्ति: तद्याथा- प्रकृति करण संयोग राशि देश कालोपयोग संस्थोपयोक्रष्ट मानि (भवन्ति)।।
The Eight Factors that Determine the Utility of Various Types of Food are:
- Prakruti (Nature of the food substance)
- Karana (Method of their processing)
- Samyoga (Combination)
- Rashi (Quantity)
- Desha (Habit)
- Kala (Time i.e., stage of the disease or the state of the individual)
- Upayoga Samstha (Rules governing the intake of food)
- Upayukta (Wholesomeness to the individual who takes it).
1. Prakriti (Nature of the Aahar or Food Substance)
The Guna (virtues) that are present in the Aahara (food) at the time of origin is known as Prakriti / Swabhava.
Charaka Samhita Vimana Sthana. 1/ 22. 1
तत्र प्रकृतिरुच्यते स्वभावो यः स पुनराहारौषधद्रव्याणां स्वाभाविको गुर्वादिगुणयो: तद्यथा माष मुद्गयों शूकरैणयोश्च ।
Prakruti is Swabhva (nature), Prakruti indicates the nature of the substance, which is the natural existence of properties like Guru (heavy), etc. in substances used as food and drug such as legume Masha (Phaseolus radiatus Linn) is Guru (heavy) and Mudga (Phaseolus Mungo Linn) is Laghu (light) and meat of Sukara (pork) is Guru (heavy) and that of Ena (deer) is Laghu (light). Likewise, Ghee (Clarified butter) is cold in potency i.e Sheeta Virya, and Matsya (fish) is hot in potency (Ushana Virya).
Chakrapani Dutta in Ayurveda Dipika explained that Prakriti is natural which means it does not undergo any kind of Sanskara.
2. Karana (Processing of the Substances)
Karana is the processing of food that results in a change in the properties of the food. Some Aahara Dravya in their original form or Prakriti / Swabhava is not suitable for consumption as they can vitiate Dosha, etc, in such kinds of Aahara Dravya (food substances), some Sanskara/processing is done so that their properties are changed and they can be accepted by the body without vitiated Doshas.
Charaka Samhita Vimana Sthana. 1/ 22. 2
करण पुनः स्वाभाविकानां द्रव्याणामभिसंस्कारः । संस्कारों हि गुणान्तराधानमुच्यते । ते गुणा स्तयो अग्नि संनिकर्षः शौच मन्थन देश काल वासन भावनादिभिः कालप्रकर्षभाजनादिभि श्चाधीयन्तें।।
Karana means the processing of substances. Processing results in the transformation of the inherent attributes of substances. These properties are infused by the contact of:-
- Toya (water) and Agni (fire)
- Shaucha (cleansing)
- Manthana (churning)
- Desha (storing)
- Kala (maturing)
- Vasana (flavoring)
- Bhavana (impregnation)
- Kala Prakarsha (preservation in the container)
- Bhajana (frying process) etc
As per Chakrapani Dutta, Ayurveda Dipika:
द्रव्याणमिति वक्तव्ये स्वाभाविकानामिति यत्करोति, तेनोत्पत्तिकाले जनकभूतै: – Prakriti/ Swabhava Guna of drug are the qualities from origin of that substance.
संस्कार- स्वगुणारोपणं- Through Samskara one can increase the qualities.
संस्कार गुणान्तराधान- Through Samskara the qualities of substance get alter. Samskara is done through Agni, Jala, Shaucha, Manthana, Desha, Kala, Vasana Bhavana.
Few Samskara of the Aahara Dravyas are as follows:
- Jala Samskara: Processing with water
(Charaka Samhita Sutra Sthana. 27)
सुधौतः प्रस्त्रुत: स्विन्न: सन्तप्त श्चोदनो लघुः |
Rakta Shali after soaking in water and frying on fire becomes Laja.
Here Prakriti (nature) which is Guru Guna (heavy property) of Shali (rice) or Rakta Shali (red variety of rice) converts into Laghu Guna (light property).
- Agni Samskara: Processing with fire
तोयाग्नि संनिकर्षः शौचैस्तण्डुलस्थ॑ गौरवमुपहत्य लाघवमन्रे क्रियते।
Tandula (de-husked seed of Oryza sativa) – after Agni Samskara Guru Guna of Tandula alters into Laghu Guna.
- Saucha Sanskara: Cleaning
When the Ahara Dravya (food substance) undergoes Saucha Sanskara i.e cleansing, the quality of that Aahra Dravya increases generally.
- Manthana Sanskara: Churning
शोथकृदधि शोथ्घ्नं सस्नेहमपि मन्थनत इति।
Dadhi (curd) is Shothakara Dravya (inflammatory), but after Manthana Samskara the Takra (buttermilk) Prayoga acts as Shothahara (anti-inflammatory).
- Desha Samskara:
In the preparation of Amalakavaleha or Amalaki Ghrita. Amalaki is to be kept in a closed vessel and placed under the heap of Bhasma Rashi. After six days it is acquiring the Rasayana / rejuvenating properties.
- Kala Samskara: With time
तथा रक्त शाल्यादेर्लघोरप्यग्नि संयोगादिना लाघवं वर्धते।
Rakta Shali after soaking in water and frying on fire becomes Laja with time (Kala)
Here Prakriti (nature) which is Guru Guna (heavy property) of Shali (rice) or Rakta Shali (red variety of rice) converts into Laghu Guna (light property) with time.
- Vasana: Flavoring
- Kala Parkarshe: पक्षाज्जातरसं पिबेत। (C. S. Chi. 15)
After keeping for 15 days (for Asava and Arishta preparation) it becomes fermented because of Kala Prakarshiti.
- Bhajana Samskara: Type of utensil used
त्रैफलेनायसीपात्रीकल्केनालेपयेत। (C. S. Chi. 1. 3)
Triphala Kalka Lepa to be done in Loha Patra provides Rasayana effect.
स्वभावोनिष्यतिक्रियः here the term स्वभावोनिष्यतिक्रियः is after Samskara some natural qualities is not going to later.
Eg. Masha Guruta (heavy) after Samskara alters into Laghuta (light). But for some of the Dravya (food substances) even after Samskara, the qualities are not going to differ like Ushnata (heat) of Agni, Chalatva (movement) of Vayu, Snehatva of Taila (oil), etc.
- Bhavana Sanskara:
एते हि यावद द्रव्यमाविन एवं गुणा: |
To increase the potency of the drug one can do Bhavana with the expected qualities Dravya Kwatha or to enhance the flavors of the food Bhavana of the food substance is done, eg. Chicken being marinated to increase the flavor.
3. Samyoga (Combination of Substances)
When two or more DRavya (substances) are combined this is known as Samyoga and when a combination of food substances is done then it is known as Aahara Samyoga. Due to this combination of food substances, some new Guna (qualities) are developed in the combined Aahara Vishesha (food combination). Sometimes this kind of Aahara Samyoga will be harmful to life. Eg.
- Fish and milk if taken individually do not exhibit a harmful effect on the body but when taken together results in Kustha Roga i.e skin disorders
- Madhu (honey) and Ghee (clarified butter) are not harmful when taken alone to the human body but when taken together in equal proportion, they may exhibit toxic effects in the body.
Therefore knowledge of Samyoga Ayatana is very important before taking any food.
Charaka Samhita Vimana Sthana. 1/ 22. 3
संयोग: पुनर् द्वयो बहूना वा द्रव्याणां संहतीभावः स विशेषमारभते, यं पुनर्नकैकशे द्रव्याण्यारभन्ते, तद्यथा- मधु सर्पिषो:, मधुमत्स्यपय्सा च संयोग:।
Samyoga is the combination of two or more substances. This results in the manifestation of specific attributes which cannot be manifested by individual substances. Example – the combination of Madhu (honey) and Ghrita (ghee), Matsya (fish) and Payasa (milk).
As per Chakrapani Dutta, Ayurveda Dipika:
संयोग द्रव्यमेल्क् अभिप्रेत – Samyoga is the combination of two or three substances.
स विशेषमारभत इति संयुज्यमान द्रव्ये एक देशे अदृष्ट कार्यमारभत: इत्यर्थ्: ।
After the combination of two or more substances, it acts very particular that action may not be seen when we take that substance individually.
मधुसर्पिषी हि प्रत्येकममारके मिलिते तु मारके भवत: |
Individual intake of Madhu and Sarpi is beneficial but in combination is Maraka (toxic).
क्षिर मत्स्यादिसंयोगश्च कुष्ठदिकरो भवति |
The separate consumption of Ksheera and Matsya does not cause any disease but in combination it is Kushtakaraka.
4. Rashi (Quantity of Food / Total Amount of Food)
The quantity of individual ingredients or whole food substances is known as Rashi.
Charaka Samhita Vimana Sthana. 1/ 22. 4
राशिस्तु सर्वग्रहपरिग्रहो मात्रामात्रफल विनिश्चयार्थः । तत्र सर्वस्याहारस्य प्रमाणग्रहणमेह पिण्डेन सवग्रह:, परिय्रहः पुनः प्रमाणग्रहणमेकैकश्येनाहार द्रव्याणां । सर्वस्य हि ग्रहः सर्वग्रहः, सर्वतश्च हहः परिग्रह उच्यते ।
Rashi is the quantity of food substance to be taken. That determines the result of their administration in adequate and inadequate quantities. Two types of Rashi are mentioned:
- Sarvagraha – The quantity of food taken in entirely is Sarvagraha. Eg. 200 grams of the mixed vegetable recipe.
- Parigraha – The quantity of each of its ingredients is Parigraha. Eg. 50 grams of carrot, 40 grams of beans, 10 grams of potatoes, etc in mix vegetable recipe
The quantity of all things involved is Sarvagraha and that of each and everything individually is Parigraha.
As per Chakrapani Dutta, Ayurveda Dipika:
राशिः प्रमाणम्- Rashi indicate Pramana (quantity- proper quantity of food).
मात्रामात्रफलविनिश्वयार्थ इति मात्रावदाहारस्यौषधस्य च यत् फलंशुभम्, अमात्रस्य हीनस्याति रिक्तस्य वा यत् फलमशुभम |
Significance of Rashi: if we know the amount / quantity of food substances then we will do Matra Vata Aahara which is beneficial to the body.
Matravata Ahara – Shubha Phala benefits Sharira.
If we don’t know Rashi / quantity of food, then Amatra Ahara- Amatra – Hina or Ati Ahara and Aushadhi – Ashubha- not beneficial to Sharira and causes the vitiation of Dosha does Vikara.
5. Desha (Habitat and Place of Substance)
We all know the weather/ climate of all places are different and this will result in the different virtues (guna) of Aahara Dravya as per the climate or the place where they grow. Eg. Aahara Dravya (food substance) that grows in a hot climate or hot places are hot in nature or hot in potency.
Charaka Samhita Vimana Sthana. 1/ 22. 5
देश: पुनः स्थान; स द्रव्याणमुत्यत्तिप्रचारौ देशसात्म्य॑ चाचष्टे।
Desha denotes place relating to growth as well as distribution of the substance and also the suitability in respect of place.
As per Chakrapani Dutta, Ayurveda Dipika:
Desha indicates the place the person consumes the food as well as the place the Ahara Dravya is cultivated. The quantity of Dravya also depends on the place they grow.
- The Aushadha Dravya is more Gunavan which is collected from Himalaya.
- Jangala Desha Mamsa is Laghu (light) as compared with Anupa Desha.
देश सात्म्य – देश सात्म्ये न च देशविपरीतगुण सात्यं गृह्मते |
The opposite quality of food from the Desha (place) is called Desha Satmaya.
आनूपे उष्णरूक्षादि, धन्वनि च शीतस्निग्धादि।
- In Anupa Desha – Ushana (hot potency), Ruksha (dry) Aahara Dravya (food substances) are beneficial.
- In Dhanva Desha – Sheet (cold potency), Snigdha Dravya (oily substances) are beneficial.
6. Kala (Time)
Kala is time, which denotes the constitution of the Sharira (body).
Charaka Samhita Vimana Sthana. 1/ 22. 6
कालों हि नित्यगश्चावस्थिकश्च: तन्नावस्थिको विकारमपेक्षते, नित्यगस्तु ऋतु सात्म्यापेक्षः ।
Kala stands for both the form of day and night and the states of the individual i.e., condition of health and age. Nityaga (Daily) in the form of day, night, and time to take food, Rutucharya, etc. Conditional (Avasthika) according to diseases one should consume food, which is conducive to the disease, age, etc.
As per Chakrapani Dutta, Ayurveda Dipika:
Two Kala are:
नित्यग इति अहो रात्रादिरूप:- Kala denotes day and night
विकारमपेक्षत इति बाल्यादिकृतं तु शलेष्मविकार ज्वरादिक॑ चाहारनियमार्थमपेक्षत इत्यर्थः |
In Bala Avastha Kaphaja Vikara occurs this is Nityaga Kala.
Avasthika Kala: Avasthika Kala is according to the stage of diseases
आवस्थिक इति रोगित्वबाल्या्यवस्थाविशेषित इत्यर्थ-
Eg. Nava Jwara – Divasvapna, Ati Vyayame Nishiddha (contraindicated)
Jirna Jwara- Ksheera (milk), Ksheerapana Nishiddha.
Thus Ahara Vidhi (intake of food) is to be planned after considering the Avasthika Kala.
7. Upyoga Samstha (Rules of Utilization of Food for the Individual)
When food is taken before the digestion (Paachan) of previous food then it will result in Ama (toxin) formation in the body which is harmful to the body. So every individual must take the food after the proper digestion of the previous food. This rule of the utilization of food after proper digestion is known as Upyoga Samstha.
Charaka Samhita Vimana Sthana. 1/ 22. 7
उपयोगसंस्था तूपयोगनियम: स जीर्णलक्षणापेक्ष: ॥
Upayoga Samstha denotes the rules for the utilization of food. They are for the most part dependent on the symptoms of digestion.
As per Chakrapani Dutta, Ayurveda Dipika:
As per chakrapani Dutta along with digestion of previous food, during intake of food individual should also take care of अजल्पन्नहसन्नाति नातिविलम्बितम i.e One should not talk or laugh or taking food. The disadvantages are the same as intake hurriedly. A person taking Tanmana Bhojana i.e., with full concentration knows about quantity, digestive power, and procedure. Nowadays this is the most common reason for Agnimandya. People do not concentrate on the food. Instead of that, they are busy Watching TV, Phone calls, Computer operations, Chatting, Talking, and Laughing, etc. Due to this, they can’t decide the exact quantity of food needed. Overeating badly affects their digestive power which leads to Agnimandya and ultimately many diseases like Obesity etc. One should not take food very slowly. The disadvantages of slow intake of food do not give satisfaction to the individual. In this situation, he would take more than what is required, or the food would become cold which results in irregularity in digestion.
अजीर्णभोजने तु महां सित्रदोषकोपलक्षणो दोषो भवतीत्ययमेवोदाहतः ।
Jirna Ahara Lakshana is considered as Pradhana because Ajirna Bhojana causes more vitiation of Dosha.
8. Upayokta (Habit of the Individual)
Upayokta means when sometimes we regularly intake a particular food substance it becomes Satamya to that individual and does not exhibit any harmful effect. Eg. As we know that Dadhi (Curd) is Shothkara but regular intake of curd by an individual is not harmful at all rather it exhibits beneficial effects on the body.
Charaka Samhita Vimana Sthana. 1/ 22. 7
उपयुक्ता पुनर्यस्तमाहारमुपयुक्ते, यदायत्तमोक सात्म्यम् । इष्टवाहर विधि विशेषायतनानि व्याख्यातानि भवन्ति।
Upayokta is that who consumes the food. He is the one responsible for the habitual intake of things i.e., Okasatmya. Thus, the eight factors which determine the utility or otherwise of various types of food are explained.
As per Chakrapani Dutta, Ayurveda Dipika: Upayokta (user /consumer) individuals have the habit of the combination of Hita and Ahita in their practice that all depends on the individual Oka Satmya.
Importance of Ashta Viddhi Vishesha Aaytnam (Eight dietetic factors)
Charaka Samhita Vimana Sthana. 1/ 23
एषाम विशेषाः शुभाशुभफलाः परस्परोपकारका भवन्ति; तान् बुभुत्सेत बुध्वा च हितेप्सुरेव ख्यात्: नच मोहात् प्रमादाद्वा प्रियम हितम सुखोदर्कमुपसेव्यमाहार जातमन्यद्वा किंचित्।।
These Ashta Vidhi Ahara Vishesha Ayatana (eight factors) are associated especially with useful and harmful effects, and they are conditioned by one another. One should try to understand them and after understanding, he should resort to useful things alone. Neither due to ignorance nor intentionally, one should resort to such food articles or other things (drugs, regimens, etc.) as are instantaneously pleasing but harmful in the long run leading to unhappy consequences.
As per Chakrapani Dutta, Ayurveda Dipika:
The factors influencing Ashta Vidhi Ahara Ayatana are mutually supportive of each other. For Example, Laghu is Shubha and Guru is Ashubha, but some limitations can be accepted in both conditions. Other factors like Desha Asatmyata, and Kala Asatmyata also contribute to understanding Hita Ahitata as an individual.
Example- In Ajirna Avastha Alpa Apathya Sevana also causes the disease, it may not be seen in all conditions. Some substances provide satisfaction for the time being but in the later period, this substance is not much beneficial.
Example – Jara Janya Trishna (old age thirst) – Shitala Jalapana is Ahitakara.
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- Sharma P.V, Charak Samhita Chaukhamba orientalia Varanasi- 221001, Ninth edition, 1: 306.
Article Written By: Dr. Sahil Gupta, Ayurvedic Allergy Specialist