In Ayurveda, how you eat your food is just as important as what you eat. Ayurveda understands that eating is one of the most sacred experiences we have. After all, when we eat our food, we are taking in the atoms and molecules that have been around in different forms since the beginning of time and asking them to become a part of us. If we eat our food properly, with awareness and respect, the food joins well with our bodies. If we do not, the food has difficulty joining with our bodies and causes gas and other digestive disturbances. The end result of poor digestion is ama (toxins formed from undigested food), and this can lead to disease. Therefore, in Ayurveda, we try our best to make eating a form of meditation and a daily sadhana (taking ordinary activity and approaching it with spiritual awareness).
Five Main Guidelines
- To prepare the body to receive food, begin meals with a prayer or by taking 3-5 slow breaths with eyes closed.
- Eat in a calm environment where there is little distraction. It is best to avoid the television, computer, reading, and phones. Minimize excessive conversation and all conversation about emotionally intense issues.
- Chew your food until it is an even consistency. This automatically directs awareness to the food in your mouth and supports improved digestion and absorption of food. It enhances the overall ability to extract more nutrients from the food.
- Eat at a moderate pace and until you are 75% full. Overeating is one of the significant causes of disease in our society. When we overeat, digestion becomes difficult.
- Following your meal let your food digest some before going on to the next activity. It is best to wait 15-20 minutes for food to digest. During this time engage in light conversation or read a light book. You can also go for a slow walk. If you are rushed, take at least 3-5 slow breaths to transition and mark a close to the sacred experience of eating.
- It is best to drink only a limited amount of liquid with meals. One-half cup of room-temperature water is average. Dry meals may require more. Moist meals, like soup, require none at all.
- Take all water and drinks at room temperature or warm. Cold drinks and ice destroy the digestive fire (Agni) and decrease digestion. This is true not only at mealtime but also throughout the day.
- The body's rhythms mirror those of the universe and digestion is strongest around noon when the sun is at its peak. Therefore, it is best to eat a larger meal around noon and have a lighter meal in the morning and the evening.
- Allow three hours between meals for food to digest. This allows most people 3-5 meals per day. Those with a Vata nature or imbalance should eat 4-5 times per day.
- Eat food prepared with love. The energy of the chef is always in the food. Avoid eating food prepared with anger or resentment. We eat not only the food but also the emotions of the chef.