Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Balanced eating - A healthy way of Living

Ayurveda, a science of life considers the health as a primary aim of life. To fulfill the four basic purposes of life which are Dharma (the duty) Artha (material gain) Kaam (to fulfill desires) and Moksha (Salvation), health is an essential tool. Without a sound state of health none of such purposes could be solved. For that matter, even any other purpose could not be fulfilled, if any. Physical body has been considered as a building which stands erect on a tripod of three essential commodities. Ahaara (food), Nidra (sleep), and Bramcharaya (celibacy) are these three pillars of life. 
It is important to understand the sequence in which these three pillars have been mentioned. Ayurveda asserts a great deal of importance to the food as one of the most essential contributes to the health. It is sad that we do not pay any thought before eating and use our food as an entertaining item of the life. Acharaya Charaka says, “Matraashi Syaat.” It means that one should eat in appropriate quantity. Though, it is difficult to exactly quantify the food in general because individual requirement remains different, however one needs to realize his/ her own need. Contrary to the general belief of eating specified number of calories, quantity of food is directly proportionate to the physical exertion of an individual.
Consumption of food depends upon multiple factors like, 
  • Time of consumption 
  • Quality of food 
  • Type of the food 
  • Processing of the food 
  • Combinations of the food 
  • Sequence of eating 
  • Age and type of physical exertion of the consumer 
  • Season
Coming back to the point of Matra (quantity) of the food, Acharaya Charaka says, “Ahaar Matra punah Agnibala apekshani.” It means, quantity of the food which should be consumed by an individual should depend upon the state of his/her digestion. Quantity of the food that digests properly in stipulated time without harming the constitution of an individual should be considered as an appropriate dosage of the food. 

Ahara Matra (quantity of the food) also depends upon the quality of the food to be consumed. Generally food items could be divided in two groups Guru (heavy to digest), and Laghu (light to digest). Guru Ahara could be defined as the food item which takes longer time to digest even if consumed in a lesser quantity. For example red meat, pork, fermented food products, rice, black lentils etc. While Laghu Ahara could be defined as food which is easy to digest and does not harm digestive fire even if consumed in large quantities. Relevant examples of it could be Moong Daal (green lentils), pop corns, brown rice etc.

The idea of understanding this concept is that one should consume heavier food items in a lesser quantity. Because being predominant of earth and water quotient they tend to increase doshas in the body. While lighter food items though gets digested easily, but predominance of fire and air elements in them may increase Vata and Pitta dosha. Ayurveda recommends that both of the qualities should be consumed in moderate quantity in order to strike equilibrium among the trinity of the biological humors. 

“The one who consumes food in appropriate quantity enjoys a sound health, well nourished metabolic factors, good complexion, contentment, and long life,” said Acharaya Charaka. Food consumed in proper dosage becomes an absolute remedy to the health.
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