Tips for Optimum Digestion According to the Ancient Wisdom of Ayurveda

This post comes to us from 2019 Hazon Food Conference Presenter Regina Mosenkis.

Ayurveda, meaning the “science of life” in Sanskrit, is a 5000 year old natural healing system originating in the Indian subcontinent. According to this ancient wisdom, optimal health and wellbeing are predicated on good digestion and the proper metabolism of food. While this body of knowledge around how food impacts us is exceptionally vast, below are some quick and useful Ayurvedic tips for small adjustments we can make in our eating that make a big overall difference.

When selecting & prepping your food:

  • Choose high energy foods by selecting top quality produce – organic and local when possible
  • Menu plan seasonally, or in Ayurveda, in balance to the “dosha” or elements of that season. For example: in the windy cool months of the fall, favor grounding warming foods.
  • Favor food that is properly cooked- ideally not raw and also and not overly cooked in order to preserve the “prana” or energetic life-force of the food.
  • Favor high quality spices, ground fresh whenever possible before use
  • Incorporate all six tastes in your meals: sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter and astringent

Food habits to favor. Eat like this:

  • Eat it fresh, ideally within 4 hours of preparation
  • In a settled, harmonious environment free of distractions
  • In a peaceful state of mind
  • In a sitting position
  • Only when you’re hungry
  • At a moderate pace
  • At regular times
  • At an interval of 2-4 hours after a light meal or 4-6 hours after a full meal
  • Allow 2-3 hours between dinner and going to bed
  • Only till two-thirds capacity
  • With gratitude for the food you receive and praise for the cook
  • Remain seated for a few minutes after completing your meal

The foods and habits around eating to avoid are the ones that create sluggish digestion, tiredness, and overall imbalance and disease over time.

Types of foods to avoid as they promote low energy or “prana” in Sanskrit:

  • Leftovers, especially ones over 24 hours, as they are hard to digest and assimilate
  • Frozen food
  • Improper combination of foods (listed below)
  • Foods that are cooked in a negative environment
  • Deep- fried foods
  • Canned food
  • Microwaved foods
  • Foods with preservatives

Incompatible foods to avoid:

  • Milk or heavy cream with nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and peppers) eggs, salt, fresh fruit or foods with a sour taste like yogurt, cheese and citrus.
  • Yogurt with nightshades, eggs, or fresh fruit, milk, or leafy greens.
  • Cheese with fresh fruit, nightshades, meat, bread, crackers, macaroni, beans, eggs.
  • Meat, fish or eggs, with dairy.
  • Cucumber with lemon or lemon juice.
  • Raw fruit with any other food (with the exception of pineapple and papaya).

Food habits to avoid or limit:

  • Consuming foods under stress
  • Consuming foods while on the run or in a moving vehicle
  • Consuming foods when feeling very emotional as it will feed and grow that emotion
  • Drinking ice water as it decreases the digestive fire, or “agni” in Sanskrit
  • Looking at a screen or watching television while eating.
  • Eating late at night
  • Falling asleep right after eating

For more information on Food & Ayurveda, explore these resources:
What to Eat for How You Feel: The New Ayurvedic Kitchen, by Divya Alter (Rizzoli, 2017)