Friday, March 22, 2013

Samyoga: The art of Food Combination

The order in which we eat different classes of foods, how we combine them, and the amounts we consume will determine how well we digest and assimilate our vital nutrients. The better we digest and assimilate our foods, the less likely we are to form toxic substances, accumulate excess fat, and crave unhealthy food articles.
According to Ayurveda, every food has its own taste (rasa), a heating or cooling energy (virya) and post-digestive effect (vipaka). When two or three different food substances of different taste, energy and post-digestive effect are combined together agni can become overloaded inhibiting the enzyme system and resulting in production of toxins in the system. While it is true that an individual's agni largely determines how well or poorly food is digested, food combinations are also of great importance.
When foods, (proteins, carbohydrates and fats) having different attributes, tastes, heating or cooling properties, and post-digestive effects are eaten together, agni will be slowed down. The foods can then remain in the stomach for seven to eight hours. These same foods, if eaten separately might well stimulate agni, be digested more quickly and even help to burn ama. Thus, according to Ayurveda, one should eat according to one's constitution and take fruits, starches, proteins and fats separately at different times of the day. Combining foods improperly can produce indigestion, fermentation, putrefaction and gas formation. This condition, if prolonged, can lead to toxemia and disease complex. For example, eating bananas with milk can diminish agni, change the intestinal flora producing toxins and may cause sinus congestion, cold, cough and allergies.
The principles of Ayurvedic food combining are derived from written information left us in the ancient writing of the Indian physicians living around 100 A.D.. The basic difference from how we are used to eating today is that they only ate two or three different types of foods at any one meal. We tend to have at least six or seven (if not more) types of food at most meals. Foods should not be too fancy. Gourmet foods with rich, sweet tastes will influence even the most strong-willed, health-conscious person to overindulge. Foods should be simple and naturally delicious.
Some important recommendations of Ayurvedic Food Combining include:

·      Avoid taking milk or yogurt with sour or citrus fruits.
·      Avoid eating fruits together with potatoes or other starchy foods. Fructose(fruit sugar) (and other sugars) is digested quickly, whereas starch takes quite some time. In this case the sugar would not be properly digested.
·      Avoid eating melons and grains together. Melons digest quickly whereas grains take more time. This combination will upset the stomach.
·      Melons should be eaten alone or left alone.
·      Honey should never be cooked. Honey digests slowly when cooked and the molecules become a non-homogenized glue which adheres to mucous membranes and clogs subtle channels, producing toxins. Uncooked honey is nectar. Cooked honey is poison.
·      Do not eat meat protein and milk protein together.
·      Milk and melons should not be eaten together. The action of hydrochloric acid in the stomach causes the milk to curdle. For this reason Ayurveda advises against taking milk with sour fruits, yogurt, sour cream, cheese, and fish.
·      Cold beverages should not be consumed during or directly after a meal as it reduces agni and digestion. Small sips of warm or tepid water taken during the meal serves to aid digestion.
·      While eating one should properly masticate the food in order to soften it and ensure that it is thoroughly mixed with saliva.
·      Vata and Pitta constitutions may finish a meal by drinking a cup of lassi. This can be made by blending four tablespoons of yogurt with pinches of ginger, fennel powder, and cumin powder in 3/4 cup of water.

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