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Ayurvedic Nutrition (Ahara Vigyan)

Ayurvedic Nutrition: East & West

The difference between Conventional and Ayurvedic Nutrition:

Subject Conventional Nutrition Ayurvedic Nutrition

Personal preference, habit, body
Why We Eat To take in Prana to live
image, emotions, etc.
Nutritional Element Calories Panchamahabhuta
Counting calories from different food
Focus How the body processes what we eat
Importance Caloric value Individual Constitution
Balance Balancing food ingredients Balancing diet depending on Prakriti
Dietary Recommendations Depends on food groups Depending on the taste of the food
Goal You are what you eat You are what you digest
Ahara: A Definition
 Ahara: Anything we take-in to
nourish our body and mind.

 Food
 Water
 Breath
 Information through sense
Ahara: Importance
1. Food provides building blocks to create new 5. Strength, health, and our life depend on Agni. But
Dhatus. Dhatus are the reservoir of the energy in Agni is also constantly replenished from the food we
different forms. Dhatus are constantly broken eat. So to maintain “Sama Agni” eating balanced
down to utilize energy. So replenishing good food is essential.
quality Dhatus is essential. For this, balanced 6. Strength, energy, clarity of mind, radiance of skin,
food is important. immunity and sharpness of senses depends on the
2. In Ayurveda, eating food is considered as a ritual food we eat.
as food not only nourishes the body but also 7. Diet is very critical in disease state also. Many times
nurtures the soul and the mind. Food is called as wrong foods become the cause of the disease and
‘Poornabrahma’. the right foods, the treatment of the disease. So in
3. Food energizes the Mind. It’s Sattvic, Rajasic, or health or in sickness eating right diet is very critical.
Tamasic gunas depend on the food we consume. 8. An important quote from Dr. Coop: “No disease can
4. Let my food be my medicine. Our health depends be cured unless supplemented by the right diet.
solely on the food we intake. About 90% of the diseases can be prevented by right
diet alone”.
Agni: The Energy of Transformation,
Digestion and Metabolism

Life is constantly changing (Nityaga). Energy is  Agni is the Teja Mahabhuta in the body.
utilized for all of the physiological actions and  Agni governs our life, strength, health,
functions in the body. Tissues are constantly
energy, luster, Ojas and Tejas.
being broken down and rebuilt. They need
replenishment from food, water and air. The  Agni represents the root of healthy life
body does not utilize all foods in the same when balanced. If deranged, it causes
manner and they need to be transformed into disease
physical form to build new tissues. The energy
responsible for this discrimination and  Agni keeps us alive. If Agni is
transformation is called Agni. extinguished, the person dies.
Agni: Functions
 Digests food.
 Nourishes the Doshas:
 Balanced Vata creates energy.
 Balanced Pitta creates radiance.
 Balanced Kapha creates strength.
 Nourishes Dhatus. Creates Ojas, Tejas and Prana
(Subtle Doshas).
 Clears mind, thoughts and ideas.
 Maintains life force.
 Separates Sara and Kitta (Mala) with Samana Vayu.
Shadrasatmaka Ahara: The Six Tastes
1. The sensation that the tongue experiences.
2. Taste is the sense and tongue is the sense organ. As soon as the Taste Bhoutic Composition
tongue comes into contact with food, the taste is perceived. Madhura | Sweet Earth + Water
3. The action of each taste is because of its bhoutic composition.
4. There are four varieties of taste buds on the tongue, each perceiving Amla | Sour Earth + Fire
sweet, sour, salty or bitter taste. Sweet and salty are perceived at the Lavana | Salty Water + Fire
tip of the tongue, sour on the side and bitter at the back. Pungent
taste irritates the mucus membrane and astringent taste pulls the Katu | Pungent Fire + Air
mucus membrane. Kashaya | Astringent Air + Earth
5. To maintain Dosha balance and for proper functioning of the body all
6 tastes need to be consumed (in certain proportion). Tikta | Bitter Air + Ether
6. Sweet taste builds most of the Dhatus so we should consume sweet
foods (grains – not candies) in larger amount.

 Tastes are the key factors in the modification of diet.

The Effect of the Tastes on the Body
Sweet (Madhura)

Increases Kapha, reduces Vata and Pitta, builds and

strengthens all of the Dhatus, stimulates salivation,
improves circulation, strengthens the heart, acts as a
demulcent, expectorant, mild laxative, relieves thirst
heartburn and increases milk production.

Examples of Sweet
Complex carbohydrates, sweet fruits, grains, root
vegetables such as potatoes and beets, sugar, honey,
milk, cheeses, oils and meats.
The Effect of the Tastes on the Body
Sour (Amla)

Increases Kapha and Pitta, reduces Vata, stimulates acid

secretions, helps digestion, reduces gas, increases
circulation, works as an anticoagulant and sharpens the

Examples of Sour
Yogurt, limes and other sour fruits, alcohol, vinegar and
cheese, etc.
The Effect of the Tastes on the Body
Salty (Lavana)

Increases Kapha and Pitta and reduces Vata, makes food

tasty, strengthens Agni (Deepana), improves digestion
(Pachana), maintains electrolyte balance in the body, acts as
a laxative, sedative, is calming to the nerves and Vata,
relieves spasms. Salt baths remove toxins from the body,
make the Dhatus flabby due to water retention, increase
thirst and salivation and vitiate the blood.

Examples of Salty
All salts: Rock, sea, gypsum and black salts.
The Effect of the Tastes on the Body
Pungent (Katu)

Improves metabolism, helps digestion and absorption,

reduces congestion, improves circulation, relieves pain and
muscle tension, anticoagulant, cleanses mouth, raises body
temperature, kills worms, promotes sweating.

Examples of Pungent
Jalapenos, ginger, black pepper, pippali, cloves, cayenne
pepper, garlic and wasabi (horse radish).
The Effect of the Tastes on the Body
Astringent (Kashaya)

Constricts blood vessels, stops bleeding and flow, promotes

healing, antidiuretic, antibiotic, antibacterial, haemostatic,

Examples of Astringent
Alum, the peel of a fruit, unripe banana, pomegranate peel,
turmeric, golden seal, leafy green vegetables, blueberries,
cranberries and beans, etc.
The Effect of the Tastes on the Body
Bitter (Tikta)

Purifies blood, detoxifies body, antibiotic, antiseptic,

antihelmentic, antipyretic, reduces body temperature and
depletes the tissues (especially reproductive tissue); liver

Examples of Bitter
Leafy vegetables, Neem, aloe, golden seal, fenugreek, black
tea, myrrh and bitter melon.
The Effect of the Tastes on the Mind & Emotions
Tastes affect not only our body but our mind also. As they have an effect on our emotions, it is
important not to overindulge.

Taste Action on Mind Effect of Overindulgence

Madhura: Sweet Compassion, satisfaction Attachment, possessiveness
Amla: Sour Discrimination, stimulation Envy, jealousy and anger
Lavana: Salty Confidence, zest for life Greed, over ambition
Katu: Pungent Extroversion, boldness Anger, violence, hatred
Kashaya: Astringent Introversion Insecurity, fear
Tikta: Bitter Dissatisfaction, isolation Grief, sorrow
The Effect of Too Little Taste

Taste Effect of Underindulgence

Madhura: Sweet Weak Dhatus, debility
Amla: Sour Acid imbalance
Lavana: Salty Water imbalance
Katu: Pungent Weak digestion, poor circulation, cold extremities
Kashaya: Astringent Excessive discharge
Tikta: Bitter Accumulation of toxins
Food Guidelines
Along with what we eat, where we eat, how we eat, when we eat make all the
difference in our health. This thought is unique in Ayurveda. Ayurvedic eating is not
generalized. It is “person” specific.

→ Eat according to your Age and Body constitution

→ Eat fresh and seasonal vegetables and fruit
→ Eat freshly cooked and warm food. It strengthens Agni,
digests food better, reduces excess Kapha and Vata
→ Eat food, which has enough oil, and is moist enough (not
fried). It tastes better, helps Agni, Builds Dhatus, and
increases strength.
→ Do not eat food with wrong combination. E.g. Honey and
ghee when combined in equal quantities is poisonous.
Mixing sour fruits and milk curdles the milk.
Food Guidelines: Eating
1. Eat enough quantity considering the state of Agni, and Doshas.
2. Eat three meals a day.
3. Eat after previous food is digested.
4. Set specific time and place.
5. Eat with proper frame of mind (a happy mood).
6. Create a pleasant environment (flowers, music, incense).
7. Wash hands thoroughly.
8. Feed somebody before you eat.
9. Bless your food before eating.
10. Do not eat very slow or very fast. Take your time and chew your food longer (each bite 32 times, according to
Ayurveda). Food starts digesting in the mouth by Bodhaka Kapha. We enjoy the taste of the food while it is in the
mouth. It reduces the amount of food we eat.
11. Do not eat on the run or while watching TV. Concentrate on the food and eat.
Food Guidelines: Eating
Quantity of Food
→ Consider the age, constitution, season, balance/ imbalance of Doshas,
exercise, type of food.
→ The rule of thumb: eat food to ½ your capacity. Drink water to ¼ of your
capacity and leave room for ¼ of your capacity, for the food to move in
the stomach for digestion.
→ Eat heavy and sweet foods in less quantity. Eat light food to fill your

The signs of right quantity of food are:

1. Feeling satisfied
2. Not feeling heavy
3. Should be able to breathe, talk and walk easily
4. Indriyas become sharp
The realm of Ayurveda has no boundaries……

Drinking Water
→ 70 % of our body is made up of water. To replenish water
loss is very important. So everybody should drink water
→ If we drink before the meal, the Agni becomes weak
(diluted), fills the stomach with water so the person
becomes weak.
→ If we drink water right after a meal, it creates more
Kapha, causing weight gain. It is considered as a poison.
→ Sipping water during the meal is ideal. It helps digestion,
absorption, and Dhatu building.

 Drinking a little water during meals and

when you are thirsty is the most ideal way
Dr. Jayarajan Kodikannath
to drink. The quantity of water varies
Academy Director depending on Constitution.
Kerala Ayurveda Academy (USA) Thank You