Mealtime tips from the Ayurvedic perspective
Ask an ayurvedic physician for advice on nutrition, and you will find that the focus of his talk is your lunch. Of course, the diet tips will largely be based on the assessment of your individual body-type and current imbalances. But it is not just what you eat, but also how and when you eat it that matters. There are some how-and-when rules that apply to everyone, regardless of physiology.
You don’t need a fire extinguisher
Ayurveda, arguably the world’s oldest system of healing (and also one of the most evergreen), does not recommend drinking iced water especially before lunch. Ice is, no doubt, cool. And when you’re feeling hot or tired, or eating spicy food, a tall glass of iced water feels very, very nice indeed. But wait! Before you dip your lips into that glass, consider this:
The reason is simple.The coolness of ice, literally douses the digestive fires. It’s exactly like setting up a barbecue and then, inexplicably, turning it off even before grilling can begin! Just like the veggies on that grill cannot cook without fire, your lunch will sit heavy inside you for a long time if ice has dampened the metabolic energy required for good digestion.
Therefore, whatever the weather, ask for your water without ice. In fact, try ordering warm water instead! Surprising, but true: slightly warm water, taken even during summer, will help you cope better with the heat! Think about this for a moment, and it may well make sense: warm water works like a broom, moving accumulated toxins faster through your system. This reduces bloating and heaviness, making you feel lighter and cooler.
Go one step further and add some spices to your drinking water. Cumin is especially beneficial, for it helps digestion. Roast a teaspoon of cumin seeds on a griddle. When they release their aroma, coarsely crush them with a mortar and pestle or in a coffee-grinder. Stir into plain water, strain and enjoy.
But you do need a cooler
The suggested drink of choice for the afternoon is lassi: diluted fresh yogurt spiked with a touch of spice or sweetened with honey. It takes just a minute to make, and tastes delightful.
What’s more, the friendly lacto-bacilli in lassi aid digestion, especially if you drink the spiced version. What, you might ask, is the advantage lassi has over plain yogurt? Being a diluted form of yogurt, lassi is not only lighter, but also boosts the toxin-elimination process, while yogurt can actually clog the channels of flow. Taken before or with lunch, lassi is goodness itself. Here’s how to churn up a glass of lassi:
- 1 part fresh cold yogurt (preferably home-made)
- 3 parts water (at room temperature)
- A pinch each of cardamom, sugar, and rosewater.
- 1 part fresh cold yogurt
- 3 parts water (at room temperature)
- A pinch each of cumin, salt, ginger, and black pepper
In both recipes, blend ingredients together for a minute.
Follow the rhythm of digestion
Lunch, it is suggested, should always be your main meal. Noon is when both your energy levels and your appetite are or at least should be if your physiology is in balance, at peak. The energy that first kindles appetite and then digests food is called agni, the Sanskrit word for fire. Eat a light but nutritious breakfast and dinner. In the morning digestion is starting to build toward the midday peak and evening, to calm down.
If you eat large portions at breakfast and dinner regardless of whether the meal is healthy or not, you will be expecting the diminished digestive activity to burn a heavy load. This would be akin to expecting a candle to cook a casserole. After using up and burning whatever it can, the digestive process will leave undigested wastes to ferment in the body. Result: disturbed digestion, interrupted flow of nutrients and wastes across your body channels. It’s really that simple.
A word of caution: making lunch your heaviest meal certainly does not mean you overload your stomach. The rule of thumb, is to eat up to three-quarters of your capacity at any given meal. So leave the table feeling not quite replete, and you will discover you have defeated forever the post-lunch slump that usually hits if you are too full.