Food in ayurveda has its own importance for our physical, mental and spiritual development, and so also for energy and temperament. Why then are we suffering from problems related to foods today? We have many kinds of food at our disposal that we have started over consuming. This overload has resulted in various sedentary conditions that are generation is suffering from such as obesity,hypertension,diabetes, pre-mature aging, etc. We found a answer in Ayurveda dating back around 5,000 years. I would like to tell you a very simple example that will explain how much one should eat. We all have kitchen grinder. How does it work? You need to put content into the steel container and close the lid and after plugging the device, we have to turn on the switch. With the rotation of blades inside it the contents are churned into a powder or paste. But here is the catch, if you take the same mixer and fill it up completely with groundnuts and try to churn that, it will not work. It stop rotating. You know why? Yes you guessed right, there is no space. If you remove ½ of it and put ¼th of water, now you can make a nice paste. The reason that the mixer stopped working when it was full because there was lack of space, the steel container did not allow expansion to accommodate more space.
What would happen if the container was of hard rubber, it would have expanded and allowed the contents to be churned, but with time the shape of the container would have changed to more than its original size. This is exactly what has been happening to us when we have been overeating or eating stomach full.
The stomach is approximately 25 cm long but its diameter depends on how much food it contain:
When its full, it holds about 4 liters of food.
When its empty, it breakdown inward on itself and its mucosa is thrown into large folds called rugae.
Thus it means that if we divide the stomach into four parts on the basis of space within then we should be eating two parts of food, one part should be for water and the remaining part should be empty to help in proper digestion .
We have not been practicing this very simple principle of how much one should eat. We eat until our stomach muscles are stretched. This long-term stretching of the muscles of the stomach due to overeating has led to us suffering from oversized stomachs and a condition that the world today is suffering from called metabolic syndrome. Extra pressure created due to overeating has also given rise to many chronic conditions like high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, etc.
If we start practicing this principle of how much one should eat in our lives for the next six months we will see a drastic change in our overall health, the results will so encouraging that you will continue this habit for life.
We can see the capacity of a kitchen grinder but that is not in the case of our stomach, we can not see it from the inside. How do we judge what is half of our stomach? The ‘control’ is in your mind. Every time you have your meals, who decides how much you need to eat. It is your mind! It tells you how much space you have and how much you should eat.
For eg. if you go to a restaurant and the waiter asks you, how much bread will you have? You think for a while and answer, ‘four’, your colleagues or family members with you might not order the same number of bread, they would order according to their appetite at that time.
This is exactly how our mind helps us decide what quantity one should eat. Once it helps you decide the quantity apply the principle (“ two parts for food, one part for water and one part empty forair should be the proportion of one’s food intake.”) of the quantity of food that one should take and order half of what the mind says. This is simple and the few days of practice will help you understand the art of quantifying the food that you should be eating to maintain a healthy life.
The order in which food should be consumed is very important in Ayurveda especially using tastes as the tool to decide the order. There are six tastes according to Ayurveda. The digestive enzyme in the body will act on different tastes. Sweet which is made of earth and water is heavy and hard to digest hence it should be consumed first, followed by the rest of the tastes. This means that we start our diet with a sweet and end it up with a bitter and astringent.
Have we been doing this for years? Unfortunately ‘NO’. We have been eating in an order completely reverse. We are living in culture that tells us to eat an ice-cream, dessert, after lunch or dinner. This is horribly wrong.
The main purpose of eating isto obtain the energy your body needs to do your daily activities and enjoy life. Some foods are better and more sustainable sources of energy than others. All of your body cells, including your brain, muscles, heart, lungs and red blood cells, use glucose, which is derived from the digestion of sugars and starches, as a sources of energy.