Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Food Habits and Virudha Ahara in Ayurveda

The directions of Ayurveda acharyas on food habits appear to be too tough to follow in present conditions.

Appetite, according to Ayurvedic principles is the mechanism of body to tell the brain that the body needs food. Eating food at the right time will automatically create appetite or hunger at the right times.
Man needs to take food only two times a day - in the morning and in the evening. 
The body requires food only after the taken food is digested.

One will not feel appetite when his mind is disturbed – sadness, anger, fear, etc are negative emotions. Food taking with a disturbed mind doesn’t get absorbed by the body. Eating food should be in a pleasant environment, possibly in the presence of family or friends.

Eating the food should be a slow process. 
Completely chew the food before swallowing. 
This is needed for good digestion of food.  
A little walk a few minutes after taking food can help in better digestion of the taken food. 
Don’t exert body immediately after taking food. 
Another thing is to avoid eating for time pass.

There are also chances for food poisoning. The general symptoms of food poisoning are described in different Ayurvedic texts. Infected meat has blue lines, milk has dark red lines, alcoholic drinks have black and white lines, etc provide quick diagnostic measures of food poisoning.

The preservatives added to food are also chemicals that can act as poison. Modern researches hint that accumulation of chemicals from such preservatives and additives can even stunt the mental growth of children.

People at the time of origin of Ayurveda, the science of life didn’t have to worry much about baked or fried food items. Modern man eats a lot of bakery products like cake, pastries, drink artificial drinks like colas – all these can cause different problems to digestive system, blood, and bones.

Any food that can affect the balance of any of the three doshas of tridosha can be termed a Virudha aharam  or incompatible food. Certain food items when combined together can create reactions. These reactions can sometimes be harmful to health. Food items that cause such reactions are known as incompatible food.

Categories of food as per Ayurveda :

01. Shuka Dhaanya - Cereals: 
Wheat, rice, barley, maize, millet, corn, etc. are principle ingredients of Indian cooking. The cereals are natural sources of nourishment for human body. Carbohydrates are their major constituents. They also contain about 6% to 12% proteins. The presence of minerals and vitamins is, however, nominal in the cereals; only vitamin B is found in greater quantity in their outer sheath. The shelf life of these cereals ranges between one to two years after harvesting. Sprouted cereals have more nutrition value and are richer in proteins and vitamins.

02. Shimbi Dhaanya - Pulses and Legumes : 
This category of grains consists of grams and pulses, which are rich in proteins. Gram, green gram, kidney-bean seeds, red and yellow gram and lentil, black-gram, soybean seeds, dry-peas, etc. fall in this category. These are main source of proteins for vegetarians. The protein contents and mode of metabolism of these are healthier and more compatible with the metabolic functioning of the human body as compared to those in the non-vegetarian foods (meat, chicken, eggs etc.) Use of fresh sprouts of whole pulses and legumes in balanced quantities in breakfast and main meals is an excellent means of maintaining natural health.

03. Kanda Moola - Tubers and Roots : 
Potato, sweet tuber (sweet potato), carrot, beetroot, turnip, radish, etc. are members of this class of naturally healthy foods. They are rich in carbohydrates and are important sources of balanced calories in our bodies and activation of metabolism. These, if eaten in appropriate quantities, are good means of strength and energy in the body system. These could even be used as substitutes for varieties of cereal dishes. The rishimunis (Sages) of the ancient times used to take only Kandamula as their main food.

04. Phala - Fruits : 
As we all know, vitamins, minerals, natural glucose and carbohydrates are present in substantial proportions in fresh fruits. Amalki, apple, bilva (wood-apple), banana, black-plum (rose-apple), dates, figs, grapes, guava, mango, orange, pomegranate, papaya, sweet-lime, etc. are easily available fruits in almost all parts of India. According to Ayurveda, these fruits also have medicinal properties. Fruits like apricot, cherry, pineapple, strawberry, etc. could also be used when available. Ayurveda emphasizes that fruits should be eaten in their specific season, and should be naturally ripe. Overripe or rotten fruits are harmful. Raw fruits would be difficult to digest and will not have the desired natural qualities. Care should be taken to avoid eating fruits preserved in cold storage and those ripened through the use of chemicals like carbide. These have severe negative effects, frequent use of such unnaturally ripened fruits might cause dreaded diseases like cancer.

05. Shakas - Vegetables : 
Fresh vegetables are important ingredients of a healthy food. They provide us with essential vitamins, minerals, and compounds. Use of different types of green beans, bitter gourd, brinjal (eggplant), cabbage, cauliflower, cucumber, green-gourd, okra (bhindi), tomato, etc. is very good for health. Different types of vegetables supplement each other in fulfilling the body’s requirement of vitamins, minerals etc. Likewise the use of fruits, specific vegetables should also be consumed only in the specific season of their natural growth. Use of vegetables of one season in another season is prohibited in Ayurveda.

06. Harithaka - Greens Leafy Vegetables : 
Coriander-leaf, fenugreek-leafs, green peas, mint-leafs, radish-leaf, spinach, etc. should be part of a healthy diet. Iron, calcium and other mineral and vitamin C and E etc. present in these green leafy vegetables or salads, are essential for our body’s proper nourishment.

07. Shuska Phala - Dry Fruits and Oil Seeds : 
Almond, cashew nut, chestnut, coconut, groundnut, peanut, pistachio, etc. are very rich in proteins. The oils inside these provide natural lubricants and facts necessary for the body’s mechanical and other functions. The edible, oily-seeds of sesame, mustard etc. also serve this purpose.

08. Ikshu - Glucose rich substances : 
Molasses, sugarcane, sugar treacle, and other glucose rich substances fall in this category. These are often used to sweeten the drinks and eatables. These contain hundred percent carbohydrates, which are the major source of producing energy in the body.

09. Ambu - Watery or Juicy substances : 
This category includes all edible substances that are rich in water-content. Fruits like watermelon, which contain about 90% water, are prominent in this category. Major part of our body-system is filled with water. We should fulfill the consistent requirement of its supply by drinking substantial amount of water. Fresh lemon squash, etc. and juice of watery fruits, if taken in balanced quantities, also supply us with other nourishing substances along with water.

10.  Dugdha - Milk and Milk products : 
Milk, curd, buttermilk, cheese, etc. fall in this group. Milk (especially, cow-milk) is said to be a whole food in itself. Curd is also nourishing food with several medicinal qualities, if taken fresh and in appropriate quantities in different seasons as per one’s prakrati (level of tridosa). Fresh cheese and its products (if not fried) are wholesome sources of calories. Buttermilk (takra) is referred in Ayurveda as an important medicinal food. Condensed milk and milk powder might be easy to preserve and use, and may help in making delicious dishes, but these are harmful to health, particularly in the cozy life-style we have adopted and because of the chemical synthesis processes used in their preparation. Use of condensed milk and milk powder or dairy whiteners should therefore be avoided as far as possible. In view of the reports of adulteration of milk by mixing urea and other chemicals, contaminated water, etc., these days, we should be careful in verifying and ascertaining that milk and its products are free from toxins.

11. Sneha -  Oils and Fats : 
Butter, ghee (butter clarified by boiling and straining), edible oils and fatty substances, if taken in balanced amounts, are also part of a healthy diet. These are highly rich in calories. (On an average, about nine calories are gained from 1gm of any of these substances). These help in fulfilling the requirements of lubrication of body parts (especially, joints) and energy production in the body-system. They also generally contain vitamins A, D, E and K. However, excess use of these substances is harmful to both physical and mental health. Extra care should therefore be taken to keep the level of proportion of this category to the essential minimum in our daily meals.

12. Krithanna Varga - Cooked Food and Edible Compounds : 
Ayurveda considers ‘cooked food’ as a separate class of food. All the categories described above are independent of each other and, as we know, most of the constituents of these could be consumed raw or sprouted. Cooking changes the natural properties of food ingredients. However, eating this class of food is important because proper cooking (esp. of cereals and pulses) makes the food easily digestible and many of the new edible compounds produced under this process would also be of vital use in the metabolic system and other body-functions.  The use of pre-cooked food-ingredients and the so-called “fast foods” should be avoided, as it has very adverse effects on our body-system. Apart from lacking in nourishing value this type of ‘modern’ food is very likely to impair the normal functioning of our digestive system and cause harmful mutations due to the chemicals in the preservatives, the artificial flavors and the chemically processed cooking involved in its preparation.

Incompatible Food Combinations :

01. Avoid eating fruits together with potatoes or other starchy foods. 
Fructose (and other sugars) is digested quickly, whereas starch takes quite some time. In this case the sugar would not be properly digested. 

02. 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. 

03. 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. 

04. Do not eat meat protein and milk protein together. 
Meat is heating and milk is cooling so they counteract one another, disturb agni and produce ama. 

05. Milk and melons should not be eaten together. 
Both are cooling, but milk is laxative and melon is diuretic, and milk requires more time for digestion. Moreover 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. 

06. Ayurveda insists that iced water should not be drunk during or after a meal as it slows agni and digestion.

07.  Protein - Starch Combination :
Do not eat meat, (flesh), eggs, cheese, nuts or other protein foods at the same meal with bread, cereals, potatoes, sweet fruits, cakes etc.
The hamburger, egg sandwiches, cheese sandwiches and other such protein-starch combinations are similar dietetic abominations.
Digestion of carbohydrates (starches and sugars) and of protein is so different, that when they are mixed in the stomach they interfere with the digestion of each other. An acid process (gastric digestion) and an alkaline process(salivary digestion) cannot be carried on at the same time in an ideal way in the stomach. In fact, they cannot proceed together at all for long as the rising acidity of the stomach contents soon completely stops carbohydrate digestion and this is followed by fermentation.

08. Acid - Starch Combination :
Never eat carbohydrate foods and acid foods at the same time. Do not eat bread, potatoes, or peas or beans or bananas or dates or other carbohydrates with lemons, limes, oranges, grape-fruits, pineapples, tomatoes, berries, sour apples, sour grapes, or other sour fruit. A weak acid will destroy the ptyalin enzyme of the saliva. With the destruction of the ptyalin starch digestion must come to a halt.
Take a tomato sandwich as an example. Tomatoes should never be combined with any starch food. They may be eaten with leafy vegetables and fat foods. The combination of citric, malic and oxalic acids found in tomatoes ( which is released and intensified by cooking) is very antagonistic to the alkaline digestion of starches in the mouth and the stomach. Oxalic acid diluted to 1 part in 10000 completely arrests the action of ptyalin. There is sufficient acetic acid in one or two teaspoonfuls of vinegar to entirely suspend salivary digestion. The acids of tomatoes, oranges, grapefruits, lemons, pineapples, sour apples and other sour fruits are sufficient to destroy the ptyalin of the saliva and suspend starch digestion.

09. Starch - Sugar Combination :
Ptyalin has no action upon sugar. When sugar is eaten there is a copious flow of saliva, but it contains no ptyalin. Sugars undergo no digestion in the mouth and stomach. They are digested in the intestine. If taken alone, sugars are not held in the stomach long, but are quickly sent into the intestine. All sugars, commercial sugars, syrups, sweet fruits, honey etc. have an inhibiting effect upon the secretion of gastric juice and upon the digestive movements of the stomach. When eaten with other foods, either proteins or starches, they are held up in the stomach for a prolonged period, awaiting the digestion of the other foods. This type of eating almost guarantees acid fermentation.
Jellies, jams, fruit pastes, white or brown sugars, honey, molasses, syrups etc. added to breads, pastries, cereals, potatoes etc. produce fermentation. Millions of our people eat cereals and sugar for breakfast and suffer with sour stomach, sour eructation and other evidences of indigestion. Sweet fruits with starch also result in fermentation. Breads containing dates, raisins, figs etc are dietetic abominations. If the starch is disguise with sugar, honey syrup, jams jellies etc. this will prevent the adaptation of the saliva to starch digestion.
Bread and butter taken together cause no unpleasantness, but if sugar or jam or marmalade is added trouble may follow. Mixtures of starch and sugar invite fermentation and its attendant evils. 

10. Protein - Protein Combination :
The strongest digestive juice will be poured out in the first hour with flesh, in the third hour with bread, in the last hour of digestion with milk.
Eggs receive the strongest secretion at a different time to that received by either flesh or milk. In our eating practices we habitually ignore such facts. Eggs should not be taken with flesh or milk. Recall the harm that was done to tubercular patients by feeding them the abominable combination of eggs and milk.
Such protein combinations as flesh and eggs, flesh and nuts, flesh and cheese, eggs and milk, flesh and milk, eggs and nuts, cheese and nuts, milk and nuts etc., should not be taken. One protein food at a meal will certainly assure greater efficiency in digestion.


11. Acid - Protein Combination :
Do not eat acid fruits with proteins. Oranges, tomatoes, lemons, pineapples, etc. should not be eaten with meat, eggs, cheese or nuts.

12. Sugar - Protein Combination :
Eat sugars and proteins at separate meals. When combined with other foods, either protein or starches, sugars are held up in the stomach for a prolonged period, awaiting the digestion of the other foods, and they undergo fermentation.

13. Milk and Cereals :
A dish of boiled oat-meal, to which has been added milk and sugar, is one of the worst abominations that ever slipped down the human throat.
Flaked cereal foods (various types of corn flakes and other such foods) are much in use. Chemical analysis shows them to be possessed of abundant food value, though actually, they are largely charcoal. They are said to be ready-cooked and pre-digested. This is a fallacy that the public must outgrow. They are pressed between rollers at intense heat and are rendered practically valueless as foods. Wheat is the most acid- forming of the cereals. Oats seem to have the worst effect on the teeth.
Denatured cereals with pasteurised milk and white sugar is a predominantly acid forming breakfast, a horrible combination, and plenty of sickness as a result. 

14. Bread :
We know that too much bread, if taken alone, will break down one's health. Made of cereals, largely of denatured cereals, mixed with salt, soda, yeast, lard and often other ingredients and subjected to a high degree of temperature in cooking, and then eaten three or four times a day in considerable quantities, mixed indiscriminately with all classes of foods, and taken in addition to much other starch food, bread is one of our chief sources of woe.
But the combination of bread and meat causes even more trouble.  

15. Potatoes :
Cereal starches require from eight to twelve times as long to digest as does potato starch. Two full hours are required to digest the starch of wheat, corn and rice, and eighty minutes to digest the starch of oats, whereas the same amount of potato starch digests in ten minutes. 

16. Vegetarians :
Cereal and farinaceous foods form the basis of the diet of so-called "vegetarians' who are not guided by any direct principle, except that they believe it is wrong to eat animal food. For this reason vegetarians enjoy no better health, and live no longer than those around them. Vegetarians are usually great eaters of cereals. In fact they would receive less harm from moderate amounts of meat.

17. Take Milk alone :
Due to its protein and fat (cream) content, milk combines poorly with most foods. It will combine fairly well with acid fruits.
In feeding milk to young children, a fruit meal may be fed and then half an hour afterwards milk may be given. The milk should not be given with the fruits, except in the case of acid fruits.

The continuous struggle with indigestible food mixtures and with the poisonous products of their bacterial decomposition sooner or later wears out the body.

So Think Twice...
Before You Eat....


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  3. Thank you for such an article. I think , all the above mentioned details will be very useful to the persons who really wanted to know deeply in that subjects.

    Anyhow this post has gifted a good reading experience to me and all other readers. As some of the above readers are demanding for a Malayalam version of this post, i too strongly recommend you to proceed for the same. And i am sure that it will be a good job if you could write and share such kind of a post among us.

    with best wishes.

  4. useful article ,peoples need to be more aware about the concept of virudhahara .most of the life style diseases can control by following a healthy diet .now most of the cuisines are the mixture of virudhahara...

  5. Thank you for this very informative article. Could you share some sample menus too along with this. That would be a good starting point for us. Thank you

  6. The article is good but without any authentication from Ayurveda, as virudha ahara is mentioned. Caraka enumerated 18 types of Virudha Ahara. Will it be possible to fit the
    above into those 18 types ? Try based on the Tridoshas.
    Vaidya Pammi Satyanrayana Sastry.

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