Assuming that the food is made from perfect raw material as discussed before, still there are some other factors that are imperative to make it a part of the perfect Ayurveda meal.
Eat warm food
The food should be warm. An optimal temperature should be maintained for the proper digestion of the food. Otherwise, the process of digestion is hindered or derailed. Derailed digestion produces toxins in the body that serve as the platform for disease formation. Therefore ideally one should never have cold drinks or cold food during any meal. Cold food reduces the optimal temperature of the body. This factor is especially significant for people with Vata and Kapha prakrati. They can face severe bloating, indigestion and other health problems in the long run. Therefore, it is very important to eat warm food. Again, to be specific, the food should be warm and convenient to eat and not boiling hot. Boiling hot food might create abnormally high temperatures in the stomach and may cause chronic acidity, peptic ulcers and many more problems. People with pitta prakrati should avoid having extremely hot food.
Water is important
Another very important factor for maintaining proper temperature is to have proper intake of water. Too much water intake just before a meal might reduce the optimal temperature of the meal and reduce the digestive capacity of the individual. Similarly having too much of water during the meals also affects the digestive capacity. Here water means plain normal temperature water and not liquid food like dal, soup, buttermilk etc. Therefore, instead of water one can have buttermilk, jaljira, soup etc. with the meal. These liquids help to stimulate the digestion instead of hampering it.
Freshly cooked food
Fresh or freshly cooked food is imperative for an Ayurvedic meal. Many people do not have time to prepare food at home and prefer to consume readymade, ready to eat or ready to cook food. These kinds of packaged food items have a shelf life of minimum 6 months normally. They are a stark diversion from the Ayurvedic concepts of healthy meal. Ideally, food should be consumed as fresh as possible. Stale food not only loses its nutritional value over a period of time, but it can also develop pathogenic microorganisms. Packaged foods contain heavy amount of chemicals in the form of emulsifiers, stabilizers, preservatives, artificial colors and flavours in order to maintain the edible state of the food. But these chemicals have very bad side-effects on the body than the stale food. They can cause a host of serious health problems like autoimmune disorders, cancer etc.
Quantity of food
Appropriate quantity of food is a crucial factor for proper digestion. According to Ayurveda, digestion is the key to health and should be preserved at all cost. Even if the food is healthy, fresh and warm, it will cause more harm than benefit if it is consumed in an inappropriate quantity. Inappropriate quantity can be both excess consumption or under consumption of food. If you are literally stuffing yourself with as much food as you can eat, then you are overburdening your digestion. In this case, much of the food will be left undigested or under digested. And such food causes toxins in the body. Besides it can cause obesity over a period of time, which is the mother of multiple other health disorders. If you are extremely hungry but you consume only a small quantity of food for a long period of time, you might face severe weakness, acidity, ulcers etc. However, over-eating is more dangerous than undereating at any point in time.
Appropriate amount of food intake is dependent on your appetite. It can vary on day to day basis. Therefore, it is important for a health conscious person to connect to his body and be attentive to its needs. If you feel hungry, eat. Otherwise refrain from eating. Besides, eat only till you start to feel satisfied, not stuffed. It is advisable to leave the food once 90% of your hunger is satisfied.
Proper combination of food is very important to have a balanced diet. Ideally, a meal should have all the 6 types of tastes – Sweet (madhura), sour (amla), salty (lavana), bitter (katu), pungent (tikta) and astringent (kashaya).
Now food combinations also play a very important role. Wrong combinations are made up of food that cannot be digested together or do not produce a desired result when digested together. Such a food combination is called “Viruddhahaar”. The word viruddha means opposite and Ahaar means food. The food that is contradictory in nature, digestive process. Such food should not be consumed together. If consumed together as a mixture, it leads to improper digestion and toxin creation in the body.
Some examples of such food is –
- Ghee and honey mixed in equal quantity
- Milk and curd mixed together
- Heavy food (Puri) with very light food (khichadi)
All such combinations should be avoided in order to preserve digestion.
Pleasing for all senses
And last but not the least, the appearance of the food and the external environment in which the food is served play an important role in ensuring proper consumption of the food.
The process of eating food ideally should be pleasing for all the 6 senses. A perfect Ayurvedic food should be colourful, decorated and well plated. It should be beautiful, flavoursome, soft and moderately warm to touch with appetizing aroma.
Light and pleasing music can be played according to the choice of the individual. The person who is going to eat should feel welcomed. Ideally, one should not talk, laugh or eat with his mouth open. One should not discuss problems or sad news over the dining table. Overall the environment should be pleasing, clean and comfortable.