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Eat healthy, Be happy!

With the lock­down con­tin­u­ing in India, peo­ple are find­ing cre­ative ways of engag­ing them­selves. There are 2 camps of them. One camp is try­ing out new recipes and the oth­er is order­ing food online. Both camps agree on one thing that they are look­ing at some­thing healthy, tasty and dif­fer­ent. Our food pref­er­ences depend on a num­ber of fac­tors includ­ing genet­ics, eth­nic­i­ty, emo­tions etc. Do you know that even your mood can impact your food choic­es? Stress makes 65% of the peo­ple hyper­phag­ic and 35% hypophag­ic. When in stress, CRH is released by the hypo­thal­a­mus and it sup­press­es hunger. Glu­co­cor­ti­coids are also released which increase hunger. So depend­ing on what impacts more, we either feel more hun­gry or less hun­gry when in stress. The food that you eat because of stress in turn cre­ates an impact: it makes you feel good or can ampli­fy the prob­lem. The Indi­an tra­di­tion clas­si­fies all that we eat into 4 types (some­times 6 types). These include Bho­jya: Foods that are eater Peya: Foods that are drunk Choshya: Foods that are sucked Lep­ya: Foods that are licked. Rice is Bho­jya, juice is Peya, a juicy man­go is Choshya and pan­cham­ru­tam is Lep­ya type.

Bha­ga­van Shri Krish­na says

अहं वैश्वानरो भूत्वा प्राणिनां देहमाश्रित: | प्राणापानसमायुक्त: पचाम्यन्नं चतुर्विधम्

I am the one who takes the form of the fire of diges­tion in the stom­achs of all liv­ing beings, and com­bine with the prana- incom­ing breath and apana-out­go­ing breath, to digest and assim­i­late the four kinds of foods. Bho­jya: eat­en, Lehya: licked, Peya: drunk , Choshya: suck­ing

Gunas and Aahara

We would often heard elders talk about eat­ing Satvik aahar espe­cial­ly on vra­ta days. Yog­ic diet, inter­mit­tent fast­ing and sev­er­al oth­er “diets” find men­tion in social media and news arti­cles. What is this Satvik aahar?

आयु:सत्त्वबलारोग्यसुखप्रीतिविवर्धना: | रस्या: स्निग्धा: स्थिरा हृद्या आहारा: सात्त्विकप्रिया: || 17.8||

āyuḥ-satt­va-balār­o­gya-sukha-prīti-vivard­hanāḥ rasyāḥ snigdhāḥ sthirā hṛidyā āhārāḥ sāttvi­ka-priyāḥ

Foods that pro­mote long-life, strength, hap­pi­ness, are juicy, fat and nutri­tion rich, pleas­ant and sub­stan­tial are pre­ferred by peo­ple of satvik nature and in turn enhance sat­va guna.

This def­i­n­i­tion of Satvik aahar from the Bha­gavad Gita pro­vides a broad guide­line to look at the food that we eat. After hav­ing cer­tain types of foods like juices, sal­ads, soups, mil­lets and sim­ple foods we feel fresh and ener­getic. Some of these sim­ple foods so fill­ing even with a hand­ful of them. They pro­vide ener­gy for a suf­fi­cient­ly long time and feel pleas­ant after diges­tion. They do not take much time to digest as well. Such foods are satvik.

कट्वम्ललवणात्युष्णतीक्ष्णरूक्षविदाहिन: | आहारा राजसस्येष्टा दु:खशोकामयप्रदा: || 17.9|| kaṭv-amla-lavaṇā­ty-uṣhṇa- tīkṣhṇa-rūkṣha-vidāhi­naḥ āhārā rājasasyeṣhṭā duḥkha-śhokā­maya-pradāḥ

The Gita says that foods that are bit­ter, sour, salty, spicy, hot, dry and pun­gent are pre­ferred by those of Raja­sic nature. Rec­ol­lect the time when you had spicy food or cof­fee or a can of ener­gy bev­er­age. Did­n’t you feel a surge of ener­gy all of a sud­den? Have you noticed that when you some foods, you feel agi­tat­ed and rest­less? If you haven’t observed, may be its a good thing to do now. Right after food, observe your feel­ing. Do the same thing after 30 min­utes and then again after an hour or so. If you feel dis­tract­ed, agi­tat­ed or rest­less then most like­ly the food you had has had a raja­sic impact on your sys­tem. Raja­sic foods give you a boost in ener­gy to take up an activ­i­ty but then after that surge you feel a lull and feel like tak­ing a nap or just lying down.

Once the essence of the raja­sic foods like cof­fee is absorbed by the blood­stream, it trav­els straight to the brain and then blocks the neu­ro­trans­mit­ter that caus­es sleep-adeno­sine . We feel awake and high. Did you know that spicy foods are rich in a chem­i­cal called cap­saicin? Cap­saicin excites the recep­tors in the skin and sig­nals the brain as if a hot sub­stance has come close to the skin. This con­fus­es the brain a bit because these cells are excit­ed only through hot objects but cap­saicin is a chem­i­cal that is excit­ing them. We fend up feel­ing the sen­sa­tion of heat or warmth. Over expo­sure to cap­saicin can cause pain and sen­si­ti­za­tion and some­times can lead to desen­si­ti­za­tion. This cre­ates a cer­tain ner­vous­ness in the body and hence a raja­sic behav­ior.

यातयामं गतरसं पूति पर्युषितं च यत् | उच्छिष्टमपि चामेध्यं भोजनं तामसप्रियम् || 10|| yāta-yāmaṁ gata-rasaṁ pūti paryuṣhi­taṁ cha yat uchch­hiṣhṭam api chāmed­hyaṁ bho­janaṁ tāmasa-priyam

Foods that are over­cooked, putrid, stale, left over and impure are had by peo­ple of tama­sic nature. Mod­ern research points that foods that are pol­lut­ed with chem­i­cals result in har­mon­al imbal­ance, prob­lems with neu­ro­trans­mit­ters, mood dis­or­ders, anx­i­ety and an unhealthy life. A food that lacks vig­or and vital ener­gy leads to a dull tama­sic life.


Food just is a small part of our life. At least, that is what we think. Can it have such a huge impact? Be it Ayurve­da or mod­ern nutri­tion, food is looked at as a sig­nif­i­cant part of our lives as it gives us the ener­gy to pur­sue our activ­i­ties. Nutri­ge­net­ics or nutrige­nomics is an excit­ing field, rel­a­tive­ly new, that looks at food from a very per­son­alised point of view, just as Ayurve­da has been look­ing at it for ages (through the doshas and rasas). Though we are all 99% sim­i­lar genet­i­cal­ly, the 1% can make a huge vari­a­tion. For exam­ple, a person’s genet­ic sequence affects his or her nutri­ent require­ments, response to food, appetite, dis­ease vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty and absorp­tion of nutri­ents from the food. Nutrige­nomics or nutri­ge­net­ics also pro­vides the oppor­tu­ni­ty to look at redesign­ing food based on cul­ture and geog­ra­phy, some­thing that we lost due to homogeni­sa­tion of food choic­es and avail­abil­i­ty. Nutrige­nomics can add mod­ern insights into Ayurvedic insights on diet based on genet­ic and epi­ge­net­ic fac­tors.


The Indi­an tra­di­tion has paid a lot of impor­tance to Vra­ta on spe­cif­ic days of the week, month or year. Ekadasi is one day that many Indi­ans fast on. Many Indi­ans observe nir­jala vra­ta when they don’t con­sume even water.

Mod­ern research on fast­ing pro­vides inter­est­ing insights into why fast­ing can be very ben­e­fi­cial for reju­ve­nat­ing the cells in the body. Nutri­ent depra­va­tion that hap­pens dur­ing a vrata/upavasa caus­es autophagy. Autophagy is a process where sub-cel­lu­lar organelles are destroyed and cel­lu­lar reju­ve­na­tion hap­pens. When we fast, the insulin lev­els in the body goes down and the glucagon lev­els go up. This increased glucagon boosts autophagy. Sci­ence also says that diet­ing or caloric restric­tion does not cause autophagy because even a lit­tle amount of food stops the process. Hence vratas are a very impor­tant way of kick­start­ing autophagy and hence a reju­ve­na­tion of the entire body.

Practical Tips

~ A light din­ner to assist in wak­ing up ear­ly

~ Good gap between meals and facil­i­tat­ing yog­ic prac­tices

~ Vra­ta : week­ly or fort­night­ly

~ Pranaya­ma to com­pen­sate for the ener­gy require­ments

~ Con­tent: Satvik food that bal­ances the doshas

~ Avoid­ing kapha and vata foods in the night

~ Nev­er go hun­gry at the same time leave suf­fi­cient breaks in between 2 meals

~ Avoid eat­ing to full stom­ach

~ Have a good blend of cooked and uncooked food

~ Enhance the veg­e­tar­i­an pro­por­tion of food

~ Eat foods that ener­gise and not that agi­tate or make you dull

~ Con­sume food that is gen­tle on the sys­tem

~ Sit in vajrasan after your meal to avoid drowsi­ness and to expe­dite diges­tion

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