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Ayurvedic Principles of Food Combination

Have you ever had two foods together and then had an adverse reaction? Like bananas in smoothies, you can eat banana and milk separately but for some reason when you combine them together in a smoothie you feel bloated? That’s because the order we eat food in, combine them and the amount we eat will directly impact our digestive agni and our ability to absorb nutrients, and as we have discussed (see last week’s blog), gut health is the key to our overall health.

When foods, (proteins, carbohydrates and fats) having different attributes, tastes, heating or cooling properties, and post-digestive effects are eaten together, agni will be slowed down. The foods can then remain in the stomach for seven to eight hours. These same foods, if eaten separately might well stimulate agni, be digested more quickly and even help to burn ama (toxins).

According to Ayurveda, every food has its own taste (rasa), a heating or cooling energy (virya) and post digestive effect (vipaka). When two or three different food substances of different taste, energy and post digestive effect are combined together agni can become overloaded inhibiting the enzyme system and result in production of toxins (ama) in the system. Ayurvedic doctor’s noted and studied this hundreds of years ago and today we know that different classes of foods require different digestive enzymes, and improper food combinations can result in problems like excess intestinal gas, constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain, urinary retention, digestive fermentation, lethargy, sleep disorders, etc.

Following Ayurvedic eating principles one should eat according to one’s constitution (dominant doshas) and take fruits, starches, proteins and fats separately at different times of the day. As you begin to incorporate Ayurvedic eating principles, the below food combination recommendations might be helpful.

• Avoid combining milk or yogurt with sour or citrus fruits.

• Avoid eating fruits together with potatoes or other starchy foods. Fructose (fruit sugar) (and other sugars) is digested quickly, whereas starch takes quite some time.

• Avoid eating melons and grains together. Melons digest quickly whereas grains take more time.

• Melons (and in general fruit) should be eaten alone or left alone.

• Do not eat meat protein and milk protein together (Meat and Cheese combinations are quite burdensome on digestive enzymes)

• Milk and melons should not be eaten together. 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.

• Cold beverages should not be consumed during or directly after a meal as it reduces agni and digestion. Small sips of warm or tepid water taken during the meal serves to aid digestion.

The above guidelines are by no means an exhaustive list. It must also be remembered that a proper Ayurvedic diet should consider nutritional value, constitution, seasons, age and any disease condition.

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