Diet is divine


Section I: Fundamental principles of dietetics

  • 1. Food itself is Brahma (annam Brahma)
    • 1.1 Lord Vishnu – the deity of food
    • 1.2 Importance of food as a vehicle for the subtle body (linga deha)
    • 1.3 Food provides the structural components and energy
    • 1.4 The body is derived from food
    • 1.5 Definition of food
    • 1.6 Properties of food
    • 1.7 Importance of a beneficial diet


  • 2. Constituents and classification of food
    • 2.1 What is the composition of the human body ?
    • 2.2 What are the functions of these basic elements ?
    • 2.3 How are these basic elements available ?
    • 2.4 What are the basic elements and the biological elements of the human body according to Ayurveda ?
    • 2.5 How are the constituents of food classified ?
    • 2.6 How is food available in Nature
    • 2.7 What are the basic constituents of the human body ?
    • 2.8 What are the differences in the nutritive value of vegetarian and non-vegetarian food ?
    • 2.9 Best food items from various categories
    • 2.10 Important functions and effect of various food items commonly used in our diet


  • 3. Food processing
    • 3.1 What are the various methods of processing food ?
    • 3.2 What is the effect of cooking on the nutritive value of food ?
    • 3.3 How can one preserve food ?


  • 4. Meals
    • 4.1 Kitchen
    • 4.2 Dining room
    • 4.3 Place for eating
    • 4.4 Vastushastra and the arrangement in the kitchen
    • 4.5 Utensils used for serving food
    • 4.6 Arrangement of food items in a plate
    • 4.7 When should a person dine ?
    • 4.8 Before meals
    • 4.9 Is it advisable to take an appetiser before meals ?
    • 4.10 Is it advisable to have an alcoholic drink as an appetiser before meals
    • 4.11 Selection of food
    • 4.12 How should one serve the courses of food ?
    • 4.13 When should one drink water during a meal ?
    • 4.14 Qualities of food and its effect on the body
    • 4.15 Eating slowly or eating fast
    • 4.16 Avoid the following types of food items
    • 4.17 Dinner
    • 4.18 Quantity of food
    • 4.19 Anupana
    • 4.20 Should one eat meals in solitude or in the company of family or friends ?


  • 5. Diet and the mind
    • 5.1 Concept of food according to the Vedas
    • 5.2 Diet of the sense organs, mind and intellect
    • 5.3 Factors affecting the purity of food
    • 5.4 Activation of the Sun channel (Surya nadi) after meals
    • 5.5 Diet and the mind
    • 5.6 Classification of diet in relation with the mind
    • 5.7 Examples of sattvik, rajasik and tamasik food items
    • 5.8 Effect of the state of mind on digestion
    • 5.9 Non-vegetarian diet
    • 5.10 Respect for food
    • 5.11 Diet with sanskars
    • 5.12 Effect of an evil eye being cast by animals and people on the food served as a meal


  • 6. Qualities of food
    • 6.1 The twenty biological qualities of food
    • 6.2 What is the scientific meaning of the words ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ with respect to food items and medicines ?
    • 6.3 Hot and cold food items
    • 6.4 Who should eat hot food items and who should avoid them ?
    • 6.5 Who should eat cold food items and who should avoid them ?
    • 6.6 Heavy and light food items
    • 6.7 Heavy food items
    • 6.8 Light food items
    • 6.9 What is meant by oily and dry food items ?
    • 6.10 Oily food items
    • 6.11 Dry food items
    • 6.12 Who should eat dry food items and who should avoid them ?


  • 7. Taste
    • 7.1 Six tastes
    • 7.2 functions of sweet taste
    • 7.3 Side-effects of eating sweet food items in excess
    • 7.4 Functions of sour taste
    • 7.5 Side-effects of eating sour food items in excess
    • 7.6 Functions of salty taste
    • 7.7 Side-effects of excessive salt intake
    • 7.8 Functions of pungent taste
    • 7.9 Side-effects of eating pungent food items in excess
    • 7.10 Functions of bitter tast
    • 7.11 Side-effects of consuming bitter food items in excess
    • 7.12 Functions of astringent taste
    • 7.11 Side-effects of excessive intake of food with an astringent tast


  • 8. Constitution (prakruti) and the diet
    • 8.1 Vata, pitta, kapha and balanced constitution (sama prakruti)
    • 8.2 Taste of food items and the humours (doshas)
    • 8.3 Beneficial and harmful diet and activity for vata constitution and vataja (vata induced) diseases
    • 8.4 Tonics for vata constitution and vataja (vata induced) diseases
    • 8.5 Beneficial and harmful diet and activity for pitta constitution and pittaja (pitta induced) diseases
    • 8.6 Tonics for pitta constitution and pittaja (pitta induced) diseases
    • 8.7 Beneficial and harmful diet and activity for kapha constitution and kaphaja (pitta induced) diseases
    • 8.8 Tonics for kapha constitution and kaphaja (kapha induced) diseases


  • 9. Season and the diet
    • 9.1 Seasons in North and South India
    • 9.2 Effect of seasons on man
    • 9.3 Seasons and the three humours (doshas)
    • 9.4 Seasons and vata
    • 9.5 Seasons and pitta
    • 9.6 Seasons and kapha
    • 9.7 Modification of diet in different seasons
    • 9.8 Spring season (vasant rhutu)
    • 9.9 Summer season (grishma rhutu)
    • 9.10 Pre-monsoon season (pravrut rhutu)
    • 9.11 Monsoon season (varsha rhutu)
    • 9.12 Autumn season (sharad rhutu)
    • 9.13 Early winter season (hemant rhutu)
    • 9.14 Late winter season (shishir rhutu)
    • 9.15 Diet and activity in different seasons
    • 9.16 Panchakarma treatment
    • 9.17 Exercise
    • 9.18 Afternoon nap


  • 10. Digestion
    • 10.1 Digestion of food
    • 10.2 Digestion in the stomach and the intestines
    • 10.3 Digestive power
    • 10.4 Factors affecting the digestive power
    • 10.5 What is the effect of diet on the qualities of the mind ?
    • 10.6 Guidelines to maintain the digestive organs healthy


  • 11. Dietetic incompatibility (viruddha anna)
    • 11.1 Incompatibility of food items with one another
    • 11.2 Incompatibility due to various conditioning factors
      • Nisargattaha viruddha (naturally incompatible)
      • Desh viruddha (regionwise incompatibility)
      • Kala viruddha (timewise incompatibility)
      • Agni viruddha (digestion power incompatibility)
      • Koshtha viruddha (digestive capacity incompatibility)
      • Parimana viruddha (fixed proportion of two food items)
      • Satmaya viruddha (habituation incompatibility)
      • Dosha viruddha (constitution incompatibility)
      • Increase in the same humour (dosha) caused by two or more food items
      • Sanskar viruddha (mode of preparation)
      • Incompatibility between a food item and the cooking utensil
      • Virya viruddha (combination of food items with opposing action)
      • Avastha viruddha (mental state of an individual
      • Krama viruddha (prescribed course
      • Paka viruddha (degree of cooking)
      • Sampat viruddha (quality of food)
      • Sanyoga viruddha (way of combination of food items)
      • Vidhi viruddha (breaking of dietetic rules)
      • Parikar viruddha (order of food)
      • Mana viruddha (against one’s liking)
    • 11.3 Diseases resulting from dietetic incompatibilities
    • 11.4 Treatment


  • 12. Place and food
    • 12.1 Effect of place on the quality and digestibility of food
      • Place where the food is grown
      • Place where a person has spent his childhood
      • Place where the food is eaten
    • 12.2 Time (kal)
      • Effect of time on food
      • Natural time for eating food
      • Time of the day for eating food
      • Season and food
      • Stage of a disease and food
      • Effects of food eaten at an inappropriate time
      • Upayukta


  • 13. Tolerance and intolerance (satmya and asatmya)
    • 13.1 Tolerance (satmya)
      • Pravara satmya (good tolerance
      • Avara satmya (poor tolerance
      • Madhyama satmya (moderate tolerance)
      • Oakasatmya (tolerance after constant use)
      • Jatisatmya (tolerance in a species)
      • Deshasatmya (tolerance according to the place or region)
      • Rhutusatmya (tolerance according to the season)
      • Prakrutisatmya (tolerance according to the constitution)
      • Vayasatmya (tolerance according to the age)
      • Vyadhisatmya (tolerance in a disease)
    • 13.2 Intolerance (asatmya)

Section II: Dietary Components and Their Functions

  • 14. Calories
    • 14.1 How does food supply energy ?
    • 14.2 What is a calorie in the context of food ? How does food supply energy to sustain all the body activities ?
    • 14.3 How many calories are supplied by common food items ?
    • 14.4 Which factors affect one’s food requirements ?
    • 14.5 How many calories and proteins do children and adults normally require?
    • 14.6 How does one’s activity affect the caloric and protein requirements of one’s body ?
    • 14.7 What are the manifestations of deficiency in calories ?
    • 14.8 What are the manifestations of taking food, i.e. calories in excess ?
    • 14.9 How is it that some people eat a lot and yet are thin whereas others may eat very little and yet gain weight ?
    • 14.10 What is the percentage of fat in the human body ?


  • 15. Proteins
    • 15.1 What are proteins ?
    • 15.2 What are the functions of proteins ?
    • 15.3 Why do children require more proteins?
    • 15.4 What are the sources of proteins ?
    • 15.5 Why are animal proteins rated as first class proteins and vegetable proteins as second class proteins ?
    • 15.6 Can vegetable proteins replace animal proteins ?
    • 15.7 What are the symptoms of protein deficiency ?
    • 15.8 Is it risky to consume proteins in excess ?


  • 16. Fats
    • 16.1 Components of fats
    • 16.2 Circulating lipoproteins
    • 16.3 What are the functions of fat ?
    • 16.4 What are the dietary sources of fat ?
    • 16.5 What are the differences between fat from animal source and that from vegetable source ?
    • 16.6 What are essential fatty acids ?
    • 16.7 What are the symptoms of fat deficiency ?
    • 16.8 What are the symptoms of excessive intake of fat ?


  • 17. Carbohydrates
    • 17.1 What are carbohydrates ?
    • 17.2 What are the sources of carbohydrates ?
    • 17.3 What are the functions of carbohydrates ?
    • 17.4 Types of carbohydrates
    • 17.5 What are the symptoms of deficiency of carbohydrates ?
    • 17.6 What are the symptoms of consuming carbohydrates in excess ?


  • 18. Minerals
    • 18.1 What are the functions of minerals in general ?
    • 18.2 Iron
      • What are the dietary sources of iron ?
      • What are the functions of iron in our body ?
      • How can one recognise iron deficiency ?
      • What are the daily requirements of iron and calcium in children and adults ?
    • 18.3 Calcium
      • What are the functions of calcium in the body ?
      • What are the sources of calcium in our diet ?
      • What are the symptoms of calcium deficiency ?
    • 18.4 What are the sources and functions of other minerals in the body ?
    • 18.5 Harmful effects of some minerals when absorbed into the body in excess
    • 18.6 Salt (lavan)
      • Saindhav
      • Sauvarchala (sanchala or padelona)
      • Bidalavan (bida salt)
      • Samudra lavan [common salt (salt from the sea)]
      • Oudbhida salt
      • Krushna lavan (black salt)
      • Romak
    • 18.7 Caustic salts (ksharas)
      • Yavakshara
      • Svarjikakshara or sajjikshara
      • Tankanakshara (borax)


  • 19. Vitamins
    • 19.1 What are vitamins ?
    • 19.2 What are the daily requirements of various vitamins ?
    • 19.3 Can vitamins be stored in the body ?
    • 19.4 Vitamin A
    • 19.5 B-Complex
    • 19.6 Vitamin C
    • 19.7 Vitamin D
    • 19.8 Vitamin E
    • 19.9 Vitamin K


  • 20. Water
    • 20.1 What are the functions of water ?
    • 20.2 How much water should one drink daily ?
    • 20.3 When should one drink water ?
    • 20.4 Rain water (divya jal)
    • 20.5 Properties of water according to the soil
    • 20.6 Sources of water
    • 20.7 Water during the day and night
    • 20.8 Testing water
    • 20.9 Purification of water
    • 20.10 Boiling of water
    • 20.11 Who should drink water which is cooled after boiling ?
    • 20.12 What are the indications to drink less water ?
    • 20.13 What are the symptoms of drinking excessive water ?
    • 20.14 What are the symptoms of deficiency of water in the body ?
    • 20.15 What are the indications to drink warm water ?
    • 20.16 What are the indications to drink cold water ?


  • 21. Balanced diet
    • 21.1 What is good nutrition ?
    • 21.2 How much food should one eat ?
    • 21.3 Food exchanges
    • 21.4 Principles for calculating calories in the diet
    • 21.5 Principles for selection of diet
    • 21.6 Outline of food exchanges
    • 21.7 What are the differences in the nutritive value of vegetarian and non-vegetarian food ?
    • 21.8 Is it possible for poor families to have a well balanced and nutritious diet ?

Why is food itself called as Brahma?


1. Food itself is Brahma (annam Brahma)

हे न जाणावे साधारण ।
अन्‍न ब्रह्मरूप जाण ।
जे जीवनहेतु कारण ।
विश्‍वा यया ।। – श्री भावार्थदीपिका (श्री ज्ञानेश्‍वरी ३:३३)

Saint Dnyaneshvar says, ‘Food itself is Brahma’ The whole universe originates from, sustains on and merges into Brahma. Similarly, all living beings originate from, survive on and merge into food.

1.1 Lord Vishnu – the deity of food

Lord Vishnu is the deity who controls the production, digestion and utilisation of food. In the Vishnu Sahastranam, ‘bhojan (food)’ and ‘bhokta (the one who consumes it)’ are also included in the thousand Names of Lord Vishnu as ‘भोजनाय नम:’, ‘भोक्‍ताय नम:’. That is food as well as its consumer are respected as Lord Vishnu.

1.2 Importance of food as a vehicle for the subtle body (linga deha)

In the cycle of life and death, an individual is reborn on the earth after experiencing the results of his good deeds in heaven.

। क्षीणे पुण्‍ये मर्त्‍यलोकं विशन्‍ति ।। – गीता

The entire process of descending on the earth from heaven can be explained as follows – The subtle body (linga deha) launches itself on the clouds. From the clouds it enters the earth through rain and from the earth it enters the foodgrains. When an individual consumes foodgrains, it enters into his body. In males, it enters into one of the sperms in the semen while in females it enters into the maturing ovum. During sexual intercourse if the sperm fertilises the ovum, it leads to conception only if the sperm or the ovum contains the subtle body. This is the actual birth of a human being wherein the body consists of only one cell. If the subtle body is present in the ovum then a girl is born whereas a boy is born if the subtle body is present in the sperm.

1.3 Food provides the structural components and energy

At the time of conception, the body of all living beings comprises of a single, minute cell. This cell then undergoes mitotic cell divisions till 50 billion cells are formed. The formation of these cells and their constituents depends on food. After birth, the baby gradually grows into an adult through tremendous increase in the number and the size of the body cells. Additional energy, i.e. extra food is required for extra growth and development.

The lifespan of different cells in the body varies. The white blood cells (W.B.C.s) in blood have a lifespan of a few hours while the red blood cells (R.B.C.s) have a lifespan of 100 days. In an accident, injury or ailment, the cells and the tissues of the body are directly or indirectly damaged. The newly formed cells replace the dead ones and thus the tissues are repaired. This process continues till one dies. The non-functional particles, i.e. molecules from the old cells are converted into waste products. After digestion and absorption, food particles are utilised to form new particles in the cells and replace the old ones.

Every activity of the human body requires some amount of energy. Food is the source of this energy. Food supplies energy for activities like walking, playing, digestion of food, beating of the heart, etc. which are essential to live. In fact in every living cell, energy is utilised as a continuous process. The moment the body or the cell stops utilising energy, it can be termed as dead. The cells derive energy from food.

1.4 The body is derived from food

The millions of cells in the body are formed from food and food provides the energy required for the functioning of the body. Hence the Taittiriya Upanishad mentions the body as ‘annamaya kosh’, i.e. the sheath derived from food.

Charakacharya states that the body is derived from food (देहो आहारसंभव). All living beings are formed from food. They sustain and grow on food. Thus food is indispensible for living creatures. Hence the Taittiriya Upanishad mentions that food (anna) itself is Brahma. Hence according to the Upanishads, everyone should realise the importance of food and none should criticise it.

औषधिभ्‍यो अन्‍नम्‌ । अन्‍नात्‌ पुरुष: ।
अन्‍नात्‌ भूतानि जायन्‍ते । जातानि अन्‍नेन वर्धन्‍ते ।
अन्‍नं भूतानां श्रेष्‍ठं ।
अन्‍नं ब्रह्मेति व्‍यजानात्‌ ।
अन्‍नं न निंद्यात्‌ । – तैत्तिरीय उपनिषद्‌

The word ‘anna (अन्)’ is derived from the Sanskrut verb ‘ad (अद्‌)’ which means to eat. Thus anna means that which is eaten. All the substances in the universe are directly or indirectly the food of another, e.g. plants prepare food from the five cosmic elements (panchamahabhutas), namely earth (pruthvi), water (apa), fire (tej), air (vayu) and ether (akash). Plants constitute food for animals and human beings. The human body is formed from food. After death, the body merges into the five cosmic elements, i.e. the body becomes food for the five cosmic elements. Thus the cycle continues.

1.5 Definition of food

Food is defined as an essential substance having a pleasant appearance, aroma and taste, that which is capable of being digested, absorbed and utilised when consumed in a proper manner and in an appropriate quantity so as to help living organisms to replenish the wear and tear of body tissues, produce new body components and that which imparts energy, strength and happiness.

Plants can manufacture their food from simple chemicals derived from soil, water and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere with the help of sunlight.

Animals including man do not have the ability to manufacture food from simple chemicals. Hence they use plants or other animals as food. Hence it is mentioned in the scriptures (shastras) that one living organism is the food for another (जीवो जीवस्‍य जीवनम्‌ ।). Substances included in the category of food, vary from animal to animal, e.g. grass is food for a cow but not for man as man cannot digest grass.

1.6 Properties of food

Food provides life, building material for the body, strength, enthusiasm, a sense of satiety, colour, lustre, memory, intellect, inspiration and helps in conception and propagation of the species. Food provides energy required to carry out the life activities which can lead one to heaven or help one to attain the Final Liberation (Moksha), i.e. eternal Bliss. Health and happiness depend on food. A beneficial diet gives happinesss, health and prolongs one’s lifespan. A harmful diet promotes diseases and makes one depressed.

1.7 Importance of a beneficial diet

An individual taking a beneficial diet is healthy and one taking a harmful diet succumbs to various illnesses.

पथ्‍ये सति गदार्तस्‍य किम्‌ औषधनिषेवणम्‌ ।
पथ्‍येऽ सति गदार्तस्‍य किम्‌ औषधनिषेवणम्‌ ।।

Meaning: Even if the patient does not take medication, the disease can be cured by taking a beneficial diet and avoiding a harmful one. If the patient does not follow the diet advised by the physician, medication alone will not cure him. This is because we consume food in a large quantity while medicines are taken in a very small quantity.

We do not live to eat. The ultimate and important aim of our life is to attain the Final Liberation. Hence a healthy body and a sattvik (sattva predominant) mind are necessary to undertake spiritual practice and follow the path to the Final Liberation. It is essential that the seeker (sadhak) should not adopt wrong means to earn his livelihood and procure food. He should always use the energy obtained from food to perform good deeds.

While preparing food, e.g. grinding, cooking, etc. several living organisms including animals, plants and germs are killed. Hence unknowingly one becomes a sinner. To get rid of these sins one should repeat (chant) The Lord’s Name with every morsel and eat food as The Lord’s holy sacrament (prasad).

2. Meals

2.1 Arrangement of food items in a plate



Rice, roti and bhakari should be served in the centre of the plate. Fruits and dry food items should be served on the right side of the plate and all liquid food items, i.e. those with gravy should be served on the left side of the plate. Raita, chutney and food items prepared from jaggery, pickles, etc. should be served in front of the rice on the left side.

2.2 When should a person dine ?

The ideal time to eat is when a person feels hungry. However in cities, one has to adjust one’s meal time according to the office hours. Even children have to adjust their meal time according to school hours. After some time however, one gets habituated to these timings and feels hungry at that time. It is necessary to adjust the quantity and the time of taking a meal in such a way that we automatically feel hungry by the next meal time.

When habituated, one feels hungry at a particular time even if one’s stomach is not empty. Similarly, after one sees or gets the aroma of tasty food, one cannot overcome the temptation to eat even when one’s stomach is full. One should not succumb to such temptations.

After passing stools, urine, flatus and burping, the baby feels light and hungry. These signs indicate that the initial food is digested. Only then should the baby be given more food. One should not eat until the previous meal is digested.

An adult should never eat any food within three hours of his lunch or dinner. A labourer should not remain without food for more than three hours.

During the day, the blood is diverted to the active muscles hence the intestines receive comparatively lesser quantity of blood. At night, more blood is diverted towards the intestines. Hence food is digested best, at night. Therefore one should take a light dinner if the lunch is not digested well. If the dinner is not digested well, one should have a late lunch or skip the lunch.

One should not eat food at midnight or early in the morning. However, young, growing infants are an exception to it. They should be fed whenever they are hungry.

2.3 Before meals

Before meals, one should have a bath and wear clean clothes. One should use perfume and ladies should decorate their hair with flowers. One should wash the hands, feet, face and rinse the mouth before eating. One should see that the elders, children, guests, the cook and servants have eaten their meal and that all the animals and birds in the household are fed properly. One should offer a prayer and a little food to the deities and one’s ancestors. Eating food is itself a good deed and it helps to sustain our life and health which are instrumental in all our good deeds.

2.4 Is it advisable to take an appetiser before meals ?

A person with a good appetite need not take any appetiser before meals. Persons with a weak digestive power should take the following appetisers before meals. Appetisers should have sour, pungent and salty taste. A combination of fresh ginger, lemon and saindhav salt is a good appetiser. It exerts a cleansing action on the tongue and throat. Ginger is pungent, hot and stimulates the digestive power. It breaks scybalous faecal mass and subdues vata and kapha. Saindhav stimulates the digestive power. It makes food tasty and subdues all the three humours (doshas). Fruits and soups are also used as appetisers.

Fruits : Fruit juices or fresh fruits like pomegranate which increase the appetite and secretion of digestive juices should be eaten before meals. It cleanses the tongue and throat. One should avoid eating heavy fruits like banana and pineapple before meals. One can take panha prepared from raw mango, kokam sharbat, etc. before meals.

Soup: A normal person should not start his meal with soup. Persons with a weak digestive power should take soup with pungent, sour and salty spices which stimulate the secretion of digestive juices, e.g. tomato soup with sunth (dry ginger) and pepper.

2.5 Is it advisable to have an alcoholic drink as an appetiser before meals ?

Alcoholic drinks like beer and wine are often taken as appetisers before meals. Though alcohol is an easily available source of energy, it is not a food item. It is quickly absorbed when taken in small quantities. It stimulates appetite. It gives a feeling of relaxation and helps a person to forget his misery. However, logical thinking and the ability to take an appropriate decision are affected under the influence of alcohol. Alcohol should not be consumed by individuals suffering from hyperacidity, peptic ulcer, jaundice, diseases of the pitta humour (dosha), bleeding disorders and fever. Individuals with a weak and unstable mind get addicted to alcohol easily. Individuals with a hot temperament cannot tolerate alcohol. Prolonged and excessive consumption of alcohol leads to obesity, damages the stomach and liver and decreases the appetite and digestive power. Alcohol should not be consumed in summer. One should avoid drinking fresh (immature) wine while old wine should be drunk. Rajasik (raja predominant) and tamasik (tama predominant) people have no control over their mind so they get addicted to alcohol soon. Hence consumption of alcoholic drinks should be avoided by them.

2.6 Selection of food

One should select the quality and type of food after considering one’s age, constitution, season, time, digestive power, health, etc. One should feel hungry and eat the right type of food at the appropriate time in an adequate quantity. One should be habituated to the type of food eaten. The food should be fresh, warm, palatable and easily digestible. One should be in a happy state of mind while eating food. One should not take food which one does not like or which one cannot tolerate. One should be carefree and should focus the mind on eating and enjoy the taste and flavour of food.

Food should be cooked properly and should have good aroma and taste. It should contain some amount of oil and ghee. The food should be warm but should not be heated or fried again. One should have food of all the six types of taste, i.e. sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent and not food which is dominant in only one or two tastes. However sweet food items should be eaten in a greater quantity.

2.7 How should one serve the courses of food ?

One should follow the regional traditions regarding courses of food. However the general guidelines are as follows –

  • The first course should consist of sweet, heavy, solid, oily or fatty and hard food items which are difficult to digest. Sweet food items subdue vata.
  • The middle course should consist of sour, pungent, salty and soft food items which increase the secretion of digestive juices.
  • The last course should consist of pungent, bitter, astringent, light, liquid, dry and soft food items. Pungent, bitter and astringent food items subdue kapha.

One should eat half a stomachful of food, drink one quarter of a stomachful of water and leave the remaining quarter for air. One should have respect for food and should never criticise it. If one consumes excess of hard and dry food, one should drink a lot of water. Heavy substances such as poha and satu, starchy food items such as rice and tubers should not be taken towards the end of a meal or after a meal. Amalaka should be taken in all the three courses. If one takes excess of sour, salty and pungent food, one should drink milk at the end of a meal. Similarly, weak persons and persons with hyperacidity should take milk at the end of a meal. A person who has no control over his tongue should eat his favourite food item at the end of his meal.

2.8 When should one drink water during a meal?

One should sip water while changing from one course to another so that the taste of the previous course does not mask the taste of the next one. One should drink small quantities of water while eating food. An obese person should drink water at the beginning of a meal, an average person when halfway through a meal and a thin person at the end of the meal. One should not drink too much water after food as it dilutes the digestive juices and impairs digestion. One should not eat food when one is thirsty or drink water when one is hungry.

2.9 Eating slowly or eating fast

One should not eat too fast or too slow. One should avoid talking too much or laughing excessively while eating. If one talks or laughs too much or eats food very fast, the food is not chewed properly. Hence it is not digested well and one does not enjoy its taste. In addition, one may not notice foreign bodies in food such as stones, hair, flies and the food may get aspirated. If one eats very slowly, one tends to eat more. The food becomes cold and is not easily digested. One is not satiated after eating food too slowly.

2.10 Avoid the following types of food items

One should avoid very hot or very cold food items, food kept overnight, stale, bad, fermented, putrefied, undercooked or overcooked food, burnt, very sticky food items or those which are heated again. One should see that the food is hygienic and not contaminated with dirt, stones, hair and flies. One should not eat uncovered food. One should avoid a combination of dietary items which are incompatible with one another. Very hot food items decrease the digestive power.

Eating stale, unclean, putrefied food items and food items which are heated again, leads to infection and can cause vomiting and loose motions. Uncooked and burnt food items are heavy to digest.

Leafy vegetables, pippali and sour food items should be taken in a limited quantity and should not be consumed in excess. One should eat rice, wheat, yava (barley), jangal meat, mung (green gram), masur, chavli, raw radish, amalaka, grapes, phalsa, pomegranate, milk, ghee, honey, sugar and saindhav daily.

One should avoid intake of curds, ksharas (alkaline salts), e.g. soda-bicarb, sprouted cereals, old radish, pork, beef, meat of sheep and buffalo, fish, udid (black gram) and fermented food items in the daily diet.

2.11 Quantity of food

Food when eaten in an adequate amount is digested within proper time and makes one happy, healthy and bestows a long life.

When food is taken in less quantity one does not get a feeling of satisfaction. One feels hungry earlier and adequate energy is not supplied. The strength of the body, sense organs, mind and intellect decreases and the person becomes weak. Generally in diseased states, a person is advised to take a light diet in less quantity because initially the digestive juices from the intestines and the tissues will digest the food. Later on as there is no food, they will digest the increased vata, pitta and kapha humours (doshas). But if one continues to eat very little, the digestive juices will digest the tissues and the organs of the body after digesting the food and the person may die.

When one takes food in a greater quantity than required, the stomach becomes heavy and one feels discomfort in the stomach. One suffers from distension of the abdomen and rumbling noises are produced in the stomach due to formation of flatus. It promotes lethargy and increases all the doshas. When a greater quantity of food is taken for several days, one gains weight and it leads to obesity.

On taking an adequate diet, the weight is maintained in adults while there is an adequate increase in weight in children.

Why should one chant Lord’s Name with every morsel of food?


1. Diet and the mind

The Vedas are the very roots of Indian culture. According to the Vedas, the aim of any activity is to achieve the Final Liberation (Moksha) whereas materialistic gain is only secondary to it. According to the Chandogya Upanishad, ‘Pure diet leads to a pure mind’. Positive mental health is essential to get rid of ignorance and acquire a state of eternal and supreme Bliss, that is the Final Liberation.

आहारशुद्धौ सत्त्‍वशुद्धि: सत्त्‍वशुद्धौ ध्रुवा स्‍मृति: ।
लब्‍ध्‍वा सर्व ग्रंथीनां विप्रमोक्ष: । – छांदोग्‍य उपनिषद्‌ ७.२६.२

1.1 Diet of the sense organs, mind and intellect

According to the Vedas, the word ‘ahar (nourishment)’ is used in a very broad sense. Every sense organ of the body has its specific ahar. Seeing objects or vision is considered as ahar for the eyes, hearing for the ears, sensation of touch for the skin, smell for the nose and taste for the tongue.

The sight of the Guru or saints is sattvik (sattva predominant) ahar for the eyes. Listening to spiritual discourses (kirtans) or devotional songs (bhajans) is sattvik ahar for the ears. Touching the feet of the Guru or a saint is sattvik ahar for the skin. Smelling the fragrance of flowers offered unto God is sattvik ahar for the nose and eating The Lord’s holy sacrament (prasad) is sattvik ahar for the tongue.

Harbouring good thoughts, following the code of righteous conduct, the rules and regulations prescribed by the scriptures, remaining in the holy company of saints (satsang) and undertaking spiritual practice according to the Path of Action (Karmayoga), the Path of Devotion (Bhaktiyoga) and the Path of Knowledge (Dnyanyoga) act as food for the mind and intellect.

1.2 Factors affecting the purity of food

If the food is pure, our mind and body too become pure as they are derived from the food we consume – ‘आहारशुद्धौ सत्त्‍वशुद्धि:’.

For a pure diet, the following should be pure and pious:

  • A. Money: When unrighteous means such as theft, murder, bribery or cheating are used to earn one’s livelihood, the food procured with this money is not pure. According to Manusmruti, as compared to the above things it is very important that the money should be earned by righteous means.

    सर्वेषां एवं शौचानां अर्थशौचं परं स्‍मृतम्‌ । – मनुस्‍मृति ५.१०६

    Money obtained by righteous means also becomes pure after offering 10% of it unto God, i.e. for good deeds without expecting any returns. – Skanda Puran

    न्‍यायोपार्जित वित्तस्‍य दशमांशेन धीमत: ।
    कर्तव्‍यो विनियोगश्‍च ईश्‍वर प्रीत्‍यर्थमेव च ।। – स्‍कंदपुराण

  • B. Food items: Eating onions, garlic, eggs and meat.

    According to Ayurveda, onion, garlic, eggs and meat are necessary to maintain good health and so is a beneficial diet, as the main aim of Ayurveda is to maintain a healthy body. – Skanda Puran

    But according to Manusmruti, garlic and onion should be avoided by Brahmans (priests), Kshatriyas (warriors) and Vaishyas (businessmen) as the main aim of Righteousness is to gain a healthy mind, i.e. a sattvik (sattva predominant) mind. On eating meat and eggs, the raja component of the mind increases. When animals are slaughtered, they are frightened and angry. On eating the meat of these animals, the same emotions increase in man too. Onion, garlic, alcoholic drinks and opium increase the tama component and sexual urge. Hence these food items should be avoided.

    लशुनं गृंजनं चैव पलाण्‍डुं कवकानि च ।
    अभक्ष्‍याणि व्‍दिजातीनां अमेध्‍य प्रभवाणि च । – मनुस्‍मृति ५.५

  • C. The place where the food is grown: Food items grown in black soil are more delicious and impart strength. Food items grown in a cemetry and rocky areas should not be consumed. Medicines grown in the Himalayas and food items grown along the banks of the rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Godavari are sattvik (sattva predominant).
  • D. Kitchen: It should be clean, well lit and well ventilated
  • E. Dining room: It should be clean and decorated with fragrant flowers.
  • F: Time of meals: Do not eat food at sunset or sunrise or at noon or midnight. Do not eat food 12 hours prior to a solar eclipse, 9 hours prior to a lunar eclipse and 3 hours after a solar or a lunar eclipse. The sun helps in digestion while the moon helps in nourishment. As the effects of the stars and planets decrease during an eclipse, one should avoid eating food during that period.
  • G. Cook: The cook should be hygienic. He should wear clean clothes after having a bath. He should wash his hands after going to the toilet and before commencing cooking. He should have clean habits and should be healthy.

    When the food is cooked by the mother, wife or sister with love, it promotes the sattvik (sattva predominant) tendency of the mind.

  • H. Utensils used for cooking and serving: A banana leaf or a lotus leaf or leaves of the palash tree are used to serve food.
  • I. The state of mind: Nourishing food eaten with the objective of obtaining energy to indulge in sex or to harass others increases the raja and tama components of the mind. Nourishing food eaten with the objective of obtaining energy to help others and perform good deeds increases the sattva component of the mind.

1.3 Activation of the Sun channel (Surya nadi) after meals

After eating food, walk a 100 steps and then sleep on the left side for 24 minutes so that the Surya nadi gets activated such that one breathes predominantly through the right nostril. The activated Surya naÅi stimulates the secretion of digestive juices and thus facilitates the digestion of food.

1.4 Diet and the mind

अन्‍नं अशितं त्रेधा विभजते
तस्‍य य: स्‍थविरो धातु: तत्‌ पुरीषं भवति ।
यो मध्‍यम: तन्‌ मांसं भवति ।
यो:णिष्‍ठ: तन्‍मन: भवति । – छांदोग्‍य उपनिषद्‌ ६.५.१

The Chandogya Upanishad states that the food we eat gets divided into three parts. The undigested solids are converted into faeces. The food which is absorbed into blood after digestion is converted into muscles and various tissues. The subtle, that is very minute particles of food form the mind.

The subtle particles of food are the particles of sattva, raja and tama which are the components of our mind. Therefore our thoughts and behaviour change with our diet. A diet which increases the sattva component is called a sattvik diet while a diet which increases the raja and tama components of the mind is called a rajasik and tamasik diet respectively.

1.5 Classification of diet in relation with the mind

Lord Shrikrushna has described sattvik, rajasik and tamasik diets in chapter 17 of the Bhagvadgita.

A. Sattvik diet: It is juicy, oily, stable (sthir) and tasty and pleasurable (hrudya).

Juicy (rasya): Juicy fruits and liquids.

Lubricating and nourishing (snigdha): Milk, butter and ghee prepared from cow’s milk act as lubricating agents and nourish the tissues of the body.

Stable (sthir): Food items like dry fruits such as almonds, walnuts, pistas which can be stored and do not putrefy or ferment.

Tasty and pleasurable (hrudya). A sattvik diet promotes life, health, physical and mental strength, happiness and love.

आयु: सत्त्‍वबलारोग्‍यसुखप्रीतिविवर्धना: ।
रस्‍या: स्‍निग्‍धा: स्‍थिरा हृद्या आहारा: सात्त्‍विकप्रिया: ।। – गीता १७.८

Sattvik people prefer a sattvik diet which in turn promotes the sattva component of the mind.

B. Rajasik diet: Pungent, sour, salty, very hot, dry and fermented food items increase the raja component of the mind. Rajasik people prefer this type of food. It gives rise to sorrow, disease and unhappiness.

कट्‌वम्‍ललवणात्‍युष्‍णतीक्ष्‍णरूक्षविदाहिन: ।
आहारा राजसस्‍येष्‍टा दु:खशोकामयप्रदा: ।। – गीता १७.९

C. Tamasik diet: Stale, tasteless and putrefied diet which is eaten by others, leftover food and a diet which affects the mind such as alcohol increase the tama component of the mind. Tamasik people prefer such type of food. It subdues the strength of the brain, mind and intellect.

यातयामं गतरसं पूति पर्युषितं च यत्‌ ।
उच्‍छिष्‍टमपि चामेध्‍यं भोजनं तामसप्रियम्‌ ।। – गीता १७.१०

1.6 Examples of sattvik, rajasik and tamasik food items

  • Ripe fruits are sattvik. Pickles prepared from fruits are rajasik. Alcoholic beverages and wine prepared from fruits are tamasik.
  • Food offered by wicked people is tamasik, that offered by relatives and friends is rajasik while food offered by saints is sattvik.
  • Food eaten along with alcohol is tamasik. Food eaten while chatting with friends is rajasik and that eaten while repeating (chanting) The Lord’s Name is sattvik.
  • Food given by an enemy, an unhappy person, wicked people or prostitutes or food eaten at their place is tamasik and promotes the tama component. Food served in hotels or at a marriage is rajasik while food served as a holy sacrament (prasad) of The Lord and that given by saints is sattvik.

1.7 Effect of the state of mind on digestion

Food is digested easily when one is in a happy state of mind. If an individual is full of tension, sorrow, fear or anger, the food is not digested easily. If an individual does not get adequate sleep then also the food is not digested.

मात्रया अपि अभ्‍यवहृतं पथ्‍यं चान्‍नं न जीर्यति ।
चिन्‍ता शोक भय क्रोध दु:ख शय्‍या प्रजागरै: ।। – चरक

Sattvik people take an appropriate and adequate diet. Rajasik people eat tasty dishes till their stomach is full. Tamasik people do not have control over their taste buds and hence they overeat.

1.8 Non-vegetarian diet

न मांसभक्षणे दोषो न मद्ये न च मैथुने ।
प्रवृत्तिरेषा भूतानां निवृत्तिस्‍तु महाफला । – मनुस्‍मृति

In the Manusmruti, Manu states that eating meat, drinking wine or indulging in sex is not sinful as these are the natural tendencies of human beings. But those who refrain from indulging in these get good returns.

Ayurveda does not disapprove of eating a non-vegetarian diet. In fact in diseases wherein there is weakness, wasting of muscles and loss of weight, Ayurveda advises one to eat meat. In tuberculosis, one should eat meat of many animals because the main aim of Ayurveda is to have a healthy and strong body. Only if one is physically strong can one follow the rules laid down by religion and undertake spiritual practice. The poet Kalidas says, ‘शरीरमाद्यं खलु धर्मसाधनम्‌ ।।’.

1.9 Respect for food

Our body and the food we eat are formed from the the five great cosmic elements (panchamahabhutas). Today’s food is tomorrow’s body. One should never criticise food as then one does not get the expected beneficial results. One should always respect food because the same food when eaten with respect is beneficial to the body as well as the mind – अन्‍नं न निन्‍द्यात्‌ तत्‌ व्रतम्‌ ।

1.10 Diet with sanskars

A sanskar literally means a good action. Every activity of man including that of eating food should be beneficial for uplifting the level of the mind, i.e. to increase the sattva component of the mind. The host should see that all the children, the elderly and the ladies have eaten food and that all the servants and animals are fed before having food himself. Before eating he should offer the food to the five vital energies (prans) and the Brahman (priest) and repeat (chant) the following prayer:

वदनी कवळ घेता नाम घ्‍या श्रीहरीचे ।
सहज हवन होते नाम घेता फुकाचे ।
जीवन करी जीवित्‍वा अन्‍न हे पूर्णब्रह्म ।
उदरभरण नोहे जाणिजे यज्ञकर्म ।।

A person does not live to eat, but eats to live. So eating food does not merely mean filling one’s stomach. Eating food is a sacrificial fire (agnihotra yadnya). This means that the energy one gets from the food will be used for the welfare of the people.

One should repeat (chant) The Lord’s Name with every morsel of food, so that the food is digested easily and the energy from the food is used for The Lord’s mission, that is for good deeds and to help others. Saint Tukaram says, ‘काही नित्‍य नेमावीण । अन्‍न खाये तोचि श्‍वान ।।’ meaning, the one who eats food without making a resolve to utilise the energy derived from food for a good purpose, lives the life of a dog.

1.11 Effect of an evil eye being cast by animals and people on the food served as a meal

हीन दीन क्षुधार्तानां पाप पाखंड रोगिणाम्‌ ।
कुक्‍कुटादि शुनां दृष्‍टि: भोजने नैव शोभना ।। – निघंटुरत्‍नाकर, दिनचर्या

If hungry people, beggars, diseased persons, persons with a bad character, deceitful persons, atheists, sinners or animals like a dog, serpent or cock cast an evil look on food which is served as a meal, it can cause subtle changes in the food which can give rise to psychological and physical symptoms. On seeing delicious food, they may feel envious of the people who will eat it. If one prays before eating, the ill-effects due to casting of an evil eye are nullified.

पितृमातृ सुहृत्‌ वैद्य पाककृत हंस बर्हिणाम्‌ ।
सारसस्‍य चकोरस्‍य भोजने दृष्‍टिरुत्तमा ।। – निघंटुरत्‍नाकर, दिनचर्या

If our parents, relatives or the physicians watch us while eating, it is a good omen as these people feel happy on seeing us eat good food. If a swan, peacock, saras or chakora bird looks at the food, it is a good omen. Seeing a king, a priest, the sun, the sacred fire, gold, ghee or water at the time of meal is a good omen.

The following mantra nullifies the effect due to casting of an evil eye –

अन्‍नं ब्रह्म रसो विष्‍णु: भोक्‍ता देवो महेश्‍वर: ।
इति संचित्‍य भुंजानं दृष्‍टिदोषो न विद्यते ।।

One who eats food with the firm belief that food (anna) is Lord Brahma, the taste of food is Lord Vishnu and the one who consumes it is Lord Shiva is not affected by the ill-effects due to casting of an evil eye.

To nullify the ill-effects, one should offer the following prayer unto Lord Hanuman –

अंजनीगर्भसंभूतं कुमारं ब्रह्मचारिणं ।
दृष्‍टिदोषो विनाशाय हनुमंतं स्‍मराम्‍यहं ।।

One should remember Brahmachari Hanuman, the son of Anjani to nullify the ill-effects due to casting of an evil eye.