Below you will find the main principles of healthy alimentation. Many of them we have already mentioned and some are described for the first time. These rules represent the essence of nutritional sciences (their practical part, to be exact).
1. People are nurtured not by what they eat, but by what they digest. Digestion requires a lot of energy and our body should be prepared for eating. The natural signal, saying that our body is ready, is the feeling of hunger.
Food eaten when you are not hungry does not bring you anything good. It just overloads and clutters our organism up. Simple spasms you feel in your stomach are not signs of the real feeling of hunger. A criterion of a healthy appetite is a strong desire to eat something that does not look tasty at all (a piece of stale black bread) and excess of sweet saliva forming from a single thought about such food.
Such feeling of hunger cannot appear right after hard work, feeling too cold or too hot or experiencing some intense emotions. In these cases, it is better to rest for 20-40 minutes first and then eat.
People also often do not feel hungry when they are sick. And you should not force sick people to eat! Their organism is economizing energy on purpose, as it needs it to fight the disease. As soon as their organism needs food, they will feel hungry.
However, as a result of some chronical diseases, the real feeling of hunger does not appear at all or it appears in a distorted way. This can happen, for example, as a result of low acidity of the gastric juice, or when the organism is so intoxicated that if you skip lunch and do not eat for a couple of hours, your head starts aching, you feel week and have other strange symptoms, though you are not really hungry yet. In such cases the most effective treatment and purification method is to fast.
2. One of the most important rules – chew thoroughly. Remember that food cannot be digested as a lump! You should chew a piece of food until it becomes completely liquid and disappears in your mouth on its own (that is, the moment when one swallows without any effort). Then, even the roughest food like fried crusts will be digested relatively easily.
Chewing not only splits food mechanically, but also changes its structure and contributes to the initial break down of starches and, partially, proteins. Yogis say that most of food bioenergy is received through the tongue. Liquids (milk, juices etc.) also need to be “chewed”. It is recommended to drink even water slowly, with small sips, shaking every sip lightly in your mouth. This way you receive most Prana. Yogis say: “Hard food should be drunk and liquid food should be eaten!”
3. Digestion can also be significantly improved by meditating while eating. During this process you chew every piece slowly, enjoying it and at the same time you imagine how Prana comes from food to your body, bringing health, strength and, if needed, cure with it. This method undoubtedly requires a clear understanding of the role of food and self-control. For many, it will be enough just to learn to enjoy the food they are eating.
Gluttons, on the contrary, should try to distract from the process of eating. It is good for them to listen to some quiet music or have a nice conversation while they eat. An ideal state for yogis is not to think about food at all, but this level is hard to reach.
4. Food should be tasty! Tasteless food does not digest well, as our tongue “commands” the synthesis of many digestive enzymes. However, when you feel real hunger you will only find really “bad” food tasteless. A truly hungry person will happily eat any natural fresh food, even the simplest one.
Unfortunately, many of us have a distorted taste perception. This happens as a result of eating sweet, fat, fried and spicy food. Different spices and additives change the natural taste of food, deceive our digestive organs and cause unhealthy appetite. As you start eating natural food your taste gradually comes to normal, but this process can take a year or two. You should not force yourself too much, but at the same time it is important to learn to control yourself.
5. Yogis believe that our energy is not tuned for digestion processes from midnight to midday. For this reason they call a big breakfast the “enemy number one”. It is better not to have breakfast at all, or just eat some fruits, juices, curdled milk or herbal tea.
6. From midday till night you can have two or three major meals. Some people eat more during lunch and dinner and have an afternoon snack, others do not have an afternoon snack or lunch at all and some just eat once a day. The most important thing is not to have snacks between the meals. You can have breakfast, lunch, afternoon meal and dinner, but let your stomach rest between these meals. It is allowed, however, to eat a fruit or drink a glass of natural juice half an hour before one of the main meals, but other than that you should not consume anything but water.
7. It is recommended to have dinner no later than two hours before going to bed. Ideally, by the time you fall asleep gastric digestion should already stop and most of the food should transfer to the intestine.
8. There are some products that are especially harmful. Among them are canned food, especially meat and fish, sausages, smoked meat, hydrogenated fats, mayonnaise, coffee, cacao, black tea, sodas and sweets.
It is also advised to avoid salty food, refined vegetable oils, sugar and all the products that contain it, vinegar, spices and food that was is not fresh. Finally, it is also recommended to eat less white bread made of refined flour and white rice (especially for sick and sedentary people).
9. The best foods are considered to be fruits, fresh and cooked vegetables, grains, greens and nuts.
For children it is good to eat milk and dairy products, but with age their consumption should be reduced, although many people continue to consume them until senior age. Milk and dairy products are contraindicated for people with mucosa diseases such as rhinitis, pharyngitis, bronchitis, tracheitis etc.
Beans can be a good source of protein, but they are not digested easily and therefore their consumption should be limited.
Meat, fish, cottage cheese and cheese are concentrated protein products. You can easily live without them, and you definitely should not consume them every day. An approximate “norm” for cottage cheese consumption is 100-150 grams per time. When it comes to fats, it is better to choose butter and clarified butter and, in the case of good tolerance, vegetable unrefined oil. Cream and sour cream in big quantities lead to metabolism disorders, which harms the liver and causes acne.
10. It is also very important to combine products correctly. It is especially bad to mix fruits with starches or proteins in the same meal, starchy food with protein one, different types of proteins (meat with milk, beans with nuts etc.), as well as starches or proteins with sugars. It is also harmful to finish a meal with a dessert, be it a fruit or something sweet.
11. It is recommended to vary your daily and weekly menu. For example, for lunch you eat oatmeal and for dinner potatoes. One day you eat millet, another day rice etc. Some people, however, eat quite monotonously without any harm for their health, but such diet requires a special training or inherited predisposition. Mono diets are usually used for a limited period of time with the aim of losing weight or treating a disease. Anyway, once your organism is used to natural food, it will let you know what it needs.
12. If you cook when you are angry, scared or annoyed, your negative emotions will influence the food and spoil it. It will not be tasty and good for your health. On the contrary, if you cook in a good mood, the food will have a healing effect and will become tastier.
13. Try cooking for just one meal. A dish that was warmed up for the second time, even if it stayed in the fridge, will only bring you calories. It is not in vain that in Vedas, food cooked more than three hours before a meal is referred to the guna of darkness and ignorance. And you should not forget that a change of energy starts earlier than in three hours.
14. Avoid fried food. Frying turns fats (especially the vegetable ones) into poison and fried crusts are very hard to digest, they irritate the stomach and intestine, damage liver and kidneys. If you have to fry something, it is better to use clarified butter for these purposes.
The best ways of thermic treatment is boiling or steaming and baking. Usually, the simpler the process of cooking a dish, the more vital energy and valuable substances it preserves.
15. It is recommended to avoid contrasting temperatures in the same meal (cold soup and hot grains, hot coffee with ice cream etc.) It is also bad to eat food that is very cold (from the fridge) or very hot. It is commonly accepted that cold dishes should not be colder than room temperatures and hot dishes should not burn lips and mouth, so that you would need to blow on it.
16. During the summer it is better to eat mostly cooling down (Yin) food and in winter it is recommended to eat more warming up (Yan) food. Accordingly, in winter people eat more hot dishes than in the summer. Moreover, in winter it is common to eat more nutritious products, while in summer people prefer “lighter” products.
17. Many dietitians recommend eating locally grown seasonal fruits and vegetables. However, considering our long winter, this rule is hard to follow.
18. Yogis believe that after a meal your stomach should not be filled for more than a half. To avoid overeating, you can ask yourself during the meal if you still want to eat a piece of stale bread and when this desire disappears, you should stop eating.
19. After eating it is not advised to start work, especially hard work. It is better to rest for 20-30 minutes, but you should not lie down or sleep.
You can also try using a yogi method of “accelerated digestion”. To do so, you need to stand straight by a wall so that your heels, buttocks, shoulder blades and the back of your head would touch the wall, or seat on your heels (stand on your knees, put your heels apart without lifting the toes and then sit down in the space formed) with your back straight. Then men should cover the left nostril with the ring and little fingers of the right hand and women should cover the right nostril with the right thumb. A person stays in this position for 5-10 minutes breathing calmly with the open nostril. You should breathe very calmly, naturally, without any tension and rhythmically, if possible. This makes the fire of your digestion much stronger.
20. The myth about benefits and even necessity of eating soups is very popular. It is not true. Soup might be good when the dish you eat after it is hard to digest, like potatoes with meat, but when you have a healthy diet, soups, even vegetarian ones, are not necessary at all. Grains, vegetables and other normal foods do not require any preliminary stomach preparation. Moreover, according to the Vedas, “the fire of digestion should not be put out with water”.
If you decide to eat soups anyway, it is better to follow the traditions and eat liquid food before the hard one. (One more rule: raw food should be eaten before cooked one).
21. It is not recommended to drink right before a meal, during or right after it. Drinking a little while eating is allowed, but it is better to use only your own saliva for this purposes. An exception can be made for very dry food.
Water or herbal tea can be part of a meal, but after eating it is better to avoid drinking for at least an hour. In general, it is recommended to drink not less than 2-3 liters per day (including water in fruits, vegetables and other products). It is obligatory to drink water in the morning, when you wake up, in the evening, before going to bed, and half an hour before every meal.
“You are the best judge in regard to your food and drink. You must know your constitution and the climatic condition and see which kind of food and drink would suit you and keep your mental and physical health in normal condition. Avoid any food that produces abnormal heat or cold and that may not be properly and easily digested. Avoid any food that may bring on sense irritations or lethargy. In very cold climates heat producing food and drinks may be a necessity but in very hot climate, only cooling food and drinks would be needed. The Nature Herself has provided different countries with different fauna and flora in different seasons. Take a lesson from Nature and make no mess of food and drink…” (Swami Narayanananda. A Practical Guide To Samadhi. Rishikesh, 1966)
And last but not the least, do not worship food. Do not make a problem out of food. Be wise.
Text: from the book A.Eddar “Treatise of nutrition”. Interpreter: Liza Dukhova