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Why food is taken? 
Definitely it is not just for filling the stomach or to satisfy your taste buds.
Here, we have to introduce a deeper level of doshas (Vata, Pitta, Kapha) that is important relative to healthy life. Vata, Pitta & Kapha have subtle counter parts called Prana, Tejas & Ojas that could be called “the three vital essences”. These are the roots or master forms of Vata, Pitta & Kapha (the three doshas) that control ordinary Psychophysical functioning and if reoriented properly, energize higher spiritual potentials as well. They are not simply forces of the physical body but of the subtle and causal bodies, as well.
PRANA (Primal life force) is the subtle energy of AIR as the master force and guiding intelligence behind all psychophysical functions, responsible for co-ordination of breath, senses and mind. On an inner level, it unfolds and harmonizes all higher state of consciousness.
TEJAS (Inner radiance) is the subtle energy of FIRE as the radiance of vitality through which we digest out air, impressions and thoughts. On an inner level, it unfolds the higher perceptual capacities.
OJAS (Primal Vigor) is the subtle energy of WATER as the stored up vital reserve, the basis of physical and mental endurance. Ojas is the internalized essence of digested food, water, air, impressions and thoughts. On an inner level it is responsible for nourishing and developing of all higher facilities.
These three forces are interrelated.  Prana and Tejas are rooted in Ojas and can be regarded as aspects of Ojas. Tejas is the heat and light energy of Ojas. Prana is the energy and strength that come from Ojas after it has been kindled into Tejas. Ojas is the Potential, the stamina of the mind and nervous system for holding Tejas and Prana. Ojas has the capacity to turn into Tejas (heat), which has the capacity to turn into Prana (electricity).
According to Ayurveda, when the doshas (Vata, Pitta, Kapha) are too high or too low, they cause disease. But these vital essences (Prana, Tejas, Ojas) unlike doshas promote health, creativity and well-being and provide the support for deeper yoga meditation practices.

IMMUNE SYSTEM

Prana, Tejas and Ojas give energy to the immune system.
Ojas is the basic capacity of the immune system to defend our selves against external pathogens. It provides endurance, resistance and strength to ward off diseases.
Tejas is the immune system that is able to burn and destroy toxins, when activated. It generates the fever to destroy Pathogens that attack the body. Tejas is our ability to attack and overcome to acute disease, which are generally infectious in nature.
Prana is the long term activation of the immune functions to project and develop life energy, which manifests when we are dealing with chronic diseases. It is the adaptability of the immune system and sustains all long term healing process. With sufficient Prana, Tejas and Ojas  no disease can approach us.
Ayurveda emphasize “right diet” as the foundations of all healing therapies. Food is the first and most important form of medicine. Ayurveda recommends sattva or pure food because Sattva creates balance, eliminates harmful factors and helps reduce all excessive doshas.


CORRECT TYPE OF FOOD
Here, we have to differentiate a yogic diet and an Ayurvedic diet. Ayurveda works to improve bodily health, yoga helps us more beyond bodily limitations. For this reason most traditional yogic disciplines are ascetic in nature including fasting and light diet, raw food and detoxification methods, as well as sensory deprivations, pranayama and meditations. All these factors not only tend to reduce physical consciousness but can aggravate Vata. Traditional Ayurveda, on the other hand emphasizes cooked food and nutritive diet to build physical strength and prevent the doshas, particularly vata, from accumulation. Hence, a correct type of food is that which balances all the three doshas and hence activate the three vital essences.

WHY NO NON-VEGETARIAN?
If you personally ask me this question,   my answer, in a  lighter sense will be  “I don't want my intestine to be the burial ground of dead animals.”
Ayurveda always recommend sattvic or pure food because sattva creates, balance, eliminates harmful factors and helps reduce vitiated doshas. The basis of sattvic diet is first of all vegetarian, avoiding any products involve killing of animal, even for the sake of eating. So the meat eating violates the principles of ahimsa or non-violence.
We cannot readily breakdown animal tissues in to the right components for human tissues. Instead of digesting and transforming meat in to the appropriate human tissue, ‘its' animal energies are preserved and become substituted for our human tissues. Hence meat increases animal fire in the body bringing the tendencies of these animals to function within us. This promotes anger, lust and fear and other negative emotions. Further meat produces a heavy or taamasa type of tissue that clogs the channels that tends to make the mind dull. Not only violence and crime but also religious intolerance has been more common among meat eating groups. Even economically, the grain used to produce meat to serve one family could serve easily five families. The whole economic status of a nation can change if everybody in the country resolves to be vegetarians.


WHAT IS A CORRECT DIET?  
Ayurvedic cooking and dietic approaches are mainly concerned with physical health and do not always address the issues of Sattva. Hence they may discuss certain food types that are not very Sattvic in nature. Yoga, on the other hand emphasizing a Sattvic diet, may include foods that can aggravate certain doshas. For an optimal dietary regimen one should combine a Sattvic diet with a diet appropriate for one's doshic type.
The correct diet additionally emphasizes natural foods, food grown in harmony with nature, on good soils, ripened naturally, cooked in right manner and with right manner and with right attitude of love. Such foods are carriers of Prana and consciousness. Correct diet, further, is a matter of timing of meals as well. One should avoid heavy food in the morning or in the late evening, as it is more likely to clog the system at these times. The morning meal should be light & stimulating. The main meal should be at noon (not afternoon) and in the early evening. Eating late at night, except some light food like fruits or milk, weights the body and mind down. We can divide the food into five categories in terms of the Prana – ‘the vital force'. In Ayurveda, Prana is divided into five namely Praana, Apaana,  Udaana, Samaana  and vyaana. Each of them has different duties in our system, which in combination will energize the physical body, mind and the subtle body. Our food intake hence should be to activate all Praanas in balance. The following tabulation will give a study of activities of each praana in our system and food that would activate each praana.

 


PRANA

ACTIVITY

FOOD INTAKE

Praana (Forward moving AIR) It governs reception of all types from eating food, drinking water & inhalation of air to the reception of sensory impressions. This is the vital energy in the head primarily the region of the third eye, which nourished the brain. It provides positive energy for all the other Praanas.
Green leafy vegetables and sprouts that grow quickly. These are stimulating, cooling & purifying. These foods, particularly if combined with mild aromatic spice combined with mild aromatic spice like ginger, coriander or mint promote Prana considerably
Apaana (AIR that moves away)

Apaana moves downward and outward. It governs the elimination of stool and the urine, the expelling of semen, menstrual fluid and fetus and the elimination of the Carbon-di-oxide through the breath. On A deeper level Apaana eliminates the Negative sensory, emotional and mental Experiences. It is the basis of our immune Functions on all levels

Apaana foods are that grow beneath the earth. Mainly root vegetables like potatoes, carrots and sweet potatoes. They increase strength endurance and Ojas but can be a little heavy. Roots can contain great vital energy. This category includes special powerful root Herbs like Aswagandha and Shatavari as powerful tonics to Reproductive system, which is Ruled by Apaana. At the same time foods that develop from the ground like garlic, onion and mushrooms are tamasic in nature and hence yogis should avoid them

Udaana(Upward moving air)

Udaana moves upward. It governs growth of our body, the ability to stand, speech, effort, enthusiasm and will. This is the vital energy in the throat that governs speech and self-expression and holds the head up through the neck

Udaana foods are fruits and nuts that grow above the trees. They contain more of ether elements and nourish the deeper mind & heart. They can be taken by themselves and are very wholesome, light and balancing.

 

Samaana (Balancing air) Samaana moves from the periphery to the center through a churning and discerning action. It works in gastro intestinal tract to digest food. In the lungs to absorb oxygen and in the mind to digest the experiences whether sensory, emotional or mental. It is the vital energy in the naval where our energy is centered and where digestion occurs.

 

Samaana foods are mainly whole grains which have balancing effect, particularly rice, this is why whole grains should be foundation of all diets. Diary products, which are predigested food, come under Samaana as well as does honey and raw sugars. Such foods are nourishing but not heavy, unless taken in excess and very easy to digest.

 

Vyaana (Outward moving AIR) Vyaana moves from the center to the periphery. It governs circulation on all levels. Vyaana moves the water and oxygen through out the body and keeps our emotions and thoughts circulating in the mind, imparting movement and providing strength. In doing so, it assists all other Praanas in their work. Vyaana is the vital energy in the heart and lungs where our energy expands.

 

Vyaana food are those which spreads on the ground like squash, melons, strawberries, tomatoes and beans. These are strengthening and stimulating and help our energy expand. They are usually taken along with grains or Samaana food. Please note that strawberries and tomatoes have a tendency to develop rajasic quality. So yogis can avoid or use less of these items.

 

In terms of Physical body,

VYAANA Governs the movement of energy from head down to the Naval which is the Praanic center.
APAANA Governs the movement of energy from the Naval down to the moolaadhaara and again all the way down to the feet.
UDAANA Governs the movement of energy from the naval, up to the head.

The naval is the main Prana center in the body, in which all Praanas are held like the spokes in the center of the wheel.
Special Note: Most of us are only “Part time Yogis” and a judicious combination of all the above diets will give us enough strength – Physically, Mentally and Spiritually.

Non-Vegetarians often ask a question --- “What about Proteins?”
Protein is built from amino acids. There are 22 amino acids used in the body. The body itself is able to produce 13 of them. The other 9 are referred to as “essential amino acids” which the body gets from the food. Most of the essential amino acids are found in abundance in food (Yes, even in Vegetarian diet). So eating a variety of food would help us get most of the amino acids. For the critical amino acids, remember the grains are relatively high is tryptophone and methionine and legumes are relatively high in lysine. So combine one grain and one legume to get a complete protein (Ideal is 2/3 grain 1/3 Legume). Eg;: Rice & Beans, Pasta & Tofu. We also get “Complete” protein by combining a grain or legume with milk.
Eg; Oats meal with milk
DAIRY PRODUCTS AND THEIR USE:
The Ayurveda tradition of India regards dairy products as excellent foods, particularly for individuals on the spiritual path. While dairy is not recommended of all types, particularly not for Kapha, it has an important role not only for maintaining health but also for promoting longevity. Ancient Vedic civilization grows up around the cow, which provided milk, cream, butter and yogurt. Throughout history, these foods have been favorites of the spiritual seekers who did not find dairy products harmful to their health. Ayurveda uses diary preparations medicinally particularly for improving resistance against diseases and to promote convalescence and regeneration. These include milk decoctions, medicated butter and ghee (clarified butter) freshly boiled milk with spices like ginger and cardamom and raw sugar (jaggery) are considered to be an excellent food.

However, this depends upon good quality of milk from cows that have been treated well. Such milk is rarely available commercially. A poorly prepared diary product from badly treated cows increases mucus in the system and promotes food allergies and sinus allergies.
Some people lack the enzymes necessary to digest dairy products, may be for two major reasons.

1. Their ethnic group has no history of taking dairy and
2.      They were not breast fed as children.
Other problems arise not from dairy products but from their improper preparation.

In olden days, in India, cow was allowed to give its milk to its calf first and only humans take the left over milk, which is often considerable. If the calf is taken away from its mother, her milk loses much of its nourishing qualities. Now days, cows are mistreated in many other ways including being confined to pens and milked by machines. They are now hybrid animals, produced by artificial inseminations, genetically redesigned to produce for more milk than its healthy for them to do. They are fed hormones, antibodies and inorganic grains. Ayurvedic texts explain the properties of various dairy products in great detail. They tell us that the quality of dairy products from tethered or confined animals is much less than that from animals, who are able to graze freely. Hence we cannot equate modern factory farm dairy products with those of Ayurvedic texts. Clearly we should try to get raw or organic dairy products or be careful in using dairy products at all. Of dairy products, milk and ghee are excellent and is best taken freshly boiled with spices like ginger, cinnamon and cardamom. Yogurt is best if mixed with water and made into a drink (Indian buttermilk). Vegetarians should use cheese that has been produced with vegetarian enzymes like cottage cheese, farmer’s cheese (Indian paneer) and restrict from taking commercial cheese with rennet’s that comes from cow intestines.
SPICES & SUGAR:
Most of the spices are rajasic and can irritate the nerves. But we have sweet spices like ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, basic and fennel – they are sattvic. There is nothing in using Rajasic spices in a small quantity for the part time Yogis but they should be prepared in correct proportions with good oil. If you take a high spice diet, make sure that you are using good quality natural spice along with good quality natural oil, like ghee. Good ghee should be used from raw or organic butter rather than a regular commercial butter.
We all require a certain amount of natural sugars like honey or unrefined sugar (Jaggery) in the diet. This is particularly true in the case of children. Pure sugar is required to keep the metabolism in balance. For this reason, natural sweets in moderation must be the part of our diet.

BAD food - the modern Phenomenon
Bad or poor food quality begins with bad soils, Chemical fertilizers, and the use of insecticides and herbicides on the plants, the long time effect of which is unknown. It is further compounded by premature picking, artificial ripening, long transportation and refrigeration that often eliminates whatever real vitality managed to survive in the plants. On top of this comes the processing of food which include irradiation, freezing and canning along in the additives and preservatives of all types. In this was not enough, our cooking procedures involve microwave Ovens, over cooking and an excess use of oils, sugar, salt and spices. So eating of such food, instead of giving us much nourishment, convert our system as a breeding ground for toxins.
To worsen things, genetic engineering is now adding genes from bacteria, viruses, other plants and animals to food crops. Even the seeds that we use to grow plants are becoming genetically modified. There are bacteria, nut and flower genes in soybeans. Fish and pig genes are added to tomatoes. The main reason for such changes is to make the food look better, and last longer so that these can be used more abundantly but not to make the food more nutritious.
Hence, our first and foremost priority should be to learn to grow our own food, to support local and organic gardens and to politically active on environment matters. Make sure that we consume only organic food that too cooked in right manner and with the right attitude of love which are carriers of Prana and Consciousness.

Good diet / food Food to reduce / avoid
  • Fruit of all types, taken fresh and whole.
  • All vegetables except too much of onion and Garlic.
  • Whole grains of all types, especially, rice, wheat, and Oats.
  • Beans in moderation except too much of mung, aduki or tofu which are to heavy in nature.
  • Nuts and seeds like almond, coconut, walnuts, sesame, yet not overly roasted or salted.
  • Butter and ghee (clarified butter) and good natural plant based oils like sesame olive,
    coconut, etc.
  • Dairy products from cows who have treated well - milk, ghee, yogurt and cottage cheese (Indian Pannier).
  • Natural sugars like honey, jaggery, maple syrup and molasses.
  • Spices like ginger, cinnamon, Cardamom, fennel, cumin, Coriander turmeric, mint, basil fenugreek.
  • Herbal teas and fruit juice (Particularly water with lemon and lime)
  • Food prepared with love and consciousness.

 

  • Meat and fish of all types including eggs
  • Artificial, processed and Junk food of all types
  • Canned food except naturally canned fruits and tomatoes.
  • Poor quality oil, and animal fats.
  • Dairy products from factory farms.
  • Garlic, onions and overly spicy food
  • Fried food of all type
  • White sugar and white flour
  • Artificial sweeteners.
  • Overly cooked, old, stale or recooked food.
  • Alcohol, Tobacco, or other stimulants.
  • Any artificial beverages.
  • Any irradiated food articles, microwave cooking.
  • Genetically engineered food items.
  • Food taken in a disturbed environment or eaten too quickly.

 

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