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How, When and What You Eat
According to Ayurveda, there are three major guidelines when it comes to eating. They focus on HOW, WHEN and WHAT you eat.
In the west, we incessantly obsess over what to eat, constantly arguing over which is “the best” diet, while ignoring the value of how you eat and when you eat. We generally eat on the run, while driving, late at night, throughout the day or in a rush. Many eat basically the same foods year-round.
While changing what you eat to be in sync with the seasons and when you eat to be in sync with the light/dark circadian cycles is critical, according to Ayurveda, how you eat, not when or what you eat is considered the most important.
Below are my Top 20 Ayurvedic Eating Tips to improve digestion. (Notice, many of these tips revolve around HOW to eat your food!)
- Eat your main meal at midday. Studies suggest that digestive strength is greater at midday and weaker at night. Start with a small breakfast that is big enough to get you through to lunch without hunger. Make lunch your main meal and have nothing until supper. Make supper as small and as early as possible, but eat enough to get through to breakfast without needing more food. (1)
- Be sure the stomach, bladder and bowels are empty before eating. Eat only when you are actually hungry. Eating just two meals a day is fine as long as you remain satisfied throughout the day.
- Eat predominantly a plant-based, whole food, minimally or completely non-processed diet, and if needed, small amounts of meat (only around 10% of the whole diet).
- Instead of snacks when craving food between meals, drink water first. Studies suggest many cravings for food are actually just a need for water. (2,3) Avoid snacking between meals.
- Pre-hydrate your stomach for optimal digestion. Studies suggest digestive and weight loss benefits from drinking a glass of water 30 minutes before meals. (3) This hydrates the bicarbonate acid buffer layer in the stomach which allows the full production of stomach hydrochloric acid
- During your meals, sip room temperature or hot water in an amount needed to create a soup-like consistency of the food and water in your stomach. Too much water too close to meals can dilute essential stomach acids needed for digestion. (2,3)
- Do not drink iced beverages during your meals.
- Do not eat while upset, angry or distracted. Eat sitting down and in a relaxed, casual manner. Do not rush. There is an old Vedic saying, “If you eat standing up, death looks over your shoulder.”
- Bring everything to the table so you don’t need to get up once you start eating. Whenever possible, designate a server so this is easily accomplished.
- Say grace or give thanks. Studies show that a pre-meal ritual actually improves digestion. (4)
- Clear your mind and taste, touch, smell and look at your food while eating eat slowly. Chew your food thoroughly.
- No TV, mail, reading, business or distractions during your meals. Enjoy pleasant company and zero business while eating your meals.
- Avoid leftovers. If you do have leftovers, do not save food for more than 24 hours.
- Avoid over- or under-cooked food. Studies suggest that over-cooking can be harmful and under-cooking can make it difficult to assimilate certain nutrients from the food. (5)
- Eat a balanced meal with a plate that is ½ veggies, ¼ starches and ¼ protein. Add healthy oils in small amounts.
- Try to include all six tastes in each meal: sweet, sour, salt, bitter, pungent and astringent.
- Avoid heavy food at night, such as yogurt or cheese. These foods are heavy, warming and best eaten in the middle of the day when your digestion is strongest.
- Eat more seasonal foods. Sign up for our free, monthly seasonal eating guide, The 3-Season Diet Challenge.
- Plan to eat supper early and maintain a 13-hour fast each day from supper to breakfast. Studies show that this supports healthy weight loss and blood sugar levels while resetting fat metabolism. (6)
- Take time after the meal to rest for 5-10 minutes. If possible rest on your left side and then take a short walk. Studies show that this improves digestion, and the short walk helps to balance blood sugar. (7,8)