The Gerson Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine

Scott Gerson, M.D., Ph.D. (Ayurveda) Medical Director, Jupiter Medical Center Dept. of Integrative Medicine Division of Education and Research

Jupiter Medical Center at The Calcagnini Center for Mindfulness
1210 S. Old Dixie Highway, Jupiter, Florida 33458, Suite M-117.2

 

Lake Mary Clinic and Panchakarma Facility: at 635 Primera Blvd. Lake Mary, Florida 32746

 

 Telephone: (561) 263-MIND (6463); option #2 or (561) 510-3833

Basic Principles Of Ayurveda

Ayurvedic Concept Of Food Combining

Food Combining (Samyoga)

The order in which we eat different classes of foods, how we combine them, and the amounts we consume will determine how well we digest and assimilate our vital nutrients. The better we digest and assimilate our foods, the less likely we are to form toxic substances, accumulate excess fat, and crave unhealthy food articles.

Within the various factions of both conventional and alternative medical nutrition there is a great deal of controversy regarding food combining. This has led to a growing confusion among consumers as to which, if any, foods are best taken together or separately.

Ayurveda offers a rational and scientific approach for determining correct diet which is based upon an individual's constitution. Vata, Pitta and Kapha (the tri-dosha) are the energies from which human beings are constituted. This energetic constitution is the basis of determining which foods are best for maintaining physiological balance for a given individual. This approach is quite different from the conventional view of a balanced diet which exhorts us all--despite our individual differences--to eat from the same basic food groups: meat, dairy, fruit, grains and vegetables and achieve the same "standard" levels of vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients. According to Ayurvedic wisdom this approach is insufficiently individualized and ignores factors such as age, sex, race, climate, digestive capacity, stress, immune status, strength, illness, emotions, and adaptability.

In the Ayurvedic literature there are six types of nutritional imbalances:

  • Quantitative deficiency. This includes under-nutrition due to insufficient food, and even starvation.
  • Quantitative excess. Includes excessive amounts of both health foods and even water.
  • Qualitative deficiency. This includes wrong food combination which results in malnutrition, toxic condition and lack of essential nutrients.
  • Qualitative excess. This includes emotional overeating of rich or high fat foods which can result in obesity and/or high cholesterol which and promote hypertension, coronary vessel disease, and stroke.
  • Ama-producing. Certain foods and food combinations lead to toxemia and to certain digestive disorders.
  • Prakriti. Foods not appropriate for one's constitution may reduce immunity and cause disease. These six factors are closely correlated with the strength of agni (the gastric fire). There are four types of agni:
  • MANDAGNI. This is due to an excess kapha condition, leading to slow metabolism, overweight, allergies and congestive diseases.
  • TIKSHNAGNI. Pitta dosha is responsible for this type of agni disorder. It may cause hyper-metabolism, hyperacidity, heartburn and hypoglycemia leading to inflammatory diseases.
  • VISHAMAGNI. Due to vata dosha the gastric fire becomes vitiated, causing irregular appetite, indigestion and gases. Emotionally this can result in anxiety, insecurity, fear, and neurological or mental problems.
  • SAMAGNI. This type of agni is the result of balanced tri-dosha. A person having this type of agni can eat almost any type of food without difficulty. Digestion, absorption and elimination are all normal.

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 resulting in production of toxins in the system. While it is true that an individual's agni largely determines how well or poorly food is digested, food combinations are also of great importance. 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. Thus, according to Ayurveda, one should eat according to one's constitution and take fruits, starches, proteins and fats separately at different times of the day. Combining foods improperly can produce indigestion, fermentation, putrefaction and gas formation. This condition, if prolonged, can lead to toxemia and disease complex. For example, eating bananas with milk can diminish agni, change the intestinal flora producing toxins and may cause sinus congestion, cold, cough and allergies.

Ayurveda emphasizes the improper combinations of foods not be taken together because of early observations that certain combinations of foods caused many physical and mental problems.

These problems include: excess intestinal gas, constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain, urinary retention, digestive fermentation, lethargy, sleep disorders, depression, anxiety, a confused mind, and ultimately--a decrease in the function of the entire physiology. These were the direct observations made by the ancient Indian physicians. Today we know that different classes of food require their own specific digestive enzymes. This may seem like an obvious fact to anyone who has taken high school biology, yet as a society we seem to have missed the vitally important implication of this fact. It is this: by consuming many different types of food at a single meal we place a demand on our digestive glands to manufacture and secrete many different digestive enzymes simultaneously.

The principles of Ayurvedic food combining are derived from written information left us in the ancient writing of the Indian physicians living around 100 A.D.. The basic difference from how we are used to eating today is that they only ate two or three different types of foods at any one meal. We tend to have at least six or seven (if not more) types of food at most meals. Foods should not be too fancy. Gourmet foods with rich, sweet tastes will influence even the most strong-willed, health-conscious person to overindulge. Foods should be simple and naturally delicious. For thousands of years mankind has prepared natural and unprocessed foods in simple ways--it is these foods that our physiology needs to function best. For those of us who have become stressed or gained weight, returning to a more simple dietary style is the key to health and weight loss. It’s also the best way to maintain health. Remember that eating only a few kinds of foods at each meal will not result in nutrient deficiencies if you eat a variety of foods based on what is in season in the country in which you live. A true Ayurvedic diet will give anyone a sufficient variety of healthy, nutrient-rich foods for an entire lifetime.

Some important recommendations of Ayurvedic Food Combining include:

Avoid taking 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. In this case the sugar would not be properly digested.

Avoid eating melons and grains together. Melons digest quickly whereas grains take more time. This combination will upset the stomach.

Melons should be eaten alone or left alone.

Honey should never be cooked. Honey digests slowly when cooked and the molecules become a non-homogenized glue which adheres to mucous membranes and clogs subtle channels, producing toxins. Uncooked honey is nectar. Cooked honey is poison.

Do not eat meat protein and milk protein together.

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.

While eating one should properly masticate the food in order to soften it and ensure that it is thoroughly mixed with saliva.

Vata and Pitta constitutions may finish a meal by drinking a cup of lassi. This can be made by blending four tablespoons of yogurt with pinches of ginger, fennel powder, and cumin powder in 3/4 cup of water.

Specific common food incompatibilities are listed below.

INCOMPATIBLE FOOD COMBINATIONS

Milk Is Incompatible With:

  • Bananas
  • Fish
  • Meat
  • Melons
  • Curd
  • Sour Fruits
  • Kitchari
  • Bread containing yeast
  • Cherries

Melons Are Incompatible With:

  • Grains
  • Starch
  • Fried foods
  • Cheese

Starches Are Incompatible With:

  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Bananas
  • Dates

Honey Is Incompatible With:

  • Ghee (in equal proportions)
  • Heating or cooking with.

Radishes Are Incompatible With:

  • Milk
  • Bananas
  • Raisins

Nightshades, (Potato, Tomato, Brinjal, Chilies) Are Incompatible With:

  • Yogurt
  • Milk
  • Melon
  • Cucumber

Yogurt Is Incompatible With:

  • Milk
  • Sour Fruits
  • Melons
  • Hot drinks
  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Mangoes
  • Starch

Eggs Are Incompatible With:

  • Milk
  • Meat
  • Yogurt
  • Melons
  • Cheese
  • Fish
  • Bananas

Mangos Are Incompatible With:

  • Yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Cucumbers

Corn Is Incompatible With:

  • Dates
  • Raisins
  • Bananas

Lemon Is Incompatible With:

  • Yogurt
  • Milk
  • Cucumbers
  • Tomatoes

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.

It is important to understand that there is one and only one major factor which determines the completeness and efficiency of our digestive processes: the proper production and secretion of our digestive enzymes. The Ayurvedic correlate of these enzymes is known as the jatharagni, which is the main agni of the body and which controls all other agnis (the five bhutagnis and the seven dhatvagnis). Very little else really matters when it comes to digesting the foods you eat. Therefore, if we can optimize the function of this multi-faceted system of digestive enzymes we can utilize our diet as a major disease-fighting tool.