Eating: ingesting food for growth and energy.

Seems simple right?

So, when did eating become so complicated?  There are so many different ideas and controversies over what should be eaten or what should be eliminated in a diet.  There are fad diets, juice cleanses and lifestyle diets, like keto, vegan, and raw food diets. But, who’s keeping track…

Let’s bring it back to the basics: in Ayurveda, how you eat is just as important as what you eat.

Here are some tips to help improve your digestion and get the most out of whatever your diet is:

  1. Make sure your meal is being prepared by a happy cook.
    Have you seen the study where one plant is negatively talked down to while the other is given loving and positive words?  If not, here’s a recap: the one that is not treated well, doesn’t DO well.  So make sure there is a lot of love going into your food preparation, because that is what you’re putting in your body after all!
  2. Eat meals that appeal to all your senses.
    Don’t get me wrong, I am satisfied with tasty food, but why not eat food that stimulates all your senses.  Eat food that not only tastes good, but also looks and smells great, too.
  3. Eat in a settled and calm environment.
    When you’re stressed your chewing becomes more aggressive, your hormones are thrown off balance, energy expenditure decreases, blood sugar regulation goes out of control and your metabolism slows down.
  4. Try not to eat while you’re upset.
    Emotional eating may cause you to over eat.
  5. Focus on what you’re eating.
    Try to have your full, undivided attention on your meal.  Be interested in what you’re eating and really taste what’s in front of you.
  6. Always eat your meal while sitting.
    When you stand and eat, the impact of the food dropping to your stomach is more harmful than if you are sitting, and can also cause more gasses.  When you eat while sitting, your stomach is also more relaxed and able to focus on digesting your food.
  7. Eat when you’re hungry.
    Our bodies are absolutely incredible! Give it some credit and listen to your body, it’s pretty good at knowing what you need.
  8. Avoid ice cold drinks and food.
    Think of your stomach like any other muscle, when you eat, the stomach gears up to run it’s own little marathon. So, avoid ice cold drinks and foods, this stiffens the stomach and slows your metabolism.  Diminishing the heat from your stomach also causes the body to pull in more blood from everywhere else in order to bring the heat up again in your stomach.
  9. Don’t talk while chewing your food.
    The digestion process starts in your mouth, so allow your teeth and saliva to break down the food as much as it can before sending it off to your stomach.
  10. Give yourself 2-6 hours in between meals.
    Think of your stomach as a fire: you wouldn’t keep throwing more wood on before the old wood has burnt out, right?  So give your body time to digest your previous meal before eating again.
  11. Sip warm water with your meal.
    Drinking too much water while you eat can dilute the enzymes in your stomach that are trying to digest your food.
  12. When possible, eat freshly cooked meals.
    Prana is the vital energy from fruits and vegetables which our body needs, but as food ages so does this vital energy. Eating foods with high prana (vital life force) will make you feel more energized!
  13. Cooked foods are easier to digest.
    Raw foods can be great as a snack around noon time, when your digestive fires are the highest, but lightly cooked and seasoned foods are easier to digest and assimilate.
  14. Do not consume heated honey.
    Honey can be a great healthy alternative to white sugar, just make sure you are not heating it to high temperatures as it becomes toxic and rancid.
  15. Drink milk separately from meals.
    Milk causes a lot of mucus in the body and that makes your food heavier to digest.  Try heating your milk with a bit of ginger and enjoy it separately from your meals to gain the benefits of this nourishing food.
  16. Leave 1/3 to 1/4 of your stomach empty to aid digestion.
    This is pretty simple, don’t eat until you can barely move! Try not to overload you stomach with a pile of work and give it some room to digest what you’ve given it.
  17. Eat your heaviest meal around noon.
    Your digestive fires are the strongest around this time and your stomach is able to digest heavier meals then.
  18. Sit quietly for a few minutes after every meal.
    Focus your attention on the sensations in your body, then go for a short walk.

Try reviewing these tips before your next meal and notice which ones you practice voluntarily and which ones require more attention.  We would love to hear which ones have worked for you in the comments below!

If you want to learn more about Ayurvedic eating and what foods can help improve your digestion, join us for our Food as Medicine: Ayurvedic Cooking Class every Wednesday 9am-4pm starting in November.  For more information or to register click here.