In this present age of speed and gadgets, least time is spent on a “vital act” of life which is none other than “eating”. The eating habits have evolved over time only to become hazardous to health and wellness. The focus has shifted to the colour, taste and fancy names of the food, rather than the organic nutritive content and their impact on the internal organs and metabolism. Very few are aware of the fact that “good food “can foster health whereas “bad food” can destroy health.
The role of food and eating habits in determining health and disease is very much underestimated in this modern world. This concept has been clearly explained in the world-renowned ancient Tamil doctrine “Thirukkural” in the chapter of “Medicine”
மருந்தென வேண்டாவாம் யாக்கைக்கு அருந்தியது
அற்றது போற்றி உணின்
Meaning: No medicine is necessary for him who eats after assuring (himself) that what he has (already) eaten has been digested.
இழிவறிந்து உண்பான்கண் இன்பம்போல் நிற்கும்
கழிபேர் இரையான்கண் நோய்
Meaning: As pleasure dwells with him who eats moderately, so does disease (dwells) with the glutton, who eats excessively.
மாறுபாடு இல்லாத உண்டி மறுத்துண்ணின்
ஊறுபாடு இல்லை உயிர்க்கு
Meaning: There shall be no disaster to one’s life if one eats with moderation, the food that is not disagreeable to the body.
The long forgotten art of “eating for health”
Eating when hungry:
Food consumed during hunger is digested, absorbed and eliminated perfectly by the body. Hungerless eating driven by taste leads to indigestion and ineffective elimination which pave way for all diseases.
Digestion starts in the mouth:
It is essential to be relaxed while eating for proper digestion and absorption. Chewing the food thoroughly aids in commencing the digestive process in the mouth with the enzymes of saliva thereby reducing the load of the internal organs of digestion (stomach, liver, pancreas etc ). To achieve this adequate time should be spared for eating. Haste makes waste in eating.
Eat with your hands:
The nerve endings on our fingertips are known to stimulate digestion. Feeling your food becomes a way of signalling the stomach that you are about to eat.
When you eat with your hands, the flora in the fingers is swallowed. It is beneficial for health and for various body parts such as the mouth, throat, and intestine, and it promotes healthy digestion in the gut.
Eat wholesome food:
Food should ideally be consumed in its natural form. Refining food strips off the vital nutrients and makes the food unsuitable for digestion and absorption.
Refined, processed, stored and packed food is lifeless food. The cereals and pulses should be eaten in their wholesome form. For instance, when rice is polished by removing the husk and the bran(outer coverings of paddy grain) it loses the abundant vitamin B complex and the dietary fibre. When cane sugar is refined it loses lots of minerals like iron, calcium and becomes intoxicated with harmful chemicals like sulphur-di-oxide and phosphoric acid.
Know when to drink water:
Drinking water half an hour before and after eating would promote digestion. Water consumed during eating dilutes the digestive juice in the stomach and hence hinders digestion.
Empty your intestines:
Emptying the bladder and bowel before eating is essential for proper digestion. Eating with a” clogged bowel” results in both improper digestion and faulty elimination of the waste. Thus the person would suffer from both indigestion and constipation.
Cut down the spices:
Food with extreme taste blocks the secretion of digestive enzymes and irritates the inner tissue lining of the stomach and intestines and creates false hunger. This results in overeating and indigestion along with peptic ulcer.
Food that is nearly equal to the body temperature is ideal for health. Too hot or too cold food severely affects the secretion of digestive juice, irritates the inner lining of the digestive organs and results in impaired digestion and elimination.
Know when to stop eating:
When the stomach is totally empty after perfect digestion, it is filled with air. While eating, as the stomach gets filled with food to an optimal level the air gets displaced, which we experience as a “burp” or “belch”. It would be ideal to stop eating after this”burp”, as the stomach is not meant to be completely filled with food. A partly filled stomach is ideal for healthy digestion.
Reforming your eating habits and respecting the “art of eating “ would reward you with robust health. Happy eating!