Modern wisdom says, “You are what you eat!”. According to Ayurveda, “You are what you digest!”. So, a dish made from the finest super foods, that is not digested well by our systems, is more harmful, than beneficial to us! In the same light, a simple dish made from a couple of humble, regular ingredients, that is easily digestible by our systems is ultimately beneficial to us, even though its ingredients didn’t individually score as high as the super food ingredients. We need to pay attention to not just the ingredients in our foods, but also on how we combine them.
Importance of Food Combinations
In Ayurveda, each food substance has a unique taste (rasa), heating or cooling energy (veerya), post-digestive effect (vipaka) and special effect (prabhava). For example, ghee (clarified butter) is sweet in taste, has a cooling energy and post-digestive effect and has digestion enhancing and medicinal healing as special effects. Note that these special effects or prabhava bears no visible co-relation to the rasa, veerya or vipaka. When foods having different tastes, energies, post-digestive effects and/or special effects are eaten together, the digestion is overloaded. If the digestive fire or agni is not super strong, this overload inhibits the digestion and some parts of the food are left undigested. Over time, this undigested matter or ama starts weakening the digestive fire or agni. The whole process becomes a vicious cycle and the ama starts causing blockages in the subtle body channels.
Implications of Improper or Incompatible Food Combinations
In the short-term, this kind of improper combination of foods leads to flatulence, bloating, gurgling in the stomach, and other symptoms of indigestion. Over time, increased incidence of colds, coughs, sinus infections can occur. When such habits become chronic, idiosyncrasies caused by a weak agni start causing disturbances at a cellular level, resulting in diseases of increasing severity.
Chart of Incompatible Foods
|NAME OF FOOD||INCOMPATIBLE WITH|
|Honey||Ghee in equal proportion by weight|
|Nightshades(Potato, tomato, eggplant)||
Rationale with Examples
Milk and melons are incompatible. Both have a sweet rasa, cooling veerya, and cooling vipaka. But their prabhavas are different – milk is laxative, while melons are diuretic. The time needed for digesting milk is more than the time needed for digesting melons. Also, while digesting melons, the stomach acids curdle the milk, causing fermentation and potential putrefaction from occurring within the digestive tract.
Fruit are generally best consumed by themselves, especially sour fruit. Fruit are easier to digest and naturally tend to move through the digestive tract pretty fast. When combined with another complex food, the fruit is inhibited from moving through the digestive tract quickly. The acidic nature of most fruit tend to cause fermentation and putrefaction of the other complex food. This stifles the agni, in addition to causing symptoms like flatulence, bloating etc.
- Having a strong digestive fire or agni is the best solution for minimizing the havoc caused by incompatible foods.
- Indulging in an incorrect combination once in a while won’t cause as much digestive disruption.
- When one’s body becomes accustomed to an incompatible combination over time, there may be no palpable disturbance to their digestive systems, but that doesn’t mean it is not affecting them.
- Adding spices and herbs to foods with opposing qualities can help mitigate some of the ill effects of the food. For example, adding cooling spices like coriander can offset some of the pungent and hot qualities of a food.
Start slow and make changes gradually. Many of these incompatible combinations may come as a shock to you. In fact, most of these combinations are popular in our smoothie drinking, fruit-nut-cereal-milk eating generation. Nonetheless, do start making a conscious effort and do your digestions a huge favor by not indulging in these incompatible foods.
I will leave you with an ancient Ayurvedic saying – “If diet is wrong, medicine is of no use; If diet is correct, medicine is of no need!”.
So, choose wisely and live well!