Our daily diet — what we eat and how we eat it — plays a principal role in our state of health and well-being. Ayurveda stresses the importance of maintaining a healthy agni, or digestive fire, and an optimally functioning digestive system in determining our overall health: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.
Monika Singhal, Ayurveda Practitioner
Way of life
Ayurveda suggests that food combinations that are not compatible with regard to their properties must be avoided. Curd with palm date, radish with black gram, bananas with butter milk, spinach with sesame seeds, honey with wine of dates etc. are few examples of wrong food combinations. Likewise, it is advisable never to take milk with meat, melons, bananas, beer and sour substances whereas fish should never be taken with radish, honey, sesame seeds, black pepper and milk. In equal proportions, any of the combinations of ghee, honey, sesame oil and meat is harmful. With water, ghee and honey in even unequal proportions is bad. Ghee stored in a bronze vessel for a period of ten days becomes unfit for consumption.
The power of food to cause or cure disease is now well accepted by most medical traditions. And yet the number of people struggling and taking medication to deal with gas, indigestion and weight management is greater than ever. With more and more “super diets” coming in and out of fashion, it can be incredibly difficult to make heads or tails of the vast amount of contradictory information available online and in print.
Rather than looking at diet in terms of food groups, Ayurveda determines the ideal diet for each individual according to the elements comprising their constitution. Vata, pitta, and kapha are the three doshas that make up everyone’s body type. As each of us has a unique constitution, there is no one-size-fits-all dietary approach in Ayurveda. Instead, Ayurveda believes that a comprehensive understanding of the individual and the strength of their digestive fire (agni) is key to finding a balanced diet.
When two foods that have a different taste, energy, and post-digestive effect are combined, it can overburden the digestive fire. This inhibits digestive enzyme production and results in the formation of toxins in the body. Even medicine, if taken under the wrong circumstances, can become poison. Similarly, Ayurveda recognises that some foods which ignite agni when eaten in isolation, can become toxic when combined with one another. Combining incompatible foods weakens the digestive system, can cause fermentation in the digestive tract resulting in gas and bloating, and ultimately resulting in a buildup of toxic material (ama).
Agni is not purely responsible for the digestive system. The state of our agni also informs the body’s ability to eliminate waste and the strength of the immune system. Therefore, if incompatible food combinations are consumed regularly or over a long period of time, agni will be compromised, which can lead to toxemia and disease.
Incompatible / Unhealthy Food Combinations
Lemon should not be consumed with yogurt, milk, cucumbers and tomatoes.
Grains and Melons – Melons digest faster than the heavy grains – which can cause indigestion and ama.
Milk and Meat Products – Any type of meat (fish, beef etc) should not be mixed with milk. Milk is cooling while meats are heating.
Honey – Honey should only be taken uncooked. According to Ayurveda, when you heat honey, it turns into a toxin (ama). It also weakens/destroys enzymes, vitamins, minerals, etc.
Milk/Yoghurt with fruits – unless cooked (such as stews apples and pears). Fruits digest at a different rate from dairy products, which can cause indigestion and ama.
Milk and Banana. Yes, I know this will be harder one, especially for smoothie lovers! However together these two lower Agni (digestive fire) and produce Ama (toxins). This can cause allergies, congestion, coughs and tiredness to occur.
Milk and Melons – Melons are a fruit that should nearly always be consumed by itself.
Vegetable starches and Fruit – Fruit is a simple sugar, while starches are a complex sugar – which means they will digest at different times. Avoid eating these together. eg. Potatoes with fruit.
Nightshades (which are eggplants, potatoes, chillies, tomatoes etc) are not to be consumed with melons, cucumbers, milk + milk products.
Salt and milk together should be avoided due to opposing qualities in the two.
Eggs should not be eaten with meat, banana, yogurt, melons, cheese, fish or milk.
Corn should not be eaten with fruit.
The body is constantly changing and developing. What we need today may be entirely different a week or even an hour from now. Learning to be soft with ourselves is the first step on the path to optimal mental, physical and spiritual wellness. In a similar way, Ayurveda encourages us to implement dietary or lifestyle changes gradually, being sensitive not to put the body under any unnecessary stress.
Embrace balance. Be good when you can but don’t sweat when you break the rules. Ayurvedic food combining is hugely effective when implemented but should be done so in moderation and with flexibility. Most importantly, be kind to yourself. Keep mealtimes joyful and incorporate the wisdom of ayurveda slowly and gradually.