Ayurvedic Principles of Food and Nutrition
India has a very rich tradition and expertise on health care systems for almost thousands of years. Ayurveda originated in India long back in pre-vedic period. Rigveda and Atharva-veda ( 5000 years B.C.), the earliest documented ancient Indian knowledge have references on health and diseases. Ayurved texts like Charak Samhita and Sushruta Samhita were documented about 1000 years B.C.
The term Ayurveda means ‘Science of Life'. It deals elaborately with measures for healthful living during the entire span of life and its various phases. Besides, dealing with principles for maintenance of health, it has also developed a wide range of therapeutic measures to combat illness. These principles of positive health and therapeutic measures relate to physical, mental, social and spiritual welfare of human beings. Ayurveda, the Vedic system of medicine, views health as harmony between body, mind and spirit. Its two most famous texts belong to the schools of Charaka and Sushruta. According to Charaka, health and disease are not predetermined and life may be prolonged by human effort. It defines the purpose of medicine to cure the diseases of the sick, protect the healthy, and to prolong life.
Thus Ayurveda becomes one of the oldest systems of health care dealing with both the preventive and curative aspects of life in a most comprehensive way.
There is very little awareness of the varied properties of different foods, their impact on health and disease and the influence of numerous parameters such as age, state of growth, individual parameters, season etc. on foods and their intake.
The following thrust areas on Food and Nutrition are covered in depth
Food values of common foods
Diet for special needs such as pregnant or lactating mothers
Seasonal food habits
Individual requirements based on one’s prakruthi etc.
Ayurveda expresses the scientific principles underlying these practices in a systematic way. Besides dealing in detail with the concepts, Indigenous System of Medicine -ISM also goes detail on special subjects related to food such as Paakashaasthra (art and science of cookery), oral hygiene, fasting etc. There are also several concepts in traditional nutrition which are unique such as the notion of Viruddhaahaara - or incompatible foods. Also, detailed information on the food values and therapeutic uses of various substances are given in Ayurvedic texts and Nighantus. Many traditional practices relating to food and nutrition are getting lost because concepts like agni, prakruthi, ushna, sheetha etc. are not well understood by Modern Nutritional Science.