Food should always be regular and balanced. Irregular dietery habits leads to derrangement of three humours (Vatha, Pitha and Kapha), Seven physical constituents (Saram, Chenneer, Oon, Kozhuppu, Enbu, Moolai, Sukilam, or Sronitham), Three excretas (Faeces, Urine and Sweat) hence diseases occur. This is the basic concept of Siddha Medicine regarding food habits. A diet containing all six tastes (Sweet, Astrigent, Pungent, Bitter, Salty and Sour) is a balanced diet.
Similarly digestion is very important aspect. It is well highlighted in the Pathartha Guna Chinthamani that we should consume food only half of stomach, liquid qaurter of stomach and always leave qaurter stomach empty to promote proper digestion of food. Fasting once a week or practicing of taking meal once a day atleast once a week is very good for digestive system and removes indigestion.
“Food as medicine“, is well explained in Thirukkural, about healthy eating habits and prevention of diseases. Siddhar Thiruvalluvar through his vision and experience explained specific rules or habits for the benefit of mankind, the value of which is realised only now in the present generation when Life style diseases have created havoc everywhere.
The amount of food should always be according to a persons appetite. One should always consume food only after the compete digestion of previously eaten food. Food should never be consumed during excessive hunger, anger or grief. Food should never be taken full stomach. Excess food, untimely food, overcooked food, illcooked food, unhygienic food, over fried food and very light fried foods should be avoided for people of all age groups. A person who wishes to reduce weight should always drink a glass of water before food to prevent over eating even if he or she is very hungry.
People never bothers about the utensils used in cooking and serving food. There are traditional healthy ways of cooking and eating formulated by our Siddhars and ancestors, but are replaced by chinawares and fork as seen on dining table in every house today. Eating in plantain leaf gives good health. It cures indigestion and improves apetite. Eating in plates of Gold, Silver and pure bronze are good but earthen plates are the best. Food of sour tastes should not be cooked in copper and brass vessels as they cause metallic toxicity. Copper and brass vessels should be coated with tin to prevent toxicity.
Food – What to eat and What not
Food including fruits, high fiber contents, vegetables, cereals, pulses, fish, meat etc should be a part of our meal. Rice varieties like Mani samba is good for diabetic patients, Jeeraka samba and Kuntrimani samba are good for Vatha ailments. The gruels prepared from Rice, Wheat, Oats, is a very important part of diet. Various gruels like Jeeraka Kanji, Uluva kanji, Pal kanji, Nalikera kanji, Kanji with medicinal powders, Nei Kanji, Njavara Kanji etc are enriched with medicinal values and very healthy for patients during medication and pathiyam.
Greens have always played a major role in providing health. Today with Urbanisation, a trend of fast food and spicy taste has influenced so much that majority of people dislikes eating greens, weather old, men or woman. But one of the healthiest friendly food is greens. Packed with nutrients and vitamins, low in Calories, greens provide beauty and health to all age groups. When taken raw, the nutrition value doubles. Greens like spinach, lettuce, basil (Tulsi), Mint etc are a store house of medicinal values. Lettuce contains Folic acid, Manganese, Chromium, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C and Vitamin E which is very healthy. Mint is helpful in kapha ailments and abdominal ailments. Spinach has high antioxidant values.
Basil, a good antioxidant, carminative and best for skin ailments. Traditionally known as Tulsi (Oscimum sanctum), basil is considered as a natural remedy for stress apart from its anti inflammatory and anti oxidant properties. Enriched with holistic and religious values for Hindus this herb has a remedy for the three – mind, body and soul. The leaves of this plant can be dropped into water, tea or juice and consumed. This helps in providing immunity and controlling the negative influence that stress produces in the body like fluctuating hormones and metabolism. Regular consumption also tackles the problem like cold, fever, cardiac disorder asthma, respiratory problem, memory disorder, eye disorder, headache etc.
Certain diseases are well managed by including Soy, Cauliflower, Pea nuts, Green tea in the diet which helps in blocking enzymes that causes pain and imflammation in joint disorders like OA (Oeasteoarthritis). Diet should always be rich in fiber which lowers the C reactive protein (CRP) causing imflamatory reactions in blood. It is also good for heart, digestive system, patient suffering from rhuematoid arthritis, abdominal disorders etc. Cereals like wheat, oats, unpolished rice, salad containing raw vegetables are rich in fibre. Oils like Sunflower oil, Olive oil are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids beneficial for Cardiovascular system. It lowers the bad cholesterol in blood. Dalda, Vanaspathi etc should be avoided. Reuse and deep frying of foods should be avoided.
Fruits like Gooseberry, Pomagranate, jumbolam, Dates, Pineapple, Banana, Oranges should be included in our diet. Fruits like Jack fruit is not advised as it causes diseases.
Milk is an important part of food but certain things should be followed while taking milk. Till six months, babies should be given only breast milk. Then along with semisolid and solid foods breast milk can be continued till the age of two or even three. This helps Physiological and Psychological development of a child. Early administration of cows milk or any other milk than breast milk can lead to Gastro-intestinal disorders and skin diseases. For young children and adult cows milk, goats milk and donkeys milk are good. However milk of buffallo, sheep and camel are not advised. While boiling goats and cows milk it should be added with 1/8 th part of water and buffallo milk with equal quantity of water. A special fat found in milk inhibits substances which trigger imflamation and damage of joints as seen in Arthritis. Conjugated Linolenic acid is an essential Fatty acid found in milk which brings benefit to degenerative and inflammatory disorders.
Butter milk should be included in diet instead of curd especially for those people who are obese, diabetic or having high cholesterol level. Butter milk can be consumed even at night. It removes sense of heat, Aneamia, Abdominal pain etc. Including cows ghee and butter in diet is equally good. The people having Hypertension, Cardiac disorder, Liver disorder, Diabetes should avoid it.
Meat of Goat is advisable for aneamia, weakness, convalescent period, mental disorders etc. Meat of sheep, beef, and pig should be avoided. Meat of rabbit is advised for mental disorders and TB. Flesh of chicken causes Vatha ailments and aggrevate heamorrhoids but improves Spermatogenesis. Flesh of black fowl is good. Flesh of duck increases skin ailments and aggrevates wounds. People should lower the consumption of grilled, fried and microwaved meats which increases AGE (Advanced Glycation End products) found in blood of people with Chronic diseases associated with inflammations including Oestoearthritis, Rhuematoid arthritis etc. Fishes like Tuna, Atlantic Salmon are rich in Omega three fatty acids and should be taken with meals once or twice a week. Steamed fish, sea foods, simmer chicken can be included in meals with more fruits and vegetables for healthy body. Eggs of the birds like ducks cause Gastritis should be avoided. Egg of hens are good for Vatha and Kapha ailments but aggrevates Pitha and Eczema. Half boiled eggs with salt and pepper can be given for respiratory disorders like cough.
Food should be taken according to age, sex, physical work, region and season. Certain fruits when mixed other becomes a poison such foods should be avoided. Eg Milk and Fish. Certain foods should be consumed with other for removing its ill effects. Eg : Jack fruit given with Antidote Ghee or honey. Ground nut should be consumed with jaggery.
Substances to be included as a must
Cardomom decreases heat and enhances digestion. It should be added in sweet dishes and non veg food.
Cumin seeds should be an ingredient of soups and curries. It reduces Pitha humour and increases apetite.
Ginger should be included in curd, butter milk and non-veg food. It is good for the management of Oesteoarthritis and Rheumatoid arthritis. According to a study in 2006 at University of Michigan comprehensive Cancer Center, Ginger helps against Ovarian cancer. Since this herb has no side effects it is advised to include Ginger in adequate amount to prevent cancer and inhibit the growth of cancerous cell. Dried ginger is one of the main ingredients of Siddha medicine, it cures indigestion Rheumatism etc.
Garlic cures the disorders cause due to three humours. It should be included in the food stuffs prepared from bulbous roots, pulses and non vegetarian foods. It helps in controling Cholesterol level and adviced in patients suffering from Hypercholestrolemia and Hypertension.
Asafoetida cures worm infestation and indigestion. A little amount is enough to removethe ill effects of pulses. It should be fried, powdered and then used.
Fenugreek is a spice bitter in taste but very healthy. It reduces Pitha and good for Gastritis. It should be added in butter milk and pungent foods. The Kanjhi or gruel prepared from little fenugreek is good for abdominal ailments and lactating mother. It is also a Lactogouge.
Turmeric having bitter and pungent taste should be added in all dishes except sweet dishes. It increases appetite neutralises three humours and removes toxic substances. It is Anti-cancerous.
Pepper cures poison, Kapha diseases and acts as an Antidote. A healing agent for variety of ailments like ear disorders, liver diseases, indigestion, constipation, diarrhoea, skin diseases etc. Piperine, the alkaloid in pepper helps the nutrients for easy absorbtion in blood, increases digestion, improves brain function, reduces depression, controls respiratory problems and has high effect in fighting cancer of colon. Good for body and mind, it is a complete health booster.
Nutrition plays a very important role in maintaining over all good health. Following a healthy diet promote healing with out medication and helpful in prevention of diseases also. Siddhars like Thiruvalluvar considered and equated food to medicine decades back to create the importance of nutrition. But today due to life style changes people are prone to diseases and sufferings. Even after consuming numerous pills daily they are unaware of the importance of nutrition and healthy food.