Do you find yourself reaching for crackers, cookies, or even healthier options such as carrots, nuts, muesli bars, lots of fruit – all throughout the day?
If so, you could be depriving yourself of the opportunity to fully digest your food and to cleanse “ama” (the residue of improperly digested food) from the body. At the same time, you could be reducing your digestive “fire.”
All that from eating a little bit regularly between meals? Absolutely. According to Ayurveda, it’s best to limit eating to meal times as much as possible. That’s because as each meal approaches, our digestive “fire” cranks up – kind of like pre-heating the oven. Our digestive environment prepares to receive the upcoming meal. This is critically important to health, because good health really does start in the gut. The gut needs to receive the food and then that food needs to pass through all stages of digestion – absorbing the good stuff and eliminating the stuff we don’t need.
Regular snacking can lead to improperly digested food, and can cause problems such as weight gain and “ama” (improperly digested food that we mentioned previously). Snacking makes you dependent on more snacks because snacking actually prevents fat metabolism. Your body may be simply too busy to digest fats. When you can’t digest fats, it makes an empty stomach all the more unbearable – waiting until dinner might seem like an eternity.
There’s a great rice-cooking metaphor for this which I love. When you snack, it’s like throwing uncooked rice into the pot in the middle of cooking rice. What results is some rice is overcooked, some is undercooked, and none is properly cooked.
Here’s how eating should go, according to Ayurveda:
1. Eat a delicious, Ayurvedically-sound meal according to your dosha.
2. Let that meal fully digest.
3. Eat your next delicious, Ayurvedically-sound meal.
Most people snack out of boredom, habit, or because of not liking the feeling of hunger pangs. But those mild hunger pangs are important. Modern science says today; we’re actually better off slightly under-eating than over-eating. This is because when we slightly under-eat, we have the opportunity to burn up excess “stuff” within the body. That “stuff” is fat, ama, excess tissue – stuff we don’t want hanging around!
Easier said than done, right! Begin with baby steps – start off not snacking one day per week between meals – pick a busy day so it is easier for you not to be tempted with a full fridge. This way you will get used to feeling mildly hungry between meals – this mild hunger means good digestive fire.
If you have to snack.. maybe because you are a longer time than normal between meals.. or you are travelling, here are some good foods to try for your body type.
Vata: small bowl of rice, banana, cooked apple, glass of milk of your choice
Pitta: Milk of your choice, pomegranates, raw apples, grapes
Kapha: watermelon, pear, raw apple, celery, popcorn, pumpkin seeds
A recipe for energy drinks if you need a boost between meals:
1. Date shake recipe: Soak 3 fresh dates, remove the seed, blend with 1 cup of water, a pinch of ginger and cardamom. One cup of a date shake will provide a lot of healthy energy.
2. Almond milk recipe: Soak 10 almonds and blend them with 1 cup of milk or water. Sattvic, pure, and natural, and a boost of energy.
Please note: Some people need to snack appropriately if have blood sugar problems and some other medical issues – please consult your health professional if unsure.