The core key of good health is wholesome dietetics without which optimal health cannot be achieved. All the Ayurvedic classics have paid special consideration on the concept of wholesome and unwholesome diet and in this milieu every Ayurvedic texts have cited one inimitable and imperative concept of Viruddhahara (Dietetic incompatibility).
Food incompatibility is when two elements do not have an affinity for each other & those elements cause the interruption of metabolism which inhibits the formation of tissue.
It is challenging to understand the Ayurvedic diet from the western point of view where quantity is determined by serving size portion size or in caloric intake. In 1992 the U.S. Department of Agriculture released the national guide for conserving good health in the form of a food pyramid. The nutritionists, doctors and other health care providers routinely used the guide across the nation. It was adapted on the basis of cardiovascular and cancer risk factors available at the time. Over the years and several research findings later, it was established that the recommended food pyramid had significantly faltered in providing a basis for a balanced diet since obesity was on the rise. The USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion has now reconsidered the dietary guide in the hope that applicable changes and inclusion of polyunsaturated fats and whole grains in essential quantity would change the graph. A new pyramid is now available to the public (from 2004) with new dietary requirements. Most of the dietary requirements are formulated on the basis of research data available on chronic diseases, cardiovascular and cancer risk factors at this time, using cholesterol ratios and triglyceride levels as indicators of wellness across the broader.
In contrast to western dietary understanding and the US guide to diet, Ayurveda states that a diet can be vegetarian (plant based) or non-vegetarian (animal based) and serving size should be tailored for each individual according to one’s own needs, body constitution (dosha) and digestive power. Also, the quality and properties of food should be taken into consideration such as heavy, light and oily. Foods like rice may be digested easily as opposed to pork meat that is heavy and oily. Thus the quality and quantity of food is often evaluated on the foundation of how proficiently the food is digested. Ayurveda stresses that a diet must be properly designated and intelligently formulated, not only according to the physical conditions of a person, but taking into consideration the body type (pita, kapha, or vata) and should balance the seasonal and daily changes and other natural factors that surround an individual.
According to Ayurveda the use of wholesome food promotes health, while unwholesome food manifests disease Due to countless selections of food and food substances, food is characterized according to their action on the individual and is determined by their unique qualities: ras (taste), virya (active component or potency), vipak (post digestive effect) and prabhav (pharmacological effect). Hence, food is classified on the basis of its properties and its effects on the digestion.
Types of Incompatible food
Ayurveda literature has described numerous categories of incompatibilities such as
- Desha (place)Viruddha: To have dry and sharp substances in dry region, unctuous substances in Marshy land.
- Kala Viruddha: (Incompatibility according to Season/ time): intake of cold and dry substances in winter, Pungent and hot substances in summer.
- Agni ( Incompatibility due to digestive power) Viruddha: intake of heavy food when the power of digestion is low, intake of light food when the power of digestion is sharp and intake of food at variance with irregular and normal power of digestion.
- Matra (quantity) Viruddha: intake of honey and ghee in equal quantity
- Virya (Incompatibility due to potency) Viruddha: Substances having cold potency in combination with those of hot potency.
- Samyoga (combination) Viruddha: intake of sour substance with milk
Many food combinations are given in the texts as incompatible with proper explanation for e.g. one should not take fish along with milk because this combination is great obstructer for channels, it vitiates blood. After eating radish, garlic, basil one should not take milk because of the risk of skin disorders. All sour liquids/fruits are antagonistic to milk. Hot honey taken by a person induces toxicity and lead to various health issues. Likewise honey and ghee in equal quantity, hot water after taking honey are antagonistic.
Examples of Incompatibility/ Antagonistic (Viruddha -Aahara)
1) Virya viruddha- (potency incompatibility) – Fish + milk
2) Sanskara viruddha- (Processing incompatibility) Heated Honey
3) Matra viruddha- (dose incompatibility) – Honey + Cow’s ghee – mixed in equal proportion.
4) Krama viruddha – Hot water after taking honey
5) Kala viruddha- (Time incompatibility) pungent substance in summer & cold substances in winter
6) Krama viruddha- (Order incompatibility) – Consuming curd at night.
7) Samyoga viruddha- (Combination incompatibility) – Fruit Salad / Milk+ Banana, Milk + Mango
8) Parihara viruddha (contraindication incompatibility) – Consuming cold water immediately after having hot tea or Coffee.