Foods In Their Order Of Digestability And Health
(as taught at Atheetha Ashram by Swami Sahajananda)
Essential principle underlying this classification: The pranic force is always trying its best to restore the ecological balance of our body. However, when we eat something that requires more energy to disgest, this force is unavailable to remove previously accumulated toxins. This results in foreign (undigested) matter embedding itself in our body. That, in turn, results in ecological imbalance and hence `absence of ease’,i.e., disease. Therefore, to stay healthy, it is best to select food items that are easier to digest. The beauty of the food served at Atheetha Ashram, which we have tried to copy at Navadarshanam, is that they are nutritious and very tasty.
Classification of Food Items
Top of the chart: tender coconut water (ellaneer). This constitutes a full meal in itself, for it supplies all the essential nutrients required by our body. Therefore, taking ellaneer is an easy way to fast, for those who are scared of fasting on water.
Next: Juicy fruits.
Next: Pulpy fruits.
Next: Leafy vegetables.
Next: Creeper vegetables (like sorakkai, budhi kumblakai).
Next: Vegetables grown above ground.
Next: Vegetables grown below ground.
Next: Cereals and pulses without removing their bran or outer covering(eg, unpolished rice, hittu without bran removed).
Next: Jaggery, preferably from date palms or made from organically grown sugarcane. Even diabetics can take this in limited quantitites without adversely affecting their condition. Mahatma Gandhi has written a couple of wonderful pieces, based on technical data provided by the renowned Dr.Ansari, that point out the chemical and nutritional benefits of jaggery over sugar.
For those who are not well, or have crossed the age of 50, it is best to stick to the above items as far as possible.
Next: Milk. This is very good for growing children, but adults need it only when they do lots of physical exercise and their protein cells need replenishment. It is better for adults doing sedantary work to take curds, which is milk that has already gone through a portion of the digestive process that takes place within the body, and even better to stick to buttermilk, which is very easily digestable.
Next: Oil seeds such as cashewnuts, peanuts. While not that easy to digest, it is nevertheless far healthier to eat the nuts than consume their oil extract.
Next: Cereals and pulses in polished form. It is worth noting that rice mills provide farmers free service of processing, for they take away the polish (outer covering) from the bhatha and sell these to the drug companies at high prices, and we take these very things (which we removed when polishing) in the form of medicines later.
Next: Oils. Better to take in the form of nuts instead of their oil. Or, if oil has to be taken, better to put oil (or ghee) on the food after it has been cooked, rather than cook the food in them.
Next: Refined oil. If oil does have to be used, better to opt for the unrefined variety. At least, the ill-effects of processing are avoided.
Next: White sugar. All kinds of harmful ingredients, including detergent-type materials, are used to make white sugar. Gandhiji’s article in this regard is well worth reading.
Last: Meat. fish, and eggs. These are really the most difficult to digest.
Classification Of Cooking Methods
Best: Fireless cooking. So many wonderful items can be made without using the chula. For instance, salads can be made using snake gourd and curd, with tomato or carrot in raw form; ribbed gourd or chow chow can be eaten this way too. Similarly, wonderful dishes can be made using sprouted wheat. Those interested in such recipes are requested to contact us at Navadarshanam or enrol for the health camps at Atheetha Ashram.
Next: Steaming. Idlis made with urad dal whose chilka has not been removed and rice that is unpolished is very healthy, and also tastes nice.
Next: Boiling. Vegetables tend to lose their nutritional value when overboiled. Best to cut the vegetables as big as possible, so that least amount of water is lost, and then boil them for the least amount of time.
Next: Roasting on the fire pan. When this has to be done, best to use least amount of oil. Better to take ghee separately with the dosai than making it with lots of oil: this is better for taste as well as health. Cow’s ghee is better than other forms of fat, and it is best if these cows are the nati variety which have been allowed to graze freely, rather than those who have been fed on chemicals or artificial feeds.