Food is an essential substance having a pleasant appearance, aroma and taste, that which is capable of being digested, absorbed and utilized when consumed in a proper manner and in an appropriate quantity so as to help living organisms to replenish the wear and tear of body tissues, produce new body components and that which imparts energy, strength and happiness.
Plants can manufacture their food from simple chemicals derived from soil, water and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere with the help of sunlight.
Animals including man do not have the ability to manufacture food from simple chemicals. Hence they use plants or other animals as food. Hence it is mentioned in the shastras that one living organism is the food for another .Substances included in the category of food, vary from animal to animal, e.g. grass is food for a cow but not for man as man cannot digest grass.
The whole universe originates from, sustains on and merges into Brahma. Similarly, all living beings originate from, survive on and merge into food.Lord Vishnu is the deity who controls the production, digestion and utilization of food. In the Vishnu Sahastranam, ‘bhojan (food)’ and ‘bhokta (the one who consumes it)’ are also included in the thousand Names of Lord Vishnu as That is food as well as its consumer are respected as Lord Vishnu. In the cycle of life and death, an individual is reborn on the earth after experiencing the results of his good deeds in heaven.
Importance of food:
One should follow the regional traditions regarding courses of food. the general guidelines are as follows:
- The first course should consist of sweet, heavy, solid, oily or fatty and hard food items which are difficult to digest.
- The middle course should consist of sour, pungent, salty and soft food items which increase the secretion of digestive juices.
- The last course should consist of pungent, bitter, astringent, light, liquid, dry and soft food items. Pungent, bitter and astringent food items subdue kapha.
One should eat half a stomachful of food, drink one quarter of a stomachful of water and leave the remaining quarter for air. One should have respect for food and should never criticize it. If one consumes excess of hard and dry food, one should drink a lot of water. Heavy substances such as poha and satu, starchy food items such as rice and tubers should not be taken towards the end of a meal or after a meal. Amalaka should be taken in all the three courses. If one takes excess of sour, salty and pungent food, one should drink milk at the end of a meal. Similarly, weak persons and persons with hyperacidity should take milk at the end of a meal. A person who has no control over his tongue should eat his favorite food item at the end of his meal.
Dos and Don’ts:
- One should avoid very hot or very cold food items, food kept overnight, stale, bad, fermented, putrefied, undercooked or overcooked food, burnt, very sticky food items or those which are heated again.
- Eating stale, unclean, putrefied food items and food items which are heated again, leads to infection and can cause vomiting and loose motions. Uncooked and burnt food items are heavy to digest.
- One should select the quality and type of food after considering one’s age, constitution, season, time, digestive power, health, etc.
- Do not drink too much water after food as it dilutes the digestive juices and impairs digestion.
- Do not eat food when you are thirsty or drink water when you are hungry.
- Avoid talking too much or laughing excessively while eating. If one talks or laughs too much or eats food very fast, the food is not chewed properly.
- When one takes food in a greater quantity than required, the stomach becomes heavy and one feels discomfort in the stomach. One suffers from distension of the abdomen and rumbling noises are produced in the stomach due to formation of flatus. When a greater quantity of food is taken for several days, one gains weight and it leads to obesity.
- in diseased states, a person is advised to take a light diet in less quantity because initially the digestive juices from the intestines and the tissues will digest the food.
At the time of conception, the body of all living beings comprises of a single, minute cell. This cell then undergoes mitotic cell divisions till 50 billion cells are formed. The formation of these cells and their constituents depends on food. After birth, the baby gradually grows into an adult through tremendous increase in the number and the size of the body cells. Additional energy, i.e. extra food is required for extra growth and development.
The lifespan of different cells in the body varies. The white blood cells (W.B.C.s) in blood have a lifespan of a few hours while the red blood cells (R.B.C.s) have a lifespan of 100 days. In an accident, injury or ailment, the cells and the tissues of the body are directly or indirectly damaged. The newly formed cells replace the dead ones and thus the tissues are repaired. This process continues till one dies. The non-functional particles, i.e. molecules from the old cells are converted into waste products. After digestion and absorption, food particles are utilized to form new particles in the cells and replace the old ones.
Every activity of the human body requires some amount of energy. Food is the source of this energy. Food supplies energy for activities like walking, playing, digestion of food, beating of the heart, etc. which are essential to live. In fact in every living cell, energy is utilized as a continuous process. The moment the body or the cell stops utilizing energy, it can be termed as dead. The cells derive energy from food.
The entire process of descending on the earth from heaven can be explained as follows - The subtle body (linga deha) launches itself on the clouds. From the clouds it enters the earth through rain and from the earth it enters the food grains. When an individual consumes food grains, it enters into his body. In males, it enters into one of the sperms in the semen while in females it enters into the maturing ovum. During sexual intercourse if the sperm fertilizes the ovum, it leads to conception only if the sperm or the ovum contains the subtle body. This is the actual birth of a human being wherein the body consists of only one cell. If the subtle body is present in the ovum then a girl is born whereas a boy is born if the subtle body is present in the sperm.