According to Ayurveda, the right amount of food is that which gets digested and metabolized in the proper time without disturbing the equilibrium of Dhatus or Doshas in the body. While considering the quantity of food, Acharya Charaka says that food is to be taken depending upon the power of digestion and metabolism (Agnibala and Srotobala), which varies according to factors such as age, gender, season, time of the day and overall state of health. The right amount of food is the key to activating the digestive fire. 

When we talk about the quantity of a certain meal, there are two factors to be borne in mind. One is the quantity of a complete meal consisting of different dishes (Sarvagraha) and the second is the quantity of each dish individually (Parigraha). 

For instance, if a person consumes an Indian meal at lunch consisting of rice, idli, dal and kheer; the quantity of rice consumed in the meal is high. Rice is used in two dishes (idli and kheer) and is also eaten plain on its own. So, one has to keep in mind the total quantity of rice consumed in one single meal.

This concept promotes keeping the meals as simple as possible and not mixing too many food groups in a single meal. The practice of mixing food groups and making meals complex adversely affects the digestive system. 

These days we see a fad of consuming superfoods like wheatgrass, spirulina, quinoa, ragi etc. One tends to start consuming them thinking they are nutritious and will promote good health. In the process we fail to listen to our body cues. If a person’s digestive fire is not strong and they do not consider factors such as age, season, time of the day etc. and takes large quantities of the so-called superfood, it is definitely going to do more harm than good. This food will go undigested and lead to the formation of Ama, tissue nourishment will be hampered, which in turn gives rise to many diseases. 

Similarly, if one takes a light food substance but takes it in large quantities which is more than the capacity that can be easily digested, despite being light it will not be digested. Likewise, if there is heavy food substance and one eats it in small quantities, it will still be easily digested. 

  • As a general rule, if the food is heavy to digest such as oily food, non vegetarian, sweets etc, it should be consumed till half of the satiation level is achieved (Ardha Sauhitya). 
  • If the food is light to digest, it should be consumed till one is not overly satiated (Na Ati Truptata). 
  • One must understand that the quantity of food is a dynamic proposition. An office going person requires more mentally
  • stimulating foods than a farmer. It will help him use his intellect, decision making and analytical ability in his work. 
  • A farmer would require more calorie rich food than a corporate employee, which can give him enough energy and fuel to sustain the physical labor he does. 

Divisions of stomach 

Ayurveda gives us an answer as to determine ‘how much quantity is ideal’ to be consumed. 

While eating, divide the stomach into four quadrants. Fill the two quadrants with solid food, one quadrant with liquid and leave one quadrant empty for the movement of Doshas. 

To understand the filling of the quadrants, we have to learn to understand the body’s cues. When we eat, and we have a feeling of satiety it means the three quadrants are full. If you eat peacefully and eat quietly, you will understand the body’s signal. So, stop eating when you feel there is still some space to fill your stomach. If you still keep eating or drinking water, you tend to fill the last quadrant, which is supposed to be left for the movement of Doshas. This leads to digestion being impaired, and eventually, Ama production happens. 

Assessment of proper quantity of food 

One can also assess the proper quantity of food by observing the following signs after consumption of food: 

  • No feeling of undue pressure in the abdomen due to ingested food. 
  • No feeling of heaviness after eating food.
  • No obstruction in the functioning of the heart or no congestion or heaviness in the chest and flanks. 
  • Feeling of satiety and nourishment in senses. 
  • No feeling of hunger and thirst. 
  • Comfortable and ease in movements while standing, sitting, walking, exhaling, inhaling, laughing and talking. 

Benefits of taking proper quantity of food 

  • Provides strength, complexion, happiness and longevity to the person.
  • Helps maintain Dosha’s balance without disturbing the equilibrium
  • Facilitates normal digestion, metabolism and assimilation without causing any discomfort.

Effect of taking less quantity of food 

One cannot emphasize enough the importance of a balanced and nutritious diet for a healthy lifestyle. However, in an effort to look good, people at times start following certain trends and fads of limiting their food intake. Such unmindful food regulation deprives the body of many essential nutrients. They narrow down their approach to only losing weight and maintaining a certain figure. Of course, there is no harm in aiming for that but again generalizing the approach to achieve it, is the reason for health problems that may arise then or later in life. One should understand their individual requirements and regulate the diet proportionately. 

Otherwise, consuming less quantity of food than the body

requirement may lead to loss of strength and Ojas. Lack of proper nourishment over a period of time leads to Vata imbalance disorders. 

Effects of overeating 

One thing that is very important when it comes to food is to exercise mindfulness. A weekend party where one tends to overindulge if followed by controlled food intake the next day will help the body assimilate the excessive consumption. If not, the person continues to take normal food post the indulgence and does not give time to the digestive system to recover, leading to Ama formation. Similarly, after a vacation, where one may have overindulged, a person should mindfully control the quantity and quality of food for the next few days, so as to avoid disturbing the dosha equilibrium and taxing the digestive system. 

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