HomeAyurvedic CookingProper Digestion through Orderly Eating

Proper Digestion through Orderly Eating

The order in which we eat our food is usually overlooked, although it is crucial to good digestion. If we begin by eating an item that takes a long time to be digested and then follow with one that is easy to digest, the first item will block the path of other foods. All foods that are ingested later will ferment and putrefy. For this reason, foods should be eaten in the order that the body can digest them.

The chart below shows the rate at which different foods pass through the digestive system. Note the longer digestion times for the diet based mostly on animal products versus the diet based mostly on plants. Meats slow down the digestion of all other foods.

Food Diet based
on plants
Diet based on animal products
Red meats 36 – 48 hours 48 – 72 hours
Fish and poultry 24 – 36 36 – 48
Dairy 24 24- 36
Beans 20 – 24 24 – 30
Nuts and seeds 20 – 24 24 – 26
Grains 18 – 20 20 – 24
Root vegetables 18 – 20 20 – 24
Leafy vegetables 12 – 18 18 – 22
Fruits 6 – 12 12 – 18

Lighter food is not necessarily better because the body needs to have some food in it to support the proper absorption of nutrients. A liquid or fruit based diet will cause problems in the long term. A person that is overweight can eat “lighter foods” when trying to lose weight or correct metabolic problems. Getting less nourishment will not disturb their doshic balance since too many nutrients are already present in the body. See also “What it means to eat fresh”.

Using this chart, you can change the order in which you eat your food. Choosing food from the Pitta, Kapha, or Vata list, eat in the following order:

Pitta and Kapha:

Green salads
Cooked vegetables and whole grains
Raw vegetables
Dairy products
Fish and poultry
Red meat


Cooked vegetables and whole grains
Green salads with oil dressing
Dairy products
Fish and poultry
Raw vegetables
Red meat

In general, it is not recommended to eat foods that take more than twenty – four hours to be digested.
Always keep in mind the basic food recommendations for your dosha type.
Be sure to review food compatibility: for example, milk shouldn’t be mixed with red meats, fish, eggs, sour foods, and yeast breads. Mixing different kind of proteins (such as meat and milk, fish, or eggs) together makes them very difficult to digest and so is best avoided.

Drinking liquids is necessary to lubricate the digestive tract and assist digestion. Ayurveda recommends drinking a moderate amount of warm or hot water with your meal. Very hot drinks should only be avoided with foods that already generate heat (such as meats), for it can over – activate digestion.

Liquids generally pass solid food in the stomach and go directly to the small intestine. Thus, the digestive process can be either enhanced or suppressed depending on what we drink during the meal. Cold drinks completely upset digestion. The body is trying to heat the solid food up with hot digestive acids; pouring ice – cold liquids into the stomach suppresses the digestive enzymes and stops this process.

See also:

Incompatible food combinations.
Ayurveda on Fasting.
Ayurvedic Diet and Eating Habits.
What is Health.
What and how much should I Drink?
Ritucharya-seasonal routine; and Dinacharya-daily routine).

TODAY’S TIP: The fact that fruit is first on the list doesn’t mean that you should start your meal with it. It only means that fruit shouldn’t be eaten after any other food to prevent its fermentation and decay while waiting in the digestion line. Fruits require a completely different set of enzymes than other foods and should be eaten at least one hour before or after other meals.


Proper Digestion through Orderly Eating — 1 Comment

  1. So my lunch could possibly look like this:

    Grapes (an hour before)
    Onions cooked with ghee oil
    A glass of whole milk
    A type of fish (fresh not canned) w/ cooked green beans

    Does the order in which you eat your food at meal times affect your digestive system? What about the senses of taste(rasas)?

    Also If red meat takes the longest to digest should you avoid eating it later in the day?

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