When to eat different foods and why does this matter? Eating certain foods at appropriate times throughout the day helps you get the maximum health benefits from your diet. This is necessary for optimal body performance, brain activity and a balanced mood which will help you be more productive at work and in social situations.
When To Eat Different Foods
Here is a list of the best times to eat different foods according to Ayurveda and modern research. This will help you get the maximum health benefits from your diet.
1. Before Meals
According to Ayurveda, before having meals, one should eat sour fruits like pomegranate but avoid banana.
Lotus stem and sugar cane should always be taken before meals and never after.
Heavy food products like food made from Split black lentils and desserts should be avoided or taken in a limited quantity after meals. Indian gooseberry (amla) can be taken in the starting, mid or at the end of the meals.
2. Foods To Avoid In The Morning
Charoli (Buchanania lanzan), black plum (jamun), Indian plum (badar), tamarind, coconut, products made with sesame seeds, mango, banana, Indian gooseberry or amla should not be taken for breakfast.
3. Roasted Gram Flour (Indian superfood ‘Sattu’)
Roasted gram flour or ‘sattu‘ which are powdered grains and pulses, should not be taken after meals and at night. It should not be taken along with meat and milk. After eating it, one should not drink water.
Warm water should not be drunk in large quantities during meals. It should be sipped in between mouthfuls, in a small quantity to increase the digestive fire. Drinking water in the morning before sunrise on an empty stomach increases the digestive fire and is beneficial for a healthy and long life.
Milk drunk at night pacifies all types of doshas and is helpful in inducing blissful sleep. Milk is the best drunk at night when your body needs to wind down and switch from being active to calm and relaxed.
Preferably drink Golden Milk. As the body rests at night, it also recovers and heals from the day’s wear and tear.
And if you will drink Golden milk, you can increase the potency of the drink due to the anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and healing powers of the spices you add to it.
When to eat Yogurt? Yogurt in winter and in the rainy season is beneficial.
Due to its hot potency, it is contraindicated at night, in autumn, in summer, and in spring.
The night is basically the Kapha predominant period and yogurt has a sour mixed with the sweet property which also increases Kapha dosha in the body and can produce many health disorders.
Intake of yogurt alone increases Kapha so it should always be taken with either of ghee, sugar, honey or green gram soup.
Buttermilk is best for those that live in a cold climate. It is contraindicated in hot weather and for those with a burning sensation.
Research suggests that regular consumption of whole grains translates into lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and cancer. Avoid pasta though at dinner time.
9. Dark Chocolate
The best time to take dark chocolate is in the morning. It is rich in antioxidants and minerals. It is good for the heart and protects your skin against harmful UV rays. It reduces stress, promotes satiety, lowers the desire to eat something sweet and suppresses energy intake.
If you would like to learn more about Ayurveda and how it can help digestion, check out Dr. Chandrashekhar Thite’s course below.
When To Eat
10. Meat Products
The best time to have meat is lunchtime. The worst time for meat is night time as meat takes a long duration for its digestion.
The best time to eat apples is in the morning as its pectin helps the intestines and prevents carcinoma.
The best time to eat fruits is either first thing in the morning on an empty stomach or as a mid-morning snack between breakfast and lunch.
Fruits are low in calories and high in minerals like sodium and potassium. They help you battle voracious hunger pangs. But remember, there should be a gap of 30 minutes in between your intake of fruits and your meals and vice-versa.
For diabetic patients, a gap of two hours after the meal and one hour before the meal is advisable in the context of fruit eating.
When to eat nuts? The answer is lunch and the worst time would be at dinner. Nuts are cardio-protective foods and have high amounts of vegetable protein and fat, mostly unsaturated fatty acids. They are also dense in a variety of other nutrients and provide dietary fiber, vitamins (folic acid, niacin, tocopherols, and vitamin B6), minerals (calcium, magnesium, potassium) and many other bioactive constituents such as phytosterols and phenolic compounds
Consuming a low-calorie salad at the start (before 15 minutes) of a meal can reduce your calorie intake and help you to get a perfect body shape.
Eat potatoes in the morning. They act as fuel to start your day and make your body retain water. They are rich in minerals. Avoid them at dinner time as they are rich in calories.
When to eat cheese? The best time to eat cheese is at breakfast as it prevents weight gain and bloating. The worst time is at dinner as it is heavy to digest and can lead to indigestion and weight gain.
16. Sugar Products
Sugary products should be taken at breakfast as it is easier to burn these calories. Sugary products should be avoided at night.
Rice has a high glycemic index so it should be taken at lunchtime. Avoid it at dinner time as it is heavy to digest. Ayurveda recommends that lunch should be the largest meal of the day since that is the time the digestive fire is working at its maximum potency.
Dinner should be lighter than lunch, and should ideally be eaten before 8 pm. If you eat after 10 pm, the food is difficult to digest and may cause toxins to accumulate in the system.
Here are some fundamentals of Ayurveda which must be followed for a healthy life and longevity.
Always take rock salt with ginger before having your main meal. This stimulates the digestive fire and clears the taste on the tongue.
Follow the recommended sequence of having different tastes, called ‘rasa’, during meals.
At the outset of a meal, one should take sweet things first. In the middle, have sour and salty tastes. After those, the remaining tastes of pungent, bitter and astringent.
The reason behind this principle is that, in a hungry person, the sweet taste is taken to overcome Vata in the stomach.
Sour and salty tastes taken in the middle of the meal stimulate Pitta (digestive fire) in the small intestines. At the end of a meal if astringent, pungent, and bitter is taken it subdues Kapha.
At the beginning of your meal, you can take hard food made softer by adding ghee. Then have soft food. At last, take liquid food to stay healthy.
When To Eat Carbs, Proteins, And Fats
Let’s see when to eat carbs, protein, and fats and how.
Eat protein at breakfast.
Eating protein at breakfast is very beneficial for powering the day. But excess protein should be avoided at late dinner time if you are prone to stomach issues. Stick with something light in the late hours like whole-grain oatmeal.
Eat healthy fats at breakfast.
If you are consuming foods high in fat, aim to consume them at breakfast or mid-morning. Some healthy options include nut butter, protein-rich eggs, or whole milk Greek yogurt.
Avoid eating large quantities of fatty foods at night as it takes around 2-4 hours for fat to digest. So if you eat fat too late in the evening, your body won’t have as much time to utilize this energy before storing it.
Eat carbs before working out.
The body needs an instant source of energy, so aim for something that is in the 150-200 calorie range.
Eat protein and carbs in a ratio of 2:1-4:1 within 45 minutes after working out. After a workout, the body tends to repair and build your muscles. For this, you need protein which provides essential amino acids needed in this process.
And since the glycogen stores are depleted in your workout, you need to replenish this by eating carbs. You can take Greek yogurt with fresh fruit and almonds, or a slice of toast with a banana and peanut butter.
Eat complex carbohydrates at night.
Research shows that the best time to consume carbohydrates is in the evening at dinnertime, as it modifies leptin, a satiety hormone and adiponectin, a protein that regulates insulin secretion.
If you would like to learn more about Ayurveda and how it can help digestion, check out Dr. Chandrashekhar Thite’s course below.
When To Eat During Different Seasons
The best time to take different foods according to seasons is called rtucharya.
Have food which is bitter, pungent and astringent in taste, lukewarm yogurt, wheat, red rice, wild meats like goat and rabbit. Avoid dry food products.
Have ghee, sweet, astringent, bitter-tasting food products, milk, jaggery, wheat, barley, split green gram, red rice, goat meat, rabbit.
Drink warm water. Avoid yogurt, sour, pungent, and hot food. Pre-winter morning meals are advised.
Have sour, sweet, salty food, wheat, jaggery, red rice, split black lentils, sesame seed products, and fresh grains. Drink lukewarm water.
Goat meat and rabbit are beneficial in spring. Wheat, red rice, split green gram, and barley are beneficial.
Dry, pungent tasting foods and warm, light foods are also good. Avoid sweets, sour and unctuous (oily) substances as well as yogurt.
Sweet, unctuous, cold, light and liquid foods are recommended. Gram flour, goat meat, rabbit and red rice are advised.
Avoid pungent and sour foods. Now that we have discussed what and when to eat, let’s take a look at what not to eat and why.
Certain incompatible foods (viruddha-aahara) should be avoided as they create negative reactions in the body.
Fish + Milk
This is a potency incompatibility (veerya viruddha).
This is a processing incompatibility (sanskar viruddha).
Honey + Cow’s ghee mixed in equal proportions.
This is a dose incompatibility (matra viruddha).
Hot Water After Honey
This is a functional incompatibility (krama viruddha).
Sweets During Spring And Spicy During Summers.
This is an example of time incompatibility (kala viruddha).
Yogurt At Nighttime
This is order incompatibility (krama viruddha). Taking the sweet taste (madhura rasa) at the end of meals and the bitter (tikta) and pungent (katu) taste at the start of meals.
Fruit Salad/Banana + Milk
This is a food combination incompatibility (samyoga viruddha). There is a reason why good Ayurvedists don’t drink smoothies.
Consuming Cold Water After Hot Beverages
This is contraindication incompatibility (parihar viruddha).
Avoid These Combinations At All Times
Green Or Black Tea With Milk
Tea contains flavonoids called catechins, which have many beneficial effects on the heart.
When milk is added to tea, then a group of proteins in milk, called caseins, interact with the tea to reduce the concentration of catechins. So avoid tea and milk together.
Milk And Yogurt
Consuming both together can precipitate milk inside the stomach that may irritate and induce vomiting. So, avoid milk and yogurt together.
Tea And Garlic
Tea contains anticoagulant compounds called coumarins. When combined with garlic (that also has anti-clotting properties), they may increase the risk of bleeding. So, better to avoid tea and garlic together.
Pomegranate And Grape Juice
These are both known to block the cytochrome P450 3A4 enzyme systems in the intestines and increase blood
levels of many medications. Taking these two juices together may synergize the above action.
Unripe Tomatoes/Potatoes And Alcohol
The unripe green tomatoes contain huge amounts of solanine, which may interact with alcohol and result in more sedation. This is a processing incompatibility (Sanskara Viruddha).
Deep-fried potatoes can develop toxic substances, such as acrylamide, which can prove to be carcinogenic.
Eating potato chips regularly should be avoided. It has been mentioned in Ayurveda that oil and food must not be reheated. Reheating oil creates more oxidation and when it is consumed it creates more oxidative stress creating more free radicals.
A recent study found that a toxin called 4-hydroxy-trans-2-nonenal (HNE) is formed when such oils as corn, soya bean, and sunflower oils are reheated. Consumption of foods containing HNE from cooking oils has been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, various liver disorders, and cancer.
Milk which contains lactogen and certain fruits such as bananas, which also contain common allergens, may aggravate an asthmatic attack.
Milk with eggs, reheated cow’s milk, consuming too much sugar along with saturated fats, can lead to a number of immunologic disorders.
Rheumatoid arthritis patients who consume yogurt and sour food at night complain of more morning stiffness.
Please consult a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner before trying the dietary guidelines mentioned in this article.
1 Vaidhya Sri Lakshmi Pati Shastra, Yogratnakar, Chapter Nityapravritti prakar, Page 67, Chaukhambha Prakashan 2017
2 Same as reference #1, Page 69.
3 Same as reference #1, Page 70.
4 Reference #1, Chapter Ratricharya, Page 88.
5 Vaidhya Sri Lakshmi Pati Shastra, Yogratnakar, Chapter Dugdhaguna, Page 99, Chaukhambha Prakashan 2017
6 Same as reference # 6, Page 102.
7 Same as reference #6 Takra guna, Page 103
8 LB Sørensen. Eating dark and milk chocolate: a randomized crossover study of effects on appetite and energy intake Nutr Diabetes. 2011 Dec; 1(12): e21.Published online 2011 Dec 5. doi: 10.1038/nutd.2011.17PMCID: PMC3302125
9 Emilio Ros, Health Benefits of Nut Consumption Nutrients. 2010 Jul; 2(7): 652–682. Nut are high in calori so should be avoided in night time Published online 2010 Jun 24. doi: 10.3390/nu2070652,PMCID: PMC3257681
10 Liane S. Roe, Salad and satiety: the effect of timing of salad consumption on meal energy intake Author manuscript; available in PMC 2013 Feb 1.Published in final edited form as Appetite. 2012 Feb; 58(1): 242–248.Published online 2011 Oct 8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3264798/
11 Vaidhya Sri Lakshmi Pati Shastra, Yogratnakar, Chapter Nityapravritti prakar, Page 67-68. 2017
12 Same as reference #12 Ritucharya, Page 91-93.
13 Dr. R. K. Sharma, Agnivesha’s Charaka Samhita Sutrasthana Volume 1 Chapter 26 Page no 486- 487. 2017
14Mukund Sabnis, Viruddha Ahara: A critical view 2012 Jul-Sep; 33(3): 332–336. doi: 10.4103/0974-8520.108817 PMCID: PMC3665091