Food can be poison or it can be medicine—it all depends on what we eat and when we eat it.
The concept of incompatible food combinations in Ayurveda (called virudh aahar) took a while for me to grasp and incorporate into my own diet.
Incompatible foods are everywhere: in restaurants, on cooking shows, and even cookbooks are rife with these unhealthy combos.
Foods may be incompatible because they create a negative reaction in the body, generate additional water in the body (called kleda) that can lead to skin conditions, block the body’s channels, contribute to heart disease or simply lead to indigestion.
And certain foods may be incompatible because they are simply not right for a particular season. When it comes to a seasonal diet, balancing the doshas that tend to increase or get aggravated during that time of year is key. So eating chilies in the summer is not recommended as the added heat will lead to pitta disturbances like rashes, cold sores, acne, and heartburn.
Allergies can stem from eating ice cream, iced drinks, pickled/fermented foods, and incompatible food combinations, especially in the spring when kapha dosha is highest.
– Milk with meat
– Salt and milk
– Cheese and fruit
– Fruit with milk
– Stale food (including leftovers)
– Fish with yogurt or milk
– Milk and yogurt in excess
– Excessive intake of wet, green, leafy veggies (like spinach) or salads
– Excessive amounts of pickled or fermented foods
– Ice cream at night
– Improper seasonal diet
I cringe when I see yogurt and fruit packaged together or smoothies that mix milk and fruit. Not because I don’t think those things are delicious. They are! Seriously. However, according to Ayurveda, milk and melons (or any fruit for that matter) are not to be consumed together because milk is a laxative and melon a diuretic. Also, the fruit is digested very quickly and milk takes longer for the body to process. During that processing time, the fruit curdles the milk potentially creating a sour stomach and lots of acidity.
Milk should not be eaten with fish as the two foods are incompatible: milk is cold and fish is heating. Combining the two vitiates the blood and causes obstruction of the body’s channels (called srotas). Salt and milk together is another combination that should be avoided due to antagonistic qualities in the two.
Banana should not be eaten with milk, curds, or buttermilk because the combination can diminish digestion and produce toxins in the body. Eating this combination can lead to cold, cough, and allergies.
Curds (yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese) are ideal to eat in winter, but should not be consumed at night. According to Ayurvedic text Caraka-Samhita (sutra 225-227), “curd is generally discarded in autumn, summer, and spring.”
When you do eat curds, enjoy them at lunch when your digestion is strongest. Curds can cause swelling and aggravate blood (rakta), pitta, and kapha. Cheese can take a long time to digest and can cause constipation so those with weak digestion should avoid cheese and yogurt consumption no matter what the season.
Takra, also called buttermilk, is a good alternative. To prepare a spring takra, mix 1/4 cup organic whole milk yogurt, 3/4 cup room temperature water and whisk briskly, add a pinch of rock salt and a dash of cumin. This light beverage is digestive and great to drink before a meal. (Skip it at night or if you have a cold.)
Avoid cold or iced drinks during or directly after a meal. The cold diminishes digestive power (called agni) and causes a host of digestive problems, allergies, and colds. (The same goes for ice cream and frozen yogurt.)
Raw and Cooked Leftovers
It’s best to avoid leftovers if you can. Food loses its vital energy after a night in the fridge and gets slimy and heavy, too. If you do eat leftovers on occasion, sauté them in ghee and black pepper. Don’t mix leftovers with fresh food either.
Always use raw, uncooked honey. Baking with honey or heating it in general turns it into a sticky glue that clogs the body’s channels and produces toxins. This includes having honey in your tea or drinking something hot after eating honey.
Don’t mix equal quantities ghee and honey as they have opposite reactions in the body—honey has a heating, drying, scraping action, whereas ghee has a cooling, moisturizing quality. When eating ghee and honey together, mix in a larger quantity of one or the other.
About Stress and Diet
This post is rife with a lot of dietary don’ts and it’s a huge shock to adjust your diet, especially when it means leaving behind a lot of the delicious food combinations you have come to love.
This information is not meant to cause stress around food, which itself can hamper digestion and health.
My goal is to help you better understand what foods will support your body and which ones may create an imbalance. By understanding proper food combinations, you can make the educated choices that support your body.
Bonus: How & Why to eat Ayurvedically:
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editorial Assistant: Terri Tremblett / Editor: Catherine Monkman