Ayurveda recommends having warm and cooked salads. It believes that raw salads are cold and rough, hence hard to digest. It also suggests that salads should be made and eaten fresh as the ingredients lose prana or life-force if you keep them longer. Leftover salads or that which have been cut and left for hours should not be consumed as it causes ama or digestive toxins.
When should we eat salads?
There has always been a debate regarding the right time to consume salads. Across the globe people prefer to have salads but different cultures have different beliefs regarding the right time to eat salads. While in some countries, people prefer to start a meal with salad, in many other cultures, enjoying a salad after the main meal is considered the right time for consuming it.
American health experts explain that since salads contain roughage that is very filling in nature, it should be taken as the first course of a meal. People in America usually start a formal meal with a salad followed by an appetizer, the main course, and then a dessert. Experts there believe that starting off with a salad prevents overeating. Research shows eating a salad before a meal can reduce our caloric intake. The stomach senses satisfaction after salad is consumed, hence overeating is avoided. People who are trying to lose weight may consider eating salad at the beginning of a meal as it will fill the stomach with low-calorie roughage like lettuce.
In France, people prefer green salad after the main course, served plain with vinegar as that helps with digestion. Experts there believe since salads are rich in fibre, they help in the digestion of the food eaten before. Also, green salads cleanse the palate and prepare the digestive system for dessert. Experts believe it helps with digestion and is a good source of vitamins.
In between meals
Italians have salads in between meals. Italian meals generally include warm vegetable dishes known as contorno alongside the main course. Their meals also include cold salads known as insalata that are served with the contorno or directly after the main course. Italian salads are usually topped with olive oil and vinegar. Experts there also believe that serving the salad after the main course helps in digestion and prepares the palate for wine. While the olive oil helps to settle and balance the digestion, the acidity of the vinegar refreshes the taste buds and enhances the taste of dessert and wine.
What Ayurveda says
In India, Ayurveda encourages consuming salads before the main course to improve digestion. This ancient tradition considers digestive system to play a very important role in maintaining good health and wellbeing. Ayurveda believes that salad can be eaten prior to a warm course because raw foods are not easy to digest and they should not be mixed with cooked food. Therefore, Ayurveda recommends eating raw salads at least 20 minutes before the main meal.
Ayurveda prefers that we eat a salad made from slightly sautéed vegetables, with a little spice. This salad can be enjoyed as a part of the main meal. Ayurveda strongly recommends that the best time to eat salads is at noon when our digestive capacity is at its maximum level.
From an Ayurvedic perspective, our health is not only made by food that we eat but is also determined by our ability to digest the food. This digestive capacity is called agni. Ayurveda considers raw foods as cold, dry, light, and rough. So, eating foods that have these qualities can affect our digestive fire and decrease our digestive capacity. This will also lead to poor absorption of nutrients, lack of nourishment to our tissues, imbalances in our body, and will eventually lead to diseases. Hence, Ayurveda recommends cooked food to strengthen the digestive agni, and decrease digestive imbalance. Even if some raw foods are eaten, they should be taken in small quantities.
While opinions differ from culture to culture, experts say that salads are basically linked to digestive health, therefore it is a choice to eat a salad before, during or after the main course. There is no hard-and-fast nutritional rule. As long as we eat a good quantity of vegetables every day, we will receive their goodness, regardless of where we choose to position our salad during our meals