There is nothing like fresh food, shared with the ones you love. The freshness, the bright colours, the tantalizing aromas, the shared connection and energy. But of course, it is not always practical to prepare freshly-cooked meals and the modern conveniences of refrigerators and freezers make it all too easy to prepare in large batches and set aside for the next few days.
But, Ayurveda actually suggests against eating leftovers? Why is this?
In ancient times, refrigerators simply didn't exist, so storing food for a number of days was literally impossible. Cooking fresh food every day was a requirement, and one to which a great deal of importance and care was given.
The nutritional and medicinal value of food, including its vital energy (Prana), evaporates when we store it in the fridge or freezer for a few days. Ayurveda considers that any food older than 3 days is 'dead' food, in that it is entirely lacking in nutritional content as well as aliveness. From the Ayurvedic perspective, foods that are lacking in Prana force the digestive system to work much harder which then leads to an overall drop in health and well-being. Food that is missing Prana also prevents our bodies from transforming it into healthy Dhatus (tissues) and then into the final product of digestion, Ojas (life energy). And when Ojas suffers, we suffer tremendously.
Old food gradually turns into Ama (toxicity) as it ages and takes on the quality, or Guna, of Tamas, which can be translated as 'inertia.' When you think of it this way, you can literally see how eating leftovers is equal to ingesting the energy of inertia, heaviness, staleness and death. When we repeatedly take in the energy of Tamas, our body, mind, emotions and spirit begin to reflect that energy. This can then lead to an increase in Kapha energy, wherein the body becomes bogged down with the Mahabhutas (elements) of earth and water, leading to weight gain and obesity, a lack of inspiration, jealousy and gripping attachment, and more. Stale foods literally make you yourself, turn stale.
Another important reason not to eat leftovers is due to the loss of taste that occurs when we leave food to sit for too long. Rasa, or taste, is incredibly important to the digestive process and also offers medicinal benefits. This is why each Dosha corresponds to 3 of the 6 tastes (sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter and astringent) and are also balanced by specific tastes. If our food is not bursting with flavour and taste, we lose out on the medicine that it is intended to offer us.
Furthermore, when we refrigerate or freeze foods, and then reheat them, many of us often turn to the convenience of microwaves to bring these, now, highly processed and lifeless foods back to life, but microwaves actually break the bonds between the food molecules, causing the life energy in the food to be lost even further.
So, the Ayurvedic verdict, is that if you long to live as full of health and vitality as possible, leftovers should be avoided as much as possible, and if you do occasionally have to eat them, do not eat anything that was prepared more than 48 hours ago.
Favour foods that are local, fresh, as well as GMO-free and organic if possible. And cook simple meals that can be prepared in 20 minutes or less, with minimal ingredients. And above all, infuse all of your cooking with lots and lots of love!
Curious to learn how you can optimize your digestion and overall health this spring? Join our founder, Tiffany, for a FREE LIVE webinar, this Saturday April 9 at 10am EDT, where she will share the Ayurvedic approach to spring cleansing and how you can prepare your own at-home Ayurvedic cleanse and eat your way to greater vitality and ease in your body.
CLICK HERE TO REGISTER! (Recording available to all registrants after the live streaming.)