What are the most important things I need to know about maintaining proper digestion?

According to ayurveda, good health and good digestion are essentially synonymous. In the ayurvedic system, we thus place strong emphasis on maintaining proper digestion.  When the physiology does a good job digesting a meal, we generate nutrients. But if digestion is weak, the byproduct of an improperly digested meal can result in production of toxins known in Ayurveda as “ama.” If the ama then starts to accumulate in the physiology in any appreciable degree, it begins to deposit in the various tissues and organs of the body.  This is the ground floor where disease gets in.

Here are some guidelines for maintaining proper digestion:

Have your main meal at lunch.  Dinner should be lighter. 

Snacking is ok, but no grazing.  After eating, allow 3 hours to digest your food before you eat again.  Avoid snacking at night.

Cold beverages are off the menu.  Room temperature beverages are fine, and warm drinks are most beneficial.

Food should be cooked, and consumed warm, or at least room temperature.  Fresh fruit need not be cooked, but raw vegetables and other raw foods should be reduced or avoided.

The ideal diet is a lactovegetarian diet (a vegetarian diet that includes dairy products).

Cold milk should be avoided.  Milk should be boiled and consumed hot. Milk should be combined with sweet tasting foods only.  Fresh cheeses are much better than aged cheeses.  Lassi, a yogurt drink, is easy to digest and provides probiotic support.  Clarified butter is an excellent oil for cooking.

Eat in a settled environment.

Fresh is best!

Raw honey is an ideal sweetener.  Avoid cooked honey.