Can you offer some broad guidelines on a daily diet to ensure optimum health? I’m in my 30s. Is Chyavanaprasa a good health tonic and can I have it daily?

In general all foods are good, but not all foods are good for all people. While planning your diet, you need to keep in mind your body constitution and the taste of the food you are taking.

All meals should include at least a small portion of foods of different tastes including sour, sweet, pungent and salty.

In a meal, start with sweet taste; sour and salty tastes in the middle; bitter, pungent and astringent tastes at the end. If you are suffering with indigestion, you can start the meal with spicy and sour tastes.

Those with a vata type constitution generally prefer warm, sweet, sour and salty; Pitta type prefer cold, sweet, bitter and astringent tastes and Kapha type prefer warm, spicy, bitter and astringent.

Always sit down to eat in a relaxed and comfortable environment; chew well and eat at moderate speed. Minimise intake of ice-cold food and drinks; eat only when you are hungry. Avoid overeating. You should not be totally full after a meal. A slightly empty stomach will aid digestion.

Go for a gentle walk for about five minutes after eating. This too will aid digestion. You can rest after that. Another important point to keep in mind is to avoid drinking very cold water between meals. Taking a glass of lukewarm water between meals is ideal for maintaining good health.

Ensure complete nutrition until the age of 16 (for women) and 21 (for men). It is until this age that the body’s structural components are nourished.

Between 16/21 and 60 years, the generative and degenerative process balance each other. After the age of 60, the degenerative process overrides the generative process.

Ayurveda suggests certain Rasayana (tonics) at every decade of life to improve our health.

Chyavanaprasa is an ideal tonic for those in their 30s.

It is said that Chyavana, an Ayurveda physician of yore, was a premature baby and was afflicted by premature ageing. The legendary physician brothers Ashwini Kumaras restored Chyavana’s youth with the help of Chyavanaprasa.

Now, approximately 30,000 tons of Chyavanaprasa is consumed every year and the Indian Chyavanaprasa market is worth about one billion dollars. Fifty per cent of Ayurveda medicine retail sales comes from Chyavanaprasa.

Amla (Indian gooseberry; Phyllanthus emblica) is the main ingredient of Chyavanaprasa. Amla balances all three doshas – vata, pitta and kapha.

It may be used to enhance digestion, treat constipation, reduce fever, purify the blood, reduce cough, alleviate asthma, benefit the eyes, stimulate hair growth and enhance intellect.

On average, 100g of amla consists of about 700mg of vitamin C, which is 30 times the total amount present in an orange. In addition to vitamin C, it also includes calcium, iron, protein, sugar, phosphorus, carbohydrates.

Chyavanaprasa can be given to children and the elderly. The mode of intake of Chyavanaprasa is ideally after a Panchakarma (an ayurvedic purification procedure). Dosage is 1-3 spoonsful along with warm milk, or as prescribed by the doctor.

Chyavanaprasa is also used as a supplementary medicine in the case of cough, asthma, fever, heart diseases, gout, tuberculosis and genito-urinary diseases.