According to Ayurveda, how you eat is just as important as what you’re eating. Jillian Lavender shares her five tips for improving both your digestive and emotional wellbeing

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Everywhere you look, there’s someone telling you what (and what not) to eat. Have more protein. Cut out sugar. Less dairy. Avoid gluten. Increase vitamin. And so on.

Yet something basic often gets missed.

While Western nutrition places a lot of emphasis on what you eat, the ancient knowledge of Ayurveda regards the process of how you eat as more important. The best diet in the world is of no use if you’re eating in a way that weakens your digestion and therefore your ability to assimilate the value of the food.

When digestion is strong and in sync with your mind/ body type ( in Ayurveda we call these doshas ) then you feel nourished, satisfied and without cravings.

On the other hand, if your digestion is weak , you’re not able to metabolise well in order to get the optimal benefit from your food. This creates a build-up of toxins and impurities known as ama. Over time, ama creates blockages and a breakdown in mind/body functioning. This leads to disease and even early ageing.

your mental state when you eat is as important as the food itself

According to Ayurveda, your mental state when you eat is as important as the food itself. You might be eating a fresh, delicious, organic meal, yet if you’re feeling sad, anxious or agitated, you’re not going to be getting the maximum benefit and nourishment from your food.

In fact, those toxic emotions are being consumed and recycled back into your system. If you eat while feeling anxious, on a subtle level you’re consuming anxiety. Eat while feeling angry and you are taking in anger.

Here are my Ayurvedic top-tips for balancing your emotional state when eating so digestion is strong and balanced:

Sit down

Your digestive system will be seriously strained if you eat while standing or walking. Stop and sit down so you avoid compromising your body’s natural functioning. The digestive process will always work in a more optimal way when we’re settled.

Give thanks

Before you take that first bite, pause a moment to acknowledge how fortunate you are to be receiving this food. Gratitude is the perfect way to begin a meal.

Put your attention on the food

Turn off your phone, close your magazine, switch off the TV. When you bring your full awareness to the food, you consciously connect to the process of digesting. As a result you’ll be able to tune in to what your body actually wants. Instead of just eating whatever is in front of you, you’ll be able to sense when you’ve had enough.

Chew your food well

Chewing is a vital stage of the digestive process. If you don’t chew properly, your body will compensate by over-producing acids to break down the food. Many hyper-acidity issues like heartburn and IBS can be helped by simply chewing your food more.

Let go of negative thoughts

My Ayurvedic doctor, Dr Krishna Raju explained this very clearly: “Don’t ever think negatively about the food you are about to eat.”

It may not be quite what you like, or there may be something that could be improved. Do not entertain these thoughts. If you let that negativity into your awareness while eating, you will absorb those emotions into your system. It’s as if you are eating some stress, and you won’t feel nourished or well.

Of course, the quality of our food is important. Just as important is the state of our mind and body when we eat. The more you can be settled, calm, and present while eating, the more nourished and healthy you’ll be.

Jillian Lavender is one of the founders of  London Meditation Centre , offering Vedic Meditation courses in London. Read our  review of London Meditation Centre here