Ayurveda in the Kitchen: How to Cook Using Ayurvedic Principles
Ayurveda an ancient text dating back to 5000 years consists of practical wisdom applicable and beneficial even today. The word Ayurveda means 'Knowledge of life'. It addresses the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects for health and happiness.
Today, many of us believe that an Ayurvedic lifestyle is complicated to practice. Ayurvedic cooking, the way of life until few years back has drastically transformed to quick, instant and fast meals.
With migration of people, ideas and culture, food today is a combination of old and new flavours. When fusion of food primarily happens for taste and ignores the health factor it is a recipe for sickness.
From grinding fresh flour every-day to buying packaged, ready to eat food, we have come a long way. Should we revert to the roots?
Why Ayurvedic Meals?
Ayurveda teaches us to eat fresh, local and seasonal, the exact factors emphasised by environmental experts for a sustainable lifestyle.
When we eat in-season food, we stay away from pesticide laden food. The nutritionally rich food keeps us healthy by maintaining and restoring the body systems. Such food is medicinal. In their book, Ayurvedic Cooking for Self-Healing, Usha Lad and Dr. Vasant Lad, mention that according to Ayurveda the overall health of any individual depends on every aspect of life and his sense of well-being is the reflection of his inner state of health.
Isn’t It Too Complicated?
Ayurvedic cooking is simple, practical and extremely doable involving easy recipes to suit your requirements based on personal and other factors.
Ayurveda classifies food in three categories Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic and accentuates eating according to the six seasons and tastes.
Sattvic foods are balancing food. These include fresh organic fruits and vegetables, most whole grains, legumes and nuts, milk and ghee, beans and lentils, plant-based oils, honey, molasses and spices like mustard, cumin, cinnamon, coriander, ginger and turmeric.
Foods that are fresh but heavy to digest are Rajasic. People who do a lot of physical activity can eat these foods. These foods are stimulating and can cause physical and mental stress if overeaten. These include spicy herbs, coffee, tea, and salt.
Tamasic foods are impure, heavy and dead. Eating tamasic foods makes you dull. These include onions and garlic.
Plan Your Food
Ayurveda believes that the universal life force manifests as three different energies known as doshas namely, vata, pitta and kapha. All individuals are a unique combination of these doshas determined at the time of conception.
Diet for any individual depends on his dosha. Mostly people have an abundance of one or two doshas that fluctuates according to age, diet, environment, climate and seasons. Balancing the doshas is necessary for optimum health, energy and vitality.
Though an Ayurvedic physician should be consulted for the correct diet plan, broadly speaking sweet, sour, and salty foods pacify vata. Sweet, pungent, and bitter foods decrease pitta and pungent, bitter, and astringent foods pacify kapha.
Spice Up Your Cooking
Spices for vata include fresh ginger, cumin, black pepper, fennel and saffron. Cinnamon, mint, coriander, turmeric, fennel and cardamom are good for Pitta. Clove, black pepper, mustard seeds, turmeric, soaked and sprouted fenugreek seeds are beneficial for Kapha.
Khichadi, pulao lightly tempered in ghee with cumin, cloves and cinnamon, any seasonal cooked vegetable, dal, especially split moong dal, chutneys and buttermilk is an Ayurvedic menu.
Yes, our everyday meals are based on Ayurvedic principles!
However, today we substitute these for processed food because we find this food bland and experience craving. Nutrient deficiency is the major cause of cravings and overeating, according to experts.
Eating and assimilation are the two important functions that depend on the time and way of eating. Hurried or late meals without sparing any thought for the body’s requirements results in imbalance, the root cause of lifestyle diseases.
Recollect the taste of your mother’s cooking. Why do you love and recall the taste so vividly? It is because you were totally immersed in the eating experience.
Bless, respect and relish food. Eat in peace by appreciating, savouring and being totally present. It’s time to go back to our roots and follow the Ayurveda way.
(Nupur Roopa is a freelance writer, and a life coach for mothers. She writes articles on environment, food, history, parenting and travel.)