Aditya Rai: Let’s talk about Ayurveda and food today. What is Ayurveda? In layman terms, Ayurveda is the science of life with a dash of philosophy. We need to expand our horizons a little to understand Ayurveda. Specifically, to understand our relationship with food, in context of Ayurveda, we really need to go beyond our existing western knowledge, be undogmatic. It’ll be unfair if we connect Ayurveda with the modern Hinduism we all know, so let’s keep it away from this conversation.
A little more than a year ago I was introduced to ‘Ayurvedic Cuisine’ and to be honest, studying and learning about it made me realise how narrow minded I have been with food in relation to health. We all talk about calories, proteins, good carbohydrates but never seem to care about the basic properties of the ingredients we consume. Ayurveda has broken down the relation of food with our body in a very simple way; our body has been made up of five elements, and this concept lies at the heart of Ayurveda. These elements together form Doshas, or Bodily fluids. These doshas govern all the biological and psychological functions, along with Agni (Digestive fluids). When these doshas are imbalanced, it can lead to a disease. How food comes into play? All ingredients have base properties that affect these doshas. Eating right, eating according to season, and eating in moderation are the key. Eating according to season? Very French fine-dine vibes, I know.
Ayurveda has multiple misconceptions attached to it, for an instance, people look at it as some kind of Ancient mythological practice. And to date, many Ayurveda centres, especially the ones in South India, have been propagating all kind of wrong practices in the name of Ayurveda. Eat raw salads? No. Eat fermented foods because good for guts? No. Let’s have that Payasam after our meal? NO. So let’s get into it, and let’s talk about basic rules Ayurveda have in relation to food, the combinations and how we consume it. I will be breaking it down in an uncomplicated manner and share whatever I have learned so far. (still learning, lots of it).
Dairy, and how we consume it.
To jump on the bandwagon, we are consuming fruit smoothies as a health trend for quite a while now. Adding to that, our consumption of rich French milk based sauces for the gourmand inside us has also increased. According to Ayurveda, Dairy and Fruits/Salt are incompatible. They manifest issues in digestion, which is also backed by modern science. Moreover, it creates a toxic environment inside the body, which later turns into a disease over time. Dairy should be consumed separately, in moderation. A good percentage of the population suffers from digestion problems when they consume milk, which is mainly due to their incorrect consumption methods. Milk should be devoured hot, with warming spices and turmeric, which makes it lighter and easier on the stomach. In like manner, another substandard mistake we Indians make is, Paneer. Will you ever mix a spoon of salt and milk and drink it? On an assumption that you won’t, Paneer, or kilaath (ayurvedic reference) should be ingested only in a sweet preparation. Personally my favourite way to consume dairy is Buttermilk. Yogurt on its own can be heavy in nature, hard to digest for people with weak digestion. Adding water in a ratio of 4:1 (water:curd) changes its properties, makes it cooling in nature, and kickstarts your digestive fire.
Fruit bowls, Fruits in dessert, Fruits in savoury preparations; all are quite the wrong way to eat them. Ideally, fruits are to be consumed first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach. They are not supposed to be mixed with meals as they can hinder the digestion process already in process, start fermentation and can result in bloating.
We have this whole crazy trend of consuming fermented foods right now, because good for gut health but predominantly, for better flavour profiles. From ayurvedic point of view, long fermentations can make the food overly heating for the body, and it is recommended to consume them as condiments, not regularly. Ingestion of fermented foods in excess can result in pitta aggrevation, excess heat in your body. Such practices may be adaptable for various European countries, but considering Indian climate, it’s not a good idea. Hence, ayurveda provides those good bacteria for your gut through Lacto-Fermented dairy. Drink that Kombucha, eat that sauerkraut, but in moderation.
Sweets and Desserts
Furthermore, one of the major thing we all have been doing wrong is devouring our dessert at the end of our meal. I know this is going to offend many people, but according to Ayurveda sweet should be consumed in small quantity before you start your main meal. Eating desserts first initiates the digestion process, kickstarts your taste buds and helps you to not indulge in overeating. Consuming desserts at the end can result in slowing down of the digestion process, creating an imbalance. This practice can also come in handy if you’re watching your weight and want to avoid from bulking up.
Enough for today, gotta go and make that Satvic Khichdi for dinner. Also, there’s this huge misconception around Ayurveda that satvic food should be consumed and is good for health. No, Satvic, Rajasik and Tamasik, all have their major roles to play in our daily life and our bodily functions. Each one of them is as important as consuming your sweet first. Remember.