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Ayurvedic Cooking Fundas

Dr. Preeti Dass

Nutrition plays a very important role in keeping balance. An appropriate ayurvedic diet should be co-ordinated to the basic constitution, area, season, time of the day and the state of health.

According to ayurveda, food is classified according to six main tastes: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent. The six tastes of food are derived from the five element influences: ether, air, fire, water and earth. The tastes derived from the specific element influences in the minds and body; the other tastes will decrease them. Each has a different influence on the body’s doshas or energies. A harmony of these is fundamental to well being. To strengthen the doshas, choose foods with the tastes, which influence them. To reduce dosha effects, choose the other tastes.

Contrary to some misper- ceptions, Ayurvedic cooking is not strictly vegetarian, but it is all about striking a balance between contrasting flavours, textures, colours and tastes as ell as foods that heat and cool. It concentrates on the efficacy of certain rejuvenating herbs and spices to stimulate the digestive system nourish the body and maintain balance. The focus on digestion means that Ayurveda recommends a particular sequence in eating foods, so that digestion is easier and the body can reap the maximum benefit.

Knowing the Individual for whom the meal is Cooked

Each individual is different with different constitution- vata, pitta or kapha. Therefore the diet and meals prepared according to ayurveda should be prepared differently for each individual. It is an ayurvedic physician’s responsibility to educate the individual about the uniqueness of his digestive system.

Food and Digestion

Food digestion is as important as paying attention to vitamins because it is important that the body absorb the nutrition that is taken in. The greatest time to digest the food is at 12 noon when the sun is the highest in the sky. Digestion needs heat and at that time the stomach is naturally the hottest in the day.

Cold water should not be had with meals as it puts of the digestive fires out in the stomach. This compromises the immune system and energy levels in the individual and causes fatigue and weakness. Cold water is not encouraged in winter when the digestive fire is not as hot as in summer.

Taste

Taste has an effect on the body systems. Each of the tastes has a specific effect on the body systems. Therefore a balanced diet involves having six tastes- salty, sour, sweet, astringent, bitter present in every meal or at least have them once everyday. An ayurvedic physician can educate you about the uniqueness of your doshas, which can be tweaked with taste to create wellness.

Seasons and Food

There are different diets for different seasons. The body needs to the outside environment and food is one way to adjust to changes in season. Every season brings about nurturing qualities and the body needs to plug into the nature for rejuvenation. When this is not done, it may compromise the natural defenses that the system needs to build up. During summer, which is a pitta season, individuals are prone for sunburn, acne etc and so it is recommended that cool, light fruits and salads have to be consumed to pacify the imbalances caused by pitta. During winter, which is a kapha season, people are prone to cold, arthritis, rheumatism etc and so it is recommended that people eat warm, oily and hearty meals like beans, whole grains and meats to lubricate the system against dryness of vata season. During spring, which is a kapha season, people are prone to bronchial ailments and common colds etc. Ayurveda recommends foods like honey and millet and greens to be included in the everyday meal to dry the body of the mucus.

Fresh Food and Quality Ingredients

Ayurveda believes it is important to choose the best and the freshest ingredients to maintain good health. Ayurveda pays special attention to the vital energy in foods and the sun’s energy that is locked up in greens and grains. One should always choose tender and crisp vegetables, soft but firm fruits, good spices, nuts and oils and aged grains.

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