As per Ayurveda, a nutritious meal means,
- Freshly cooked.
- All the 6 tastes are present.
- Properly digested.
- Cook is emotionally happy.
More than the food the cook is important.
My grandmother told this story to me. Once upon a time, a sadhu visited a kings palace. The king received him, fed him and made him stay in a comfortable room with all facilities. The next morning the sadhu left without informing.
The guards found that some valuable thing was missing in his room. When informed to the king – the king immediately called the chef and asked “what is the food that you served the sadhu last night?” The chef said, when he was cooking he figured out that his rice was not in stock and he went out to buy. A man on the way sold some rice to him.
That man was called out and they figured that he had stolen the rice from somewhere. It is because the sadhu ate the stolen rice it induced him to steal.
In India the cook cooks the food without tasting. The food is offered to all and the cook eats in the end. The food should be cooked for others not for our self. That should be the first objective of the cook. It should be cooked with complete confidence. Then the taste will be good.
There is something called vibrations (vibes).All of us create certain vibrations. We sometimes can feel that a certain person is coming near us. Some people might talk sweetly but we may not like their vibrations.
I want to share an incident which happened in my house. I had a maid in my house. I always felt that her thoughts are negative. Though sweetly speaking I never liked her. That was the time I read about the vibes. One morning, I was cooking and she was doing the cleaning. I was thinking in my mind, do I need to fire her. She told me didi “What happened to you? Why have you not switched on the bhajan CD today? I get to listen to these songs only in your house. You tell me so many good things to me. Even though I don’t understand -I am feeling good”. I felt myself ashamed of my thoughts. Her negative vibes are affecting me but my positivity will also have an impact on her. So I decided to increase my positivity. May be this was the reason for untouchability on those days.
So the point I am making is there are some vibes which gets passed on.
Even in the food there are vibes of the person who has cooked it. It will have an impact on the person who is eating it. If the eating person has so much positivity it really doesn’t matter who cooks.
The meal should have all the 6 tastes. Then it is considered to be a nutritious meal. No need to look at the labels for the protein and fiber content.
The six tastes are Sweet, Sour, Bitter, Salty, Astringent and Pungent. If any of these tastes are missing in our food our mind is all the time looking for it. That is why the cravings? If we eat a meal with all the tastes then it will be a satisfied meal. That is a called a tasty food.
Sweet has fat, protein, carbohydrates and water. Bitter and Astringent food has more vitamins and minerals.
6 tastes are available in,
- Sweet-fruits, grains, jaggery, milk, honey.
- Salty – Salt.
- Bitter- spinach, green cabbage, eggplant, fenugreek, tea and coffee.
- Sour-lemon, yogurt, pickles, tamarind.
- Astringent – Turmeric predominantly, mildly in some vegetables and fruits.
- Pungent – chillies, black pepper, ginger, onions.
One pot cooking should be avoided (incorporating all the tastes in one food). The food is prepared for all the members of the family. Some have fire body that requires more cooling things like yogurt; some needs more spicy mixture because of the water body etc. So it is important to make 3 to 4 items which put together will cover all the tastes. The person who wants more of a particular taste can have more servings.
The body naturally desires the taste that is required to fulfill the qualities of body type. So listen to your taste bud. Too much of any taste is bad. A balancing is a must.
[3 body types are Vata -wind, Pitta – fire, Kapha – water]
People these days also undergo certain detox programme like panchakarma. What happens is – these programmes bring out the toxins which are stored in a safer place in the body. If the body is not well prepared – then these toxins coming out will make the person sick. This is recommended only when the body is ready to handle when these toxins are released. The preparation of the body includes certain fasts etc. So these are not recommended. Rather use Dhaniya and jeera in your foods. These are natural detox agents.
An amazing herb is hing (asafoetida / perrungayam). It is a herb which can be used for all body types. It burns the ama (toxins + stress hormones + any undigested food).It is also called devils dung in English. Its raw smell is not liked by many. But when added in oil the aroma is very pleasant. A MUST in all dishes. Use only one or two pinches.
Pumpkin, fenugreek (methi seeds and leaves) and saffron are capable of bringing happiness. When you feel that the family needs some happiness cook a pumpkin subzi, methi sambar or dhal and make a kheer with saffron. See the change. Do it quietly. Don’t announce. Watch it and feel happy within. Certain things work when done without disclosing the truth to everybody.
Those days women changed the emotions of the family by reducing and increasing certain herbs in the cooking.
During winter- we need to eat more solid food with less liquid food. Follow north Indian diet.
During summer – We need to eat more liquid food. Don’t eat too much of dry food and keep sipping water. It does not help. Rather eat more watery food. Follow south Indian diet. Liquid sambar, watery resam, vegetable, greens, less cereal (rice or wheat), little salad and butter milk. If we eat like this we will not feel thirsty and it cures constipation.
Constipation is the mother of all diseases. Including more fiber in the diet also leads to constipation. A vegetarian diet provides all the fiber requirement from the vegetables. So don’t eat extra fiber – this might lead to constipation.
Using coconut will help to digest the rice well. It is rich with fat and fiber.
On top of this elaborate meal, we need to cook and eat fresh. All of you are going to ask me,” where is the time?” With little practice and dedication we can achieve it easily.
Fresh food is very important. Looking at a freshly cooked food gives more happiness.
But if you are a person who don’t want to waste food, rather than reheating and eating the old food add some extra herbs to make it more digest able. Say white rice is left add some jeera tadka on top or make some pongal or lemonrice don’t eat as it is. In case of dhal or subzi do some extra processing to enable better digestion.
Frankly speaking I find it very cumbersome to process old food. The kitchen is also messy managing old and new. I recommend you guys to close your eyes and throw the left over food or give it to some beggars. Do it for some days see how efficient you will become in deciding the quantity of cooking
Ayurveda recommends us to eat foods that are easily digest able rather than eating foods which are hard to digest. As undigested food become Ama (Sanskrit word).
The nutrition’s that we eat is not important but we assimilate makes sense.
The foods that are hard to digest are cheese, bread, cakes, pizza, burger, more raw food, and meat. They should be avoided. In unavoidable situations add some extra digestive herbs and eat it. A bread toast is easily digest-able than a fresh bread. But bread per se is not good.
More processing means better digestion. One good example is milk churned into butter and made to ghee. Ghee is easily digest able than butter and milk.
There is no problem if we follow one cuisine properly. The problem arises when we cook too many cuisines. Say an Italian starter, South Indian dish with a north Indian cereal and a continental dessert.
For proper digestion the person eating should enjoy the food. If he puts the food in the tongue he should feel good and happy. This is a signal for the tummy to feel that the food is tasty so let me accept it.
So ayurvedic nutrition rests on the tip of the tongue, literally………………..
Feel happy, eat tasty and live healthy………………..
Note : Don’t try too hard to incorporate everything that is said. Assimilate these facts in your mind and slowly incorporate in your life. Don’t worry or worked up to bring in a change. Feel happy to do it.