Roma’s Yoga of Food, Ayurvedic Cooking

February 21st, 2010

The natural healing cuisine of India

“Ayurveda” or the science of life is the ancient medical system of India and existed since about 5000B.C. There are four religious doctrines discovered many years ago in India. They are the Rig-Veda, Sham Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda. The Ayurveda is contained within the Atharva Veda. Ayurveda is based on firstly a belief in God. The healing system is based on love.

According to Ayurveda, there are three major life forces in the body called the three biological humors. In Sanskrit they are called Vata, Pitta, and Kapha and are also known as the “Tridoshas”. They again relate to the elements of air, fire and water and is the basis for the treatment of both physical and psychological constitution. There is also the three “Gunas” or qualities called Satya, Rajas, and Tamas. The biological humors are the root of this ancient healing system.

 Ayurvedic science of food and diet is a tremendously large field and influences every aspect of one’s life. In Chinese medicine there is reference to Yin, Yang and Chi or blood to be the primary elements in the body. In European Medicine it refers to as the Bile, Blood and the Phlegm. In Ayurveda “Purusha” means male and “Prakriti” translates as female. The “Tridoshas” Vata Pitta and Kapha as discussed before are the dynamic principles that govern the body, mind, and consciousness.

 The Ayurvedic treatment of any disease is based on the three biological humors and is reflected on the six tastes sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter and astringent. Ayurveda cannot change or cure health problems in an instant. Some factors like diet will respond to changes but again it requires some time to change any person’s established diet. Choosing the proper diet might lead to the cure of the disease itself.

Soups play an important part in Ayurvedic cooking. These are mostly made of beans, peas, lentils or “Dals” and spices boiled together and are high in proteins. There is a rice and lentil mixture called Khichuri or lentil stew, which is easily digestible and gives strength and vitality. Rice plays an important part in Ayurvedic cooking and is very good for Vata and Pitta diets and should be moderately used by Kapha diets.

Ayurveda sometimes recommends more cooked vegetables than raw for some people. Red meat is not recommended for any constitution at all but sometimes fish and white meat like chicken and turkey are more acceptable. In Ayurvedic diet the spices do not have to be extremely strong but then the food does not have to be bland either. The best way to keep all the biological humors content and to create tasty food is to figure out a balance between the amount of spices and oil used and to try to bring out the full flavors in them.

The Ayurvedic properties of some of the ingredients

Bitter Melon – This has a soothing effect on Pitta and the Kapha elements in the body. It is also very good for Diabetes and anemia. In India diabetics often grate it and drink the juice squeezed out of it first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.

Limes and Lemons – These have excellent healing power in Ayurveda. When people have morning sickness or nausea especially pregnant women, lemon or lime juice diluted with water and a little salt served as a drink works like a miracle. In very hot days lemon or lime juice mixed with five times as much water, a little salt and some sugar and ice makes a wonderful lemonade soothing and healing for the whole digestive system.

Cranberries– These are sour and astringent and one should not eat too much of it. It helps cool down the discomfort in very hot and spicy foods. Cranberries when eaten raw disturb all the three doshas but when cooked with sugar they help digestion.

Carrots cooked, help the digestive system and constipation. When carrots are eaten raw with other vegetables or as salad it helps prevent cancer.

Cilantro is the leaf of the coriander seed. It is also known as Chinese Parsley. This herb is a balance between all the biological humors and helps soothe colds, fevers and nausea. The Coriander Seed is among the medicinal plants mentioned in books about three thousand years ago. The seed when ground and used in dishes is good for digestion.

Garlic, this vegetable is very good for heart, lungs blood and the muscular system. Garlic has a lot of heat in it and too much of it should not be taken at one time. Garlic is said to purify the blood, lower blood pressure and aid digestion. It is also considered to be helpful in curing diabetes, lower cholesterol and help in asthma and whooping cough.

Onions though pungent help a lot with cholesterol. When eaten raw onions sometimes have conflicts with Vata and Pitta but helps Kapha and is good in colds and coughs and congestion.

Ginger has a very cooling effect on coughs, colds, heart problems and blood circulation. Fresh tea with ginger, basil, and honey is soothing in any type of cold. It also helps in digestion, eyesight, and is good for aged people as it heats the joints, is useful against gout, helps poor blood circulation and is also considered a cure for travel sickness. In India sometimes ginger is used as an antidote to poison.

Mint as the historians say, came originally from the Mediterranean. It is good for soar throat and hiccups. The aroma of mint is very soothing and refreshing.

Asafoetida or Hing is a dried resin like product extracted from the rhizomes of “ferula” or giant fennel. The name comes from the Persian word “Aza” meaning resin and the Latin word “Fetida” meaning stinking. Imported from Persia and Armenia, this spice is used in Indian, Arab and also some Roman cooking in very small amounts due to the strong and pungent aroma. It is medicinal because it can be a sedative, expectorant in colds and helps in the treatment of flatulence and bronchitis. Asafoetida grws well in the dry regions of Iran, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan.

Turmeric has been used in Asia for a very long time all over Asia. In the Carribean Islands it is called Indian Saffron. It has much more functions than food coloring, dyeing clothes and being an important ingredient in Asian food and Indian curry. Ground Turmeric is an antiseptic to raw fish and meat and is also a food preservative to some extent. Turmeric helps with all the biological humors in human body.

Mustard came from Asia and the Chinese have been using it for thousands of years. Apart from having it’s own taste and flavor mustard also enhances the flavors of other spices. Mustard induces vomiting and is regarded to be a diuretic and a stimulant and plasters made of ground mustard were traditionally used for healing arthritis and rheumatism.

 Cloves have a very good flavor alone or combined with other spices. It reduces gas and is good for digestion. The Clove Oil is used for tooth aches and massage for curing rheumatism. Clove is also an essential ingredient in Indian curries.

The best Cinnamon is from Sri Lanka but it is also grown in India, Brazil, Indonesia, the islands of the West Indies and the islands of the Indian Ocean.

Cardamom existed in India years before the birth of Christ and is one of the most ancient spices in the world. It is used separate as well as with other spice mixes. Cardamom cures stomach disorders and can be used as a breath freshner.

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