Sunday, January 8, 2012

More Food For Thought

Pictured above, yard long beans with coconut and mango cubes in cilantro sauce with yogurt cheese, examples of Ayurvedic foods. Ayurvedic foods are categorized by culinary and medicinal properties. Herbs and spices that harmonize with certain foods cooked together to promote the body's own healing properties. Excessive warmth in the body is thought to be the cause of many ills, so "heating" and "cooling" foods are always balanced in Indian meals. Yogurt, ghee, honey and rice are cooling. Meat, mangoes and cashews, to name a few, are heat inducing food that are eaten in moderation (except for mangoes during mango season!) Everyone needs a certain amount of each of the six rasas (basic tastes), but too much of one can be harmful, just as a lack of one can upset the body's balance (or dosha). With this in mind, it is easier to understand the complexity of Indian meals, which are designed to include all the rasas--sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent.There is always a spicy, sour dish, a cooling yogurt, a hot, bitter pickle and a sweet. Indian cooks are aware of the healing properties of spices and herbs, and foods. The cooks  fine-tune and adjust recipes accordingly. Black pepper, garlic, ginger and turmeric are some of the most common Ayurvedic ingredients used in the majority of most Indian dishes and were first used for their medicinal properties not the taste. 

Ayurveda teaches that different people have different constitutions, or prakruti. You can be one or a combination of the following types. See if you can find yourself!

Vata: This person is thin, very active, cool tempered, nervous, curious, fast speaking and has a variable-to-low appetite. Vata represents movement, and is associated with the nervous system.

Pitta: This person is of medium build and weight, moderately active, hot tempered, aggressive, and sharp spoken with a good-to-excessive appetite. Pitta mediates between the forces of vata and kapha, controlling digestive and metabolic functions.

Kapha: This person has a large frame and is heavt, lethargic, calm tempered, self-contented, slow and melodious in speech with a slow steady appetite. The opposite of vata, kapha is potential energy.

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