You are what you digest

spices for Ayurvedic food

According to Ayurvedic practices, It’s not what you eat but what you digest that matters. Two experts explained that and more to Anita Lam, who also learned how to spice up her love life. Here’s how you can too…

Healthy eating is, according to most experts, the best way to feed the mind and body. But, if one’s digestion system is not working properly then it doesn’t matter how many flax seeds and organic apples one consumes. The body simply won’t absorb its nutrients. According to Ayurvedic beliefs, a weak digestive system can stem from anything from diet to stress. On the flip side, digestion can be a foundation of good health, which then leads to a more vibrant, peaceful life.

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DOCTOR AYURVEDA

The secret to good health and healing is embedded within the principles of Ayurveda, Translated, the ancient philosophy means the ‘knowledge of long life’ or the ‘science of life’. Vinod Sharma is one of the city’s few practicing Ayurvedic doctors. Nearly 10 years ago, he quit his accounting job and opened AyurYogo International – a clinic that focuses on Ayurvedic therapies – along with his wife.
"What I focus on is checking your pulse or constitution. Due to diet and lifestyle, the elements within the system can become unbalanced," says Mr Sharma. "You don’t just treat the symptom in Ayurvedo. There are two levels to the root cause; the first is the physical ailment and the second is its subtle level, which is most likely related to emotional or mental disturbances."

Ayurvedic therapies or poncho karma include detoxification diets, massage, yoga, meditation and natural medicines. Historically, the philosophy has been responsible for curing a plethora of ailments and illnesses including everything from cancer and arthritis to PMS.

Terminology

The main Ayurvedic elements include space, air, fire, water and earth and break down more specifically to include vota, pitto and kapha, When the elements are out of whack, then the body and mind cannot function properly.

There are seven major energy centers which are called chakras in the body. ‘Chakras cannot be seen on x-rays or MRIS. They are subtle energies or vibrations that take years of experience to feel,’ explains Mr Sharma,

The chakras govern the flow of the body’s life force or prana. Ayurvedic doctors check for blockages in the body and use different types of therapies to unblock them.

DIGESTION AYURVEDIC STYLE

‘We teach people how to listen to their body," says Mrs Sharma. ‘It you eat something and the body doesn’t like it then stay away from it, Gradually the body gets better control over temptations for unhealthy food." There are three parts to consider when it comes to diet: digestion, the assimilation of nutrients and waste expulsion.

Ama refers to the build up of toxins in the body. So if one’s diet is poor, then ama builds up (causing all kinds of ailments) and nutrients cannot be fully absorbed. This leads to ama being trapped in the body and inefficient waste expulsion. ‘If one can optimize the digestion of nutrients then one can be free of sickness," says Mrs Sharma.

SPICING IT UP

Warming and cooling spices can enhance digestion. For example, black pepper, ginger and turmeric are warming spices that kindle the digestive system and help to open the srota or energy channels. When food is digested the prana or life force is able to travel through the body better. If one has too much fire or pifto then cooling spices such as cumin, rosemary and coriander help to douse the heat within and keep the body in balance.

"During the SARS outbreak not one Indian person was infected," claims Mr Sharma, "A study showed that it could be related to the high intake of turmeric which heightens the resistance to disease." So not only do spices add a flavourful kick, but they can also prevent health problems.

Carrot Halva

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Carrot Halva with Saffron & Cardamom (above)

Grate carrots, cook in milk over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Add green cardamom powder. Take two threads of saffron, mash it and add to mixture. Cook until liquid is reduced, add rock sugar to taste.

Benefits: "Saffron is warming – it increases vitality and enhances the skin’s radiance, adding to one’s attractiveness. Green cardamom is a soothing spice which regulates air & blood circulation, thereby calming the nerves & making one feel good emotionally," says Sharma.

 Mint Coriander drinkMint Coriander Drink

Boil 10 – 12 mint leaves with one teaspoon of coriander seeds in 300 ml water, until the quantity is reduced to 200 ml, Add rock sugar to taste. Cool to room temperature before serving.

Benefits: "Mint is a digestive aid, and blood purifier. Coriander seeds help balance excess air in the system and is good for the brain. This drink will help one remain energetic even during late nights," says Sharma.

Easy Ayurvedic Digestion Tips

  1. Eat food that has been freshly cooked. Food that sits for a long time loses its nutritional value.
  2. Digestive fire is strongest at midday (10am-2pm). Heavy meals are best digested at this time.
  3. Try not to drink liquids before or after meals as it douses the digestive juices a few sips in between eating is optimal.

spice chartSUPERNATURAL SPICE CHART

Spices are medicine in its most natural form. Here’s a quick guide to how they can prevent health problems and cure ailments.

Paprika
Benefits: Relieves achy joints and has an anti-inflammatory effect. Increases metabolism and burns fat. Usage: Use in food.

Cinnamon
Benefits: Protects against Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Usage: For colds, mix with honey to break down mucous.

Garlic
Benefits: Lowers cholesterol, blood pressure and reduces blood clots. Usage: Use in food.

Turmeric
Benefits: Helps with digestion, arthritis, indigestion and gas. Ifs also an antiseptic. Usage: Mix with hot water or milk to reduce inflammations and help the body to heal from various ailments.

Anise/Cloves
Benefits: Relieves toothaches and digestion problems. Usage: Chew it for an instant mouthwash effect (natural antiseptic).

Green Cardamon
Benefits: Regulates digestion and opens the flow of urination. Usage: Use in food or pound and add to hot water.

Black Cardamon
Benefits: Works to heal infections and helps to relieve bed wetting for children. Usage: Use in food or pound and add to hot water.

Celery Seed
Benefits: As a diuretic it clears toxins, is a mild digestive stimulant and works to relieve sinus problems. Usage: Add to food and inhale the fumes to relieve a runny nose.

Ginger
Benefits: Inhibits nausea. Usage: Squeeze lime onto the ginger for easy ingesting.

Licorice
Benefits: A cough remedy that clears the throat. Usage: Boil with water and honey.

Mint
Benefits: Helps with stomachaches, chest pains and is a blood purifier. Usage: For bloody noses, pound mint leaves and place in nostrils to stop bleeding.

Rosemary
Benefits: A mild analgesic that works to relieve headaches. Also helps with poor circulation. Usage: Use in food.

Saffron
Benefits: Helps with depression and improves skin. Usage: Mix with turmeric, sandalwood and sesame. Slather on face for healthy-looking skin.

Coriander
Benefits: Relieves stomachaches and insomnia. Usage: Use in food.

Fennel
Benefits: Reduces flatulence and relieves asthma, rheumatism and is good for expelling toxins. Usage: Mix with water, cumin, cardamom and rock sugar for a healthy summer drink.

Black/White Pepper
Benefits: Helps with colds, upset stomachs and nausea. Usage: Use in food.

Cumin
Benefits: Relieves bloating and regulates circulation. For women, it helps to cleanse the uterus and stops excessive menstruation. Usage: Use in food.


For more information on AyurYoga International see www.ayuryoga-intl.com, or email [email protected] (For more details on Ayurveda consultations and therapies).