Archive for the ‘Mind-Body-Soul Cooking’ Category

Cooking with the Asian System of Tastes

June 12, 2008

A balanced diet involves having six tastes – salty, sour, sweet, astringent, bitter present in every meal or at least have them once everyday.

Taste has an effect on the body systems.  Each of the tastes have a specific effect on the individual.  An Ayurvedic cook would have studied the various foods and their tastes and their effects.

He woulld then match the tastes to:
1. the individual body type that is made up of the elements – Vata/Air and Ether, Pitta/Fire, Kapha/Earth & Water – It is an Ayurvedic cooks responsibility along with the Ayurvedic physician to educate the individual about the uniqueness of their individual elements/Doshas which can be tweaked with taste to create wellness.

2. the present season –  Choosing vegetables and fruits in season is one way to have the right tastes for that season, other ways is to use grains, beans, lentil, spices, herbs and seasonings to get the alchemy of taste right.
Winter – sweet, sour and salty tastes are encouraged.
Summer – foods that are naturally sweet, bitter and astringent are encouraged.
Spring and autumn – pungent, bitter and astringent tastes are encouraged.



Indian Seasonal-Cooking Philosophy

June 12, 2008

In India, seasonal cooking follows the Ayurvedic system. An Ayurvedic cook is well versed in the different diets for different seasons.  The body needs to change and adjust to the outside environment and our food is one way to adjust to changes in season.   Cooking and eating seasonally creates health. Each season accrding to Ayurveda is ruled by different earth elements.

During summer, (Pitta -Fire) 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,  (Vata -Ether/Air) which is a vata 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 and autumn, (Kapha -Earth/Water) 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.

© Kavita Mehta

Individual Body Type Nutrition

June 11, 2008

Doshas are the Natural Earth Elements that make up an Individual Body – ether, air. water, earth and fire.

A characteristic feature of Ayurveda is that it considers the individual as a whole, rather than just the disease. Treatment is fine-tuned by fine tuning the imbalances so the original prakriti or natural form is restored to its original form.

The doctor takes into consideration the individual’s natural constitution, susceptibility to diseases, mental make up, lifestyle and other factors. It all starts with the ved (doctor) understanding the prakriti (nature) or constitution of the person. Pakriti means “natural form or our elemental form” or “original form” or “original source”. Disease occurs when we change this form by not listening to our body which results in this original form at the psychological or physiological level.  Ayurvedic Wellness lays emphasis on examining the prakriti or the natural state of an individual first.

The disease vikruthi is examined later. While the expert in modern medicine analyses the disease, the Ayurvedic expert is also interested in the individual who is suffering from the disease.  The disease or the imbalances are corrected by giving the correct doses of not medicine but nutrition (every food has specific energy and vibrations and complementary foods are recommended), lifestyle, meditation and if necessary herbs and medicine to correct the imbalance found. 

Elemental Characteristics
~ A Vata personis described as quick, dry, moving, cold -Its natural imbalances are prone to  lead to chills, wind in the colon, cramps, spasms
~ Pitta/Fire personis described as sharp, fiery, hot, moist – Its natural imbalances are prone to    lead to inflammation, fever, heartburn, hot flashes
~ Kapha/Earth and water personis described as steady, soft, slow, heavy, sweet natured -Its natural imbalances are prone to  lead to congestion, mucus, heaviness, fluid, retention, oversleeping  

Elemental Balancing Foods
Food for Vatas/Air element — almonds, coconut, eggs, fish, meat, peanuts, pine nuts. – – -Sesame seeds, pistachio- beets, sweet potatoes- figs, mango, honeydew melons cumin, urad beans, kidney –  – -beans wheat, rye, oats, rice
Food for Pitta/Fire element – – butter, buttermilk, coconut(fresh), ice-cream, panir, flaxseeds- bitter melon, cucumber, radishes, spinach, squash, zucchini, pumpkin – grapefruit, lime, lychee, oranges, peaches, pomegranate, – wheat, rice oats, millet
Food for Kapha/Water and Earth element — walnuts, dates, honey- lentils, gram, dried peas, – Eggplant, fenugreek leaves, kohlrabi, mint, mustard greens, onions- sour grapefruit, grapes- black pepper, anise, cinnamon, ginger powder, pickles, red pepper, fenugreek- barley, corn, millet buckwheat, rye- salt, tea, coffee Tri dosha – cow’s milk, mung beans, sun ripe tomatoes (not over or under ripe), turnips

© Kavita Mehta

Ayurvedic Wellbeing

June 11, 2008

The various goals of Ayurvedic Nutrition according to the individual needs  

Physical Body
A well balanced meal and regular exercise results in a healthy physical body.(Quote-Ayurvedic texts)



What you eat, becomes your mind; As is the food, so is your mind. (Quote from Ayurvedic texts)



By the purity of food follows the purity of the inner nature. (Quote from Ayurvedic texts) 


Ayurvedic Dietary Ideals for the physical being
1. Adequate amount of water and salt
2. Adequate amount of food at intervals with lunch being the biggest meal.
3. Balance and regular meal times
4. High in complex carbohydrates, vegetables and fruits
5. Moderation in fat and quantity consumed
6. Variety in our food choices
7. Exercise
8. Eating to balance your dosha(elements) and in accordance with seasons. 


Ayurvedic Dietary ideals for the purity of mind
1. To eat in a relaxed mental state.
2. To have foods that feed the mind like almonds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, cucumber, green vegetables, carrots, beets, sweet potato, turnips, pumpkins and squash. Fresh milk, buttermilk and yogurt. Barley, rice and wheat. Moong beans. Apples, banana, dates, grapes, honey dew melon, mangoes, oranges, plums, pomegranate and water melon. All fruits should be firm and ripe and sweet. 


Ayurvedic dietary ideals for joining with our cosmic spirit.
1. Food is an offering to your spirit.
2. Food is a loving exchange with the earth our mother
3. The effect of eating for the spirit is different than for eating just to be full or for taste. When food is cooked with a devotion to oneself and loved ones it is a spiritual and sensuous affair.
4. Non violent eating leads to purity of our inner nature and helps us along in our quest to know our inner spirit.5. Food that has come from environmentally sound agriculture and from people that are in love with the food they grow benefits the macrocosm and the microcosms within an individual. 


© Kavita Mehta

Eating Rituals in Ayurvedic Philosophy

June 11, 2008

How to eat is as important as what we eat according to Ayurveda.   Table manners in Indian philosophy is guided more by balance and to ensure great digestion for the creation of Ojas.  ‘Ojas’, is the outcome from food once it had been perfectly digested. Ojas is positive, nurturing energy that boosts the immune, nervous, endocrine and psychological systems in the individual.  The opposite of Ojas is called Ama.  Indigestion creates Ama (toxins formed in the body due to improper digestion and imbalance).
–  Steady the mind and the body before you begin to eat.-   Wash hands and feet before the meal.
–   Begin your meal with a blessing.
–   Do not eat when you are upset.
–   Avoid serving ice-cold water with the meal.  Sip warm or room temperature water.  Cold water makes the stomach work harder to digest the meal as heat is required for digestion.
–   Serve freshly cooked food whenever possible
–   Serve mostly cooked foods with small portions of raw salads of easily digestible carrots, cucumber, light color greens.  Slow Cooked foods are easier to digest and they retain the nutrients besides tasting heavenly.
–   Avoid serving milk with the meal.  Milk is a hard food to digest and is best served by itself after it is warmed to help the milk to be more digestible.    Milk is best served warm at night before bed, as calcium is more easily absorbed when a person is lying down.
–   Chew your food well.  Delight in the flavor, texture, aromas and colors of the food.  Celebrate your meal
–   Eat silently or have a good conversation.
–   Eat a modest portion. Leave about 1/4 of the stomach empty to aid in digestion.
–   Rest a bit after the meal, enjoy good light conversation or relaxing music after the meal.  In the afternoon if one is relaxing by lying down, lie or curl up on the left side of the body in order to properly digest the meal.  Do not rest after an evening meal but rather go for a short walk.

© Kavita Mehta


Ayurvedic Nutrition

June 11, 2008

According to Ayurveda, there is a substance called ‘ojas’, which is extracted from food once it had been perfectly digested.  This is the basis of an Ayurvedic approach to understanding nutrition which is different from Western nutritional science.

Ayurvedic Science pays more attention to the
1.  state of the food
2.  flow of food energy through the body’s seven tissue layers
3.  effect of the food on the body. 
The State of the food
Foods generally have three states or stages. These states are called Sattavic, Rajasic and Tamasic.
For example an apple when it is just ripe and plucked from the tree it will be in the Sattavic state. When it lies on the counter or grocery shelf for a few days its state turns to Rajasic and when it starts to get soft and brown it has entered the Tamasic stage.
– Eating fresh foods and in moderation is considered sattavic and helps to preserve youth, such a person is alert, and in harmony with nature.
– Eating highly salty, oily, fast foods are considered rajasic. Eating your meal quickly and under stress is also rajasic. The person consuming such food loses the capacity to distinguish subtle stimuli and can be prone to disease.
– Food that is stale, overcooked, cooked eight hours earlier than consumption, liquor, drugs and overeating are considered tamasic.. Tamasic foods robs the person of the capacity to think clearly and disease and lethargy set in.

Flow of food energy through the body’s seven tissue layers
The seven tissue layers in the body in order are plasma, muscle, fat, bone, nerves, marrow and reproductive tissues. Good cuisine and nutrition will aid in the proper flow of energy through these channels.
Effect of food on the body is in the following 3 ways
1.  We must eat according to the elemental structure (doshas) of our body and food according to Ayurveda. Some have more of the earth and water element in us, some of us have the air and ether element in us and some of us have the fire and heat elements in us. We can use food to create balance in us so we mimic the universal balance around us. Thus a person with a higher earth and water element can balance themselves with foods that have more fire and air elements in them.
– Secondly the food itself has a potency or veerya and has either a cold or hot effect on the body
– Thirdly the food has a personality or prabhav can also have a certain action on the body like purgative or binding quality to it.

© Kavita Mehta


Ayurveda – The Science of Life from India

June 11, 2008

In the great teaching of the Vedas, there is no touch of sectarianism. It is of all ages, climes and nationalities and is the royal road for the attainment of the Great Knowledge.“-
Thoreau, American Thinker

The central theme of Indian Vedic sciences is to use the body, mind and soul to service the real self (cosmic spirit).  Ayur(life) Veda(science) is the knowledge concerning the maintenance of a long and healthy life. Ayurvedic philosophy and teachings encourage people to follow a pure lifestyle, one that gives clarity, peace of mind and true satisfaction.

The research was done by two Indian sages Charaka and Agnivesa. Their work involved looking into the science of healthy living and prolonging life without illness. Charaka has compiled 150 chapters on details of food and drink substances, detailed classification of disease, lines of treatment, use of drugs, diet and practices of achieving good health.

The resulting Ayurvedic tradition is at least 5,000 years old in India. It is an integrated and comprehensive system of health, diet, wellness and balance for the mind, body and spirit. 

The Essence of Ayur(life) veda(sciences)
Elemental Diet – Every element has its own taste. The earth is made of elements. Every season is rules by specific elements. Every individual has specific elements in them. By using diet for a balance in elements results in good health.

A balance diet in the Ayurvedic tradition does not revolve around fats, carbohydrates, proteins, calories, vitamins and minerals.  Ayurvedic Nutrition takes into account body tissues, water levels, salt levels, electrolytes in the body, gunas or properties of food, dosha or element properties of the individual, tastes, qualities present in the food and food sadhana or assimilation by our body.

Ayurveda is a science of the individual –  eating according to one’s unique metabolic and neurological constitutional type and needs

A book that I would recommend for learning Ayurveda is Perfect Health : The Complete Mind/Body Program for Identifying & Soothing the Source of Your Body’s Reaction by Dr. Deepak Chopra Perfect Health by Dr. Deepak Chopra

© Kavita Mehta