There are certain concepts in Ayurveda for a healthy cooking leading to a healthy meal. It comprises of qualities, tastes and other characteristics of cooking.
Ayurvedic cooking is an art and a science at the same time. Ayurvedic foods are not only aromatic and flavoured; they are also appetising and have a healing effect when served in an inspiring atmosphere. The main objectives of Ayurvedic preparation of food is the cleansing of toxins that have entered the body and the electrochemical vitalising of the body.
The basic principles of Ayurvedic cooking are the following:
The five elements namely the three doshas; the three gunas; the seven dhatus and the six tastes. Ayurveda views the process of cooking, digestion and nutrition as integrated. That is why it always recommends an eating sequence where the focus is on easier digestion and the body’s capability of extracting the maximum nutrition from the consumed food.
In Ayurvedic cooking, adherence to vegetarianism is a non- negotiable factor. It also recommends that vegetables be eaten cooked rather than raw. This is because cooking improves digestion and efficient digestion helps vitamins and minerals to be properly assimilated.
According to Ayurveda, the taste of food is an important source of information for the body. This is because every taste has a specific effect. The six major Ayurvedic tastes are sweet, sour, salty, bitter, astringent and pungent. A balanced diet will have the correct combinations of these.
The environment is also an important factor in the preparation of Ayurvedic food. Different diets will be recommended for different seasons to help the body acclimatise and adjust to changing seasons. This also helps in avoiding season specific illnesses.
One of the principles of Ayurvedic cooking is to eat fresh food. Stale, processed and long preserved foods lack vital energy and are difficult to digest, whereas fresh food rewards the body with the maximum amount of energy. Ayurveda advises against eating leftover and processed food on a daily basis. Impractical as it may seem for busy people to follow this principle, the comparative long term benefit on one’s health could be well worth the extra trouble.
Ayurveda advocates that food consumed in adequate amount, in the right combinations and proportions gives us long life and youthfulness. The three main focuses of Ayurveda are prevention, healing and healthcare, and Ayurveda categorizes all food under three kinds – Satvic, Rajasic and Tamasic.
- Sattva is a quality of the mind which induces harmony, balance and clarity. Fresh fruits and vegetables, milk, dry fruits, nuts, honey, jaggery, herbal teas are some of the foods which promote sattva.
- Rajas is a quality of mind which induces energy and action, and the need to create. Ready to eat canned food, ice cream, paneer, garlic, vinegar, picklesare examples of foods which promote rajas.
- Tamas is a quality of mind which evokes darkness, inertia, resistance and the need to stop. Alcohol, all meats and fish, eggs, tea, coffee, fried food etc. promotes tamas.
The recommendations of Ayurveda, in terms of food and its principles of cooking are applicable to all individuals. However, some foods may turn out to be beneficial or harmful, depending on the body type. Traditional Indian recipes, handed down through generations, best illustrate the influence of Ayurveda in the Indian kitchen to balance both taste and health perfectly.
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