Food in Ayurveda

Nutrition from an Ayurvedic Perspective
The ancients offered ten principles about a healthy diet and how it should be eaten: 

  1. Food needs to be hot (usually cooked).
  2. Food needs to be tasty and easy to digest.
  3. Food needs to be eaten in the proper amounts, not too much or too little.
  4. Food needs to be eaten on an empty stomach after your last meal has been digested and not before.
  5. Foods need to work together and not contradict one another in their action.
  6. Foods need to be eaten in pleasant surroundings with the proper utensils for their enjoyment.
  7. Eating should not be rushed.
  8. Eating should not be a horrendous drawn out affair, either. 
  9. It is best to focus on your food while eating.
  10. Only eat food which is nourishing to your particular constitution and which supports emotional temperament.

-Charaka Samhita

Recipe for Khichri
Khichri or khichadi is a dish of basmati rice, vegetable protein (moong dal) and spices. It is very easily digested and therefore it is recommended to help nourish sick people so they can recover easily. It is supportive, healthy food. Ayurveda uses it for healing different diseases. For health and rejuvenation, it is recommended you eat only Khichri one day per week or one week each season and to drink suitable teas.
There are many recipes for khichri. Here is a suggestion from one of the many recipes for khichri that is appropriate for both therapeutic and general uses.

Recipe for khichri (1 portion)
100g basmati rice
50g split moong dal
1 tbsp ghee or sesame oil (if fasting)
½ tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 bay leaf
1-2 cloves
½ tsp salt
200 ml water
Fresh dill, parsley or mint leaves for sprinkling

Rinse and wash the moong dal and the rice. Soak the rice for at least 20 min in water in the proportion 1:1.
Heat the ghee in a deep saucepan with a lid and add the cloves, bay leaf, cumin, and ginger. Fry for 5-6 seconds over a medium heat until you smell the aromatic oils of the spices. Add the washed moong dal and fry it for a minute until the colour changes. Add the rice with the water and the turmeric and salt. Bring to a boil on a high heat. Then, place a lid on the pan and reduce to a low heat and simmer for 7-8min. The steam will cook the rice so do not lift the lid! Then remove it from the heat and leave it for 1-2min without opening it. Take the lid off and stir gently with a fork.
Serve sprinkled with green herbs.

Khichri can be prepared as a meal with a variety of vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, courgettes (zucchini), or spinach. Medical khichri is prepared with more water, fewer spices and without vegetables.
Moong dal (or mung bean) has a sweet taste and a cooling nature and balances the three doshas. It must be peeled and the green skin removed. In addition to meals, it can be eaten as sprouts. It is the best of all pulses. It is an alkaline food. It helps against obesity, controls blood pressure, protects from skin cancer and protects from iron deficiency. It is the most appropriate food for nourishing children, the elderly, exhausted and sick people. Mung bean in combination with basmati rice lightens the process of digestion so the body spends less energy.
White rice "Basmati" is the best rice. It has a sweet taste and a cooling nature. It is the best quality rice because it is not bleached or polished for appearance. The taste and nutritional qualities are all preserved. Basmati is very healthy, easy to prepare and has a specific aroma and flavour. It contains the least starch of all varieties of rice. It combines perfectly with all kinds of foods. It is universally good for the three doshas. Used with pulses, it helps to facilitate absorption of proteins. The combination of this rice with mung bean is extremely beneficial as it cleanses the body and provides good nutrition.
Brown "Basmati" rice is more difficult to digest compared to the white one. It has a heating nature.
Bay leaf has a sweet, pungent taste and a heating energy. Bay leaf is useful for excess Vata and Kapha /VK-P+/ to balance out too much wind or mucus based problems. It aids digestion. It helps the body purify itself through sweating and diuretic properties.

Recipe for Almond Drink (1 cup)

10 almonds and 5 dates

Soak the almonds in cold spring water overnight. In the morning, peel them and combine them with the dates and water and blend them in a blender until they become a homogeneous liquid.
Dates have a sweet taste and a cooling energy. They decrease Vata and Pitta while increasing Kapha /VP-K+/. They have tonic, demulcent and aphrodisiac effect.
Almonds have a sweet taste and a heating energy. They decrease Vata and increase Pitta and Kapha /V-PK+/. Their action is tonic, demulcent, and expectorant.

Recipe for evening milk (1 cup)

150 ml hot boiled milk
1/2 tsp sugar
1 cardamom pod
2-3 pinches of turmeric
1 pinch nutmeg (for children NO)
1 strand of saffron (for children)
1 pinch cinnamon (for children)
1-2 pinches ashwagandha (for stressful people)
1 clove (in cold and wet climates)
1 pinch ground black pepper (in cold weather)
1 pinch Brahmi (if any problems with concentration)

Nutmeg has a sweet and astringent, pungent taste with a heating nature. It decreases Vata and Kapha and increases Pitta dosha /VK-P+/. It aids digestion, reduces pain, relieves a cough and improves sleep because of its sedative, astringent and carminative effects.
Cloves have a pungent taste and a heating nature. It decreases Vata and Kapha dosha and increases Pitta /VK-P+/. It is good for digestion and unclogs and cleans the sinuses and the bronchi because of its expectorant, stimulant and carminative effects. It is an aphrodisiac.
Ashwagandha is the best rejuvenating herb. It has a bitter and astringent taste and a heating energy. It decreases Vata and Kapha and increases Pitta dosha /VK-P+/. It helps with fatigue, weakness, chronic illness, insomnia and sexual weakness in men. It nourishes and enlightens the mind. It soothes and leads to a deep sleep because of its calming and tonic effects.
Brahmi is the most important herb for the nervous system. It has a bitter taste and a cooling energy. It is good for the three doshas /VPK=/. It removes toxins and blockages in the nervous system and revitalises brain cells. It helps memory and concentration and synchronises the left and right hemispheres. It brings intelligence and helps eliminate bad habits in humans. It is very important because of its rejuvenating, calming and diuretic effect.

Recipe of Masala ( Yoga ) tea

500 ml hot water
2-3 slices of fresh ginger
1-2 cardamom pods
4-5 fennel seeds
1 star anise
3-4 cloves
1 stick cinnamon
3-4 black peppercorns
Optional: 1 tbsp milk, as adding some milk will strengthen the quality of the spices and will make the tea stronger.
Boil the tea for 5 minutes for everyday use. Boil it for 20 minutes over low heat for any colds, runny nose, cough, lack of taste, lack of appetite. Anyone suffering from these symptoms should only consume this tea and khichari until all symptoms are relieved.

Find more recipes and food ideas in the book Ten: Ayurvedic Portraits