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Natural Cooking- Siddha Cooking- Ayurvedic Cooking

-Dr Commander Selvam – SRI Sri Selvam Siddhar  of Hindu Temple of California, USA

Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word which is actually a linking of two words: ayur means life and veda means knowledge. So Ayurveda is a system of knowledge, not just medical knowledge but knowledge about life and knowledge of the self. Ayurveda has survived to this day because it has been continuously in practice for the last 5,000 years. It guides a person toward a life style, a choice of foods and how to cook them.

According to Ayurveda we are made up of the same five elements as the universe (Water, Fire, Air, Earth and Space) when we are close to these elements or at one with them and nature, then there is perfect balance in the energies (the Doshas) within us and we enjoy good health.

All the complex factors that influence our health can be simplified into three fundamental constitutional types called Vata (air), Pitta (fire) and Kapha (water) these are called the “three Doshas”. The main purpose of all Ayurvedic treatments is to establish balance in these three elemental constitutional types, as an imbalance leads to the direct causes of physical diseases. When you are in balance you experience a zest for life. Your appetite is good, your bodily tissues and processes are functioning normally and your body, mind and senses remain full of bliss. In the physical universe around us these three natural influences or Doshas are also active and found in our environment, in ourselves and in the food we eat. Both the physical body and food are made up of the five essential elements; Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space. Ayurvedic food creates a natural balance between these essential elements within the body when prepared using the correct amount of the six Ayurvedic tastes ; Sweet, Salty, Sour, Pungent, Astringent and Bitter. The six tastes have their own unique elemental compositions giving them special healing properties. A balanced diet will have healthy combinations of these.

Sweet Taste (Earth and Water elements)
Sweet taste food is considered the most nourishing.
They provide valuable vitamins and minerals to the body that are needed to assimilate the sugars. Food that falls under these categories is whole grain cereal, breads, pasta, rice, seeds and nuts. Many fruit and vegetable are also sweet as well. Eating something sweet satisfies our immediate hunger; it increases the energy level in our body and also has a calming effect. But excessive use of sweet food unbalances the cycle, and leads to obesity and diabetes.

Sour Taste (Earth and Fire elements)
Sour taste food that falls into these categories are buttermilk, sour cream, yogurt and cottage cheese.
Most half ripe fruit are also sour. Consumption of sour food increases your appetite; it also increases your saliva flow and digestive juices. Over eating sour food will render our body more prone to aches and cramps.

Salty Taste (Water and Fire elements)
naturally salty food such as kelp and seaweed helps cleanse the body and tone the adrenal glands, kidneys, prostate and thyroid gland. It contains potassium, iodine that helps balance sodium. Process salt which is devoid of its natural balancing elements increases retention of fluids in the body, thus affecting the kidneys, and putting pressure on the blood vessels and all organ systems. Overall it can cause toxins to be retained in the body.

Pungent Taste (Fire and Air elements)
Foods that are pungent include onion, Brussels sprouts, horseradish, ginger, mustard, chilli powder and rosemary. Pungent foods have high healing properties; they have the opposite effect from salty foods. It reduces the fluid content of tissues, improves breathing and improves concentrating power. Pungent herbs stimulate the mind and promote circulation in the brain. Over consumption of pungent taste food can aggravate insomnia, restlessness and anxiety.

Bitter Taste (Air and Ether elements)
Bitter foods are normally associate will green leaf vegetable, tea. Bitter taste food helps digestion and increases metabolic rate.

Astringent Taste (Air and Earth elements)
Astringent foods that come under this category are celery, cucumber, eggplant, lettuce, mushroom. Fruit like apple, avocados, berries, grapes and pear are also astringent. Astringent Taste fruit are often associated with cleansing of body fluids, blood, lymph and sweat. It also prevents capillary leakage; helps heal skin and mucus membranes and nerve tissue.
Foods can be of three types - Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic. Ayurveda emphasizes a Sattvic diet for healthy living and support a blissful state in both the mind and body. Sattvic diet was originally devised for the practice of yoga and the development of higher consciousness. Rajasic foods have an unsettling influence on the mind by disturbing or dulling the mind. Rajasic food is excessively spicy, salty and sour like onions, chillies, wines garlic, red meats and hot peppers. Tamasic foods cause hyperactivity, lethargy and excess sleep; they dull the senses and keep the emotions heavy and resistant. Tamasic food is stale, old, re cooked, artificial, overly fried, greasy or heavy foods. It includes all “dead” food such as meat and fish and fermented foods and alcoholic substances. Both Rajasic and Tamasic foods are lacking in their ability to support a balanced, harmonious mind-body experience.

The concept of constitutional type states that we are all similar (after all we are the same species), but we also have many differences. Ayurvedic medicine recorded the differences it observed in the human population and noted that people have three basic tendencies or archetypal reactions in various situations. Over a lifetime, the tendency toward one reaction over the other two will give us a constitutional type. The three constitutional types have different physiologies. Their nervous systems are set at different tensions. They eat and digest foods differently. They have different preferences, and different foods upset them. When they are upset, they have a tendency to express different emotions. Most people are a combination of the different types, so it takes some observation to determine how much of each type is in a person. We can get an idea of what a person is like even before they have an illness and can offer some preventive approaches. Once we know what constitutional type the person is, we know what type of environmental stimuli, what kinds of foods, cooking techniques, colours, clothing, or sleep patterns are better for him. Some of these influences will be imbalancing to one type but not to another.

Ayurvedic foods are often linked to their healing powers that have medical-health benefits, including prevention and treatment of disease. Yet choosing the right combination of foods has never been easy. Food has a powerful effect on the mind, emotions, physical and immune responses of the body. The effect of a particular food has on a person's depends on many factors, such as body mass, allergy etc. Ayurvedic cooking focuses on easier digestion and the body’s capability of extracting the nutritional essence of the food we consume.

If ones diet is out of balance then the fundamental influences of Vata, Pitta and Kapha become unbalanced. With the right foods, spices and preparation one can improve diet and maintain balance in the influences of Vata, Pitta and Kapha in any meal. A basic spice combination that balances all three influences in the body, Vata, Pitta and Kapha are Turmeric, Cumin and Coriander. These three basic spices make a delicious curry powder you can use for any dish. The proportions are Turmeric 1 part, Cumin 2 parts, Coriander 3 parts. Using these spices freshly ground from the whole seeds with fresh ginger or cilantro, the fresh leaf of the coriander plant, makes any dish a blissful and balancing experience.

Ayurveda also recommends different diets for different seasons to help the body acclimatize itself seasonally. For example, during the summer which is the Pitta season when one is prone to acne and sunburn, eating cool light fruits and salads are recommended for helping the imbalances of the Pitta Dosha.

Ayurvedic cooking advises eating fresh foods as it provides the maximum amount of energy, it does not encourage eating leftovers or processed food as a daily habit as they lack vital energy. Ayurvedic cooking principles also recommend that vegetables be cooked rather than consumed raw since cooking improves digestion.

Joy is also a necessary ingredient for a fully balanced diet. Enjoying a delicious diet using fresh seasonable wholesome foods, herbs and spices, has a great positive effect on our health and well- being. Having all six tastes in a meal and satisfying all five senses activates the digestive processes so that we can fully assimilate the food we eat. Truly, variety is the spice of life. A diverse variety of tastes, textures, colours, food types and spices all stimulate the digestive processes, nourishing the physiology to maintain balance in Vata, Pitta and Kapha.

As an Ayurvedic cook the most important ingredient we have to offer while cooking a meal is our own blissful loving intention. When we make something for someone we give something that is personal. This can truly be a gift divine. Our love and bliss goes directly into the food we are preparing and becomes lively in those who enjoy it.


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