Publication: Discover Ayurveda
What do you think of when you hear the words “comfort food”? Mashed potatoes and gravy at Thanksgiving, Rocky Road ice-cream in the middle of the night or cream donuts for breakfast? That may be what you crave, but these foods won’t comfort you very long; in fact, they may even cause discomfort in your digestion. How about a warm soup or rice pudding? Real comfort foods are nutritious, nurturing, wholesome and satisfying. According to ayurveda, they should also be intelligent, and balance the mind and body.
Ingest nature’s intelligence with your food
The food you eat should be lively. Fresh, organic, home-cooked food has the power to carry nature’s intelligence to your brain and body. “These foods are called triptighna, which means they are satisfying and nourishing,” says The Council of Maharishi Ayurveda Physicians. Preserved, frozen, processed foods and leftovers, on the other hand, leave your body unsatisfied and craving for more. Since these junk foods are void of intelligence they cannot support the intelligence of the physiology, so you end up eating more and craving for more without ever getting nourished or fulfilled. What’s more, you can easily gain weight this way.
Cooked food versus raw food
While we want to preserve the intelligence of our ingredients, we also want to make them digestible. That’s where cooking comes in, which inserts agni, digestive fire, in our food so we can digest and assimilate it properly. Certain food items, such us grains, beans and dahls should always be eaten cooked. Most vegetables are also more beneficial cooked, and some of them, such as spinach, chard, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage, should never be eaten raw. Milk is another item that can be hard to digest so ayurveda recommends always boiling it with some cardamom and cinnamon. Make sure, however, not to overcook or burn anything. Add some ghee or olive oil, water and spices to protect nature’s intelligence. You don’t have to cook everything and skip salads entirely. Juicy vegetables, such as cucumber and lettuces, can be refreshing for lunch in the summer but stay away from them at night and in the winter since they can aggravate Vata. Also, if your digestive fire is weak, stay away from sprouts. Fruits are also good raw during the day. In the morning, a stewed apple is best to stimulate the digestive system.
In addition to their delicious taste, spices can greatly increase the intelligence of your meals. They also help with digestion and assimilation. To bring the most out of them, cook them with your food or sauté them in ghee and add them to your meals. For best assimilation of the benefits of therapeutic spices, eat them cooked, instead of sprinkling raw spices over foods. Ayurvedic spices such as turmeric, cumin, coriander, saffron, cinnamon and cardamom offer rich and varied aroma and flavor besides helping to balance different doshas and enhancing the metabolism. They can transform simple dishes into feasts for all your senses, providing fulfillment and contentment from meals.
Stop the cravings
The first thing you can do to avoid feelings of false hunger and cravings is to increase the intelligence in your meals by eating, fresh, home-made meals, and avoiding “junk” foods. You also need to eat a variety of foods with all six tastes. Make sure to eat sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent foods to satisfy the body. Cooked food is also more nourishing than raw foods. Raw foods are harder to digest and can diminish agni. When agni is weak, the body creates ama (accumulated toxins), which clogs the channels and prevents the body from receiving nutrients from food. This, in the end, results in cravings. Ayurveda also encourages portion control. Eat enough but don’t overeat. Your stomach should be two-thirds full after main meals.
Sweets for the heart
Emotional downs are the result of an imbalance in Sadhaka Pitta, the subdosha that governs the heart. The sweet taste pacifies pitta, which explains our cravings for sweets. But before you reach for cookies or chocolate, think for a moment. Although these foods provide the sweet taste, they lack the intelligence to carry it to your brain, which won’t register it and the craving won’t stop. Try a piece of sweet, juicy fruit, soaked dates or raisins, rice pudding, milk-date shakes or mango shakes. These healthy foods will deliver to the brain and heart what they need and leave you satisfied..
Foods to pacify worries
Worries and mental imbalance are the result of aggravated Vata dosha. To calm the mind, eat easy-to-digest, nourishing meals and use spices such as black pepper, cumin and coriander to open the channels of the brain. In addition to the above-mentioned sweets, walnuts, almonds and coconut milk are especially supportive for the mind.
Realizing that junk foods will not satisfy your body is the first step in beating the cravings. With a little attention you can switch to healthier options and receive more nutrition, which will decrease your desire for unintelligent snacks. A well-nourished body is only hungry for healthy food!