Ayurveda teaches that Agni, the metabolic fire, is a basis of good health.
It is the force that transfers the food into the nutrients that nourish our body cells. When agni is strong, we deal perfectly with digestion neutralizing harmful substances contained in food or emerging in the process of digestion. Well digested food is easily absorbed in the small and large intestines, and from there it reaches every single cell in the body. Our hair cells, brain cells, knee cells or big toe cells, all of them get best quality fuel that keeps them alive. Metabolic processes and digestive enzymes are counterparts of agni in modern medicine.
In ayurvedic cooking the care of agni is a backbone of composing and preparing meals.
We pay attention to agni, that is present in every product, so called bhut agni. There are products with high bhuta agni, such as carrot or radish that trigger digestion. They can be compared to well dried, resin soaked wood that fans the fire in the stomach. There also are products with low or very low bhuta agni, such as cucumber or banana. They, on the other hand, can be compared to cold and dump, frozen wood, that puts out the fire in the stomach and slows down the metabolism.
Try to observe how you feel after eating a banana, how does it feel in the stomach?
A lot of people, especially those with sensitive digestion, bloating and constipation problems and poor assimilation in general, say, that for them a banana is like a stone in the stomach. It is heavy, cools down and burdens the system instead. It is heavy, cools down and burdens the body instead of nourishing it. Many modern diets recommends raw products for those who want to lose weight and boost their metabolism. And so on the list of suggested ingredients they would find salads and raw products, cucumbers, melons and watermelons. Creators of these diets and concepts focus on caloric value of the goods.
Unfortunately they do not take into account their bhut agni, the way they influence our digestive fire.
Let’s think of someone whose digestive fire is rather weak. Having in mind our metaphor, the flame is small and sensitive. What will happen if we throw some cold and wet wood into the fire? Of course, the appetite will be reduced, but also the metabolism will slow down, as a result of which even a salad might turn into a set of harmful toxins. Paying attention to this aspect of eating is one of the key features of ayurvedic cooking.
Ayurveda has its own ways of caring for agni at the stage of preparing the meal already.
Spices are essential. They contain condensed enzymes acting like an ignitor for our digestion. We activate them by heating them up in hot fat. The knowledge of spice properties is a part of well-developed in Ayurveda phytotherapy. Still, it is possible to discover some of those benefits just by following your own intuition.
I encourage you to make a tea balancing Vata, according to a recipe of an excellent doctor, Vasant Lad. Drink it calmly and listen to what your body tells you about ajwain, cardamom, cinnamon and ginger. As I wrote recently, the easiest way to get to know Ayurveda is through cooking. We do not need to understand oriental- sounding terms, we do not need to search for the right information.
It is enough to listen to what our body tells us.
When I do the culinary workshops, my favorite moment is when the participants eat. Usually it is peaceful then, almost meditation-like, and delighted smile comes up on the faces. Yes, actually you can feel this way eating the meals prepared according to old Ayurveda wisdom. Satiation, lightness and bliss. On our website you can find recipes that can be successfully introduced to your daily menu. Try them for yourself and see how you feel.