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The Maharishi Ayurveda Approach To A Light Diet
According to ayurveda, it is important to know how to eat properly when the digestive fire or agni is low. A lighter diet is recommended when one has a fever, flu, cold or diarrhoea, when one is recuperating from an illness, and during panchakarma-the ayurvedic rejuvenation program. Women should eat a lighter diet during menstruation and menopause. Children often need light yet nutritious diets. If you are under the care of a physician, or before making changes to your existing diet, it is recommended that you check with your physician.
During those periods when internal systems are functioning at less than optimal levels, agni, the fire of digestion, becomes weak and one has to gradually increase the strength of the digestive fire to regain energy and health. Neither a heavy diet nor fasting is recommended during these times. When the digestive fires are low, consuming heavy foods and meals can overtax the digestion. Any existing imbalance in body and mind is then further aggravated by the accumulation of ama, toxic residue from undigested food.
A light diet consists of food that quickly tranforms into rasa or bodily tissue, creating new healthy cells. These foods are lighter and therefore digest quickly and easily. The single most important food in the light diet from the ayurvedic perspective is split mung dahl. Split mung beans may be purchased in an Asian grocery store. They are green mung beans that have been split and skinned. They cook quickly and balance all three doshas. Khichri, a nutritious combination of rice, mung beans, vegetables, spices and Ghee, is an excellent one-dish meal for people on lighter diets.
If one is ill and has little or no appetite then a special warm drink called Kanji water may be made from either split mung beans or organic brown rice. 1-2 liters of warm kanji water can be drunk through the day in between light meals. Kanji water delivers instant nutrition to the body. It provides carbohydrates, giving the body energy, and helps build more strength in the body in general. Kanji water is an excellent source of energy whenever the body is dehydrated or depleted from an illness. It is also good if you are trying to lose weight as a satisfying snack during the day. Kanji water balances vata because it is warm, it balances pitta due to its liquid and watery texture and it balances kapha because it produces perspiration which releases toxins through the skin. It therefore balances all three doshas and brings agni into balance.
To make Kanji water:
Bring water and rice to a boil. Allow to boil for 1 hour or until the rice becomes swollen and broken. Stir and strain out rice. However it is not necessary to strain out small pieces of rice. Add a pinch each of ginger, ground cumin and salt. Pour into a thermos and drink through the day.
A light diet for breakfast may consist of stewed apples and pears or hot cereal. Lunch may consist of soupy split mung dahl, basmati rice, cous cous or quinoa, two types of vegetables sauteed in Ghee and spices, flat bread such as chapati, and a yogurt drink called lassi. Dinner is lighter such a khichri (recipe below) or vegetable barley soup. Or hot cereal such as cream of wheat. When on a light diet, one may eat more frequently, since a light meal should only take about 3 1/2 hours to digest.
Foods to favor: mung dahl, aduki beans, basmati rice, cous cous, barley, quinoa, tofu, cooked vegetables with Ghee and spices such as turmeric, cumin, ginger, fennel, black pepper and coriander, hot milk with ginger, stewed fruit, fruit and fresh vegetable juices, ripe sweet fruit, chapati, lassi, dates, and Ghee and olive oil.
Heavy foods to avoid or reduce: hard cheeses, eggs, fish, meat, chicken. If meat is on your diet then ayurveda recommends having it during the day time in the form of soup that has cooked for a long period of time. Also avoid peanut butter, sprouts, raw vegetables, bananas, cold milk, yogurt (lassi is okay) cold foods and drinks.
Rinse rice and dahl. Add water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a low boil and continue cooking for about 55 minutes or longer if you wish a thicker consistency. In a separate pan, heat the ghee. Add the churna and saute briefly, about 30 seconds or until aroma is let off. Add to rice and dahl. Add salt, lemon juice and cilantro. Stir well.
These articles provide a great resource from The Council of Maharishi Ayurveda Physicians on the knowledge, practices, products, and applications of Maharishi Ayurveda.