Balancing Your Doshas Doesn’t Have to be Complicated
Jo Ann Kim rē•frames Ayurvedic principles for everyday cooking
While conventional Western medicine is just starting to explore the mind-body connection, the ancient practice of Ayurveda has been focusing on it for over 5,000 years. This holistic science is considered serious medicine in India and other parts of the East. Three doshas, or dominant energies governing the body, are used to describe the state of this mind-body balance. Known as Vata, Pitta, and Kapha; balancing these energies (which Ayurveda believes we are all born within unique proportions) is considered the defining factor between vibrant health or the development of disease.
Balance is everything in Ayurveda, and despite how complicated this holistic medicine can sometimes seem, incorporating a few of its most impactful principles can be as easy as enjoying a thoughtfully prepared meal. Ayurveda believes your kitchen has the answer to balancing your energy. Because its ancient medical texts emphasize food as the key to long-term health and happiness, we asked Ayurvedic chef Jo Ann Kim to show us how to bring some of Ayurveda’s core principles into everyday cooking.
From Little Jo’s Kitchen
Digestive health is seen as the crux to a balanced, vibrant, healthy lifestyle. We relate our digestive strength to our energy, immunity, and ultimately, longevity. Here are 5 simple principles to support your most balanced, digestive health and a nourishing Ayurvedic recipe for every dosha to enjoy.
Eat Fresh for Prana-Rich Meals
In my classes, this is a principle I usually start and end with. It’s the most easily accessible way to incorporate Ayurveda into your day-to-day life. Prana is the Sanskrit word for breath, life force, or vital principle. Foods that are prana rich are vibrant, vitality-rich sustenances that fuel our body, mind, and spirit. When we consume food, we understand that it’s fuel for the body.
Let’s imagine that prana abundant food is the cleanest burning, energy-loaded fuel there is to run our bodies. Freshly cooked, locally sourced, pesticide-free, minimally processed food is full of quality, life-giving, life-sustaining prana. Eat fresh food daily – it can really be that simple.
Explore the 6 Tastes for Increased Vitality
There are six recognized rasas, or tastes in Ayurveda: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, pungent, and astringent. Simply put, each of these tastes present in food relates to a different action in the body that is necessary for vital health. Balancing these tastes in our daily diet ensures proper functioning and harmony of our physical and emotional states.
Take for example the sweet rasa, present naturally in foods like rice, milk, wheat, and licorice root. When used properly, the sweet taste strengthens and promotes longevity. From improving our complexion to increasing our vitality- we feel cooled, grounded, and heart-centered after experiencing something sweet.
Use Spices to Disperse Energy
Spices are not only used to enhance the flavor of the dishes we create. When used conscientiously, spices aid digestive function, mood, and energy, boosting our overall mind-body health. For example, for the warmer summer months here in Los Angeles, the use of cooling spices to balance out the sun’s blaring heat is encouraged.
Heat disperses our digestive agni– fire. Our bodies benefit supremely from cooling aids such as fennel, coriander, cardamom, dill, cilantro, parsley, tarragon, mint, and a little clove. When paired with the proper calming, light, hydrating, cooling foods, we can enjoy a smoother life experience this summer season without experiencing any burnout.
Eat with the Sun to Activate Your Digestive Fire
Our internal digestive agni, or fire, is related to our universe’s fire- the sun. As we understand that our connection within is a reflection of our outer universe, it’s only natural for our digestive fire to mirror the cycle of the sun. When the sun is low and slowly rising, our own agni gently awakens. Consequently, breakfast should be something simple and light to stoke our fire.
Around noon, when the sun is raging at its highest peak, our agni’s strength is also at its peak. At that time, we benefit from a large, substantial meal to satiate, ground, and satisfy us. In the early evening, as the sun dips, we should honor our diminishing digestive strength with a simple, light dinner, preferably 3-4 hours before bed to wind down our day. Eating with the sun brings our being into balance with the celestial environment within our earthly bodies. Experience how it transforms your digestion for yourself.
Prepare Meals with Mindfulness For Greater Balance
Mindfulness is a lifelong practice of intentionality, presence, and observation. We can practice mindfulness at any time, so why not in the kitchen? Ayurveda believes that the subtle energies in the universe, the earth, the soil, and the food we grow, are in direct relation to our own subtle energies. How can we be intentional when preparing a meal? Personally, I aim to infuse as much positivity and care into my food for my own consumption and for my honored guests. It makes a difference!
The reason why the food made from our grandmother’s weathered hands holds such regard is the fervent love poured into it. The body acknowledges and is lovingly nourished. Consequently, Ayurveda teaches when we are upset or angry it is best to avoid cooking or eating. Just imagine the indigestion! As considerate as we are with what we physically put into our bodies, Ayurveda encourages us to be just as mindful of what we energetically put in as well.
Fennel & Sweet Potato Moong Dal
Organic ingredients recommended
Moong or mung bean is a tridoshic -balancing for all mind-body types, easy to digest, and detoxifying legume. A perfect protein when paired with grains. Easily digestible, cooling veggies and spices boost this dal’s nutritive properties making it perfect for summer.
- 1 cup split yellow moong dal
- 5-8 cups filtered water/ veggie broth
- 1/3 cup coconut milk
- 1 medium fennel bulb, sliced
- 1 medium sweet potato, chopped
- 1 carrot, sliced
- 2 stalks celery, sliced
- 1 Tbls coconut oil
- 1/2 inch ginger root, minced
- 1 1/2 tsp coriander seed, ground
- 3/4 tsp cumin seeds, ground
- 1 tsp fennel seed
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 2 tsp herbs de Provence
- 1 bay leaf
- pinch dulse
- pinch saffron, soaked in a tablespoon of water
- 1-2 tsp rock salt
- a handful of fresh chopped cilantro
- 1 lime, juiced
- Soak the moong dal from 4 hours to overnight. Strain the soaking water, rinse several times, and set aside.
- In a pot over low-medium heat, stir to toast all ground spices in oil until the spices are aromatic, about 1-2 minutes.
- Add moong, plus 5 cups of water/ stock to start (may add more later), turn up the heat, and bring to a boil.
- Stir in salt and soaked saffron, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 30 minutes.
- Add chopped veggies, coconut milk, and simmer for an additional 15-20 minutes until veggies are tender and dal has thickened- additional water may be added to prevent sticking. Adjust salt to taste.
- Garnish with fresh cilantro, squeeze of lime juice and enjoy!