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Ayurvedic Comfort Foods

ISSUED // February 21

Ayurvedic Comfort Foods

Ayurvedic comfort foods

What do you think of when you hear the words "comfort food?" An extra plate of mashed potatoes and gravy at Thanksgiving? Rocky Road ice cream in the middle of the night? Cream donuts for breakfast? 

You may crave these foods, but they probably won’t bring you lasting comfort. In fact, they may even cause digestive discomfort. From the perspective of Ayurveda, true comfort foods are nutritious, nurturing, wholesome, and satisfying.

Healthy comfort foods

Whenever possible, it’s better to opt for “intelligent” foods—i.e., those that are fresh, lively, organic, and/or  home-cooked. Intelligent foods have the power to carry nature's intelligence to your brain and body. These foods are called triptighna in Ayurveda, which means they are satisfying and nourishing. 

Foods that have the opposite effect are those that are: 

  • Preserved
  • Frozen
  • Processed foods
  • Leftovers

These foods contain less prana (life force) and can leave your body unsatisfied and wanting more (think: sugar cravings for candy and chocolate, junk-food cravings for potato chips). If possible, it’s best to avoid or reduce food items on this list.

Cooked food versus raw food

Ayurveda generally recommends cooked foods over raw foods, which can be harder to digest—particularly if your agni (digestive fire) is low. Some dosha types do better with raw food than others. Pitta types and Kapha types can digest raw foods well in moderation, whereas Vata types may find them more challenging. Learn more about the Ayurvedic take on raw diets.

Raw foods and ama

Cooked food is easier to digest, and therefore more nourishing. Raw foods are harder to digest and can diminish your agni. When your agni is weak, your body may produce ama (accumulated toxins), which then clog the channels and prevent your body from receiving the full nutrients from your food. This, in the end, results in cravings. 

Foods that are best cooked

  • Some foods should always be cooked, such as grains, beans, and dhals. 
  • Most vegetables are better digested when cooked—especially spinach, chard, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage.

Milk is another item that can be hard to digest, so Ayurveda recommends boiling it with some cardamom and cinnamon. Make sure not to overcook or burn it. Add some ghee and spices to further enhance digestibility.

Raw fruits & salads

Juicy vegetables like cucumber and lettuces can be refreshing at lunchtime during the warm months of summer, but they’re best avoided at night and during winter months, since they can aggravate Vata dosha. Also, if your digestive fire is weak, sprouts are best avoided. 

Fruits can be enjoyed raw during the day, but they’re a little harder to digest at night. In the morning, eating a stewed apple is a great way to stimulate your digestive system. 

Curbing sugar cravings with Ayurveda

The first step in avoiding cravings to try and eat fresh, satisfying, homemade meals rather than grabbing fast food on the go. The Ayurvedic texts also recommend including all six tastes—sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent—in your meal. Learn more about the six tastes and Ayurveda. 

Cook with satisfying spices

In addition to tasting good, spices can greatly increase the digestibility of your meals. To bring out their water-soluble benefits, sprinkle them into your dishes as you cook; to enjoy their fat-soluble benefits, sauté them in ghee first.  Ayurvedic spices such as turmeric, cumin, coriander, saffron, cinnamon, and cardamom offer rich and varied aromas and flavor while balancing the doshas and enhancing metabolism. Spices can transform simple dishes into feasts for your senses.

Enjoy healthy comfort-food sweets

Emotional downs can be the result of an imbalance in Sadhaka Pitta, the subdosha of Pitta that governs the heart. Things that taste sweet balance Pitta, which explains our cravings for sweets. But before you reach for cookies or chocolate, pause for a moment. 

While these foods initially satisfy, they keep the cycle of cravings in motion. Instead, try a piece of sweet, juicy fruit or some soaked dates or raisins. Rice pudding is another delicious option, as are date-milk shakes. Our Organic Rose Petal Spread is also a great Pitta-pacifying sweet. These healthy foods all satisfy the brain, body, and heart.

Try these calming comfort foods

Worries and mental imbalance can be caused by, and aggravate, Vata dosha. When you’re feeling stressed, foods like almonds, walnuts, and dates can be calming to the mind. The nuts are rich in protein, and all three contain valuable vitamins, minerals, and fiber. 

Maharishi AyurVeda’s Worry Free tablets and Worry Free Tea are also helpful in enhancing the connection between the mind and the body.

Realizing that junk foods will ultimately not satisfy your body is the first step in beating the cravings! With a little attention, you can switch to healthier and more nutritious options, which will decrease your desire for less fulfilling snacks over time. 

Nutrition Q&A: The standardized food chart

QUESTION: Why doesn't Maharishi AyurVeda recommend a standardized food chart, which can simply tell me I need X milligrams of calcium per day or y milligrams of Vitamin C and so on?

ANSWER: At Maharishi AyurVeda, we see nutrition as a choice based on an individual's unique tastes and state of balance. 

Different people have different needs

We are all made differently. Our energies, moods, emotions, actions, and reactions are unique to us. Even in the same family, one person may love to eat pizza, while another may have absolutely no taste for it. Similarly, one person might not be able to tolerate cold weather, while another would be happy out skiing in February.

Follow your body’s intelligence

Our bodies have an innate intelligence of their own, which determines what kind of clothing they need, what kinds of food are suitable for them, and what kind of activities they enjoy pursuing. Much of this has to do with your Ayurvedic mind-body type. (Take our free Dosha Quiz to discover your mind-body type.)

A healthy body is blessed with strong natural immunity—and will love what is good for it. But if there is an imbalance, then the body—or rather, the senses—may crave things that are not ideal. For example, a person prone to Pitta-related imbalances like skin eruptions should ideally avoid hot, spicy foods. But sometimes the doshic imbalance may lead her to crave, and eat, spicy curries.

The Council of Maharishi AyurVeda Physicians recommends that your diet be intuitive—based on a good understanding of your tastes and of foods that bring you both enjoyment and good nutrition.

Include all six tastes in your meals

In his insightful book Contemporary Ayurveda, author Hari Sharma, M.D., makes an interesting observation about the American diet. He says: "The typical American diet underrepresents the pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes, and overemphasizes the sweet taste, as well as the salty and sour. These three tastes increase Kapha dosha, which is part of how Maharishi AyurVeda would explain the prevalence of obesity (a Kapha imbalance) in the West."

At mealtimes, try to get all six flavors on your plate: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, pungent, and astringent. One easy way to do this is by cooking with Maharishi AyurVeda's delicious Churna spice mixes, which are blended in precise proportions to help balance the doshas. 

On the whole, the balance of tastes ideal for your individual constitution depends on your prakriti, or original combination of doshic energies, and vikriti—the imbalances you are trying to balance at any point in time. 

Consult a vaidya (Ayurvedic expert) for guidance on foods that would work best for you. You can also browse our recipe section for hundreds of healthy Ayurvedic comfort food recipes and tips!

© 1999, 2023 Maharishi AyurVeda Products International, Inc. (MAPI). All Rights Reserved. MAPI does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. See additional information.

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