According to modern methods of nutrition analysis, grains provide carbohydrates, protein, iron, calcium, potassium, and important B vitamins necessary for a balanced diet. According to the traditional wisdom of ayurveda, grains help to build bone tissue and muscle and give bodily strength and endurance. Adequate quantities of grains are particularly important for growing children on a vegetarian diet.
Grains are useful to vegetarians because they help in creating whole proteins when combined with legumes, beans or milk products. Ayurveda recommends having grains at each meal if you are a vegetarian to provide adequate energy for the body. There are a variety of different grains, and each grain has a specific influence on each ayurvedic dosha. Therefore, depending on whether the diet you are following is geared towards balancing Vata, Pitta, or Kapha, you should choose the right grains that will help balance and nourish your physiology. Vata and Pitta types can consume high quantities of grains, while Kapha types should have smaller amounts to avoid weight gain.
The following is a list of grains and their effect on the doshas:
Wheat products such as bulgur, farina, couscous, semolina, pasta, and bread are the best grains for balancing Vata. They help with lubrication, boost energy, and enhance physical strength and endurance. Wheat should be eaten often by people trying to balance Vata. People with a Kapha imbalance should reduce but not totally avoid wheat. Too much wheat can cause weight gain and increase the amount of mucus in the body if you have a cold or allergies.
Barley products are the best grain for balancing Kapha, and are good for Pitta as well. Barley is relatively lighter to digest, and it does not produce excess mucus in the body. The better kind of barley to use is the organic raw barley instead of the white pearl barley. Organic barley can be found at most health food stores. Barley is also made into flour and can be used in baking and making flatbreads. Barley Water is highly beneficial for balancing weight and for kidney balance.
Basmati rice balances all three doshas. It is the best grain for balancing Pitta. It is cooling and a little heavy, so it is not recommended to eat every day. Three to four servings per week are ideal. Basmati rice is also made into flour, which can be used for baking.
Puffed rice is light and dry, and people with a Kapha imbalance may enjoy puffed rice as a snack with some spices sautéed in ghee drizzled over it.
Brown rice is more heating and dry, and is better for Kapha and less optimal for Pitta and Vata.
Quinoa is a seed that provides an excellent source of protein. Quinoa is good for all the doshas. People trying to balance Vata can eat it with a little olive oil or ghee.
Buckwheat groats are best for Kapha and less balancing for Vata.
Oats are aggravating for Kapha; however, dry baked oats in granola are fine.
Millet is dry and aggravates Vata and balances Kapha. Rye is dry and aggravates Vata and balances Kapha.
Corn is both dry and heating and should be avoided if you are trying to balance Vata or Pitta. It is good for Kapha.
Grains for a Kapha-balancing breakfast may include one of the following:
- A chapati made with wheat flour and barley flour. You can top the chapati with honey and cinnamon to further balance Kapha.
- One-half cup of granola served with warm milk or rice cakes with honey and cinnamon.
Grains for lunch may include barley, quinoa, corn, millet, or brown rice. For dinner, vegetable barley soup is ideal.
Grains for a Pitta- and Vata-balancing breakfast may include cream of wheat, couscous with warm milk and a sweetener, rice pudding, tapioca or oatmeal. Grains for lunch may include pasta, couscous, quinoa, rice with ghee, or chapati bread. Grains for dinner may include the same as lunch with smaller portions.
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