The role of milk in ayurveda is one that is highly regarded and valued. It has a profound nourishing property for our bodies that is able to help regenerate and strengthen the tissues of the physiology as well as increase our subtle essence known as ojas. Ojas is responsible for maintaining our immunity, vitality, complexion, luster and strength of our entire body.
In order for these benefits to be conferred, milk has to be digested properly. By nature, the qualities of milk are heavy, dense, cold and sweet. The heaviness in milk will be increased if it is ingested cold, right out of the refrigerator. Therefore, ayurveda recommends that milk should be boiled, reducing the heavy properties and making it more easily absorbed by our bodies. Some spices, such as turmeric or cardamom, may also be added to milk to make it easier to digest, as these spices help to cut the heaviness.
What foods are compatible when taken together with milk? Along with making milk more digestible by boiling it or adding spices, it is important to consider what other foods are being eaten along with milk, or being mixed together with milk. This principle is known as Satmya, or Compatibility. Every kind of food has a specific taste (rasa), qualities (guna), potency (virya) and post-digestive effect (vipaka), and a specific effect (prabhava) on our bodies. There are food combinations that are beneficial, and there are food combinations that are incompatible.
Ayurveda recommends against the following combinations with milk:
- Milk + Sour Buttermilk
This mixture will form curds in the digestive tract and be more difficult to digest.
- Milk + Meat
- Milk + Fish
- Milk + Sprouted Grains
- Milk + Yeast = ushna virya
Ushna virya describes Pitta-increasing, whereas milk when taken in an appropriate form is Pitta-balancing.
- Milk + Radish
Radish is pungent (ushna virya) and milk is sweet (sita virya); the two do not mix well.
- Garlic + Milk
It is not recommended to eat garlic and then take milk, or the other way around. The exception is Garlic Milk (see recipe below).
- Milk + Holy Basil = ushna virya
Again, ushna virya describes Pitta-increasing, whereas milk taken in an appropriate form is Pitta-balancing.
- Milk + Sour Fruits (unripened mango, plums, strawberries, etc.) = curds
- Milk + Citrus Fruits
The acidity of the citrus will cause curdling of the milk in the stomach and make it harder to digest.
- Milk + Fruit Juice
Most juice will cause milk to separate and agglutinate, making it hard to absorb and digest. The pH quality will become more acidic when it is mixed with juice, and 80% of casein in the milk tends to agglutinate, or clump together.
Other ayurvedic recommendations when mixing fruits and milk:
- Milk should be combined only with purely sweet and ripe fruits.
- A ripe sweet mango may be combined with milk.
- Avocado may be mixed with milk (this is creamy, buttery and a little bit astringent).
- Dry fruits such as raisins, dates, and figs may be taken with milk.
- Avoid mixing all berries (including strawberries) with milk. When we add berries to milk, the milk may not curdle right away – but it will curdle after our initial digestion.
- Bananas — even though they are sweet, after they are ingested with milk, the post-digestive effect will be sour, so the two should not be combined.
- Generally it is a good idea to take milk and fruit separately.
How long between milk and non-compatible foods? One should separate ingestion of milk and non-compatible foods by a minimum of three hours. This is because the post-digestive effect of madhura (sweet), amla (sour), and katu (hot or pungent) takes one hour each.
The only fruits that are compatible with milk:
- Raisins – improve blood and have a laxative effect.
- Figs – increase calcium and iron, and cleanse the colon (detox).
- Dates – nutritious to all the tissues – good for increasing body weight.
- Ripe sweet mango – increases calcium, iron and weight.
- Avocado – nourishing to the tissues, especially fat tissue.
- Garlic when making Garlic Milk, but not combined during meals separately.
Garlic Milk can help supply blood to the tissues, promote proper flow of lymph fluid, and ease painful joint imbalances.
To make Garlic Milk:
- Crush 4-8 cloves of garlic and place in a cloth pouch.
- Combine ½ cup of milk and ½ cup of water in a saucepan.
- Place the pouch into the milk-and-water mixture.
- Boil the mixture until only ½ cup remains. Stir occasionally.
- Squeeze the milk out of the pouch and allow it to cool to lukewarm before drinking.
The Six Tastes
Ayurveda recommends that we experience all six tastes during a meal, with the dominant flavor emphasized according to one’s dosha predominance and desired balancing effect at the time of the meal. The six tastes, or rasas, are: madhura — sweet; amla — sour; lavana — salty; katu — hot (pungent); tikta — bitter; and kashai — astringent.
- Vata: Favor sweet, sour, and salty tastes. Reduce pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes.
- Pitta: Favor sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes. Reduce sour, salty, and pungent tastes.
- Kapha: Favor pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes. Reduce sweet, sour, and salty tastes.
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