Sometimes your digestive fire, or agni, burns strong and bright, but other times those flames are dampened and need rekindling.
Think of how you feel when you are under the weather—you’re naturally just not that hungry. That’s because, during those periods when your internal systems are functioning at less than optimal levels, your digestive fire tends to be a bit weak.
According to Ayurveda, a light, nourishing diet is the key to gradually increasing the strength of your digestive fire to regain your energy and vigor again.
Forget fasting, but focus on a light diet
When your digestive fire is low, consuming heavy foods and meals can overtax it, making things worse. But fasting isn’t ideal either. Both heavy foods and fasting can throw your doshas out of balance when agni is low, further aggravating your system.
From the perspective of Ayurveda, weak agni calls for simple, easily digestible foods that quickly transform into rasa, or bodily tissue, creating healthy new cells.
The single most important food in the light diet is split mung dhal. Split mung beans are green mung beans that have been split and skinned (you can find them in most Asian grocery stores). They cook quickly and balance all three doshas. Kichari, a nutritious combination of rice, mung beans, vegetables, spices and ghee, is another excellent, one-dish meal for people on lighter diets.
Try kanji water for weak digestion
If you have little or no appetite, you can make kanji water—a nourishing warm broth made from either split mung beans or organic brown rice—and sip one to two liters throughout the day. This simple beverage delivers instant nutrition to your body, provides carbohydrates, gives your body energy, and helps you regain strength. Kanji water is an excellent source of energy whenever your body is dehydrated or depleted from an illness.
Kanji water balances all three dosha and brings agni back into balance. Because it’s warm, it balances Vata; because it’s watery, it balances Pitta; and because it produces perspiration, it balances Kapha. If you are trying to lose weight, kanji water can also be a satisfying snack throughout the day.
Eating light, from day to night
Not quite sure what to eat throughout the day when your agni’s low? Here are some suggestions.
- At breakfast time, start the day off with some stewed apples and pears or hot cereal.
- For lunch, try some soupy split mung dhal, basmati rice, couscous, or quinoa; two types of vegetables sautéed in ghee and spices; flat bread such as chapati; and lassi (a probiotic, Ayurvedic yogurt drink).
- For dinner, you’ll want lighter fare than you had at lunchtime, so your body’s rest-and-repair mechanisms aren’t burdened by heavy food. Try warm, cooked Kichari; vegetable-barley soup; or hot cereal, like cream of wheat.
Bear in mind: when you’re on a light diet, you can eat a little more frequently, since light meals take about 3½ hours to digest.
Low agni foods to favor:
- Mung dhal, aduki beans, tofu
- Basmati rice, couscous, barley, quinoa, chapati
- Cooked vegetables with ghee
- Spices such as turmeric, cumin, ginger, fennel, black pepper, and coriander.
- Warm milk with ginger (especially at bedtime).
- Stewed fruit
- Ripe, sweet fruit and fresh vegetable juices
- Sattvic foods like dates, ghee, and olive oil
Heavy foods to avoid or reduce:
- Hard cheeses, eggs, fish, meat, and chicken. If meat is on your diet, try to have it during the daytime in well-cooked soups and stews.
- Peanut butter
- Raw vegetables and sprouts
- Bananas, cold milk, yogurt (lassi is okay)
- Cold foods and drinks
Try these nourishing, light-diet recommendations when you’re feeling under the weather to kindle your agni and get those digestive fires going again! For a more in-depth look at resetting the digestive fire with detox, head over to the Digestion Hub.