Ayurveda celebrates rice as the symbol of health, prosperity,auspiciousness and fertility and that's why,from newborns to newly-weds to new acquisitions, everything gets showered with rice.Rice is the first grain that you get introduced to.You get off an exclusive breast milk diet and you get on to rice either in the form of kanjee (rice soup) or really diluted rice itself.
Rice is suitable for people of all kinds of constitutions,doshas - vata, pitta and kapha.Rice has non-allergen, gluten-free and high on the protein digestibility score.That's exactly why big or small, man or woman, happy or angry, constipated or loosies, rich or poor, rice is everybody's comfort food.
In Sanskrit there are myriad words for rice describing their many states of being, presentation, and consumption. One common word is अन्न, “anna”which can translate to mean rice that is ready to eat.Not only is rice important as food, it is also undeniably integral to indian religious ceremonies and our social framework.Present in most prayer rituals, served to God and devotees alike, more or less every regional food culture in India counts rice as important.
In Ayurveda food is considered medicine.Foods are categorized according to their taste, their effect on the doshas,as well as their effect on the tissues.This is why when choosing foods it is important to understand ayurvedic properties of food.
Ayurvedic view of rice
- Rice builds ojas.Of all the rice varities,Basmati is the most sattvic and aromatic.
- Rice is nourishing and easy to digest giving more 'bang for the buck'.There are a few foods that Ayurveda has established as good for everyone(satmya),year round, and rice is number one on the list.No matter what your prakriti(constitution, as everyone is unique) and no matter what season, rice has a place in the diet.
- Like moong(green gram),rice is sweet,cooling and light.This is a rare combination.Usually foods that are sweet and cooling are also heavy. So, like moong rice has the special quality of being nourishing for the tissues and immune system (due to its sweetness) but also light and easy to digest.It is also considered a Sattvic grain which means it helps to directly cultivate peace, clarity and contentment in the mind.
- Rasa (Taste): Sweet
- Virya (Potency): Cooling
- Vipaka (Post digestive effective): Sweet
- Guna (Qualities): Unctuous, nourishing and Strength promoting.
- Brown rice is light to digest and white polished rice is slightly heavy to digest.
- Actions on the doshas: Balances Vata and Pitta and increases Kapha.But old rice does not increase Kapha.Hence aged rice can be considered as tridoshic which balances Vata, Pitta and Kapha
- Action on the mind: Sattvic
- White rice has a bad rap in the western countries.So much of the world depends on it as a core part of their diet,but somehow it’s been rumored as unhealthy with a stigma of little nutritional value and a cause of weight gain.Ayurveda believes otherwise.Ayurveda doesn’t judge rice simply on its fiber content and calorie count,as a Western perspective might, but takes into account who is eating it, when they’re eating it, and what happens to the rice throughout digestion.
- Research in the West gives high scores to brown rice compared to white rice for its bran and fiber content.From a western perspective,rice has a neutral pH and a medium GI which makes it a better choice for people with diabetes.Red basmati rice is even better from a GI perspective.
- According to Ayurveda, the Sweet taste (madhur rasa) is composed of the elements Water and Earth(Jala and Prithuvi).Rice is comprised of Water and Earth element.It is sweet inherently.Anything that is madhur is made for building, sustaining, and absorbing all the qualities that are present in Earth and Water as we see them in Nature.
Effect of rice on tridoshas
- All of us have our own specific balance of Vata (movement, air/space),Pitta (transformation, fire/water) and Kapha (structure, earth/water), and when that balance is maintained, we experience health.
- Some foods have more inherent heat and they add their Pitta heat to our body.Some foods are inherently cold and wet and increase our Kapha element.
- In Ayurvedic terms rice is said to be very balancing to the three Doshas, or elements, that underlie our body and our health – Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
- Rice is lighter than many other grains, so can be eaten by Kapha; it’s cooling, sweet and moist nature work for Pitta; and sweet moist attributes balance Vata.
- It is rare to find a food that balances all three Doshas and this is one reason rice is so highly valued.(If eaten in excess it will increase Kapha Dosha though).
Should anyone avoid eating rice?
- No. Anyone and everyone can and should eat rice.You would only avoid it if you were put on a very specific Ama-reducing fast by your Ayurvedic Practitioner and were instructed to avoid all grains (but this would usually only be for 3-10 days at a time).If you have diabetes you may be advised to eat more of the red variety, along with other low GI grains.
- With respect to the preparation of rice, the Ayurvedic texts explain that dry roasting (i.e. drying over heat)rice can make them “light” to digest and hence beneficial when the digestive fire is low.
- Pre-soaking rice is a fairly common practice, which can save fuel by decreasing cooking time(the grains begin the process of expanding as they absorb water during soaking).
- Opinions vary on the effects on taste,texture and nutritive value. If the same water used for soaking is used for cooking rice then this would result in preventing the loss of water-soluble nutrients.
- Soaking the rice for at least 1 hour prior to cooking them will make it lighter for digestion as well as cooks rice in very less time and consumes less power.
- According to Ayurveda, old rice has proved to be a great healing food and hence it is recommended to every human being. New rice(Freshly harvested rice) is hard to digest,whereas 1-year-old rice(1 yr maturity after harvesting)is lighter and two-year old rice is even more excellent in quality.Ayurveda texts explain that old rice is wholesome in diabetes and obesity too.Ayurveda recommends storage of rice in moist free airtight containers.Now-a-days we are eating newer and newer rice which is becoming harder and harder for us to digest thus leading to health issues.
- Rice is normally prepared by boiling or steaming(or some combination of these) and it absorbs water during this process.Long-grain rice tends to remain separate or ‘fluffy’ after cooking while short and medium grain rice will tend to stick together more. After standard boiling or steaming,rice can be eaten directly with side dishes, added to soup, combined with other ingredients in a wok to make ‘fried rice’, used to stuff vegetables or vine leaves, or used for forming various types of sushi.I personally use filteration method to cook rice.My goan friend Neelam dutta has included all the goan rice cooking methods in detail in her post,you can click here for the link.
- Rice can be boiled in excess water.When the rice is almost fully cooked, the excess water is drained off.This procedure has lot of signifacance when we think of health.Firstly,the most soluble carbohydrates are removed from the rice, so sugar loading is decreased and thus cause less impact on blood glucose levels. Reduction of easily available carbohydrates decreases tendencies to constipation, and improves elimination.This single procedure therefore has health promoting and preventative value for many conditions.Decrease in sugar loading will reduce tendencies to obesity, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 Diabetes. The reduced constipation will tend to improve long term colon health, and all conditions involving ama(toxic substances)
- In a covered pot/Pressure cooker/Rice cooker,the right amount of water can be measured and added to the raw rice before cooking and this water will be completely absorbed into the rice. The recommended ratio of raw rice to water varies from about 1:1.5 (firmer result) to about 1:2 (softer result), depending on preference.After coming to the boil, the heat should be reduced to simmering until the rice is cooked (and all water absorbed).Microwave can also be used to cook rice in absorbtion method.
- This is similar to the absorption method, but after simmering for 8-10 minutes, transfer the rice to a basket or steamer over a steaming pan, cover and continue cooking for 10 minutes.
- This method is used when making dishes like risotto, paella, saffron rice, spanish/mexican rice, pilaf or biryani.Generally for these dishes, the raw rice is stir-fried with selected spices and/or other ingredients for the dish (meat, seafood, vegetables), before adding the right amount of water and covering the pot.
- Germinated brown rice (GBR) is unpolished brown rice that has been allowed to germinate to improve the flavor and texture, and to increase levels of nutrients such as γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA). It has been found that germinated grains in general have nutritional advantages. The rice is used in Japanese and Korean cuisine.
- This is another method that involves boiling or steaming rice.Compressed rice is popular in Indonesia(known as ketupat or lontong)and Malaysia (nasi himpit). Traditionally, the raw or partially cooked rice is placed inside a woven or rolled coconut leaf or banana leaf pouch or cylinder, and then boiled or steamed. When cooked, the rice will have formed a solid mass,having been compressed by the pouch containing it.While still hot or after cooling, it is then cut open, sliced and served with side dishes, sauces and soups.Compressed rice packets can also be cooked with vegetable or meat fillings as a snack.
- If the rice will be served with curry/ flavoured dish/dal,don’t add salt as the rice is designed to provide a bland contrast.Salt is added to rice in the preparations like Pulao, Biryani etc.
Washing Rice before cooking and Tandulodaka(Rice washed water)
- Rice is exposed to dust and other contaminants during storage hence washing rice is a must before cooking it.Rinsing rice multiple times,results in the loss of water-soluble nutrients,including starch, protein, vitamins, minerals so i would recommend to wash rice just once or twice before cooking.
- In ayurveda Rice wash water(Tandulodaka)is also mentioned as anupana(after drink) with medicine in many disorders like bleeding hemorrhoids,leucorrhoea, etc.For preparing tandulodaka(rice washed water)coarse powder of one part of rice is soaked in 8 parts of water,macerated well for five minutes and then filtered.
- Parboiling rough rice before milling, as is common in India and Bangladesh, allows a portion of the vitamins and minerals in the bran to permeate the endosperm and be retained in the polished rice.This treatment also lowers protein loss during milling and increases whole-grain recovery.
- There is often a trade off between nourishment and digestibility.Usually, the most nourishing foods, such as meat and dairy products,demand a lot of digestive power to extract their nutrients.Rice is one of those rare foods as it is both highly nourishing and easy to digest.In other words, from the point of view of our digestive tract, it offers more calories with less effort.Ayurveda says that rice is good for building our body tissue and is a rich source of Prana, or life-force.It is especially valuable when you are recovering from an illness.
- Mostly we think of rice as either white rice or brown rice.What are the differences between them?In general, brown rice contains the external bran, or husk.This external layer is sweet and rich in oil, fiber, and minerals.When the bran is removed through milling the rice is white.
- Inevitably white rice has less fiber than brown, but it still has nutritional value and provides protein and energy.And since its outer shell has been removed, it is much easier to digest.For this reason white rice is recommended when digestive ability is low.
- According to Ayurveda this naturally occurs in the summer and warm months. At this time of year our agni(digestive fire)is at its weakest.We should adjust our diets accordingly,choosing lighter foods that are easy to digest.This makes white rice a better choice than brown in the summer.
- Since brown rice is somewhat heavy to digest it is best consumed in the cooler and winter months.This is when agni is at its strongest.The digestive system can handle heavier foods like brown rice better than it can in summer.
- Ayurveda takes into account not only the season but also the individual.For those who always have very good digestion and a strong agni, brown rice is generally a good choice.For those with more sensitive digestion and weaker agni,or in the case of illness,white rice is the way to go.
- In terms of the dosha, white rice is often recommended for those who struggle with issues of Air and Space(Vata).This is because external bran of brown rice, though full of fiber and more whole can be difficult to breakdown for those who have irregular digestion.
- Brown rice can take up to 45 minutes to cook however,white rice can be completely cooked in 15 minutes.This is important because rice that is eaten without completely steaming,or is removed from the refrigerator without warming, can add to the complaints of Vata-gas, bloating, and constipation to name a few.
- If you’re one of those people who can practically digest rocks(has very good digestion)then yeah,take advantage of brown rice’s nutritive value year round.If digestion is a little slower,go with white.
- Rice roasted directly in fire (Dana/Bhuja) is consumed with salt or spices.
- Rice flour (Pisht) Rice flour is made from ground raw rice.It can be used as a gluten-free alternative to wheat flour. Rice flour is commonly used in countries where rice is the staple food to make other food products, including certain types of bread, cakes, biscuits, pancakes and dumplings.It is also used to thicken soups and sauces and to make batter for deep frying crispy snacks(such as for Japanese tempura or fried bananas).Rice noodles and extruded round noodles are made from wet-milled rice flour.These are eaten with side dishes or in soups. Glutinous rice flour is commonly used to make many types of sweet and savoury cakes in Asia, including Japanese mochi and Indonesian layered rice cakes (kue lapis).
- Rice pop (Murmure/Lava/Khil) is used to make namkin or used directly for consumption.
- Pressed/Flattened rice (Poha) is used for making Indian breakfast like poha.
- This particular treatment is a special gift from Ayurveda to the ailing world and it is called Shashtika Shali Pinda Sweda in Sanskrit and Njavarakizhi in Kerala ayurvedic practice.
- Process involves fomentation of the body with a bolus of cooked rice.Njavara is a particular kind of rice known for its nutritional and therapeutic value.
- Rice is cooked with milk and a herbal decoction.
- Four boluses are made of this cooked rice and tied up in linen bags.It is a procedure by which the whole body or any specific part thereof is made to perspire by the Njavarakizhi application.
- Treatment (massage) is started by application of oil to the body and a piece of cloth is tied around the head.
- The two attendents on each side of the patient massage by the prepared boluses and the process will be continued in seven standard postures such as sitting,lying (supine or prone position) etc.
- The movement of the hands during both fomentation and massage should always be downwards.
- After the massage, all the linen bags are opened out and remaining pudding is taken and applied to the body of the patient and rubbed by the hands.
- After 5 minutes, the paste is wiped off with palm leaf scrapers. Patient is given bath after some time.
- The course of treatment is for about 60 to 75 minutes per day for a period of 7 to 21 days.
- The fomentation and soothing effect of this Potli is effective in various neuro-degenerative conditions,weakness, muscle wasting, low back or neck pain, Sciatica, Removes joint stiffness due to vata,Prevents premature ageing, Rejuvenates skin,Chronic rheumatism,Limb emaciation.
- Basically this therapy is used to improve muscle strength, rejuvenate and re-energize body.This treatment also provides strength and nutrition to the body tissues, especially bones, muscles and other soft tissues.
- Glycaemic index, or GI, is the measure of how quickly your blood glucose level (blood sugar) rises after eating a particular food.If you have a diet that has a high GI level, you more are at risk of diabetes, heart disease and a variety of other diseases.Rice is normally consumed with dal and some ghee.Rice has mediun GI index and by eating it with daal/dahi we bring its GI index further down and if we take some ghee over this daal rice then the GI INDEX is brought down further.
- Khichadi made of old rice and mung is beneficial to a person suffering from fever or stomach disorder.
- Rice gruel mixed with ghee or butter is advised throughout pregnancy. As rice, ghee and butter are cooling and anabolic, they nourish the mother to be as well as help in proper growth of the fetus.
- Rice has their unique nutritional value.It includes high in minerals such as calcium and iron, vitamins, such as niacin, vitamin D, thiamine and riboflavin and a good source of fiber and therefore, improves digestion.
- Old rice is beneficial in diabetes and obesity.
- It promotes growth of pro-biotic bacteria, eases bowel movement and rids you of bloating.
- Rice contains very low amount of saturated fats,sodium and fat and it's free of cholesterol making it heart healthy food.
- It prevents premature wrinkling.
- It has essential amino acids like methionine, which when consumed with dal, for example, completes the amino acid profile of the meal. (They are limiting factors of each other).
- Has inositol, which has fat burning, anti-anxiety, and irritability reducing properties.
- It allows for better assimilation of Vitamin D and calcium.
- More than half the world's population virtually lives on rice.
- In Japan,the words for rice and meal are the same.An average Japanese eats 200 pounds of rice a year. Needless to add, Japan has one of the highest longevity rates in the world.
- Rice crop takes up a whopping 150 million hectares of land worldwide.
- Ayurveda prescribes specific diet patterns in the diseased conditions which are known as Pathya kalpana.According to ayurveda, derangement of the digestive power(Agni) occurs in many diseases which is the prime reason for the formation of vitiated dosha,Ama (toxic substances) and malformation of Dhatus(body tissues).
- The word Pathya derives its origin from root word Patha which literally means a way or channel.Pathya not only advocates intake of wholesome food and fasten the process of recovery from the diseased state but it mainly helps to regain the strength of agni(digestive power).
- Some pathya kalpana like manda, peya, vilepi, yavagu etc are explained in ayurveda.Table below explains in short about pathya kalpana, their preparation method and uses in therapeutic diet.
- Various rice preparation given below are also suitable for weaning babies who are being introduced to foods apart from mother’s milk.
- Manda means rice water which is the clear supernatant watery portion in which rice is boiled. This Kalpana is prepared by using rice and water in 1:14 proportion.The rice is cooked in said proportion of water and then only water content of the prepared formulation is collected as Manda(watery portion of rice gruel).It should be served with a pinch of table salt.
- Properties: Laghu (light in digestion),Sheeta( cold)
- Actions: Deepana (increase in appetite),Pachana (increase in digestive capacity),Grahi( reduces water cotent in feaces),Vatanulomaka(maintains normal functioning of vata humour),Kaphaghna( pacify kapha humour).
- Indications: Jwara(Fever),Atisara(Diarrhoea),Trishna(Excessive Thirst).
- The same procedure can be used to prepare laja(puffed rice)manda.
- Peya Kalpana
- This Kalpana is prepared by using rice and water in 1:14 proportion.The rice is cooked in said proportion of water and then maximum watery content of the prepared formulation is collected with few grains of cooked rice.This is knownas Peya(rice gruel).It can be served with little amount of table salt and pinch of pepper powder
- Properties: Laghu(light in digestion)
- Actions: Deepana,Pachana,Vatanulomaka,Dhatupushtikara(nourishing)
- Indications:Jwara(fever),Atisara(Diarrhoea),Shwasa (asthma) Kasa(cough)Kaphodara(Ascites),Trushna(excessive thirst)
- Yavagu is a type of gruel prepared with 6 times water to nearly thick or semisolid consistency. Only solid rice part is taken.You can add ¼ tea spoon of grated ginger, pinch of pepper powder and required quantity of table salt and churn it well before serving.
- Properties -Laghu(Light in digestion,Grahi(reduces water cotent in feaces),Bastishodhani(Capable Of Removing Provoked Humors In Basti)
- Indications: Before Siravedha(blood letting),Garbhini(pregnancy),Unmaada (schizophrenia),Mandagni(loss of appetite),Trushna(excessive thrist)
- This is thick rice gruel prepared by cooking rice with 4 times of water.Maximum solid portion with little liquid is taken. Add required amount of table salt, a little fresh ginger, turmeric, cumin seeds, coriander, fennel,pepper and small amount of ghee can be added for taste and digestion.
- Properties: Madhur (sweet),Laghu (light in digestion).
- Action:Deepana,Rochaka (Enhances taste),Grahi(reduces water content in feaces),Vrushya(Aprodiasiac).
- In this preparation cooked rice and has the consistency of normal, soft, cooked rice.It is made with 2 parts of water to 1 part of rice.It should be served with some gravy vegetable curries for providing fast and instant energy.
- From birth to death, rice shadows us in every big and small moment of our life and then suddenly rice becomes our enemy and by following some modern trends we try to eliminate it from our diet chart,it is actually the biggest mistake which we do.
- We should rather value everything (like rice), that is easily available in local market, instead of chasing after food items, which is difficult to avail and expensive to afford.Eat your rice the way you like it,as you want and eat it in quantities which will leave you feeling light and energetic, and enjoy the wonders it will have on your body.
- Rice is the superfood and we all can have it all round the year,but we must not eat it in too much quantity,we must trust our tongue and stomach to guide us.I would like to conclude my post by very good advise from famous nutritionist Rutuja diwekar madam that as far as quantities are concerned,if a human being pays attention to what he/she is eating and doesn’t rush through his/her meal,he/she will know exactly where to stop eating.We are born with the ability to self-terminate eating;we do not need a dietitian or a doctor to tell us where to stop.Some things are worth doing yourself; this is one such thing.
Stay healthy !