This week in our Healing Kitchen we have a delicious and nutritious Lassi on the menu.
WHAT IS LASSI?
Lassi is a drink made with yoghurt, water (traditionally at room temperature) and spices. It originated in the Punjabi region of India but now you will find it all over India. These days it is often served chilled, as a refreshing drink in the Summer and is also made with fruit in addition to, or in lieu of spices.
Whilst fruity, chilled lassi’s are absolutely delicious, (you may have heard of or had a mango lassi which is very popular in India), you will never find a fruity, chilled lassi in this, or any other proper Ayurvedic Kitchen. Why? It’s all about the Agni baby.
Our Agni, is our digestive fire. A huge importance is placed on the health of our digestive fire in Ayurveda. One of the key elements in treating any illness or disease from an Ayurvedic perspective, or for that matter, the most important means of maintaining good health, is to maintain a healthy digestive fire.
Ayurvedically speaking, all disease in the body is the result of a build up of AMA (toxins). All toxins which create poisons in the body originate from a poor or weak digestive fire such that the food we consume is not properly digested and the nutrients and goodness not properly assimilated into the body. “It is obvious that that the body tissues cannot be nourished and developed when food is not properly digested by agni” Chikitsa Sthana 15:5 (Ayurvedic Text)
COME ON BABY LIGHT MY FIRE!
So how do we keep our Agni burning brightly?
Today we will concentrate on two things you can do to avoid weakening your digestive fire.
These also explain why we should take our lassi’s at room temperature and without fruit for maximum healing benefits.
FAULTY FOOD COMBINATIONS
The first, is the concept of faulty food combinations. Not all foods are digested by our digestive system at the same rate nor do they all require the same type or quantity of digestive enzymes and acids to be broken down . If we consume together two foods with opposing or entirely different digestive needs, we confuse our body. It does not know which to digest first, what quantity or type of enzymes to produce in order to properly digest the food. If our digestive fire is not strong, this can result in much of the food remaining undigested and fermenting in our system. Furthermore, consistent consumption of these ‘faulty food combinations’ will ultimately weaken our digestive fire, dampen our Agni so that even without faulty food combinations, we may struggle to properly digest our food.
What are these mysterious faulty food combinations?
I will cover this in more detail in another post, today we will consider just one of them.
FRUIT AND DAIRY.
Yup that’s right folks, your ‘healthy’ breakfast of fruit and yoghurt that makes you feel so virtuous and good about yourself, Ayurvedically speaking is precisely the opposite. Indeed in Ayurveda we say……..
EAT FRUIT ON ITS OWN OR LEAVE IT ALONE.
Fruit is light and digested very quickly by our body. If it is consumed with anything else, it must wait for the other heavier, harder to digest foods to be broken down before it, during this time it can ferment leading to toxins.
Dairy, particularly yoghurt is one of the heaviest foods for our bodies to digest.
Fruit and dairy are the total opposites in terms of digestive requirements and therefore should not, according to Ayurvedic principles, be consumed together. If they are, fruit lassis, fruit smoothies, strawberries and cream, it can lead to poor digestion, gas, bloating, constipation, abdominal cramps, poor absorption and assimilation of nutrients in the body, and ultimately AMA, or toxins which can result in illness or disease, mucous, coughs, asthma, diabetes, skin problems, heart problems, inflammation, bone problems, nervous conditions, high cholesterol etc.
Ok so that explains why our lassi is fruit free today, but why room temperature?
Agni is fire, you throw cold water on it you dampen its flames, simple as that. If you drink a cold glass of water or a chilled lassi after a meal, you dampen your digestive fire just when it most needs to be burning brightly. If you have a strong digestive fire it can probably handle it but if your Agni is already compromised, you make life even more difficult for it and yourself.
SPICE UP YOUR LIFE
So let’s spice up our life and get that Agni burning brightly!!
The Spices: cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, cardamom, vanilla and saffron.
Cinnamon: This wonderful aromatic spice has many medicinal qualities. It is a stimulant with anti-septic and refreshing properties. It is a great spice for detoxifying the body. It stimulates sweating to remove Ama and also enkindles Agni, promoting digestion especially when taken with cardamon and ginger.
It helps to strengthen blood plasma and is very good for the circulation. Those suffering from cold hands and feet, Raynaud’s syndrome can benefit from a little cinnamon in the diet. It helps control blood sugar levels so is an ideal spice for diabetics.
It is a good decongestant and is indicated for those suffering with asthma and respiratory problems such as bronchitis or simple colds, coughs and sinus congestion.
Cardamon: Aromatic, stimulating and refreshing. This wonderfully flavoursome spice is one of the best digestive spices, especially effective in enkindling Agni and relieving symptoms of weak digestion such as bloating, flatulence, colic, intestinal pain and indigestion. Like cinnamon it is also an effective decongestant and is indicated for those suffering with mucous coughs and asthma with wheezing.
It helps to rid the body of Ama and rid the body of excess heat.
It is also thought to sharpen the mind, open the breathing and freshen the breath.
Ginger: Ginger can be used both fresh and in a powder form. In the Lassi today I use fresh grated ginger as it reduces Pitta. Cinnamon and Cardamon are Vata and Kapha reducing and whilst in small doses they also reduce Pitta if taken in excess they can aggravate it so I like to balance the effect of the herbs in combination. I am also prone to excess pitta, if you are more of a Kapha type ginger powder would be a better option for you for maximum benefits.
Ginger is a wonderful detoxifier clearing Ama from plasma and blood. It is an extremely effective decongestant. It is the best home remedy to alleviate Kapha problems such as coughs, runny nose, sinus and throat congestion.
It is also effective for those suffering with asthma and hay fever.
It is a very good regulator of digestive problems, it gets rid of bloating, excess gas, indigestion and abdominal cramps. It enkindles Agni and aids the body with absorption and assimilation of food. It is effective in cleansing the intestines and will promote healthy bowel movements.
Turmeric: We looked at this fantastically medicinal spice in my post ‘Food of the Gods’, here is a recap….It is known for its anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. It has recently been proven to have an affinity for the large intestine and to play a preventative role in bowel cancer. It is also recommended for those suffering with IBS, Crohns disease or other digestive problems.
It is an extremely good liver strengthener and cleanser. It increases the flow of blood through the hepatic system and increases bile output which helps to dissolve and prevent gall stones and is recommended for those suffering with ulcers or acidity.
It is considered a very good blood cleanser and purifier and is indicated for people suffering with eczema, acne, psoriasis.
It is known to regulate menstrual cycle and clear congestion in the lower abdomen and uterus. Fibroids, cysts, and endometriosis amongst others are treated by reducing congestion.
It treats inflammation of the joints and is useful for those suffering with gout, arthritis, broken or brittle bones. It reduces swelling and water retention.
It is also indicated for those suffering with diabetes as it controls blood sugar levels.
Saffron: Is a known aphrodisiac herb which can help treat impotence and low libido and nourish the reproductive tissue.
It has an ability to increase haemoglobin levels and as such is effective against anaemia and symptoms that can arise from anaemia such as heart conditions with pain and liver congestion. It is indicated for those suffering from angina and cardiac congestion.
It nourishes the nerve tissue and can alleviate depression and nervous disorders.
Vanilla: Is an anti-oxidant anti-depressant, anti-carcinogenic and anti inflammatory. It is also an excellent spice for improving cognitive abilities and is a known aphrodisiac.
We will sweeten the recipe today with a little honey.
Honey has tremendous healing properties. It is an excellent blood purifier and is also good for the eyes and teeth. I will discuss the medicinal benefits of honey in more detail in another post.
This recipe is one serving, increase the ingredients accordingly for more servings
Put the following in a blender and mix on high speed for a couple of minutes
150mls of natural yoghurt
300mls of water (room temperature)
1/4 tsp of cinnamon, cardamon, turmeric, and ginger if you are using ginger powder (alternatively 1 tsp of fresh grated ginger)
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract or ground vanilla
3-4 strands of Saffron
1 tsp of raw honey
Pour into a glass and enjoy.
It is best to drink Lassi either for breakfast or as a digestive aid after breakfast or lunch, or a energising healing snack during the day. Due to the heaviness of yoghurt on your digestive system I don’t recommend this after dark despite the numerous spices which aid digestion!!
Now that you know how easy it is to give yourself a super charged health shot that will get those Agni flames burning brightly I hope you all give it a whirl.
Until next time beautiful souls………..
Give yourself some Lassi love today