"Spices, the friend of physicians and the pride of cooks" ~Charlemagne
I didn't grow up in a household that used a variety of spices. Our kitchen spice cabinet consisted of salt and pepper, which got the job done. It wasn't until I learned about Ayurveda that I realized the importance of spicing my food. As I began adding spices to my cooking, some were immediate hits -cardamom! and some... well, they've taken some time - ajwain and hing - Ugh! - but they are now two of my favorites! I stuck with it and kept trying new ones, mostly with family support ;-) These days, my spice cabinet is full and there's no going back!
Spices add a nutritive layer to food that is potent. Each spice has its own qualitative properties that impact digestion in different ways. In Ayurveda, spices are added to meals and made into teas to assist in the digestive process. Ayurveda recognizes we are all unique individuals and what may be helpful for one persons digestion, may not be right for another, so spices are taken with care, based on ones constitution. When we are digesting our food well, our body naturally clears ama from the digestive tract, spices assist with this process.
Ayurveda honors food as life-giving and sacred - it's based in the concept that food is medicine. Spices are considered a layer between food and herbs in their medicinal intensity. Like herbs, spices are concentrated in their nutritive qualities. Each spice has its own affect on the body and mind. Ayurveda categorizes them by taste, energy and doshic qualities (if they increase or decrease specific doshas)
Ayurvedic six tastes and their impact on the doshas:
Sweet (K+, P-, V-)
Sour (K+, P+, V-)
Salty (K+, P+, V-)
Pungent (K-, P+, V+)
Bitter (K-, P-, V+)
Astringent (K-, P-, V+)
When we spice our food intentionally, we broaden our palette, adding layers of specific tastes to our meals. This satisfies our 'snacky' cravings. Cravings that aren't true hunger cravings are usually indications of an imbalance. Getting an over abundance of only one or a couple taste profiles leaves us unsatisfied, leading to these imbalances. Our SAD (Standard American Diet) is heavy in the sweet and salty categories. Adding spices to our food is a good way to get all 6 tastes into our meals, satisfying our tastebuds in a healthy way.
In upcoming posts, I'll highlight different spices and their qualities. I challenge you to add some spice to your life! Experiment and have fun with the spices and recipes to follow!