In Ayurveda, food is considered medicine. Foods are categorized according to their taste, their effects on doshas (constitution), as well as their effect on the tissues. This is why when choosing foods it is important to understand nutritional and Ayurvedic properties. For centuries rice has been an essential component of the Indian diet, and is in fact a staple food of India, where Ayurveda originates.
Different forms of preparation of rice are used in Indian custom. Rice roasted directly in fire is consumed with salt or spice. Rice flour is used is used for making chapattis (flat breads), soups and chhilla (pancakes). Pressed or flattened rice (poha) is used for making Indian breakfast.
Among all varieties of rice, brown rice or red rice provides the most benefits for your health and nutrition. Brown rice is considered healthier as it is unprocessed (unpolished) and it contains more nutrition and vitamins than other forms of polished rice. It also has a “medium” glycemic index, which is lower than other varieties of rice, and this better suited for those who are pre diabetic or diabetic.
According to Ayurveda, old rice has proved to be a great healing food and hence it is recommended to every human being. There are many varieties of rice available and several methods of cooking it. Out of several varieties of rice, the most common are polished rice, unpolished rice, boiled rice, and basmati rice. The ancient texts of Ayurveda provides a detailed analysis of the effects of both the variety and the processing of rice on our individual mind/body constitutions.
Ayurveda recommends avoiding excess consumption of rice that is parboiled, instant or pre-cooked because it has less nutrition and less Prana or life energy in it. Rice contributes the sweet taste according to Ayurveda. It is light, soft, smooth and nourishing food. It is cooling in nature. Rice is generally good for balancing Vata and Pitta. However old rice does not increase Kapha. Charak Samhita praises the medicinal value of certain varieties of rice – to balance or pacify all the mind/body constitutions (Vata, Pitta and Kapha) to strengthen, revitalise and energise the body, regulate blood pressure and to prevent skin diseases and premature aging.
AYURVEDIC PROPERTIES OF RICE IN GENERAL
Rasa (taste): Sweet
Virya (potency): Cooling
Vipaka (post digestive effect): Sweet
Guna (qualities): Unctuous, nourishing, and strength promoting. Brown rice is light to digest and white polished rice is slightly heavy to digest.
Dosha Karma (Actions on the doshas): Balances Vata and Pitta and increases Kapha. But old rice does not increase Kapha.
“Old rice” (one year maturity after harvest) versus “New rice” (freshly harvested).
Freshly harvested rice is hard to digest whereas 1-year old rice is lighter and 2-year old rice is even more excellent in quality. Also Ayurveda text explains that old rice is wholesome in diabetes and obesity. Ayurveda recommends storage of rice in moist free airtight containers.
Nowadays we’re eating newer and newer rice which is becoming harder for us to digest. With respect to preparation of rice, the Ayurvedic texts explain that dry roasting (drying over heat) certain varieties of rice can make them “light” to digest and hence beneficial, when the digestive fire is low. In addition, there are references to the digestive benefits of soaking rice prior to cooking it. Soaking the rice for at least one hour prior to cooking then will make it lighter for digestion.
SOME BENEFITS OF RICE AS MENTIONED IN AYURVEDIC TEXTS
From Ayurvedic point of view, rice provides the basis of wide range of healing gruels. Rice was prepared as thin stew with specific spices to treat different illnesses.
• Khitchari made of old rice and mung beans is beneficial to a person suffering from fever to stomach disorder.
• Rice gruel mixed with ghee or bitter 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 fetus.
• Old rice is beneficial in diabetes and obesity.
• Indications of rice wash water (Tandulodaka) are also mentioned in many disorders like bleeding disorder, luecorrhoea etc.
Shastika is a variety of rice, which matured in 60 days. In Ayurveda, Shastika is mentioned in Vrihi group under Shuka Dhanya. Navara is the Malayalam name for Shastika. It belongs to Oryza group. Navara rice is considered superior variety of rice in India. Morphologically it is similar to ordinary rice with husk colour varying from golden yellow to brownish black. Although presently it is executive to Kerala, there are many references in Ayurveda texts about its distribution in various parts of India.
There are 2 varieties of Shastika rice – one that matures at the end of 60 days and at the end of 90 days. Shastika grows in semi-dry condition, highly resistant to drought.
• It can be used as a main meal.
• Because of its unctuous and quality of pacify burning sensation it is beneficial in thirst and fever.
• When it is cooked in more water, it is beneficial in diarrhoea, Grahani (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and in other digestive disorders.
Reference: Charak Samhita