Have you ever considered baking with Ayurveda in mind?
In Ayurveda, digestion plays a vital role in our overall well-being, and the foods we eat can greatly influence it. Even when it comes to baking, the dishes we prepare in the oven have the power to enhance our physical and emotional state.
Let’s explore how to bake Ayurvedically to improve digestion and have a healthy holiday season, while enjoying delicious confections.
How to bake Ayurvedically
The principles behind baking Ayurvedically revolve around the concept of “Agni” or digestive fire.
The key to baking wholesome and medicinal foods is to choose ingredients that balance your dominant dosha – Vata, Pitta, or Kapha – and improve your Agni.
For example, if you’re a Vata type, favor warm, moist, and sweet foods that counterbalance the cool, dry nature of Vata. Learn more about Vata nutrition.
Pitta types would do well with cool, dry, and slightly sweet foods. Learn more about Pitta nutrition.
While Kapha types should opt for warm, dry, and spicy ingredients. Learn more about Kapha nutrition.
Using whole-grain flours (hopefully those that still contain the germ), unprocessed sugars, and healthy oils can help maintain this balance.
In Ayurveda, the goal is not just tasteful baking. And that is why we should incorporate various spices, not just for flavor, but for their medicinal properties too. Ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom, for instance, are known to enhance digestion.
However, moderation is crucial. Consuming baked goods all the time, even those prepared under Ayurvedic principles, can disrupt the balance within our body, as they are typically heavier and harder to digest compared to fresh, whole foods.
Since baking typically involves higher amounts of sugars and fats, even if they are unprocessed or healthier versions, regular, excessive intake of these macronutrients may lead to multiple health issues. For example, weight gain, imbalances in blood sugar levels, and an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.
An overreliance on baked foods may also lead to a lack of variety in our diet, which can result in deficiencies in certain nutrients that are abundant in other types of foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. Thus, it’s best to enjoy Ayurvedic baked goods occasionally, as part of a balanced, diverse diet.
Baking and the doshas
Kapha dosha is typically the most affected by excessive consumption of pastries, cookies, and desserts. The characteristics of Kapha include heaviness, coolness, oiliness, and stability. Baked goods, especially those made with processed ingredients, tend to align with these qualities – they can be dense, rich, and heavy.
When consumed in excess, these foods can exacerbate the qualities of Kapha in the body, potentially leading to imbalances like weight gain, sluggishness, excess mucus, or more serious conditions like diabetes.
Similarly, Vata dosha may get aggravated with too much baked food, particularly those made with white flours and sugars that lack moisture and nutrition, which could lead to the worsening of issues like constipation, gas, or bloating.
Pitta dosha, characterized by heat, sharpness, and intensity, reacts distinctively to baked foods. Ingredients that are overly dry, heavy, or salty can provoke Pitta, causing problems such as inflammation, heartburn, or irritability. In addition, baked goods that contain processed ingredients and are high in sugars or fats, may exacerbate these same Pitta characteristics if consumed excessively.
However, not all baked foods are problematic for Pitta. Those made with whole grains, natural sweeteners, and moderate amounts of healthy fats can be enjoyed in moderation as part of a balanced Pitta pacifying diet.
Proper food combinations when baking
When considering Ayurvedic principles in baking, food combinations play a vital role.
Ayurveda advises against combining certain foods because of the differing digestion times and the resultant accumulation of toxins. For instance, combining fruit and dairy in a bake may not be ideal because fruit digests quickly compared to dairy. However, combining nuts and grains, as in nut-flour bread, would be beneficial as both have similar digestion times.
A classic Ayurvedic baking combination is the pairing of spices with grains. Spices, particularly warming ones like ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom kindle the digestive fire and aid digestion of the more dense grains. These spices can be incorporated into various baked goods like cookies, breads, and cakes to make them not only delicious, but also beneficial for digestion.
It is important is to create a balance — a dessert that’s sweet, but not overly so, and rich, but not to the point of being heavy. It’s an art and a science, and the beauty of Ayurvedic baking is in this harmonious equilibrium.
A note on honey
In the realm of Ayurveda, honey, a ‘Sattvic’ food, promoting clarity and understanding, holds a significant place due to its natural sweetness and numerous health benefits.
Honey, often termed as ‘madhu’ in Ayurveda, is praised for its numerous health benefits.
It is widely recognized for its antibacterial properties, and is frequently used as a natural remedy for cough, cold, and sore throat. Honey’s antioxidant properties contribute to cardiovascular health, and its ability to aid in digestion makes it a preferred sweetener in Ayurveda, specially for Kapha dosha.
In terms of Ayurvedic properties, honey demonstrates varied “Rasa” (tastes). Initially, it tastes sweet (Madhura) but after digestion, it imparts astringent (Kashaya) taste.
The “Virya” (potency) of honey is heating (Ushna). Thus, honey carries the power to penetrate the deepest tissues and cleanse them. It is important to note, however, that it should never be heated, baked, or cooked, as that changes its natural properties, alters its molecular structure, and may even make it toxic. Instead, it’s best to add honey to baked goods after they have cooled down sufficiently.
Honey’s “Vipaka” (post-digestive effect) is Madhura, meaning it turns sweet after digestion. It has a light and dry quality; hence it can balance Kapha dosha effectively.
Tip: Select honey that is raw and unprocessed, as such forms retain the maximum health benefits.
Ideal flours for baking
This humor benefits from heavier, grounding flours.
- Whole Wheat Flour: Whole wheat flour has a sweet (Madhura) Rasa, a cooling (Sheeta) Virya, and a sweet (Madhura) Vipaka. The sweet taste serves to ground Vata and its cooling potency helps balance the dry and warm nature of Vata. Its sweet post-digestive effect further aids in maintaining Vata balance.
- Spelt Flour: Spelt is a type of ancient whole grain that is high in fiber. It also has a sweet (Madhura) Rasa, a cooling (Sheeta) Virya, and a sweet (Madhura) Vipaka. Similar to whole wheat, these qualities aid in grounding the Vata dosha and regulating digestion.
- Rye Flour: Rye is a rich, hearty grain that has a slightly bitter (Tikta) Rasa, a warming (Ushna) Virya, and a pungent (Katu) Vipaka. Despite these qualities, it can be beneficial for Vata due to its dense and grounding nature.
- Oat Flour: The robust and earthy qualities of Oat Flour make it an excellent choice for pacifying Vata. Due to its sweet (Madhura) Rasa, cooling (Sheeta) Virya, and sweet (Madhura) Vipaka, oat flour offers nutritional qualities that help in grounding and nourishing the body. Oat flour is rich in fiber along with essential vitamins and minerals, which aids in digestion and provides sustained energy. This makes it an ideal ingredient in Ayurvedic cooking, especially in baking where it can be used as a wholesome substitute for conventional flours.
Pitta types should opt for cooling and lighter flours.
- Barley Flour: Barley flour is known for its sweet (Madhura) Rasa and cooling (Sheeta) Virya, which can balance the heat of Pitta. Its sweet (Madhura) Vipaka, or post-digestive effect, ensures it doesn’t aggravate the Pitta dosha.
- Rice Flour: Rice flour is another excellent choice for Pitta dosha due to its sweet (Madhura) Rasa and cooling (Sheeta) Virya. Its neutral post-digestive effect (Madhura Vipaka) makes it gentle on the Pitta’s sensitive digestive system.
- Oat Flour: While it is also beneficial for Vata, oat flour’s sweet (Madhura) Rasa, cooling (Sheeta) Virya, and sweet (Madhura) Vipaka make it equally suitable for pacifying Pitta. Its cooling effects help counterbalance Pitta’s inherent heat.
- Coconut Flour: Coconut flour is an excellent choice for Pitta types due to its sweet (Madhura) Rasa and cooling (Sheeta) Virya. Its post-digestive effect is also sweet (Madhura Vipaka), making it a soothing and cooling option for Pitta.
- Almond Flour: Almond flour is a great option for Pitta types due to its sweet (Madhura) Rasa and cooling (Sheeta) Virya. Rich in protein and beneficial fats, it can be very nourishing without aggravating Pitta. The sweet (Madhura) Vipaka, or post-digestive effect, further ensures that it is gentle on the digestive system of those with Pitta dosha. Its nutritional profile and mild, sweet flavor make it an exceptional choice for baking and cooking.
Light and dry flours are ideal for Kapha dosha. They are less dense and can help balance Kapha’s slow digestion.
- Buckwheat Flour: Buckwheat flour is ideal for Kapha due to its pungent (Katu) Rasa, which can stimulate digestion, and its heating (Ushna) Virya, which can counterbalance Kapha’s inherent coolness. Its pungent (Katu) Vipaka helps to clear excess Kapha.
- Rye Flour: Despite its use in pacifying Vata, rye flour is also beneficial for Kapha due to its slightly bitter (Tikta) Rasa and warming (Ushna) Virya. Its pungent (Katu) Vipaka aids digestion and clears Kapha accumulations.
- Millet Flour: Millet flour, with its bitter (Tikta) Rasa, warming (Ushna) Virya, and pungent (Katu) Vipaka, can help stimulate Kapha’s slow digestion, eliminate excess mucus, and warm up the body.
- Corn Flour: Corn flour can be a good choice for Kapha due to its sweet (Madhura) Rasa and heating (Ushna) Virya. Its pungent (Katu) Vipaka can also help stimulate digestion and clear excess Kapha. This flour is light and dry, which can help counterbalance the heavy and oily nature of Kapha.
Sugars for baking
- Raw Honey: Raw honey is an excellent sweetener for Vata. Its warming and grounding properties balance the cold, airy nature of this dosha.
- Maple Syrup: Naturally sweet and slightly warming, Maple syrup can also be beneficial for Vata. It provides grounding energy without being too heavy.
- Molasses: Molasses, with its robust, sweet flavor, warming nature, and nutrient richness can be a good choice for Vata. It helps nourish the body while maintaining balance.
- Dates: Dates, either whole or in syrup form, are also a great sweetener for Vata dosha. They are warm, sweet, and nourishing, providing both quick energy and grounding.
- Coconut Sugar: Coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index than many other sweeteners and can be beneficial for Vata. Its mildly sweet flavor and grounding properties can help balance Vata’s airy nature.
- Ripe Bananas: Ripe bananas serve as a fantastic sweetener for the Vata dosha. They are sweet in taste and have a grounding effect, which can help balance the light and airy qualities of Vata. Additionally, their richness in nutrients provides the body with essential vitamins and minerals, making them not only a good sweetener, but also a healthy choice for overall well-being.
- Coconut Sugar: Just like Vata, Pitta also benefits from coconut sugar. It has a low glycemic index and a mildly sweet flavor which can help pacify Pitta without causing any heat aggravation.
- Maple Syrup: The sweet, slightly cooling nature of maple syrup makes it an excellent choice for Pitta. It provides natural sweetness without aggravating the heat.
- Barley Malt Syrup: This syrup is mildly sweet and cooling, making it a fitting choice for Pitta. It is also less likely to stimulate sharp hunger pangs, in line with Pitta’s tendency to have a strong appetite.
- Dates: Dates are another ideal sweetener for Pitta due to their naturally sweet taste and cooling properties. They can be soaked and mashed, providing a gentle and cooling sweetness that doesn’t provoke Pitta’s fiery nature. Moreover, dates are rich in essential nutrients and fiber which can nourish the body and aid in digestion, aligning with the overall wellness approach of Ayurveda.
- Cane Sugar: Cooling by nature, cane sugar is beneficial for the Pitta dosha. It’s known to balance the fiery nature of Pitta without increasing it excessively.
- Honey: Honey is considered the best sweetener for Kapha. Its heating, drying, and scraping properties make it ideal for balancing the heavy, damp, and sluggish qualities of Kapha.
Finally, homemade applesauce is a fantastic sweetener for all doshas. It is a universally beneficial sweetener in Ayurveda because of its balanced qualities that harmonize with all three body types — Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
The mildly sweet and slightly tangy flavor of applesauce appeals to Vata’s preference for sweet tastes without overstimulating Pitta’s tendency towards heat. Its light nature counters Kapha’s heavy attributes without being excessively drying or heating.
Oils for baking
Oils should be warming and nourishing, counteracting Vata’s dry and light qualities.
- Olive Oil: Olive oil is an excellent baking oil for pacifying Vata. It is warming and heavier in nature, which helps to balance the light and cold qualities of Vata. Additionally, it’s rich in monounsaturated fats, providing nourishment and lubrication to the body, thus aiding digestion — a common issue for Vata types.
- Ghee (Clarified Butter): Ghee is highly recommended for Vata. Its nourishing and grounding characteristics neutralize Vata’s dry and light qualities. Ghee also benefits digestion, a critical aspect considering Vata’s propensity for digestive issues.
- Coconut Oil: Though coconut oil is cooling, it can still be beneficial for Vata in moderation due to its heavy and oily qualities that balance Vata’s light and dry attributes. Its sweet aftertaste can also help soothe Vata’s delicate digestion.
- Sesame Oil: Sesame oil is another exceptional choice for Vata. It is warming, heavy, and nourishing — perfect for balancing Vata dosha. Sesame oil supports digestion and absorption, two areas often problematic for Vata types.
Pitta is hot, sharp, and tends to be oily, so it benefits from baking with minimal quantities of cooling, soothing, and slightly dry fats to balance out its qualities.
- Coconut Oil: Coconut oil is a particularly good choice for Pitta, as it’s cooling in nature, helping to balance Pitta’s inherent heat. It’s also sweet, which is beneficial for Pitta’s digestion.
- Ghee (Clarified Butter): While ghee is slightly warming, it’s still good for Pitta in moderation due to its sweet taste and cooling post-digestive effect. It has a soothing effect on the digestive tract and aids in absorption.
- Sunflower Oil: Sunflower oil is another suitable choice for Pitta. It is cooling, light, and dry, making it ideal for pacifying the hot, sharp, and slightly oily qualities of Pitta.
- Olive Oil: Although olive oil is somewhat warming, its sweetness and heaviness can still benefit Pitta when used in moderation. It’s also rich in monounsaturated fats, which can support heart health — a significant consideration for Pitta types who may be prone to inflammation and related issues.
Kapha is heavy, slow, cool, and oily, so it benefits from warming, light, and slightly dry oils to balance its inherent attributes.
- Sunflower Oil: Sunflower oil is a great choice for Kapha. It is light, warming, and dry, helping to balance Kapha’s cool and heavy nature. It also promotes digestion, an area often sluggish for Kapha types.
- Canola Oil: Canola oil is another suitable choice for Kapha. It is light and warming, which can help nullify Kapha’s cold and heavy qualities. This oil is also lower in saturated fat, aligning with the need for Kapha to maintain a light diet.
- Sesame Oil: While sesame oil is heavy, its warming quality makes it a suitable option for Kapha in moderation. Its ability to support digestion and absorption also benefits Kapha types who may struggle with these aspects.
- Ghee (Clarified Butter): Even though ghee is heavy, its warming nature can help balance the cold quality of Kapha. It should be used sparingly by Kapha types due to its weight.
Spices for baking
- Ginger: Ginger is a power-packed spice that helps to balance Vata dosha. It is warm, spicy, and energizing, counteracting Vata’s inherent cold and slow nature. Additionally, ginger stimulates digestion and improves absorption and assimilation of food, which is often a problem for Vata types.
- Cinnamon: Cinnamon is another warming spice that helps to balance Vata. It has a sweet, pungent and bitter taste that aids digestion and provides relief from Vata disorders. Moreover, cinnamon is known to enhance circulation and offset the cold nature of Vata.
- Cardamom: Cardamom is often used in Ayurveda to balance Vata. Its warm and sweet qualities counterbalance the cold and rough nature of Vata. It’s known to be a natural tranquilizer, reducing air and space elements, which Vata dosha is composed of. Additionally, it aids in digestion.
- Fennel: Fennel, with its slightly sweet and bitter taste, is considered beneficial for Vata. It helps balance Vata’s cold nature with its warm quality. Moreover, fennel supports digestion and helps alleviate gas and bloating, common Vata issues.
- Cumin: Cumin is a strong, warming spice that is highly beneficial for Vata types. It aids in digestion, improves absorption and assimilation of nutrients, and helps in detoxification — all of which bring balance to Vata.
- Black Pepper: Black pepper is commonly used in Ayurveda to balance Vata. Its hot potency and pungent taste remedy Vata’s cold and dry qualities. Black pepper is also known to improve digestion and metabolism.
- Fennel: Fennel is renowned in Ayurveda for its cooling properties, making it an ideal spice for balancing Pitta dosha. Its slightly sweet and bitter taste helps cool the body’s internal heat. Furthermore, fennel improves digestion and helps quell acidity, a common Pitta issue.
- Coriander: Coriander is a cooling spice beneficial for pacifying Pitta. It has a sweet, astringent taste that helps alleviate excess heat in the body. Coriander also helps to support digestion and cleanse the liver, organs that are often overactive in Pitta types.
- Cardamom: Cardamom, with its slightly sweet taste, is used to balance Pitta. It aids in cooling the body and helps to balance the fiery nature of Pitta. In addition, cardamom supports digestion and can soothe an irritated gastrointestinal tract, common in Pitta types.
- Cumin: Cumin, while a warming spice, is still beneficial for balancing Pitta due to its bitter taste which provides a cooling effect. It improves digestion and aids in detoxification, relieving the burden on the liver, a Pitta-dominant organ.
- Turmeric: Turmeric, even though it’s warm, has an overall tridoshic balance effect. Given in moderate amounts, it can cool and cleanse the blood, which is helpful for Pitta types.
- Mint: Mint is one of the best cooling herbs for balancing Pitta. It helps in digestion and cools the body internally, which is beneficial in managing Pitta’s excess heat.
- Ginger: Known as a “universal remedy” in Ayurveda, ginger is a powerful spice that stimulates digestion, ignites the digestive fire (agni), and helps to balance Kapha dosha. Its pungent and slightly sweet taste can help to clear Kapha’s cold and damp characteristics.
- Cinnamon: This warming spice helps to stimulate circulation and detoxify the body, both of which are beneficial for balancing Kapha. Cinnamon also aids in digestion and can help to regulate blood sugar levels, which is particularly useful for Kapha types who may be prone to diabetes.
- Black Pepper: Black pepper is hot and pungent, making it an ideal spice for Kapha dosha. It helps to stimulate digestion, increase metabolism, and reduce Kapha’s heavy and sluggish nature.
- Cloves: With their strong, pungent, and heating properties, cloves can help to balance Kapha dosha. They stimulate digestion and can help to clear excess Kapha mucus from the lungs.
- Cardamom: Even though it’s generally used to balance Pitta, cardamom can also help balance Kapha dosha when used in baking due to its unique ability to enhance digestion, eliminate toxins, and lessen excess mucus.
- Rosemary: Rosemary is a robust herb with a refreshing aroma, often associated with memory enhancement in traditional medicines. In the context of Ayurveda, Rosemary’s warm and dry qualities can help balance Kapha dosha. It aids in digestion, improves circulation, and can help to clear Kapha’s stagnant qualities. Furthermore, its potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds contribute to overall health and wellness.
- Garam Masala: A blend of ground spices used extensively in Indian cuisine, Garam Masala typically includes warming spices such as cumin, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, bay leaves, peppercorns, fennel, and dried chilies. As most of its constituents are heating in nature, it’s effective in balancing Kapha dosha. This flavorful mix helps stimulate digestion, improve metabolism, and can assist in maintaining optimal body temperature, thus stabilizing the cold, heavy qualities of Kapha.
Baking Ayurvedically with Love: The Secret Ingredient
There’s an intangible element that breathes life into baked goods beyond the measured ingredients, temperature controls, and cooking time — it’s the act of baking with love. This may sound clichéd, but the sentiment behind the act can profoundly influence the result.
Baking with love means investing time and care into each step, ensuring that every ingredient is mixed thoroughly, and baked to perfection. It’s the extra touch of sprinkling a little more cinnamon because your family loves it, or shaping cookies into hearts because it brings joy to your loved ones.
Moreover, baking with love is about sharing — sharing the warmth, the rich fragrances, the delicious tastes, and ultimately, the joy that comes from creating something beautiful and satisfying from simple, raw ingredients.
As the holiday season approaches, I invite you to embrace the warmth and joy of baking.
Try a new recipe that aligns with your body type, perhaps a healthy holiday cookie recipe or my tridoshic Ayurvedic apple cake. Allow this guide to inspire you, enabling you to create delectable baked goods that not only satisfy the palate but also the soul.
Tridoshic Ayurvedic Apple Cake
- 2 Apple (red, ripe, small)
- 1 cup Whole wheat flour
- 2 tbsp Flax seeds (ground)
- 1/2 cup Almond milk
- 2 tbsp Ghee
- 1/4 tsp Baking powder
- 1/4 tsp Baking soda
- Cooking spray
- Vanilla, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, sea salt.
- Soak the flax seeds in a bit of water. Set aside. Peel and grate the apples. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a small cake tin with cooking spray.
- In a bowl, combine the soaked flaxseeds, milk, ghee, grated apple, spices, and a pinch of salt.
- Add the flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Mix well.
- Place the mixture in the cake tin and put in the oven for about 30 mins.
- Enjoy warm.
There’s no right or wrong in baking – every creation is a reflection of your love and expression ♡