Ayurveda and Dairy Products

Are dairy products good for you? This is an interesting question with many sides to the equation! In Ayurveda, dairy products such as milk, eggs, yogurt, are building in nature. They take more energy to digest than other foods and some people can digest them easier than others. This article will go over some of the digestive issues and benefits of some dairy products. (The discussion of veganism and ahimsa will be left to another article!) How we digest dairy and, in particular, cheese depends on our genetic heritage and if they ate hard cheeses for centuries before you. Cheese can be hard to digest, unless it I balanced with warming spices like black pepper, fresh basil leaves, or chili. If you have an ancestry that has been eating cheese for centuries, you may be able to digest cheeses better. Hard cheeses aren’t often used in Indian cuisine. Hard cheeses are salty and oily for Pitta and Kapha people. Their heaviness can also be hard for Vata individuals. These types of cheeses can be best for active teenagers, Vatas in need of more grounding, and hungry kids.  Ghee, clarified butter, is highly valued in Ayurveda for its healing and rejuvenative qualities. It is particularly restorative to Vata and Pitta individuals. It is sweet, light, cool, and oily. Kaphas can use it in small amounts for good health. It is easier to digest than other forms of dairy and aids in the absorption of other nutrients in a way that normal butter cannot. Ayurveda uses ghee as one of the most effective ways to absorb a wide variety of Ayurvedic herbs.  Ice cream is not good for Kaphas as it has heavy and wet qualities. Ice cream isn’t terrible for Pittas, but can be too cold and chilling for Vatas. We would suggest to try frozen yogurt if you need to have something that hits that sweet spot. It has the same cool, moist, and sweet qualities as ice cream, but with less fat and more protein. An easy recipe is to freeze unsweetened Greek yogurt and top with some cinnamon, honey, cardamom, and maybe some ginger. This will help balance out the cooling properties of the yogurt.  Regular use of evaporated milk is not recommend in Ayurveda, as it is not made by nature. Milk is fine for some constitutions. It is preferable to get local, non-homogenized milk from a farmer’s market where the animals are treated better! It is best to make it into a chai or add warming qualities with spices such as ginger, cardamom, and cinnamon! Yogurt can be a useful food and it can be calming to the digestive system. It can help a constipated digestive system and a mild case of diarrhea. If ginger, black pepper, and other warming spices are added it is great for the digestive system and can reduce bloating.  When eating diary products, your constitution and the season should be taken into consideration! Some diary products such as ghee have amazing benefits! Others are very cooling and heavy for the digestive system. Dairy products require a high Agni (digestive fire). If you know your Agni is low, maybe skip the dairy products! Choose wisely and go with your gut! (Literally!)

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