REENA SINGH on why a teaspoon of ghee should be incorporated into each of our three daily meals
Ghee was completely taboo in our household. My father was hit by a major heart attack when he was barely 38 back in the ‘60s; ever since, we had all taken to a diet cooked in supposedly healthy, heart friendly cooking oils. The Indian staple of parathas and puris disappeared from our table and so did all manners of fried snacks. That blob of ghee over our chapatis was another casualty.
The austerities continued, even when I set up my own kitchen after my marriage some twenty years later. Then, finally, in 2011, while in Rishikesh, I bumped into a sprightly yoga teacher from Hawaii – Myra Lewin, an exponent of Iyengar Yoga. Myra was in Rishikesh as a part of an Ayurveda conference at the Parmarth Niketan Ashram and I had been dispatched by the newspaper I worked for then, The Speaking Tree, to cover the conference.
“I have visited India six times in a span of three years,” said Myra to me during an impromptu interview. Her life had done a complete turnaround ever since she had taken to yoga. “I realised I was a spirit and connected to everyone,” she said. “It brought richness back into my life,” she said and it changed her perception of a host of things, beginning with food.
“Food had become a mechanised, depersonalised thing, but after I got introduced to yoga, I realised that it was sacred,” she added. Now, before she eats any meal, she dedicates a prayer to the deity who is providing her with food on the table. She then begins eating with awareness, consciously chewing her food so that it is digested well in her stomach. “These practices brought me to appreciate my food and I have a sense of peace,” she said.
“I also got introduced to ghee,” she announced.
She had been a longtime sufferer of rheumatoid arthritis and her knotted joints had so much pain that she had even contemplated ending her life at one point. But then fate introduced her to yoga and Ayurveda and healthy eating practises. She learnt about ghee, and her health became miraculously better.
“I make sure that I have ghee at least twice in the day, at least 20 gms of it. But go slow with deep-fried stuff,” she cautions.
Pay more attention to what you are eating. Take in the rich aroma of ghee on your chapati or in your seasoning or tadka for your dal. Smell it and enjoy the colours. Colour your rice with turmeric, another miracle herb in our kitchen and go in for conscious eating.
“Chew a mouthful of food at least 20 times to know that it is digested, because eating in a hurry only promotes further indigestion and more upsets,” said Myra.
At the same conference, I attended another cooking demonstration, this time from an Australian who made the same point about cooking with ghee and adding digestive herbs and spices to your food. A recipe he shared has since become a staple at home. In a little ghee, add cumin seeds and asafoetida, then add mixed vegetables including potatoes, cut fine and lengthwise. Add salt, turmeric and crushed pepper and cook till done. Simple, healthy and tasty.
I came away from Rishikesh much changed in my outlook towards food. Ever since, I have taken to Ayurveda in a big way – and also to ghee. Cow ghee is another staple at home.
Rujuta Diwekar on Ghee
Rujuta Diwekar, India’s ace nutritionist with several celebrity clients regularly puts up youtube videos on cow’s ghee. She attributes the presence of stubborn fat in your body to loss of ghee from your plate. In one of her videos, she shares that ghee is full of essential amino acids that mobilise and eventually shrink fat cells in one’s body.
In yet another video, she advocates ghee as a healthy fat that stabilises blood sugars, moods and hormones, lubricates our joints and keeps our skin glowing. “All that it asks of us is that we eat it without guilt and fear,” she says. She recommends a teaspoon of ghee with each meal — breakfast, lunch and dinner.
However, if you are low in energy or have sugar cravings, then step it up by adding one more teaspoon at lunch time. The timing of this extra spoon is important. Shift that extra spoon to dinner time if you have constipation, digestion and IBS issues or don’t sleep well. How you choose to have your ghee is up to you – cook in it or drizzle on top of your food.
Go ahead with the ghee routine – just make sure it is organic cow’s ghee for best results.
Reena Singh has more than 39 years’ experience in senior editorial positions in The Times of India (TOI) and Genpact. She was Deputy Editor with TOI’s spiritual newspaper, The Speaking Tree, where she spent more than nine years.