Grandmothers’s guide to healthy gut

TNIE takes a look at how modern-day chefs and foodies are revisiting traditional wisdom in gastronomy  
For representational purpose
For representational purpose

KOCHI: Old-timers in the kitchen always insist the foundation of wellness lies in one’s gut. Remember, be it for fever, headaches or skin rashes, grandmothers would target the tummy for healing. Now, in this fusion food era, new-gen gastronomists, too, are falling back on the traditional wisdom of ‘stomach care’.  

Kozhikode native and an executive chef based in Abu Dhabi, Shibin K P, says he pays a lot of attention to avoid incompatible food pairing aka ‘virudha aharam’. “To consume food with components with the right mix of taste, texture and nutritional values is important,” he explains. 

“Digestion issues are on the rise of late, especially among young adults and children. I believe the wrong combination of food elements and not following healthy eating schedules are major reasons. The stomach is similar to a cooking vessel; what you put into it matters to the whole body. So one should be informed enough to put in the right items.” 

Shibin elaborates on some examples. “Milk, for instance, takes considerable time to digest. So I tell people to avoid consuming fruit milkshakes on a daily basis. It’s always better to have fruits alone. Also, I recommend yoghurt instead of milk to make smoothies. Similarly, consuming milk with lemon-based products is not a great idea. The combination can trigger gastric issues. The same is the case with having curd at night.”     

Malappuram-based YouTube chef Aysha Farhana also adheres to “conscious food pairing”. She researched the subject as one of her children suffered from food allergies some years ago. “Kanji and cherupayar (gruel and green gram) is a preferred combo of Malayalis. Rice and dal curry is also a popular combination. But it’s not a good idea to have these with non-veg dishes, especially for people who have digestion issues. However, sprouts can be had with non-veg.”

‘Gap between biryani and payasam’

Kochi-based food curator Sajna Riju swears by her mother’s advice on avoiding milk-based desserts soon after having non-veg dishes. “It can cause gastric issues and skin rashes in some people,” she says. “For instance, there should be a gap of two hours between biryani and payasam.”

Tapioca with rice is another combination Aysha avoids. “Both are loaded with carbohydrates and can cause bloating. Also, while eating tapioca, it’s good to add a few drops of lemon as it helps add iron intake,” she says. “It’s always best to have tapioca with protein-rich food such as meat.”  

There are positive pairings, too, she adds. The “golden milk” is an example. “Adding a pinch of turmeric and pepper to milk while boiling enhances nutritional value. Both are rich in curcumin content. It relieves chronic pain, prevents mood swings, and is a good drink for post-cancer patients,” she says.  

Thiruvananthapuram-based home chef Priya Kolassery advises against the consumption of ghee with honey. Speaking on positive pairing, she adds fig and milk make a good combination, especially for people with varicose vein issues.

Ayurveda tips 

Dr Sayana Vivek, Kottakkal Arya Vaidyashala, Thiruvananthapuram 

Our general intake includes food with six rasas — sweet, salt, sour, bitter, astringent and pungent. As per ayurveda, these must be balanced in the food we consume, or else it will result in doshas. Bad pairing, which causes an imbalance of these rasas, can disturb the levels of vata, pitta, kapha and agni elements in our bodies. Eating more salty and sour foods, for instance, is bad for the skin. However, having incompatible food once in a while is okay.

All one needs to ensure is proper physical activities. It is directed that our food types must be based on our daily activities.  Stress is a major factor that causes stomach ailments. Climate and geography play a role, too. Our geography is mostly made up of marshy land, so we must keep a tab on oily elements. Similarly, as summer is here, it is advised to avoid heat-causing food such as chicken. Heating honey is considered to have toxic effects.

Curd should be avoided at night as it takes time to digest.  As temperatures are rising, buttermilk mixed with aloe vera gel can be a relaxing drink. It is also good for women during their periods.

The ‘pharmacy’ restaurant 

The owner of Pathayam restaurant in Thiruvananthapuram, Gangadharan Chinnangath, has been advocating conscious eating habits for several years. He started his first organic food outlet in Kozhikode nearly 25 years ago and has been successfully running one in the capital city since 2006.

“We do not use white sugar, animal milk, maida, curry masalas (except for coriander and turmeric powder), colouring or any other artificial agents in our pharmacy (kitchen) to enhance food taste,” says the 70-year-old naturopathy practitioner.

“About 70 per cent of our customers are normal people who have switched to healthy food habits.” Pathayam does not serve tea or coffee. Instead one can relish ‘jappi’ made of grounded fennel, coriander, fenugreek seeds, dry ginger and palm jaggery. For those who want it milky, coconut milk is added.  

“For lunch, it is a simple, wholesome meal – three types of fruit cut into pieces, vegetable salad, millet sprouts, soups, chapati, puthari rice, pachadi, avial, etc. Instead of buttermilk, we provide drinks made of raw mango and shredded coconut. We do not provide water in between meals; drinking water while eating is unhealthy,” he says. 

Notably, Gangadharan has written a book titled ‘Bhakshanamanu Oushadham (Food is Medicine)’, in which he has elaborated on food pairings. “Meat and sour fruits should not be had with milk. I advise against the practice of having rice puttu and banana together. It can cause heartburn in some people. I always tell my customers: Know your food and its ingredients well before consuming it.”

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