Since centuries rice forms an essential component of the Indian diet. It symbolizes fertility, wealth and good health according to Hindu customs. Ancient priests used it as a component of worship. Even today across cultures, rice is thrown at newlyweds as a blessing of healthy offspring and everlasting prosperity.
It is in fact a staple food of India, with most Indian homes serving the same every day. It is said to be the very foundation of nourishment. The food that we eat daily directly affects our natural constitution. Our constitution in turn is based on our inherent doshas. This is why a balanced diet helps to balance the natural dosha presence. Depending on whether one is vata, pitta or kapha dominant, one must design a specific diet for regular nutrition. Ayurveda has a beautiful dietary plan suiting each kind of body type. Different foods are known to produce one of these three dosha aspects as well. Hence, we must have knowledge on the apt food for our inherent constitution.
There are several dozen varieties of rice such as Jasmine, Arboria, Japanese, Brown rice, Red rice, Black rice, Wild rice, Texmati (from Texas), Calmati (from California), and the original basmati rice from India. An exotic type of rice, basmati and its versions are thin and long stemmed. There are both brown basmati as well as white basmati versions of the rice. It has several wondrous properties. Rice is a contributor to the buildup of ojas and interestingly it is said to smell of burnt rice. Of all the rice varieties basmati is the most Sattvic and aromatic. It fulfills several functions in Ayurveda nutrition. Its rasa, or quality of taste, is sweet, that in turn offers a deep satisfaction. During the process of digestion, its virya or energetic impact on the inner digestive fires tends to be cooling. And finally, its vipaka or post-digestion effect is also sweet and provides a great sense of contentment and comfort.
Basmati rice can be cooked in an amazing variety of ways. Usually this kind of rice is used to cook special saffron infused pulao, biryani and sweet rice pudding with fruits, milk and speckled with a dash of ghee. It can also be combined with beans, nuts, cottage cheese, and vegetables for wholesome and nutritious dishes. Rice can also be spiced with a variety of herbs such as basil, cardamom, fennel, etc. Basmati rice is not one for everyday eating but for special occasions and generally families in India treat themselves with basmati every weekend.
What one doesn’t realize is the amazing properties of basmati rice in balancing doshas. It is specifically evident in the case of Kapha and Pitta dosha. Rice is the most nourishing and easy to digest. It offers more calories with less effort from the point of view of the digestive tracts. While in the West, brown rice is known for health reasons due to its bran and fiber content, Ayurveda advises long-grained and aromatic basmati rice. It is pure and nutritious while balancing physiology. Basmati rice builds body tissue and is very rich in prana or vital bio-energy. In fact plain rice is a good snack too and doesn’t really disturb the inner digestive fires. It is a valuable food for those recovering from an illness and a basis of Samsarjana Karma.
There are many benefits of including rice as a part of one’s diet. Ayurveda recommends the six fundamental tastes on the plate during meal times. This includes sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent. Rice is one of the major constituents of Ayurveda meals that add a flavor of sweetness. It is light, soft and nourishing when cooked. It also has a wonderful cooling nature and it thus plays an important role in balancing the Vata and Pitta doshas. To balance Vata dosha, one must consume well-cooked rice soaked and boiled in water. In Sattvic meals a dash of clarified butter (ghee) is added while cooking the rice. Desserts made with rice and milk are predominantly cooling and complementary for Pitta dosha. Basmati rice is great for such preparations. But such rice does in fact create a volume of mucus. Due to this reason it becomes important for those with Kapha dosha predominance to avoid eating rice too often. Dry-roasting it prior to eating is a good idea as it lessens heaviness.
One must be careful about how the rice is cooked. Rice that is cooked ‘al dente’, without enough water, can cause gas, bloating and constipation for Vata people. It must be cooked in water for a long while and finally strained from it. If rice gives one gas, then one must add extra water and cook it until it is soft and puffy. This is the right way to eat. Poorly digested food becomes poison or aama in the digestive tract. Rice has good medicinal value too and can counter aama. Ayurveda recommends white rice for issues like gas, bloating, or indigestion.
How to Cook Basmati Rice
How to cook the perfect basmati rice: In a medium pot combine one part rice and 2½ parts water and bring the same to a gentle boil. This must be cooked till rice settles below becoming puffy and a small amount of water remains in the pot. One must never stir the pot and let the water evaporate. Some people also put excess water and then strain it once the rice is fully cooked. One must finally remove the pot from the heat and then proceed to cover it. In an ideal situation its best to let the basmati rice stand for about 10 to 15 minutes prior to serving. To test if the rice is cooked well one can press a few grains between the fingers. Most people in India prefer distinct fluffy grains, not sticky or hard ones as they eat it with their bare hands.
The following are some of the well known varieties of basmati rice. Among indian varieties there are: basmati-370, basmati-385, ranbirsinghpura basmati, punjab basmati, Uttar Pradesh basmati, safidon basmati, haryana basmati, kasturi basmati, bihar basmati, mahi suganda basmati, super basmati and pusa basmati. Outside of India there are varieties called as texmati and pishori basmati.
Health Benefits of Brown Basmati Rice
Among all varieties of rice, brown basmati rice provides the most benefits for your health and nutrition. Brown basmati rice is basmati rice that has not had the outer bran layer removed. It is considered healthier as there are more vitamins and fiber present in the outer bran layer. Brown basmati rice contains about 20% more fiber than other types of brown rice. This fiber helps prevent the formation of cancerous cells in the body. Brown basmati rice is unprocessed (unpolished) and thus contains more nutrition and vitamins than other forms of polished rice. Brown basmati rice is perhaps the healthiest rice one can eat. The benefits of basmati rice are many, and they increase even more when you eat the rice in its natural unprocessed form as brown basmati rice.
According to the Canadian Diabetes Association, basmati rice has a “medium” glycemic index, which is lower than other varieties of rice, and thus better suited for those who suffer from diabetes.
Due to all these reasons and more, for centuries now, aromatic basmati rice has proved to be a great healing food. Ayurveda supports its properties and recommends it to every human being. It is not expensive and can be a part of your regular meals.