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A Grain of Truth

Basmati rice plays a large role in Ayurvedic cooking. Should you be eating more of it?

By Alison Rose Levy


In India, rice is considered "the foundation of all nourishment," says Julia Mader, who teaches Ayurvedic cuisine at Rasayana Cove, an Ayurvedic retreat in Ona, Florida. "It is given to both the ill and the healthy, because it's easily assimilated into our bodily tissues."

While many health-conscious Westerners value brown rice for its high bran and fiber content, Ayurveda embraces white rice, particularly long-grained, fragrant basmati rice, because it is lighter and easier to digest. White basmati rice is also sattvic (pure) and balances the three doshas: pitta, vata, and kapha.

"Basmati rice builds body tissue and is very high in prana [vital life energy]," says Vaidya Ramakant Mishra, former director of product research and development at Maharishi Ayurveda Products International in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Basmati rice fills many roles in Ayurvedic nutrition. Its rasa, or quality of taste, is sweet and offers a deep satisfaction. As the body digests it, its virya (energetic impact on the digestive fire) is cooling. Finally, its vipaka (post-digestion effect) is also sweet and provides a sense of satisfaction and comfort.

The finest basmati rice is from the Himalaya Mountains, says Miriam Kasin Hospodar, who wrote the Ayurveda cookbook Heaven's Banquet; it's called Dehra Dun, after the Himalayan city. Texmati and calmati—less expensive hybrids—are grown in Texas and California, respectively.

How you prepare rice contributes to its nutritional benefits as well. Ayurveda suggests avoiding rice that is instant or precooked, because it has less nutrition and less prana.

Here's one way to prepare basmati, according to Mader:

Basmati Rice Cooking Directions:

In a medium pot (glass or stainless steel is best, because these materials distribute heat evenly), combine one part rice and 2½ parts water and bring them to a gentle boil. Cook the rice uncovered until a small amount of water remains in the bottom of the pot. "Remember never to stir rice as it is cooking," Mader says. "Each grain expands with the water around it, and stirring can disrupt the cooking process." Remove the pot from the heat and immediately cover it. Let the rice stand for 10 to 15 minutes before serving it.

To test if the rice is properly cooked, press a few grains between your fingers: Most people prefer separate and fluffy grains, not sticky or hard.

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Reader Comments


VJ is correct in noting that white rice and brown rice are expressions of the amount the rice has been processed. So, white rice is the same grain as brown rice, but just processed more.
We cannot speculate about "Ayurveda" describing white or brown rice here. We need to go back to specific classic Ayurvedic texts, and read them in Sanskrit even lest meaning get lost in translation, to verify any of the "Ayurvedic" claims posted on Yoga Journal. Moreover, if we look at the history and development of Indian medicine, we will quickly realize there is no singular Ayurveda, there are multiple Ayurvedic traditions. These traditions loosely resemble each other, but were codified in certain times and places to give the illusion that it was always the same tradition, unchanging, ancient. Yoga Journal, we love you, but your writers on "Ayurveda" are perpetuating these unquestioned assumptions. History can explain a lot about all the Ayurvedas we have here and now. Let's employ the "crane" approach rather than the proverbial "skyhook" one when it comes to understanding Ayurvedas. Thanks.


DId you know that you can buy brown basmati rice? Wouldn't that be the best of both world?


I agree with Ashutosh's comment. Not all people in India eat Basmati rice. In fact it is a very espensive rice and not cooking it the correct way can lead to illness if too much of the startch is still on the rice.

the correct way to cook it, is to first soak it for about 15min in cold water, then rise off of the excess startch, then add to boiling water on stove, boil for 10 minutes or less, depending on your softness that you require, then drain and rinse again in warm or cold water and boil again just to soften it up.

Hope that helps.

Indian remedies and Ayuredic medicine has been around long before any other of our times. It shouldnt be abuses or taken lightly and if not used correctly can cause great harm to a person's body.

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