Ayurvedic Abbie: Ayurvedic “Rules” That Make You Scratch Your Head
Dear Ayurvedic Abbie,
I have a few questions about some things that my yoga teacher keeps saying are “rules" or "secrets" of ayurveda. Like, what's the deal with not combining fruit and dairy? I just don’t understand why I can't have my favorite mango lassi or yogurt with fresh fruit! I mean, I LOVE strawberry yogurt for breakfast. Everything is fresh, healthy, and it really gets me going in the morning, so what's the problem?
The other weird idea is this ghee and honey thing. I was told that in equal amounts, ghee and honey are toxic. I have never heard of anyone getting sick due to honey and clarified butter. What's up with this?
Can you help a girl out? I want to enjoy my breakfast and make my toast yummy with ghee and honey. Thanks, A.A., and if you have any other ayurvedic rules you want to illuminate for me I would be most appreciative.
In the Dark,
Sasha of the Secrets
Dear Secret-Busting Sasha:
Let me download some illumination! These ayurvedic rules you are curious about can certainly make you scratch your head. However, I think you will appreciate the wisdom of the teachings, so let me see what I can do to help you see the light!
Why not combine yogurt (or milk) and fruit? Traditionally, fruit is best to be eaten alone, due to the stomach acid needed to digest it. And believe it or not, according to ayurveda, melons are supposed to be eaten separately from other fruits because there are still different acids needed to digest them. Yes, it is true, you can mix other fruits together, but those delicious melons, they play alone.
Why not combine yogurt (or milk) and fruit?
One exception to the fruit/dairy rule is when you cook or bake the fruit, like putting blueberries in with your morning oatmeal, or enjoying a piece of freshly baked apple pie. When the fruit is cooked, ayurveda considers it to have been digested by the fire used in the external cooking. This makes the fruit more digestible with the other foods.
My pal Dr. Rosy Mann has a funny story she shares in our Himalayan Institute Ayurvedic Yoga Specialist Graduate School about her son, a wonderful young man who loves banana smoothies. When he asked his ayurvedic doctor mom if he could mix banana with his milk to make his favorite drink, she responded by asking, "How will that serve the God in your body?" He responded by saying, “The God in me wants to have the banana smoothie!" Ugh, kids! One of the biggest rules in ayurveda is that bananas create all kinds of digestive discomfort when mixed with milk. The issue again is that each part of this combo requires a very different digestive support to be fully and easily broken down and absorbed in the body.
In a similar manner, ghee (clarified butter) and honey create a digestive issue when taken in the same amount (by weight). I find that this is one of the most challenging concepts for my ayurveda students to “get." One reason is that we generally do not think of honey or ghee in units of weight measurement, we use a spoon or a cup for measurement in our drinks and recipes. I often cite the verse in Charaka Samhita (a classic ayurvedic textbook) that (to paraphrase) talks about how the qualities of ghee and honey—and hence, the digestive fire needed to digest them—are so vastly different that when taken in the same amount, they create a non-digestive effect. Together they create a blockage for our digestion and nourishment, but individually these substances are normally considered two of the most nourishing in ayurvedic medicine.
And, since you asked, here is one last ayurvedic secret to share: If you have red eyes (those lovely red lines that look as if someone took a red Sharpie and drew a squiggle on your sclera), use ghee! Yep, put a drop of ghee or castor oil in your eye before sleep and it will support the cooling and nourishment of the eye and supportive tissues.