I covered off the ayurvedic reason you might be craving sugar recently. You should check it out. Today I’ve asked Nadia Marshall of The Mudita Institute, a training and education organisation and health clinic in Byron Bay, Australia, to share how to use regular kitchen spices in your regular cooking to, ah, regulate your blood sugar. Fun stuff…
What’s the Ayurvedic perspective on “blood sugar issues”?
When people talk about “blood sugar issues” they’re often referring to hypoglycaemia-type symptoms where blood-sugar levels bottom out. This can lead to sudden hunger, light-headedness, dizziness, the shakes, confusion, headaches and moodiness. From an Ayurvedic perspective, these symptoms are a sign of Vata (air/ether) indigestion or variable agni (agni is Sanskrit for digestive fire). These symptoms often go hand-in-hand with gas, bloating or pain after eating, constipation or a general feeling of agitation or nervousness. But blood-sugar is a complex thing and can also be caused by an imbalance in the other doshas, Kapha (water/earth) and/or Pitta (fire/water).
To learn about your dosha, read here.
Luckily, there are some special Ayurvedic kitchen spices that are appropriate for people of any constitution or imbalance that, in small amounts as part of your daily diet, will not only help to regulate blood-sugar levels and prevent diabetes but will also improve your digestion generally.
Which doshas it helps: Pacify Vata and Kapha
Health benefits: Balances sugar levels in both diabetes 1 and 2 through their active components, trigonelline and coumarin, which are nourishing to the pancreas, and have a cholesterol-reducing effect. They treat sluggishness, gaseous digestion and, with their high mucilage content, improve the bulk of stools and sooth their passage through the intestines. They are a great remedy for lower back pain, sciatica and arthritis and are nourishing to the bones and hair.
How to use it in your kitchen: Fry lightly in oil at the beginning of the cooking process, but don’t overdo it or they’ll become bitter. A sprinkle of sprouted fenugreek seeds can also be a lovely addition to meals.
Which doshas it helps: Pacifies Vata, Pitta and Kapha (the fresh root is more pungent than the dried powder so can aggravate Vata and Pitta in excess)
Health benefits: According to Ayurveda, turmeric is an all-round wonder spice! Turmeric helps with blood formation and purification, anaemia, inflammation, skin disorders and helps to stop bleeding. Traditionally it is also used as an ingredient in diabetes formulations to clear toxins, Kapha and excess fat tissues.
How to use it in your kitchen: Add ¼ teaspoon to soups, casseroles, curries, dahls and to hot milk before bed.
(You can read more about turmeric and how to eat it here.)
Which doshas it helps: Pacifies Vata and Kapha
Health benefits: Improves Vata indigestion, strengthens and harmonises circulation, removes excess mucous from the lungs and nourishes sexual reproductive tissue. Recent research has shown cinnamon reduces blood-sugar fasting levels through its high antioxidant levels and polyphenols that help maintain insulin sensitivity.
How to use it in your kitchen: You can add whole cinnamon quills to rice, soups, curries or casseroles… or add a sprinkle of ground cinnamon to basically any meal, sweet or savoury.
Which doshas it helps: Pacifies both Vata and Kapha
Health benefits: It is stimulating to digestion, circulation and respiration. It also rejuvenates the respiratory system, digests and destroys toxins and kills parasites. As it contains chromium, a component of glucose tolerance factor, black pepper is a useful part of many diabetes treatments, normalising fat tissue and preventing toxins from overflowing into the pancreas.
How to use it in your kitchen: Black pepper can be easily added to most meals and will particularly aid the digestion of heavier foods like meat, cheese and eggs. Because it is quite heating, Pitta-types shouldn’t overdo black pepper.
Which doshas it helps: Pacifies Vata, Pitta and Kapha
Health benefits: The bitter taste of aloe works via the liver to encourage the release of bile which can help to regulate blood-sugar levels but also lipid levels in hypertriglyceridaemia. It is well known for healing skin in the case of burns, scars and wounds but it also heals mucous membranes and is used to treat gastritis, ulcers, hyperacidity and ulcerative colitis.
How to use it in your kitchen: Consume aloe vera as a juice. A 30ml shot in the mornings with a pinch of turmeric will do the trick!
Which doshas it helps: Pacifies both Vata and Kapha
Health benefits: It has a lightening, uplifting effect on the body and mind, enhancing mental clarity and stability. It acts on fat metabolism so can help to reduce weight, as well as blood sugar levels and total cholesterol. It has been shown to increase vital lung capacity, reduce fever and increases appetite while simultaneously calming the digestive tract.
How to use it in your kitchen: Tulsi is widely available as a tea so this is the easiest way to have it… but is also really easy to grow (much like basil).
Which doshas it helps: Pacifies Pitta and Kapha. It also has the special quality of not aggravating Vata which is very rare in so bitter a substance.
Health benefits: An excellent all-round medicine for blood sugar regulation. Its active constituent, charantin, is an effective hypoglycaemic while its polypeptide P lowers blood-sugar levels more effectively than insulin. It is used traditionally with other herbs to treat diabetes, but also urinary disorders, anaemia and skin conditions.
How to use it in your kitchen: Slice it very thinly then cook in ghee with spices until soft. You can use it as an intense pickle to accompany meals.
Do you use kitchen spices for health? Would you like to know more about Ayurvedic approaches to wellness? Let me know in the comments below.