Mung Beans: also spelled moong dahl or mong or dal There are yellow split mung and whole green unpeeled mung. The yellow are much lighter to digest and faster to cook and the green are more fibrous and in some ways more nutritious but also harder to digest and take longer to cook. Generally Ayurveda is not into beans because they are hard to digest and cause vata-aggravation (gas, spaciness dryness etc) but Moong are considered a very good form of nutrition and cleansing at the same time.
The way you cook mung and the spices you use will make them even more digestible, yummy and nourishing. Soaking helps them cook and digest faster. Overnight for the green ones if you have the time—at least ½ hr for the yellow.
The simplest way to make them is just a soup—soaked and boiled till soft in water with a little salt, toasted spices and ghee. Add veggies if you want. You can make it thin like a broth or thicker like a pea soup. Add a squeeze of lemon or tamarind for some tang. A very thin broth can be made with just a few tablespoons of soaked green mung beans, water and spices when you are really not hungry but feel the need for nourishment or you can tell your digestion is on the fritz.
Basmati is easy to digest and nutritious (I know it’s counter intuitive but it is) because it is so light and easy for your body to process. This is an important food for you if your digestion is not on track. Always rinse the rice well first, and soak it for 15-30 minutes then sauté in ghee till sort of clear and add spices to help your digestion. You can add a tablespoon of rice to a light mung soup to increase its nourishment.
I have included some things which you will find easily and some not so common. Spicing your food will help your digestion ability immensely and probably make food more interesting to you (if it is not interesting to your brain it is not going to be interesting to your belly). Add a little spice to everything (especially to sweets or coffee—cinnamon, cardamom, mace, clove, nutmeg). But you can over-do it. I like to stick to 3 spices per a dish—learned this from experience…
Generally all ground spices (seeds and roots) need to be roasted for the best flavor and healing properties. Turmeric I have heard, is only really assimilatable if you cook it for 20 minutes—so add it at the start of cooking. A few things like Fennel do not good when toasted too long, so add them last. Otherwise dry roast everything in a pan before adding it to foods—you can even make a spice mix to sprinkle over food when you eat out.
Asofatida (or Hing) is great for digestion (increasing digestive fire, reducing gas and cleansing old toxins from the gut) though it smells quite awful at first. Always use a pinch if you are making beans or cruciferous veggies. Hing is used for pain (it calms Vata down) when eaten regularly or mixed with ghee and rubbed on painful areas (especially belly aches from eating too much).
Fennel is a sweet and cooling herb that helps ease digestion—traditionally a few seeds are chewed after meals to cleanse the palate, reduce gas and give your body the idea that you are done eating—no snacking afterwards. They are said to increase alertness, calm the mind and help the body process toxins.
Mustard Seeds can be super bitter and heating if overdone—but a teaspoon or so whole toasted seeds add nutty spiciness to meals and help with slow digestion, especially gasiness.
Cardamom is the most delicious spice ever and promotes clarity and joy. To use the pods toast them and grind or crush them or throw a few in a pot of rice or other grain. In the Middle East they always grind a few cardamom pods with their coffee beans and that is why they are able to drink super strong coffee all day. Cardamom counteracts poisons and balances the negative effects of the caffeine while clearing the mind. They reduce bloating and are carminative—meaning anti-gas.
There are 2 types of cardamom—black and green (white is the same as green, just lower quality). The black ones are strong—heating and smoky and almost mentholated—experiment with them. I really love them but they can be quite intense.
Cumin is an appetite stimulant and does other good things for digestion.
Coriander tonifies and increases absorption but is overall cooling to the body. Perfect for those with acidity, anger, or skin problems.
Ajwain does all the good digestion stuff and also specifically targets the respiratory system so that your prana, apana, vyana work better (ie…opens the lungs and clears them of old junk both emotional and physical). You can smoke them too—2 or 3 at a time to open your lungs that way.
Cloves are good for circulation, metabolism and nausea. Also reported to counteract heavy metals and other pollutants in the body. Use whole because they are usually fresher then ground—toast them till soft and you can just crumble them with your fingers or a spoon. Nice for sweets and adding to coffee and milk.
Ginger. If you do nothing else you should take ginger everyday. Powdered or raw, in food, as tea, straight—even those candied ginger chews will work. Ginger is considered to be the most powerful and useful of Ayurvedic herbs, known as a Vishvabheshaja—or universal medicine. You can take it for anything and it will figure out what your body needs it to do. If you really over do it (with dry ginger) you will get constipated—if that happens cut back a bit.
Black sesame is good for the bones, stability and fortitude in general with an immense amount of calcium and other minerals that are good for soothing the nerves—just chew a tablespoon a day (you can use regular unhulled sesame – or even sesame candy if you like it)
Pippali or long pepper is a funny spice. In the middle ages they liked it in Europe but then regular black pepper became more popular. It is great for the lungs and sinuses (recovering from a cough or pneumonia), reproductive organs, and digestion. Like other spicy spices when simmered in milk it will make the milk more easily digestible. Try 1 pepper with a bit of cinnamon and ginger in milk sweetened with raw sugar before you go to sleep. But don't have it everyday.
Turmeric. This spice is soooo important. It is good for pain, joint, and myofascial health, it is healing to all the connective tissue, is good for the skin, heals wounds and is a natural antibiotic, purifies the blood and stimulates the production of fresh blood, corrects metabolic imbalances, helps in the digestion of protein and brings prosperity. Most importantly it is that lovely yellow color. I would think that taking it in the bleak middle of winter would be the best thing to do.
Take 1/2t a day in foods (cooking it 20 min or more helps release all the good properties), simmered in milk, or mixed with a pinch of cardamom, cinnamon, clove and ground pippali in raw honey for a tasty ‘lickable’ that you can take a lick of throughout the day for digestion.