“We Are What We Eat” Series, Part V, Finito!

Today we summarize this series on the diet’s Ayurvedic dimensions and role in maintaining good health and preventing disease.  In Srimad Bhagavad Gita, Lord Kṛṣṇa compares Himself with the digestive fire, or agni, which assimilates and digests food in order to sustain Life.

God's secrets

Though diet plays a vital role in Ayurveda’s healing modality, these “rules” flex and bend gracefully according to the transient nature of living in your particular body.  Your constitutional make up (prakriti) is unique as are your current needs for balance (vikriti); thus, your dietary needs are also unique.  You will not find pre-set body weights or calorie counting instructions in Ayurvedic Dietary Theory.  You will find recommendations for listening to the voice of your physiology to hear what, where, when and how you should eat.  You will find instructions to include the six different tastes – sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent – at every meal, favoring those tastes that are suited to your current needs and incorporating lesser amounts of the rest.  Including different tastes at each meal reduces cravings and balances appetite and digestion naturally, providing clear instructions via the senses, supported by the voice of your own physiology.

Food influences both physical activities and psychological activities.  Agni requires food to maintain the body’s constant activity, much like a furnace providing heat in exchange for the life of a tree; the body of Earth.  Improper, excessive, heavy, and cold food extinguishes this fire and produces endotoxic substances called Ama.  For supplementation, Tattva’s Herbs offers Ginger, Triphala, Chyawanprash and Trikatu to stoke the fire of Agni.

The Ayurvedic way of cooking brings together a harmonious collection of fresh wholesome ingredients into a feast for all your senses.  In a well-prepared Ayurvedic meal, a medley of tastes, textures, colors, aromas and flavors blend together to restore balance to your body, mind, spirit, senses and emotions.

Indian colored spices at local market.

“We Are What We Eat” Series, Part IV

Ayurveda conceptualizes the effects of food on the mind as causing either an increase or decrease in the three Modes of Nature: SatvaGuna, the mode of goodness; RajoGuna, the mode of passion; and TamoGuna, the mode of ignorance. General guidelines are as follows:

Satvik

IMG_1974 (1)

A Satvik diet consists of fresh fruits like pomegranates, apples, berries, oranges, grapes, grains, and dairy products like milk, yoghurt and ghee (clarified butter). These foods sustain a lean and agile body while encouraging a calm and quiet mind. Fresh buttermilk, fresh green vegetables like spinach, green beans and green peas or split peas are all examples of Satvik food. Although a mild sweet taste is considered Satvik, a strong sweet taste as in chocolates and heavy sweets increases Tamasik qualities.

Rajasik

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Food recipes of a spicy, salty and sour nature are considered Rajasik. Vegetables like onions, garlic and spicy or sour preparations like ketchup and vinegar have Rajasik qualities. Wines, pickles, meat (especially red meat), and stimulating drinks like coffee and tea, and all types of alcoholic drinks are Rajasik in nature. These foods can aggravate Pitta and Vata and increase restlessness, anger and irritability. Some Rajasik foods, if vegetarian and taken in moderation by Kapha types can be energizing.

Tamasik

The Tamasik diet is comprised of stale, over-heated, oily, heavy to digest, canned meat and fish products containing lots of preservatives. Large quantities of cold pasteurized dairy products like milk and yogurt are also considered Tamasik. These foods increase Kapha and lethargy, ignorance and apathy. Frozen and preserved foods as well as hybrid foods also increase the Tamasik quality.

Of note, from the Magical Rachael of Tattva’s Herbs, on listening to the body; “That’s the Beauty of Ayurveda, everything is poison and medicine at the same time depending on how you use it!”

“We Are What We Eat” Series, Part III

Sukti amongst the Mexican flowersSukti amongst the Mexican Flowers

Ayurveda approaches health through diet based on eight simple concepts – these are the second four:

Five: Place (Desha)

The classification of Places into distinct types, for example; marshy, dry and normal, reflects diverse climatic conditions and their influence on the body when she eats.  As the individual perceives a complimentary environment, the body absorbs nutrients from food with ease, which in turn exerts positive effects on both body and mind.

Six: Time or Period (Kala)

Food consumed at proper intervals gives the body freedom to digest and assimilate. Once a meal is properly digested, the next meal may be eaten. Types of foods eaten, as well as quantities and quality should conform to seasonal changes, both in environment and availability. As a general rule, the main meal should be eaten between 11 to 2 in the afternoon.

Seven:  Rules for Eating (Upayoga Sanstha)

• Food should be consumed while hot, as this will naturally increase the secretion of the digestive enzymes.
• Meals must be eaten in a relaxed, calm and cheerful atmosphere. One should not eat when nervous, angry, anxious or in a disturbed state of mind.
• Eating too slowly or too rapidly, talking, laughing, thinking or watching television during meals is not advisable.
• Putting one’s attention on the food with the thought that this food is going to benefit the body and mind, does indeed benefit the body and mind!
• Smoking, drinking too much water or any other liquid after eating, is not advisable.
• Taking a shower and changing into clean clothes prior to cooking, creates a pleasing feeling in the body condusive to healthy assimilation of foods.
• In the Indian social environment, a guest is treated like a god. Food is served to guests and children first.
• Chanting of mantras and offering prayers to God adds a beautiful ritual space to the atmosphere, as Gratitude adds her benefit on every level.

Eight:  The Consumer of the Food (Upabhokta )

If one observes the above mentioned, eating as per his/her constitution, digestive capacity, season, time of the day and digestion status of the last meal consumed, then the Body has upmost opportunity to make thorough use of the Blessing of Food provided.

The “We Are What We Eat” Series, Part II

Ayurveda approaches health through diet based on eight simple concepts, the first four of which we will expound upon today:

One: The Nature of Food (Prakruti)

Classification of food into two distinct categories of heavy and light depends on digestability. For example, meat is heavy for digestion while rice and vegetables are light. This is the basic quality or nature of any food recipe and should be thought about before consuming.

Two: Processing (Karana)

Cooked food is considered more nutritious than uncooked food. However, some foods like fruits and salads give greater benefit when eaten raw.  The method of processing or cooking transforms the qualities of our food, i.e., roasting, frying, baking, directly heating on fire, barbeque, mixing, drying, churning, etc.

Three: Combination (Samyoga)

carrot lovers

While one combination of foods nourish and heal the body, another will weaken and break it down.  Combining sour fruits with milk or curd, for example, weakens the digestive system by causing chronic indigestion. Therefore, in Ayurveda we pay close attention to how and why we combine our foods.

Four: Quantity (Rashi)

The quantity of the individual ingredients as well as the total quantity of food consumed by an individual should be decided according to the qualities of the food as well as the individual’s digestive capacity.

The “We Are What We Eat” Series, Part I

sun grapes

Within Ayurveda, we are what we eat, with primary importance placed on the foods we choose in our daily lives. Cultivating a healthy diet nourishes the body’s vitality, as well as the mind and spirit. According to Ayurveda, a healthy human being possesses both a strong body and a sound mind.

A nutritious diet helps balance the three doshas and promote good health. Ayurveda classifies various types of food like vegetables, fruits, nuts, dairy and grains on the basis of their energies and effect on the body and mind. These classifications help us choose foods according to our individual constitution, and avoid foods that may be harmful.  In todays’ hurried modern lifestyle, irregular eating habits and excessive consumption of particular foods is common.  We often consume excess of certain foods that are harmful for us.  Ayurveda suggests ‘antidotes’ or balancing factors for such excesses. These factors help control the negative effects of food we overeat and balance our systems.

Though Ayurvedic literature provides detailed therapies and complex drug formulas for treating most diseases, prevention of disease is the heart of Ayurvedic Medicine. When the fundamental rules of personal and social hygiene are followed closely, building up immunity against most ailments is an achievable task, even in today’s modern lifestyle.

light and dark grapes

A healthy person is defined in the Ayurvedic scriptures as the one who not only possesses the balanced Tridoshas, but who also exhibits a balance of emotions, intellect and a sense of peace.  Diet is given highest importance in health as well as disease. Ancient Indian literature states that when proper diet is followed, medicine is not needed, and when proper diet is not observed, medicines are not helpful.

Simple Salad with Home Grown Greens

Home grown greens & tomatoes with fresh mozzarella (1)

This salad is simple, yet deliciously satisfying. Ingredients can vary depending on personal taste and availability.

Ingredients:
mixed greens (included but not limited to): spinach, arugula, kale, lettuce
cherry tomatoes
sliced beets
hazelnuts (walnuts or pecans are also wonderful)
chickpeas
fresh mozzarella

Radish and Snap Pea Salad

raddish and snap pea salad

This time of year our food should have qualities that increase lightness and freshness, bringing us out of our heavier winter bodies.  This salad is a great addition to the spring diet.

2 bunches radishes – save a few leaves if they look fresh enough for garnish on soup
2 lbs snap peas

1 Tbs honey
2 Tbs water
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tsp miso paste (white, yellow or use red for a stronger flavor)
1 lime
pinch each of salt and pepper

extra spring greens (optional) such as arugula, dandelion, escarole, watercress, or whatever looks yummy and fresh at your local food shop or farmers market!

chop the radishes in thin slices and chop the peas. In a jar or small bowl use a fork to whisk the honey, water, olive oil and lime together, adding the miso last. toss peas, radishes and salad together with dressing, adding greens in at the end to keep them tender. top with salt and pepper

serves about 4

The bitter and pungent taste of radish is cleansing and helps to reduce extra water and fats held in the tissues and the blood stream. Snap peas and bitter greens cool the blood also and aid in cleansing. Fresh raw veggies with crunch increase a sense of lightness in the body and mind.

In Ayurveda raw foods are more difficult to digest, so we have included in the dressing miso paste as a digestive / probiotic, where the honey (sweet) lime (sour) and salt all pacify Vata by increasing the water and fire elements in the body. Sufficient water is our saliva and digestive juices, enzymes needed for proper absorption of the qualities of the foods taken in; fire element is agni and black pepper and salt increase heat in the gut to stoke the digestive fire.

This way we can receive the full effect of food as medicine.

 raddish and snap pea salad, with greens

Fresh Sautéed Greens

Organic farm to table healthy eating concept on soil background.

Two bunches (approx 4-6 cups) of fresh, young Kale, Collard Greens, Swiss Chard, Spinach, Dandelion Greens, and Beet Greens stemmed, ribbed and cut into thin strips

1 -2 Tbsp Ghee (Clarified Butter) or Coconut Oil

1 1/2 tsp Cumin Seeds
2 tsp Mustard Seeds

1 tsp ground Turmeric
¼ cup fresh Cilantro, stems removed & chopped
½ -1 tsp Hing (asaeofetida)
1 tsp Salt

1/3 cup chopped Nuts (almonds, cashews or peanuts)

Steam greens for approximately 5 minutes. Heat ghee or coconut oil on medium-high heat. Add cumin seeds and mustard seeds, stir and cook until the mustard seeds pop. Add turmeric, cilantro, hing and salt. Stir briefly to release aroma.

Add the greens and sauté for 2-3 minutes until flavors are blended.

Serve with chopped nuts on top

Susan’s Spicy Lentil Vegetable Dhal

A bowl of indian Tarka dahl (yellow lentil soup) with some raw dahls on a napkin

1 1/4 cup masoor dal (red lentils, yellow lentils or combination of yellow split peas and lentils)

1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup diced potatoes
½ cup sliced leeks
½ cup chopped tomatoes (optional)
1 cup chopped kale or spinach

3 1/2 cups water
3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

2 tablespoons olive oil or ghee
1/2 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon hing (asaoefetida)
1/2 teaspoon garam masala (use when incorporating tomatoes in recipe)
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

1/2 cup well-stirred canned unsweetened coconut milk (optional)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1-2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

Soak lentils for 1-2 hours. Rinse clean under running water before cooking. Add lentils and other veggies to water and bring to a boil with turmeric in a 2-quart heavy saucepan, then gently simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until falling apart, about 20-30 minutes.

When lentils are mostly cooked, heat oil or ghee in a small heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers.  In the shimmering ghee, cook mustard seeds, cumin seeds, fenugreek, hing, garam masala and red pepper flakes until mustard seeds begin to pop and/or turn gray and cumin seeds brown, about 1 minute. Stir spice mixture into lentils with coconut milk (optional), cilantro, lemon juice, and salt and bring to a simmer. Continue simmering for 15-20 minutes.

A perfectly balanced vegetarian meal when served with chapatis or rotis, and basmati rice.       (makes 5-6 servings)

Ayurvedic Relief for Muscles and Joints

Ouch!  In response to lifestyle, diet, and emotional pattern, our doshas; vata, pitta, and kapha, can easily move out of balance. These imbalances slow down agni, or digestive fire, resulting in the toxic by-product of inadequate digestion known as ama.

Vata, the main active dosha, brings ama into the colon.  From there, ama travels throughout the system, lodging in the bone tissue and joints, giving rise to the stiffness and pain characteristic of chronic joint disorders.

Ayurveda works through both diet and supplementation to remove ama from the joints and move it back to the colon, where the body can then eliminate it.  For this, we need to keep the colon clean and active.  Triphala is the most commonly used herb for cleansing the colon, or the combination of Triphala and Guggul.  Ayurveda recommends general techniques to increase the intensity of agni and burn up the toxins harming the body.  We begin with our food by adding more spices to the diet, such as turmeric, chilis, pepper, cardamom and cloves when cooking.  herbs in bulk cropHerbal extractions of Turmeric Curcumin and Boswellia support a healthy inflammation response and ease of movement, while Ashwagandha helps balance all the doshas and reduce negative effects of stress in the body.

Various oils may be applied to the skin to help the body clear toxins, relieve pain and restore mobility.  Ayurveda has used two traditional oils in particular for thousands of years:  Maha Vishgarbha Oil and Maha Narayan Oil, both containing dozens of herbs in a sesame oil base. Massaging these oils into painful areas can improve flexibility, stiffness, muscle fatigue, circulation and ease pain. These oils when massaged into the skin can also assist in breaking up blockages. After oil application; warm heat, yoga, bath, and mild exercise can further relax and relieve the body.  Tattva’s Herbs Joint Care Oil, featuring Boswellia as a topical option, is also a potent and cooling application for both chronic and acute situations.

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