There is no doubt that the modern women (and increasingly the modern man!) is pressured by media, advertising and society to fit an idealized beauty that is achievable only with products, products and more products! Those products are crammed full of un- and under- regulated chemicals. The average American woman puts 168 chemicals on her skin every day

Even if you are a 'health nut' about your skin care regime too you may want to do a little research. One of my favorite allies in guarding against the perils of beauty products (and champions of a chemical-free life) is Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep database of products. See how your beauty products score: www.ewg.org/skindeep


If you are still looking for great presents for your favorite adherent to Ayurveda (or perhaps want to tilt a friend in the direction of following ayurveda) here is my pick for the season.
Ayurveda requires dedication and conscientiousness; but it shouldn't be grueling. Here are a.few suggestions that make Ayurvedic living easier via technology and in one instance lovely fragrances.

 


Programmable, Stainless Steel Pressure Cooker / Slow Cooker

I got one of these a few weeks ago and I have barely used the stove-top since then. It makes nearly immediate breakfast cereals, delicious meat and veggie stocks, beans in a flash ... I even cooked a whole spaghetti squash in it in under 10 minutes. It is stainless so easy to clean and can be set to start times cooking cycles while you are at work. I truly believe everyone should have one!

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Magical Milk Frother

A daily cup of milk is so important in Ayurveda: make it easy w
ith this milk frother. It is quick (brings milk to scalding point with 3 frothing cycles) and easy to clean. Perfect for Spiced Milk on a chilly night!

 

Give the gift of a Quiet Mind

The App-sphere is certainly full of all sorts of nonsense and fluff. But there are also some gems out there thatactually help make us better people rather than just more distracted and distractable. One of the most fuss-free ways to incorporate more mental clarity into your day is HeadSpace the app that is actually a meditation training program with hours of high quality meditation guidance and even specific programs for things like working on your health or your relationships.

Make everything Smell Sweeter

Mat Mist is a delightful way to bring Pitta-balancing fragrance into your life and your exercise routine. These mists are designed for yoga mats and workout gear-- but are so nice you will want to use them in your car and home too! Order a subscription and have a seasonal scent sent to your door every 4 months!
    

Have a friend who is on the precipice of new vision for their life?

Perhaps what she (or he) needs is a Journeying Workshop with Shaman and healer Heather O'Connor. I work with Heather myself and find her support to be invaluable.
Heather's grounded guidance is an elegant introduction to developing your own vision.

Heather has 2 workshops coming up on Oakland in Late January.

 

Find more info here...


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Ayurveda is a plan for self-cultivation. It is a set of guidelines about how to live well and in the end how to die well too. 

Recently my mom succumbed to a sudden illness. For years she had been saying that if she got sick she would refuse the poisons and machinery of modern medicine, refuse the prolonging of the inevitable. She was preparing my sister and I for the choice that she made -- to allow the natural course of things. 

My mother was an expert knitter, spinner, water-colorist, dressage rider, cook. She dabbled in cello and sarcasm and half a dozen other arts.  Mostly she was a master gardener. She loved the fertility she found in the Central Coast after a life in the cultural brutality of the Midwest. When she first moved to California her gardens were dense and lush; like they had been in the moist Midwest. With time her attitude towards gardening morphed;  if it thrives encourage it, if it does not let it go. Her garden was a mix of the carefully cultivated and upstart volunteer plants growing where they chose. She had become more a facilitator than an imperialist. There are tomatoes growing with the impatiens, onions in all the flower pots, roses and herbs together. Especially in these years of drought the garden took on a sort of zen cacophony.

This is how she lived and how she died. With an ear to the rhythms of nature and what that implies for us. 
 

The pomegranate tree in the front yard was fruiting in early fall as my mother passed. Persephone descends to the underworld for the dark months of the year with only 6 pomegranate seeds to eat. In Persephone's absence fall comes, all the land goes barren, humans starve. Persephone is divided between her love for her mother and her love for the King of the Underworld. A deal is struck and in the end she cycles between Hades and her mother Demeter. Summer and winter mirror her movements. 
This has always been a favorite myth of mine. There is death, love, mystery, longing and reunion, the promise of rebirth and the inevitability of natural cycles. It is a core myth of western civilization and it teaches that these things are the stuff of life; not just the fun easy bits. It is the knowledge of nature and it's patterns and the ability to live well within them that civilizes us. 

I am fortunate to have been cultivated in such a garden.


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I imagine that most of my readers  are liberal in your politics and social concerns. I am lefter than left in most things. But there are some areas of life where conservation is key. One is with our bodies; we hope to conserve our health and our youthfulness. We conserve the essence of the body; Ojas. Much of Ayurvedic learning is related to this conservation. Carefulness prevents the natural erosion that happens with time and use.

If you live in the West we are also conserving water now too. It is a similar idea: preserve what we have (however little that is) so that we don't have to go with out entirely.

But in this how and un-seasonally dry weather how do we preserve our bodies?

The heat and the dryness desiccate our bodies. Luckily there are a few things that we can do to stabilize our bodies even in this tough climate... 

  • Do abhyunga (oil self massage) every time you shower - especially if you have cut back on showers! Make a blend of sesame and coconut oil with a few drops of cooling essential oils like: Vetiver, Rose, Cilantro, Fennel

  • If you are not showering at least put a few drops of oil on the top of your head, soles of your feet, and dip a q-tip in oil and use to clean out ears.

  • To help your skin resist wrinkling with the dryness: soak 1 T of rinsed white rice overnight in a glass of water. In the morning sip the cool rice-infused water. 

  • Stay away from drying foods like chickpeas, papadum, and popcorn. And have plenty of Ghee!

  • Boil the water you drink so your body can use it more efficiently.



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Bedtime Milk

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup water
  • Pinch turmeric
  • few rose petals
  • few threads of saffron
  • 1 cardamom pod, crushed
  • 1/5 tsp maple syrup or another healthy sweetener of your choice

Put saffron, turmeric, cardamom, rose petals, water and milk into a small pan. While it is cool and let the herbs soak in the milk and water for a few minutes. This helps the saffron release it's essence into the milk. Then put the pan onto the stove and bring to a boil quickly. Remove pan from heat to let boiling subside. Return the pan to the heat and bring to a boil again; remove from heat. Do this 3 times. Add sweetener. Drink 30 minutes before bed.

 

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We are all affected by stress. We may not be running from wild beasts regularly but the pernicious aspects of stress are everywhere. Modern-day stress can be related to the concept of chintta, translated as over-worked mind or worry. Even in the relatively calm environment of India hundreds of years ago the grinding effects of stress, mental-overwork and uncertainty were blamed for weak digestion, convulsions, paralysis, tremors (Parkinson's), anemia, heart problems, skin dryness, sexual and reproductive weakness and, worst of all, the diminished ability to love (and feel love!).

So what can we do to balance it's effects?! One of the easiest (and most delicious) ways is a cup of warm milk daily. Milk's soft, cool, soothing, Sattva (calm centering) inducing, and Ojas (vitality)- supporting qualities directly counter the corrosive effects of stress. Think of the deep calm seen in the eyes of a happy cow!

Read more here about the benefits of milk-- and how to healthily drink it!

peace

Milk is a precious food. But some special guidelines are required for healthy use, to preserve your digestive vigor, and even correct a developing milk intolerance so that you can benefit from it's many gifts:

  • Fresh, organic, unpasteurized, un-homogenized whole milk is best. Organic aw milk is usually the best we can get (unless you have a neighbor with a Jersey). All commercial processes denature milk and make it more difficult to digest. Avoid ultra-pasteurization like the plague it is.
  • Drink milk warm, after simmering. Raw milk is harder to digest and has more lactose (which some people have issues with). You can add water to your milk when boiling to make it lighter to digest.
  • Add a pinch of ginger, clove, cardamom, saffron, cinnamon, nutmeg etc. These spices give your Agni (digestive fire) the extra umph it needs to digest efficiently.
  • Let milk be a meal by itself or a between-meal snack: 
    • A cup of warm spiced milk is a great breakfast for people who are not too hungry in the morning.
    • When it is too late for dinner but you don't want to go to bed  hungry have a cup of hot milk with nutmeg or a few strands of saffron for a restful nights sleep.
  • Milk and food combining:
    • Avoid milk with salt. Ayurveda says this is a very damaging food combination. This means cooking with milk, cheese, yogurt etc should be avoided (see below for exceptions). Don't add salt to your oatmeal if you have it with cream. Cream soups are out, and cream cheese bagels are asking for trouble.
    • Avoid fish and milk as is compromises blood and brain tissues. Alas Cullen Skink & Finnian Haddie are not Ayurvedically appropriate.
    • Avoid milk with anything sour. This is why fruit and milk combinations are problematic for many.
    • Have milk with grains: cream on oatmeal or farina, rice pudding, cocoa thickened with barley flour are delicious, properly food-combined occasional treats.

 

 

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Dark. Cold. Wet.
I'm sitting in a cafe with a hot cup of cocoa at the moment.

 

Maintaining balance in Winter, especially through the holidays, can be a challenge.

How do we enjoy ourselves, nourish our souls, and not overdo it at the same time?

 

  • Body-wise: Protect yourself against the elements by doing Abhyunga (warm oil massage followed by steam or a hot bath. You can do this by yourself or have a professional or loved-one do it for you!). Stay bundled in woolens and take advantage of the fashionable-ness of hats and scarves this season by keeping your head covered. Nothing causes vata-caused aches and pains and miseries like cold!
  • Food-wise: Rich stews and soups will help keep your tissues nourished. Hot cereals and stewed fruits with spices make perfect breakfasts. Have ghee everyday in food or just a half teaspoon melted in water or warm milk when you wake up.
  • Treat-wise: Hot tea with milk and spices is a good indulgent choice (steer clear of that phlegm inducing Egg Nog). Skip the triple Chestnut Caramel latte too.
  • Spice-wise: Garlic is reputed to be the best medicine for those suffering from symptoms due to cold including stiffness and pain in the joints. Vaghbat (one of the classic writers of ayurveda) tells us that garlic sprouted up from the amruta that dropped onto the soil when the demon Rahu was slain in his attempt to steal immortality. This is why the Brahmans don't eat it; it comes from a demon. But for the rest of us warriors, especially those who eat meat and those who work with their bodies, Garlic is essential during the cold months. 
  • Guilt-wise: Don't make yourself feel bad about what you eat in the next weeks. Guilt will surely backfire. Just stick to one easy rule: if it is fresh and made with love eat it!
http://www.floggingthemuse.com/2011/11/painting-onions-and-garlic.html#comment-16292
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If you know anything about Ayurveda (or chinese medicine) you know that cooking your food is of the essence digestively. But the repertoire of American cooking lacks cooked (or at least hot) beverages that are satiating liquid meals. Luckily other cultures have caught on to the convenience and benefits of these ‘fast food’ meals.

Below I have included raw, cooked, warm and not-too-cold recipes, and recipes with and without milk products. If you have any digestive disorders avoid the raw recipe (walnut shake) or toast the nuts before you use them. The ‘lightest’ of these smoothie-stand-in’s is Yusha.  Yusha is not a smoothie at all but a light savory soup. It is easy to make over-night in a crock pot then take with you in a thermos for whenever you get hungry. It is light, delicious, nutritious and perfect for replacing a meal on the run!

Sahlab.jpg

Walnut Shake

  • ½C walnuts soaked overnight

  • 3 large Dates

  • 1T honey

  • 1 pinch each: cinnamon, ginger, cardamom powder
    few drops of Vanilla

  • 1 ½C water

Pulse all ingredients in a blender for 2-3 minutes.

There are many variations of this easy drink to try. A splash of rose water is delightful, different types of nuts or seeds can be used as long as they are soaked (avoid cashews and peanuts as they are very heating and heavy). A pinch of salt will bring out the flavors. I might be interesting to try a savory version too.

 

Takra or Seasoned Buttermilk

Takra is typically served after lunch to counter the symptoms of IBS and related digestive disorders by increasing assimilation of nutrients and reducing post-meal discomfort. But a mid morning sweet takra (savory is also good) is much like a lassi: nourishing, digestion improving and light to digest.

  • 1C Whole Milk Yogurt

  • 3C Water

  • splash of rose water

  • 1 t raw honey

  • Season with a pinch or 2: Ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace etc

Whisk Water & Yogurt vigorously until a bubbly foam appears--3 minutes is ideal. This whisking is essential to transforming the yogurt (that is heavy, heating and phlemy) into the light digestive qualities of Takra. Don’t skip it!  Add salt and spices to your liking.

 

Sahlab

Sahlab is a delightful hot breakfast (and dessert) of the middle east. When visiting Palestine I was often in a cue of children outside the elementary school waiting while a street vender ladled steaming styrofoam cups of  sahlab out of a giant mobile cauldron, sprinkling each cup with chopped nuts and spices. Originally the taste and thickening agent came from regional orchid root bulbs. Now we use cornstarch, but rice flour would also be a good choice.

This is a drinkable version, but can be made thicker so it can be enjoyed with a spoon.

(4 serves)

  • 4 cups milk

  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch (or fine rice flour)

  • 3 tablespoons sugar

  • 2 teaspoons rose water (or vanilla)

Toppings:

  • ground cinnamon

  • unsweetened dried shredded coconut

  • 2 tablespoons pistachio nuts or almonds; chopped fine

Mix the cornstarch with 1/2 cup of the milk.

Bring the remaining milk and sugar to a boil, then lower to a simmer.

Add the cornstarch mixture and the rose water, stir to loosen up any starch that settled on the bottom.

Cook on low heat until it comes to a boil, stirring constantly.

Serve in individual cups. Scatter chopped pistachios over the surface of each cup; sprinkle with cinnamon and coconut.

 

 

Muhallabieh

This pudding is a favorite of Lebanese, Syrian, Jordanian, Palestinian, and Egyptian children. I have reduced the sugar to make a liquid breakfast cereal suitable for a thermos. Rice may be purchased already ground or crushed at home with a mortar and pestle or electric blender.

  • 4c whole milk

  • 1/4c rice: ground (or rice cereal)

  • 3/4c water

  • 1/4c sugar

  • 1 teaspoon ma'ez zahr (orange blossom essence)

  • 1/4c chopped toasted almonds, pine nuts or pistachios

Mix rice with water and add to milk which has been brought to a boil.

Stir and cook until thickened and then add sugar.

Continue cooking and stirring until mixture coats the spoon.

Add flavorings and boil a few minutes longer.

Pour into individual serving dishes and decorate with chopped nuts.

 

Suff; Ethiopian Sunflower Seed drink

This drink is nourishing, filling, and refreshing. Traditionally consumed during Lent or fasting days Suff makes a great between-meal snack or meal replacer.  Several beverages based on seeds (sunflower, flax and sesame)  are made in Ethiopia. You can use this recipe with any of these seeds.

Some recipes call for fresh ginger to be added but I like it with  a pinch of cinnamon and just a bit of honey.

  • 1\2 cup sunflower seeds

  • honey (as required) or sugar (as desired)

  • 3 cups water

Rinse and drain seeds (this is not necessary if you are using sesame or flax seeds).

Roast the seeds in a dry pan till they smell toasty.

Grind seeds until smooth in a blender or food processor with a little water.

Add the rest of the water, blend until very smooth.

Add honey and spices.

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walnut-date-shake.png

To reiterate the reasons for avoiding smoothies (as they are usually made):

  • Cold: indigestible and damaging to the digestive fire

  • Raw: indigestible and create fodder for parasites

  • Terrible food combinations (fruit with milk or yogurt, fruit with veggies etc, protein powder and other desiccated supplements)  cause digestive confusion and poor absorption. If you persist they will contribute to dysfunction in the blood and marrow  which can translate as fatigue, lethargy, sensitivity to cold. etc

  • Despite the ‘nutrients’ in smoothies you will not get the benefits when you consume food raw, cold (esp frozen!), and in poorly combined forms. Smoothies produce ama (indigestible waste) in most people (want proof: check the tongues of people who you see in Jamba Juice for thick white coatings!).

If you are an Ayurvedic adherent you have heard of the perils of smoothies. There are a number of reasons that a person who wants a long, happy and healthy life will eschew smoothies. Yet smoothies are easy to make, tasty and satisfying, convenient to carry with you, and a delivery system for all sorts of nutrition supplements. Liquid breakfasts are ideal for those of us who are not hungry enough for a meal before we leave the house but wish to avoid the temptations of a midmorning scone. Luckily there are ‘smoothie replacements’ that do not offend the rules of Ayurveda and will supply you with the benefits and convenience that smoothies do.

See my next post for recipes!


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I love it when the modern science backs up the ancient science of Ayurveda.

Here Neuroscientist Suzana Herculano-Houzel explains how we would not have evolved into the ever-so-advanced species that we are without having discovered cooking. Without the technology of cooking we would have to spend a full half of our time chewing food. Not an efficient use to time for a smart ape. We are primates but we are not monkeys and this is one of the clearest explanations I have heard of how we became human.


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Most of us think we should be leaner. A few of you have the opposite issue and are working on bulking up. No one is immune to worry about weight.

Most of us think we should be leaner. A few of you have the opposite issue and are working on bulking up. No one is immune to worry about weight.

In general Ayurveda doesn’t care what your weight is if everything is working properly (but it doesn’t take much to have weight issues to make us feel less vigorous). Much of what Ayurveda says about what we would call ‘the issue of weight’ is actually about building weight and  strength. 2000 years ago people were more likely to be over-active and undernourished than us moderns. But as Classical Ayurveda (what was written down) primarily addressed the courtly and warrior classes there is also knowledge about how to avoid excess heaviness. The rich have always suffered from overly rich food, more psychological than physical stresses, and laxity in daily routine (it’s hard to be a lazy serf!).

 

5 Things to do if you want to (healthily) gain weight (don’t do these things if you want to lose!):

1.     Sleep in the afternoon, especially after eating. Napping increases bulk (ie Kapha) — generally over-sleeping increases weight.

2.     Drink liquids after you eat: liquid dilutes your digestive fire (agni) and slows down the digestion process.

3.     Eat heavier, sweeter, starchier, more nourishing foods. This is the diet of a person who does a lot of physical activity and is trying to build tissues and especially muscles. Foods to prioritize:

- meat (especially chicken, fish, beef, and pork)

- wheat products, and other refined grains

- Urad dhal: a tasty small black bean used in many south Indian snacks like idly and dosa, also used in the light bean soup called dahl. Also known for making your bosom bigger.

- raisins: considered good for muscle development.

(note: many of these food requirements are also aphrodisiac as healthy weight is required to be fertile and sexual).

4.     Drink beer. Actually the texts say drink sura or varuni. Both are sweet beverages said to be like beer (perhaps bubbly) made of rice, herbs, and dates or jaggary. Unlike the sharp, heating, & light drinks like vodka or whisky which in small doses increase digestion and assimilation sweet drinks are said to increase fat weight.

5.     Don’t exercise so actively — or even move around very much. If you are a thin fidgety person and you want to build weight channel your kinetic energy into strength building exercise like weight lifting, Iyengar - type Yoga or other vata calming activity.


7 Things to do if you want to (healthily) lose weight:

1.     Make Honey your main sweetener. Get rid of all other sweeteners (especially artificial!) and use a dab of honey when you need a bit of sweet. Honey is light and a bit astringent so very good for countering overweight conditions. Just remember never to heat your honey—it becomes a poison over 125 degrees or so.

2.      Stop consuming anything cold. This especially applies to iced beverages but also any other cold food.

3.     Drink hot water instead.  Ginger and tumeric tea will be especially helpful. But don’t drink too much liquid: pay attention to your thirst and don’t overdo it. Most overweight people are carrying a lot of water weight and swelling due to being incapable of digesting all the liquid they consume to dampen their hunger.

4.     Have more sex. I know a Vaidya who insists on patients having sex when working on weight loss. This may seem like putting the cart before the horse (ie I’ll have more sex after I lose weight) but sex is the best exercise for losing weight so get started today!

5.     Don’t snack. Sit down at a table and eat as much healthy, delicious food as you need to feel satisfied, then have a pinch of fennel seeds (try an unsweetened mukvas from an Indian store) and don’t put another thing into your mouth until the next meal 3-6 hours later. It is important not to eat any less than 3 hours before bed too.

6.     Wake up earlier—take advantage of the active Vata time of the early morning and get up at 6 am or earlier.

7.     Don’t eat breakfast. When you do get hungry have a light snack of tea and toast with ghee. Make lunch time your largest meal of the day & use the agni or fire of midday to help metabolize your meal quickly and efficiently.

indian figures.jpg


 
This is an Indian drink: sweet, creamy, and flavored with nuts, cardamom, fennel, rose petals, and poppy seeds. Traditionally this would be made with whole milk-- the nuts and seeds alone make a milky drink that is dairy- free and so can be combined with other foods.
  • ⅓ C almonds
  • 3 T sunflower
  • 3 T hemp seeds
  • 3 T poppy seeds
  • 3.5 T raw cashews or other nuts
  • 4 C water
  • 1 C raw sugar
  • 1 t fennel seeds
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 10 green cardamom pods
  • 1 - 1" stick cinnamon
  • few strands of saffron
  • 20 rose petals, more for garnish

Combine almonds, seeds, cashews, and pistachios with 2 cups of water; soak for 1 hour. Remove and discard skins from almonds and pistachios if needed. Drain nuts and seeds; set aside.

Bring water to a boil in a 2-qt. saucepan. Add sugar and saffron, stirring until sugar is dissolved; set aside. Toast the fennel, peppercorns, cardamom and cinnamon in an skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 4 minutes; let cool slightly. Transfer spices to a food processor, along with the nut mixture, medicated ghee, 1 tbsp water, and rose petals. Puree to a smooth paste. Whisk paste into water, and strain through a fine mesh sieve, pressing on solids. Refrigerate strained mixture until chilled or serve warm. Divide between serving glasses; garnish with grated nutmeg and rose petals, if you like.


Recipe adapted from Saveur Magazine (as usual)

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It is always interesting to consider ‘nutrition’ from an ayurvedic perspective. Of course Ayurveda does not have a concept of vitamins, minerals, calories, and nutrients etc as modern science does. So we had to consider other ways to navigate what is a good everyday food and what foods should be saved for special occasions. 

Get the nourishment you need in your food first.

Get the nourishment you need in your food first.

Ayurveda considers not just what is ‘nutritious’ but what is digestible and sustainable. The deeper qualities or gunas of foods and ways of preparing foods determine how good it will be for long term health.

The tools that Ayurveda uses to distinguish between everyday foods vs. special treats are more simple than you might think. These guidelines are healthy for everybody, regardless of dosha or disorder:

  • Freshly cooked; not left-over, frozen, canned, boxed, bottled or stale

  • Not raw or cold

  • Prioritize what your ancestors ate & what grows in the region you live.  Indigenous cuisines harmonize energetically, nutritionally, and medicinally for the climate and conditions of the region.

  • Pleasantly spiced

  • Moist (not too dry, including liquid and oil moisture)

  • Listen to what your body says: if you feel bloated or heavy, uncomfortable, or sleepy after you eat something you ate was too heavy (or too much!) for your digestion.

Foods that are mild and satisfying in taste are your staples, like grains and beans and roots.  The nourishing and nurturing qualities of these foods are inherent in foods are due to the predominance of earth and water elements in them. These ‘staples’ should make up 2/3 of what you eat. The remaining 1/3 is up to you: veggies, meats, sauces, spices, treats, fruits, and dairy.

  • Grains: Rice & wheat are considered the best for a long life. White rice is easier to digest than brown. Eat bread if your ancestors did; if it is freshly baked. Minimise highly refined flour products like pastries and pastas. Barley is great for weight loss. Other healthy choices include: Kamut, Buckwheat, Millet, Teff, Hominy, Wild rice, Quinoa...

  • Beans: Split Yellow Mung beans are the easiest & fastest to cook & digest. All legumes will increase Vata (produce gas and dryness), especially Chickpeas, that is why they are always cooked with lots of oil, garlic, or Asophatida/Hing. Try: aduki, lentils of all sorts, fava, yellow  and green split peas, black beans, black-eyed peas, or my favorite: refried beans.

  • Vegetables: Squash (summer & winter types) are the best! Sweet potatoes, beets, parsnips, asparagus, cabbage, eggplant, okra are good choices.  Try cooked radish or kohlrabi or turnip. Foods that take longer to grow have a stable quality (good if you want to age slowly). Consequently green leafy vegetables are to be kept to a minimum if you want a long life and no parasites. Try some less common root veggies: yam, taro, lotus, yucca. Avoid tomatoes & potatoes (south american-- but sweet potato is fine). Peas, beans, and the brassicas can cause Vata (ie gas) so prepare with a little hing and ghee. Cook & spice all vegetables.

  • Meat: Goat & wild (or ranched) meats are best. Fish should be limited unless your ancestors ate a lot of it. Generally keep flesh eating to a minimum. Light meat broth is ideal for recovering from illnesses or when stressed and for vegetarians needing extra nourishment.

  • Season Everything: spices augment digestion. They increase your absorption and assimilation of foods. Most spices are best sauteed or roasted to release their flavor & nutritional value rather than used raw. Try:  cumin, turmeric, coriander, cardamom, clove, cinnamon, thyme and fennel, ginger (fresh or dried), hing, sage, rosemary, nutmeg, saffron, paprika, lemon zest...! If cooking with spices is new to you try to limit yourself to 3 per dish. Here are a few combinations to begin with: paprika, thyme, lemon zest / cumin, coriander, fennel / fenugreek, mustard seeds, coriander / fresh hot peppers, cilantro, lime juice / fresh basil, oregano, black pepper….

  • Ghee & other oils: Ghee is the only oil that improves digestion. The others can be delicious and useful but will be heating and heavy to digest (except butter which is very heavy to digest and cooling). The less refined the better. Try: sesame, coconut, olive, and peanut. If you are very physically active animal fats will be good for you.

  • Milk: Cow or goat, un-homogenized, organic, un-ultra-pasteurized, and raw if you can get it. Always heat milk, always drink it alone (drinking with salt, sour taste, or fish constitute a bad combination and will damage digestion). If you missed dinner time but are hungry have a glass of warm milk with cinnamon, cardamom, & nutmeg.

  • Sweeteners: Generally sweeteners should be kept to a minimum. Honey should be had daily (in modest doses, and never heated).  Use sugars that are less refined like jaggery, maple syrup, or demerara.

  • Fruits are good for between meal snacks & eaten alone. Try a baked apple! Pomegranates are especially good end of summer cleansers. Bananas are heavy, cold, and phlem-y so avoid them if you have asthma, bronchitis, allergies, etc.  Dried fruit are good in small quantities.

  • Liquids: Never drink iced drinks, especially with meals; they will make you fat. A cup of water or tea with meals is good. Drink when you are thirsty; not when you are bored or tired.

  • Good snacks when you are hungry: fresh local fruit, a cup of warm milk or chai, fresh bread with butter, fresh baked cookie or cracker, handful of toasted nuts, dried fruit, seeds (sesame, pumpkin, sunflower)

Foods to avoid:

  • Raw foods, including juices. If your digestion is strong a small glass of fresh juice is fine.

  • Anything cold or iced.

  • Tomatoes, melons, cucumbers, sprouts are not great

  • Yogurt is nefarious (hot, clogging, mucous forming).

  • Bad food combinations:

    • milk with fruit

    • milk with fish

    • milk with anything with salt in it (Latte & croissant are out)

    • fruit should be eaten alone and not with other foods

 

  • Fermented or aged foods; cheese, vinegar, alcohol, sauerkraut, chutney, pickles, miso, etc should be eaten in small doses only.

  • Leftovers: anything that was not recently cooked, packaged & prepared foods, milk substitutes, energy bars, powdered mixes, bread (or anything) that has been frozen, canned, or preserved with chemicals.

  • Anything with fake ingredients, chemicals, or things you can’t pronounce.

  • Things that don’t taste good to you.

 

 

 

The tools that Ayurveda uses to distinguish between everyday foods vs. special treats are more simple than you might think. These guidelines are healthy for everybody, regardless of dosha or disorder:

  • Freshly cooked; not left-over, frozen, canned, boxed, bottled or stale

  • Not raw or cold

  • Prioritize what your ancestors ate & what grows in the region you live.  Indigenous cuisines harmonize energetically, nutritionally, and medicinally for the climate and conditions of the region.

  • Pleasantly spiced

  • Moist (not too dry, including liquid and oil moisture)

  • Listen to what your body says: if you feel bloated or heavy, uncomfortable, or sleepy after you eat something you ate was too heavy (or too much!) for your digestion.

Foods that are mild and satisfying in taste are your staples, like grains and beans and roots.  The nourishing and nurturing qualities of these foods are inherent in foods are due to the predominance of earth and water elements in them. These ‘staples’ should make up 2/3 of what you eat. The remaining 1/3 is up to you: veggies, meats, sauces, spices, treats, fruits, and dairy.

  • Grains: Rice & wheat are considered the best for a long life. White rice is easier to digest than brown. Eat bread if your ancestors did; if it is freshly baked. Minimise highly refined flour products like pastries and pastas. Barley is great for weight loss. Other healthy choices include: Kamut, Buckwheat, Millet, Teff, Hominy, Wild rice, Quinoa...

  • Beans: Split Yellow Mung beans are the easiest & fastest to cook & digest. All legumes will increase Vata (produce gas and dryness), especially Chickpeas, that is why they are always cooked with lots of oil, garlic, or Asophatida/Hing. Try: aduki, lentils of all sorts, fava, yellow  and green split peas, black beans, black-eyed peas, or my favorite: refried beans.

  • Vegetables: Squash (summer & winter types) are the best! Sweet potatoes, beets, parsnips, asparagus, cabbage, eggplant, okra are good choices.  Try cooked radish or kohlrabi or turnip. Foods that take longer to grow have a stable quality (good if you want to age slowly). Consequently green leafy vegetables are to be kept to a minimum if you want a long life and no parasites. Try some less common root veggies: yam, taro, lotus, yucca. Avoid tomatoes & potatoes (south american-- but sweet potato is fine). Peas, beans, and the brassicas can cause Vata (ie gas) so prepare with a little hing and ghee. Cook & spice all vegetables.

  • Meat: Goat & wild (or ranched) meats are best. Fish should be limited unless your ancestors ate a lot of it. Generally keep flesh eating to a minimum. Light meat broth is ideal for recovering from illnesses or when stressed and for vegetarians needing extra nourishment.

  • Season Everything: spices augment digestion. They increase your absorption and assimilation of foods. Most spices are best sauteed or roasted to release their flavor & nutritional value rather than used raw. Try:  cumin, turmeric, coriander, cardamom, clove, cinnamon, thyme and fennel, ginger (fresh or dried), hing, sage, rosemary, nutmeg, saffron, paprika, lemon zest...! If cooking with spices is new to you try to limit yourself to 3 per dish. Here are a few combinations to begin with: paprika, thyme, lemon zest / cumin, coriander, fennel / fenugreek, mustard seeds, coriander / fresh hot peppers, cilantro, lime juice / fresh basil, oregano, black pepper….

  • Ghee & other oils: Ghee is the only oil that improves digestion. The others can be delicious and useful but will be heating and heavy to digest (except butter which is very heavy to digest and cooling). The less refined the better. Try: sesame, coconut, olive, and peanut. If you are very physically active animal fats will be good for you.

  • Milk: Cow or goat, un-homogenized, organic, un-ultra-pasteurized, and raw if you can get it. Always heat milk, always drink it alone (drinking with salt, sour taste, or fish constitute a bad combination and will damage digestion). If you missed dinner time but are hungry have a glass of warm milk with cinnamon, cardamom, & nutmeg.

  • Sweeteners: Generally sweeteners should be kept to a minimum. Honey should be had daily (in modest doses, and never heated).  Use sugars that are less refined like jaggery, maple syrup, or demerara.

  • Fruits are good for between meal snacks & eaten alone. Try a baked apple! Pomegranates are especially good end of summer cleansers. Bananas are heavy, cold, and phlem-y so avoid them if you have asthma, bronchitis, allergies, etc.  Dried fruit are good in small quantities.

  • Liquids: Never drink iced drinks, especially with meals; they will make you fat. A cup of water or tea with meals is good. Drink when you are thirsty; not when you are bored or tired.

  • Good snacks when you are hungry: fresh local fruit, a cup of warm milk or chai, fresh bread with butter, fresh baked cookie or cracker, handful of toasted nuts, dried fruit, seeds (sesame, pumpkin, sunflower)

Foods to avoid:

  • Raw foods, including juices. If your digestion is strong a small glass of fresh juice is fine.

  • Anything cold or iced.

  • Tomatoes, melons, cucumbers, sprouts are not great

  • Yogurt is nefarious (hot, clogging, mucous forming).

  • Bad food combinations:

    • milk with fruit

    • milk with fish

    • milk with anything with salt in it (Latte & croissant are out)

    • fruit should be eaten alone and not with other foods

 

  • Fermented or aged foods; cheese, vinegar, alcohol, sauerkraut, chutney, pickles, miso, etc should be eaten in small doses only.

  • Leftovers: anything that was not recently cooked, packaged & prepared foods, milk substitutes, energy bars, powdered mixes, bread (or anything) that has been frozen, canned, or preserved with chemicals.

  • Anything with fake ingredients, chemicals, or things you can’t pronounce.

  • Things that don’t taste good to you.