Milk – to boil or not to boil

A pitcher of fresh milk on the terraceWith so much questioning around the subject of milk, whether it’s good for you, if the alternatives are more digestible, are most people lactose intolerant etc etc. There is no doubt there is confusion. Here is the Ayurvedic perspective. Cows milk is considered to be the best and a complete food, providing unique nutrition with ‘saatvic’ qualities when it is digested properly, nourishing the body tissues, balancing the doshas and promoting emotional balance and ojas (a refined substance providing strength, immunity and contentment). With such nourishing properties why would we want to exclude milk from our diet?

Western research has found milk harmful largely due to their mode of intake. When milk is taken cold, unspiced, homogenized, combined with unsuitable foods and in excess, health concerns will prevail. The secret to milk as a healthy food lies in the way it is prepared and consumed.

First is it advisable to choose organic milk which does not contain hormones that are fed to cows to increase milk production. Traditionally, ayurveda recommends milk to be taken raw (not homogenized or pasteurised). In order to digest milk properly it should be brought to the boil for at least 5 minutes. The process of boiling changes the molecular structure of the milk, breaking down the milk proteins into digestible amino acids ensuring that it easier and lighter to digest, taken with spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, black pepper, turmeric can help reduce the accumulation of phlegm for kapha types and its cooling properties.

So we may argue that pasteurisation cleanses milk of bacteria, therefore it has already been ‘treated with heat’. However, it’s worth noting that the process does make the milk more digestible. The process of pasteurising is a treatment of milk to the temperature of 71.7 °C (161 °F) for 15–20 seconds which assists in the partial breakdown of milk proteins, making them very difficult to digest for the human system.

Furthermore, homogenization only serves to make it easier to pack, store and retail, benefiting only the organizations that want to make profit by retailing milk, and clearly overlooking the health issues. It is no wonder that there are so many complaints of milk intolerance and the switch to alternatives.

However it is safe to say that the cow’s milk whose virtues were praised by the ancient ayurvedic seers, is not the same milk that we are getting to consume today, so it will not have the same properties. We can do our level best to make informed choices to consume organic milk and undertake the process of boiling so we can still digest and get the best of what is available without having to substitute. Ayurveda also recommends goats milk, since it is less mucus forming and easier to digest than cow’s milk.

Milk should not be taken with incompatible foods such as fish, meat, fruits, foods that are sour, bitter, salty and astringent which can cause the build up of harmful toxins. Milk can however be taken with sweet tasting foods such as rice, dates and almonds. Boiled milk at night with spices can be a fantastic aid to sleep. Why not try the Geeta Vara Ayurveda ‘goodnight milk blend’.

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Insight into ayurvedic food combining

Ayurvedic Incompatible Foods

Ayurvedic Incompatible Foods

Unlike the traditional view of a balanced diet consisting of basic food groups, such as dairy, grains, fats, meats, fruit and veg. Ayurveda suggests an approach for correct diet based on the individual’s doshic constitution (vata, pitta, kapha). Every food has its own taste (rasa), a heating or cooling energy (virya) and post-digestive effect (vipaka). When we combine food that consist of different tastes, energy and post-digestive effect, the digestive fire (agni) gets disturbed, slows down and start producing toxins in the system.

Not only can incompatible foods remain in the stomach for several hours, combining foods improperly can cause indigestion, fermentation, putrefaction and gas formation. If prolonged it can lead to toxemia and lead to various other diseases.

When foods are eaten correctly or separately they can aid digestion. eating bananas with milk; egg with fish; radishes with milk, bananas or raisins; lemon with yoghurt; melons with any other foods; raw foods with cooked foods; fruits and grains, are some examples of incompatible foods.

What happens when we eat for example melon and milk? Well milk has a laxative effect and requires more time to digest and melon is a diurectic. The digestive enzymes required to digest melons cause the milk to curdle due to the sourness. This type of constant digestive confusion can be the cause of many diseases, especially related to respiratory or skin conditions.

An Ayurvedic practitioner will be able to offer suitable dietary guidance considering nutritional value, constitution, seasons, age and any disease condition. The key to all of this is to start slowly, one thing at a time such as beginning with separating fruits from other foods.

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A Sattvic Diet – cleaner, fresher, purer, energetic food choices

Ayurvedic foods & spicesWhat is Sattvic Diet?

Ayurveda is the ancient science of life dating back over 5000 years and within this science, food choices and eating habits were outlined to benefit all humans according to their constitution (body type). According to ayurveda, a sattvic diet is the most conducive diet for living a naturally balanced life and to keep our minds clear, happy and peaceful and of course free from diseases.

Modern preparation of food uses numerous refining processes, chemical and additives that increase shelf life. These processes deplete our foods of their ‘life-force’ and over time have a negative impact on our digestion and health.

Sattvic foods are nutritious vegetarian foods that enhance our vitality by developing the tissues of our body and thus ‘ojas’ that increases our resistance to disease. We are essentially trying to raise our vibration by making purer food choices.

According to ayurveda, fresh foods are best, which have a balance of all the six tastes, consumed in moderate portions in a relaxed environment.

Benefits of a sattvic diet?

  • Create clarity in the channels of the body
  • Increase flow of ‘prana’ – our life force
  • Vegetarian therefore lighter and easier for the digestion
  • Organic unprocessed foods that are not chemical laden (pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers, hormones, irradiation ) or rich in salts and sugars
  • Foods prepared with love, increases its energetic quality
  • Seasonal vegetables are conducive to natural rhythms of our bodies
  • Natural whole foods have more active enzymes to assist bodily functions and prevent diseases.
  • A sattvic diet is an integral part of working towards self-improvement and intellectual and spiritual pursuits
  • A sattvic diet will help maintain a positive disposition and you will exude sattvic qualities in your character such as generosity, kindness, openness, laughter, compassion and forgiveness.

Sattva, rajas & tamas – the energy of food

Everything on earth has a quality or ‘guna’ e.g. hot/cold/dry/unctuous/rough/smooth etc and anything we perceive through our sense (sound, sight, taste, smell, touch) can be categorised to be sattvic, rajasic or tamasic.

‘Saatvic’ foods have a pure and fresh energy that keep the mind light and clear. These foods include sprouted whole grains, fresh fruit, land and sea vegetables, pure fruit juices, nut and seed, legumes, nuts, seeds, sprouted seeds, honey, and herb teas, ghee and fresh milk. Sattvic foods tend not to disturb the stomach at all.

Whereas rajasic foods have the quality that can stimulate excess fire, aggression, passion, these include foods that are very hot, bitter, sour, dry, or salty. Hot peppers, garlic, onions, tomatoes, eggplant, vinegar, leeks, chocolates, caffeinated drink are examples.

Tamasic foods can create dullness, heaviness and inertia such as: meat, poultry, fish, eggs, mushrooms, leftover or cold foods and often potatoes.

However, in every day life functions some rajas and tamas qualities are still required for action of our goals/day to day functioning and inaction to induce sleep or relaxation respectively. Rajasic and tamasic foods would only be purposely chosen in cases of various medical conditions.

Preferred food choice examples:

Fruits: Apples, kiwi, prunes, Apricots, tangerines, bananas, lychee, pomegranate, cantaloupe, mango, papaya, cherries, melons, nectarines, cranberry, honeydew, oranges, grapefruit, watermelon, pineapples, grapes, peaches, plums, guava, pears, persimmon.

Vegetables: Artichokes, lettuce, beets, greens, asparagus, daikon, fennel, parsnips, bok choy, peas, broccoli, green beans, brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, lima beans, carrot, turnips.

Sprouted Whole Grains: Amaranth, spelt, barley, buckwheat, bulgur, millet, quinoa, basmati rice, oatmeal.

Oils: Olive, safflower, sesame, sunflower.

Legumes: most lentils, mung, yellow split peas, chickpeas, aduki beans.

Spices: Coriander, basil, cumin, nutmeg, fennel seed, parsley, cardamom, fenugreek, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, saffron.

Nut/Seed: Brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, coconuts, pine nuts, walnuts.

Milk: Seed milk, hemp milk, almond or other nut milk, organic cows milk, buttermilk, natural set yoghurt.

Sweeteners: Cane juice, raw honey, jaggery, fruit juices.