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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Easy & Light Spiced Chickpea Recipe

Basil leafs over assortment of spices1 cup chana dal (dried chick-peas)
1 teaspoon salt
5 cup water; plus
2 tbsp ghee (clairifed butter)
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 medium chopped onion
1 tablespoon fresh ginger root; scraped, finely chopped
1/2 tsp each of turmeric, ground cumin ground coriander, garam masala
1/4 tsp red chilli powder
2 tbsp freshly chopped coriander leaves

Thoroughly wash the chick-peas under cold and soak overnight for 12 hours uncovered with 5cm water at top. Drain the chick-peas, place them in a heavy saucepan, with salt and 4 cups of the water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then cover the pan, and simmer over a low heat for 1 hour.

In a separate saucepan, heat the ghee over high heat and add the cumin seeds and stir for 30 seconds, then add the onions and ginger. Lower the heat to medium and constantly stir for approx 7/8 minutes, until the onions are soft and golden brown. Do not let onions burn.
Stir in the all the ground spices with 2 tablespoon of water, and fry for 1 minute. Then add the chick-peas their cooking liquid and add 1 cup of water (as necessary). Bring to a boil over high heat and stir constantly, cover the pan and simmer for about 25 minutes on a low heat, or until the chick-peas are tender but still whole. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve with rice.

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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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New Year, New Ayurvedic Outlook

Ayurvedic Herbal TeasSo we are well into the new year and so many of us made a resolution to start a ‘detox’, lose the holiday weight, stop drinking and get back into the gym. How many of us actually last past the first few weeks or even the first few days? So many people fail to complete a detoxifcation cleanse in January as it does not fit in with their lifestyle, they are not mentally prepared and lets face it, there’s still plenty of indulgences lurking in the cupboards. But do not fear all is not doom and gloom, changing diets drastically during the winter months is not conducive to our overall health and according to Ayurveda the ideal time to go through a detoxification programme is in Spring time, so plenty of time to plan and prepare.

Ayurvedic advocates following a seasonal regime to support our well being, we are in the hemanta and shishira months (December to March) and our Agni (digestive fire) is at its strongest during these months, hence the tendency to feel increased hunger. The quest to lose weight can have an adverse affect on our metabolism at this time as we starve our body of essential nutrients.

Without radical dieting, we can adopt methods to pacify winter ailments such as fatigue, mental confusion, digestive problems, aches, pains and persistent cold while giving ourselves time to prepare for a deeper cleanse and weight loss in a more suitable season. Winter is essentially a vata and kapha period and a vata pacifying diet is most suitable.

  • Avoid the causative factors such as refined sugars, fried, leftover or cold foods saturated fats, and heavy dairy.
  • Eat foods that are naturally sweet, sour and salty by taste to help pacify vata dosha, such as soups, stews, hot teas and stewed fruits.
  • Favour foods that are wholesome and easy to digest including, carrots, tomatoes, figs, dates, cane sugar, nuts, seeds, seasonal root vegetables, wheat, gram flour, rice barley, rye, milk products, edible oils such as ghee and olive oil
  • Immunity is connected to digestion and when digestion is strong then immunity is robust, so drink warm/hot water and digestion enhancing spices such as ginger, cumin, coriander, cardamom and cinnamon. Strengthen your immune system with chywanprash, a jam packed full of immune boosting herbs.
  • Good news, Ayurveda says that a glass of warmed red wine can be and beneficial in winter, you can warm with cinnamon, cardamom, clove, ginger, fennel, nutmeg and black pepper
  • Opt for regular massage and hot or steam bath
  • Arise at 7am and take plenty of exercise to keep lymph moving and prevent congestion,
  • sexual activity is encouraged
  • Wear warm clothing of cottons, silks and wools.
  • Take exposure to sun when possible
  • Engage in calming meditation

Following a more natural regime will ensure that the body is able to cope with a detox and expel the toxins out of the body more effectively. Consult a practitioner for one to one guidance on your constitution and a personalised detox plan for the Spring.

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Kitcheri – The Ultimate Ayurvedic Superfood

If I am feeling hungry and wanting something quick, this is one of my favouite staples that I regularly have for lunch or dinner or even both. So I made it for 3 very health conscious friends on Saturday evening and they seemed to really enjoy it. This basic, nutritiously wholesome Ayurvedic recipe is tridoshic and can be can be adapted  to suit all constitutions and tastes. You can vary the mung from whole green to split green to hulled yellow mung or change the rice part to barley or short grain brown rice and of course you can pick and choose which vegetables you fancy.
This dish is perfect for balancing all doshas and those who are trying to strengthen their agni (digestive fire). The simplest version  is often used as part of the pancakarma diet – without herbs and vegetables and also makes for a good accompaniment for vegetable curry dishes). Traditionally the simple version is reknowned in the Indian tradition as the food we have when we are sick.
Kitcheri (rice with green mung dahl & vegetables)

Ingredients
Ghee—
3 to 6 tsp.
Whole Spices—2 to 3 tsp.  e.g.

Cumin, other optional whole spices: Coriander, Fennel, Fenugreek.
Herbs—1/2 tsp. powdered herbs, e.g. cumin, coriander, turmeric, fresh ginger, salt to taste
Bay leaf—1 (optional)White basmati rice—1/2 cup.
Split green mung dhal—1/2 cup (now available in most large supermarkets of health food shops)
Water—2 cups, may need to add more
Vegetables of your choice—1-2 cups, dice (1cm size) e.g. carrots, peas, potato, cabbage, kale, onion. (optional)

Method

  • Heat ghee in medium-sized saucepan until melted then add whole spices & herbs. Stir. Allow the aromas release (1 minute).
  • Add mixed and rinsed rice and mung dahl and spices to the pan and stir cook for 15 minutes
  • Add the veg & water and stir. Bring to the boil, then reduce to low heat and cook covered for 30—60 mins or until vegetables are well cooked, but not mushy! Avoid stirring while cooking. The final consistency should like a thick porridge.

Add salt to taste and allow to stand for 2-3 minutes. Serve while hot