7 Ayurvedic Super Foods

According to modern science, food nutritionists, food industry leaders and dieticians, so called “superfoods” aren’t exactly “super.” Wikipedia describes that “Superfood is a marketing term used to describe foods with supposed health benefits..”

The European Union has even prohibited the marketing of products as “superfoods,” unless accompanied by a specific medical claim supported by credible scientific research.(1)

Not particularly inspiring…so I will redefine the word from an Ayurvedic perspective.

First of all, there is no need to exaggerate that foods are “super.” Whatever one uniquely needs will be their superfood. Additionally, everything is actually superfood if you know how to transform and use it.

In general, for a food to be “super” it must:

1. Promote ‘Sattva’

Sattva is a quality in us that translates to “purity.” If Sattva is increased, then so is our inner stillness, clarity of mind and contentment. Love radiates and flows back to us in abundance, while the hormone oxytocin (also known as the “bonding hormone”) is simultaneously secreting. Fresh, seasonal whole foods are predominately Sattvic, thus increases the Sattvic quality in us based on the Ayurvedic law of “like increases like.”

2. Detox and Heal the Body

Some Ayurvedic foods are prized for their powerful medicinal properties. Ayurveda valuably teaches us how to use food as medicine.

3. Directly nourish ‘Ojas’

Ojas is the vital essence of our body that translates to “vitality.”
A plentiful reserve of Ojas is reflected in the lustre of the eyes and skin (like the glow in a baby), strong physical strength, immunity and libido, good digestion, vigour and spirituality.

'Ojas' is considered to be the most refined product of digestion. Every food must metabolise through all the body’s tissues before it can become Ojas.

Ojas: a bio-celestial liquid substance that (predominately) resides in the heart, as well as all over the body in a less concentrated matter.

Building Ojas is an art. Perhaps one of the best ways to consistently build Ojas is to eat a diet of fresh unprocessed, seasonal whole foods, and have a balanced agni to support the process. A handful of special foods (some listed below) even metabolise to nourish and build Ojas directly.

The Super Seven!

The seven Ayurvedic super foods I have chosen genuinely are super. They aren’t just packed with a dense hit nutrients, minerals and essential constituents, but actually promote and support your bodies natural intelligence to absorb and produce its own required constituents itself! Further, The Super Seven promote strength, immunity, peace and contentment in the body and mind. And best of all, they are readily available to everyone! Here they are…

1. Hot Water

I am about to reveal to you a very special Ayurvedic purification technique that is excellent for eliminating toxins from the body’s system…
It sounds very simple, but you’ll find that is has a powerful influence in purifying and strengthening the gastrointestinal tract, as well as detoxing and rejuvenating the major systems of the body.

All you have to do is sip hot water frequently throughout the day.

Sipping frequently (rather than focusing on quantity) flushes the lymphatic system, softens hardened tissues (just like hot water will soften leather, unlike cold water) and dilates channels and deeply hydrates the body. It also heals and repairs the digestive system.
In a short time you’ll begin to appreciate the soothing and balancing effect of this technique. Once you have gotten used to it, you will look forward to drinking hot water on a frequent basis.

“Hot water is the most superfood.”
~ Dr. J.R. Raju.

 

 

2. Ghee

Ghee is the crown jewel that joins Ayurvedic medicine and Indian cooking. Ghee is clarified or purified butter. With all the lactose components & milk solids removed, no-one is allergic to ghee.
Ghee is light to digest and has the special quality of enkindling Agni and supports fat metabolism. It effectively detoxes the gut and is an effective source of internal lubrication.
This concentrated golden substance is highly Sattvic and directly nourishes Ojas.
Click HERE for more on the benefits of ghee

3. Cows Milk

Dairy has a bad name in the press these days. With people increasingly claiming dairy intolerances, it has become perilous in todays new-age health scene.

Let me clarify two reasons why this has developed:

1. The dairy industry in the west is increasingly producing homogenised milk from poorly treated, stress inundated cows that are being fed grains. Further, the milk is pasteurised the wrong way, with added chemicals, pesticides, preservatives and anti-biotic’s.

2. A lot of kids drink cold homogenised milk with sugar filled processed cereals, and topping it off with some fruit in their bowl or having a glass of OJ on the side – a highly “un-ayurvedic” recipe for an incompatible digestive disaster.

Hence, people develop a dairy intolerance. And it may only hit them down the track. Possibly when they finally begin to tune into their own body and become more conscious.

Let me also add, if you believe and accept the notion that “dairy is bad,” you negatively charge the micro-biome in the foods, stress out your own body and if when you eat dairy with guilt it will not digest well due to lack of harmonious compatibility. Mind is the culprit here.

However, Ayurveda on the other hand prizes dairy as one of the most medicinal and nourishing foods and one of the most anabolic foods that directly builds Ojas. Rest assured, it is not a requirement for anybody to drink milk all the time, but if someone is in need of strength or Ojas, milk is one of Ayurveda’s top choices.

What more, it is a classic Ayurveda sleep remedy to drink boiled milk with spices before bed, also having a profound stress reducing action. Modern science has proved ancient wisdom by showing cows milk has certain peptides that lower cortisol and support sleep by 50%.(2)

Cows are considered sacred animals in India and cow milk is highly revered in Ayurveda as one of the most Sattvic of foods.

Please note: milk should always be boiled with equal amounts of water and un-homogenised and preferably organic. This will make it easier to digest.

If you have difficulty with cow’s milk don’t worry, first correct your agni, then slowly introduce dairy. (Consult an Ayurvedic practitioner). Also, there are six other superfoods on the list to choose from!

4. Lassi

Lassi is buttermilk, or diluted yoghurt.

  • Improves digestion and a fantastic pro-biotic.
  • Lassi is the best alkaliser.
  • As Lassi improves digestion and absorption it ultimately supports calcium absorption and bone health.
  • Balances heat (pitta) and clear the physical channels.
  • It is the best remedy (with a pinch of salt) for haemorrhoids and anal fissures.
  • A great food to introduce dairy to a lactose intolerant person after they have corrected their agni.
  • Lassi is very hydrating, and a great drink to have with lunch.

*Yoghurt should be fresh.
Ratios of Yoghurt : Water: 1:4, 1:6, or 1:14.

Lassi recipe here

5. Honey

Honey is super Sattivc and directly nourishes our own life-nectar, Ojas. It is actually more of a medicine than a food. Due to its richness, it should be taken in moderation.

On the other hand, Ayurveda teaches that honey will be poisonous when heated above body temperature (that means no honey in hot teas, hot porridge, cooking with honey etc.) as it perniciously clogs the channels. This is why is it always important to purchase honey that is extracted at low temperatures.

Learn more: Honey: Nectar or Poison

6. Turmeric

Turmeric (Curcuma Longa) is the most thoroughly researched plant on this planet! and i don’t blame the scientists for the 5600 peer-reviewed and published biomedical studies.

Turmeric has a vast catalogue of health benefits, but here is an essential summary on why to use Turmeric as medicine in your daily cooking:

  • It is the best anti-inflammatory.
  • It regulates mood and boosts cognitive function.
  • Protects the gut and stomach lining.
  • Supports joints: (pain, stiffness, swelling, arthritis) and healthy blood.
  • Since turmeric is anti-carcinogenic, it is vital to use when cooking meat due to the high risk of carcinogenic properties in most meat these days.

Turmeric powder is best advised, always with a pinch of black pepper, as black pepper increases the absorption of turmeric by an astonishing 2000%!(3)

Learn More: The Essential Uses of Turmeric

7. Almonds

Almonds are also Sattvic and help to maintain our Ojas. They are a good source of zinc, strengthen the body and grounding for the mind. But they are also quite rich and heavy, so again, moderation is the key. Half a handful of almonds a day is enough. To make them lighter and easier to digest, always soak almonds overnight in water and remove their skins the next day.

If you are in any doubt about your health please be sure to consult an Ayurvedic Practitioner or your local health physician.

References:
(1)  "Superfood 'ban' comes into effect". BBC News. 2007-06-28.
(2) The Open Sleep Journal. 2009;2:128-32
(3) Research done at St. John’s Medical College, Bangalore, India Planta Med. 1998 May;64 (4):353-6. PMID: 9619120

article originally published on Welcome Earth

Kitchari: The Essential & Delicious Ayurvedic Dish

Beyond all other Indian meals, there is one considered to facilitate spiritual growth and effectively detox the body.

Kitchari, pronounced Kich-ah-ree, has long been used to nourish babies and the elderly, the sick, and the healthy during special times of detox, cleansing, and deep spiritual practice.

A simple porridge like blend of lentils, rice and spices, kitchari is a comfort and health food that has many nourishing and cleansing benefits. Everyone should eat Kitchari at least a couple to a few times a week to reset digestion and nourish your body and mind.

Ingredients:

Split yellow mung beans along with a long grain white, basmati, or red rice and a blend of traditional Indian spices.

Why White Rice?

White Rice is easier to digest because the husk has been milled off. While brown rice supplies more nutrients, the husk makes brown rice a little harder to digest. During cleansing, it is important to be gentle on an already compromised digestion. Generally brown rice is also ok.
Red Rice is the best choice because it is most easily digested and is high in B12.

Why Split Yellow Mung Beans?

These are the only legumes that are “vata balancing.” This means that, unlike every other type of beans or lentils, they will not produce any intestinal gas.
They naturally are much easier to cook, digest, and assimilate.

Complete and Perfect Protein

The combination of rice and legumes have been a stable around the world for thousands of years, and for a good reason. All the essential amino acids that we need are provided by both of these together, making it a complete protein. Generally when you mix grain and legume/lentil, you get complete protein.

Kitchari for Cleansing

During a cleanse, it is essential to have adequate protein to keep the blood sugar stable and the body burning fat.

One of the most common reasons folks have trouble with cleansing is due to unstable blood sugars made worse by the detox process.

Look at a liquid fast for example, people are asked to drink only water, juice or veggies. For many, this type of fasting can be a strain and deplete blood sugar reserves. Then folks get really hungry, irritable, and end up with a (low blood sugar) headache or crash. The body cannot shift to fat metabolism and detox the fat cells (purpose of a cleanse) if the body is under stress and strain as a result of a difficult fast.

 

The Vital Short Home Cleanse

During this cleanse, Kitchari is your staple.

 

Basic Equation:

Stress = Fat Storing
No Stress = Fat Burning

So when you are cleansing, to detox heavy metals, preservatives, chemicals, pesticides and environmental toxins (which are stored in your fat cells), make sure you do not strain! Same goes with exercise.

“No Pain No Gain” is a myth and is actually counter-productive.

Fat burning is not just to loose weight, that is just a side effective. Burning fat enhances mood stability, good sleep, increases cognitive function, less cravings, balances acidity and maintains stable and calm energy levels throughout the day.

During a cleanse you can eat kitchari daily, even for 2-3 meals a day. If you do this, you sure can change it up by adding in veges or some lean meat.

Kitchari to Heal Digestion

In India, kitchari is often the first food for babies, not only because it is so easy to digest, it also heals and soothes the intestinal wall.

With 95 percent of the body’s serotonin produced in the gut, it is clear we process our stress through the intestinal wall. Chronic stress will irritate the intestinal wall and compromise digestion, the ability to detoxify through the gut, and cope with stress. During a kitchari cleanse, the digestive system can rest while being provided the nutrition needed to heal the gut and nourish the body.

 

Kitchari Recipe

You can play around with the quantities and types of spices according to taste, body constitution and season.

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp of ghee (inferior is coconut oil) - use more ghee if you are doing the Vital Short Home Cleanse.
  • 1/2 cup of split yellow mung dahl
  • 1/2 cup of white rice or red rice
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 5 Tbsp freshly grated ginger (to taste)
  • 1tsp turmeric powder
  • pinch of black pepper.
  • 2-3 pinches of asafoetida
  • 10 curry leaves
  • 1 heaped tsp salt
  • 1 whole onion (finely chopped)
  • 1-3 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
  • 4-8 cups of water (can be adjusted according to how long you soak for and desired consistency).

Method:

  1. Wash mung and rice then Soak for 1-2 hours in water.
  2. Strain mung & rice, add (approx. 8 cups of water) in a pot and cook. May need to add more water as you go.
  3. In a separate heavy-bottomed pan, add ghee on medium heat. Do this when the mung+ rice is nearly finished being cooked (after approximately 5-10 mins. This depends on heat and how long you soaked the dal and rice).
  4. Saute cumin, fennel, curry leaves, fresh ginger and any other herbs (not powdered herbs) in ghee until the seeds start to pop.
  5. Add onion & garlic (chopped finely) and cook until slightly golden.
  6. Add your "final spices" to the pan - turmeric + pinch of black pepper + salt + hing and fry for less thirty seconds.
  7. Add pan-fried herbs to dahl and rice and mix well, infusing the spices in the dahl and rice.
  8. Cook and continue to stir for a little while. May need to add more water in till desired texture.
  9. Garnish with fresh lemon, black salt and fresh coriander.

Notes:

  • Diarrhoea or inflammation in the gut - 2 parts rice, 1 part yellow mung
  • If feeling depleted or constipation: 2 yellow mung, 1 rice
  • Balanced state: an equal ratio of mung and rice.
  • If having kitchari for dinner, best to not eat anything after (desert or milk) for full medicinal effect.
  • Can add steamed vegetables or lean meat when not cleansing, or for extra blood sugar support during a cleanse. (Although this isn’t real kitchari).

Kitchari: A New Favourite in Your Kitchen

Make kitchari when you are sick, when you are sad, when you are cleansing, for your kids or a loved one when they are not feeling 100%, when you can’t be bothered to cook, when your not fully grounded from travelling, when you need to regain your strength, or when you are feeling on top of the world!

You’ll be surprised how warming and comforting it is, and soon it’ll be the stuff you crave!