How to eat for health, vitality and longevity. A guide to the foods to avoid and enjoy along with a general guideline on how to eat.
Foods to Avoid
LEFT OVERS: Meals should be consumed fresh – you can take food 5-6 hours after preparing it and you should find a way to keep it warm after cooking it – either putting it on a low burner or in a hotbox. Do not consume food the next morning. This food is lacking vitality and will weaken digestion and produce ama (toxins).
FERMENTED AND SPICY FOODS: Such as vinegars, chilies, yoghurt should be taken in moderation. Yoghurt should be best taken when freshly homemade and still havinga sweet taste. Even then Ayurveda indicates it should be taken in cold weather due to it’s heating nature. It should never be taken at night. Chilies are too heating for the digestive system and long term usage is not good. If taken they should be taken in colder weather in great moderation. Green chili is better than red. Vinegars should be avoided with the exception of umeboshi vinegar which is medicinal (in moderation) and apple cider vinegar (in moderation).
All these foods are very heating and should be used in moderation only.
PROCESSED FOODS: These foods lack prana (life force) and chetna (intelligence). When consumed they make one sluggish and decrease comprehension and vitality. As convenient as they seem, they are not worth it! Note: For ideal nutrition a diet of organic food as much as possible should be taken. The chemicals used in food production do not digest and cause a long term buildup of ama and blockage to the mini-channels (srotas) of the body, thus speeding up the disease process. Try an organic diet for a week or two and notice your extra energy and vitality.
Including: Tinned/Microwaved/GM/frozen/denatured/non-natural/foods with additives and chemicals etc.
COLD FOODS AND DRINKS: These should be avoided at all times. Nothing should be eaten out of the refrigerator or freezer directly. These foods weaken the digestive fire and cause ama (toxins).
HARD CHEESE: Replace with fresh homemade paneer / ricotta cheese or any fresh cheese for essential B12 vitamins. If cheese must be consumed then it is best to cook it with some digestive spices such as cumin.
UNRIPE AND SOUR FRUITS: Fruit should always be taken ripe and sweet. In modern times due to processing this is very difficult to find thus we recommend cooking (steaming or baking) fruit with some spices such as cloves or cinnamon. Juicing is also very good.
TOMATOES, POTATOES, EGGPLANT: Replace with tamarind/kokum/sweet lime (for souring effect), sweet potatoes and other veggies. They are hard to digest and cause ama (toxins). Good substitutes are: Tamarind or Kokum for the souring effect of tomatoes or sweet limes. Sweet potatoes or yams for potatoes and any other vegetable for brinjals.
WHITE SUGAR: Replace with Jaggery/Raw Organic Sugar (Rappadura) White sugar is an empty food, devoid of nutrition, is highly addictive and also removes essential nutrients from the body. It produces ama (toxins) in the digestive system.
WHITE FLOUR: Replace with freshly ground organic wheat/spelt White flour is devoid of nutritional value and prana (life energy). Grains should always be consumed as freshas possible as they loose vitality after grinding with time. White flour is often treated with numerous chemicals and a chemical bleach. It causes digestive trouble and ama (toxins).
RED MEAT: Replace with white meat and fresh fish/seafood. Note: meat should ideally be reduced or avoided all together, but if taken it should be at best take in moderation. Fresh and wild meats are best and free range organic meats of domesticated animals. Fresh fish and seafood should be used when available and always taken with fresh lime or lemon as a seasoning to balance the heating quality of fish.
Foods to Enjoy
SPICES: Most essential is the use of spices. Cumin, coriander, fennel and saffron are the bestfor balancing all doshas, increasing agni (digestive fire) and should be used liberally. Black pepper, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, mustard seeds, nutmeg, all fresh herbs (particularly fresh coriander) and onions, garlic and ginger should also be used. Asafoetida reduces vata and should be added when cooking pulses, cabbage and beans to reduce their gas producing properties. Fresh ginger root in moderation is an excellent aid to digestion. Fresh herbs should be grown and used liberally.
DRINKS: Black tea and coffee can be drunk, but herbal teas and decaffeinated coffee are better. If accustomed to taking black tea and coffee then look for organic varieties and take with tea masala or cardamom in the coffee. Work towards greatly reducing tea and coffee consumption as they are not good for long term health. Good alternatives to normal coffee are Rajas Cup (available in local health stores). Ginger tea made from fresh roots is warming, agni (digestive fire) increasing, removes mucus and toxins and is the number one remedy for coughs and colds. It should be taken in moderation and is very good after a heavy meal. Bancha Tea (tea twig tea) is an excellent daily day for general health and detoxification. Dried rose petal tea is the best tea in summer. Any other warm herbal teas such as chamomile, mint, basil and so forth are wonderful daily elixirs.
SWEETNERS: Refined sugar should be replaced by jaggery (solidified sugar cane juice), raw cane sugar (rappadura), date sugar, molasses, rice syrup, maple syrup, barley malt or honey. Honey is not heat stable and becomes poisonous for the body when heated, cooked or baked. Get your honey from a reliable source and make sure it has not been heated or otherwise denatured. Consume honey only in a very small quantity. It is very good in winter particularly due to it’s warming nature. Do not put honey in your tea or in boiling water. Do not cook or bake with honey.
ANIMAL PRODUCTS: If meat is eaten at all one should stick to white meat only, i.e. chicken and turkey. Fish is very hot and pitta increasing in nature and therefore best avoided. If eaten one should choose fresh water rather then sea fish. Fish should always be taken with lemon which is cooling.
DAIRY PRODUCTS: Of all dairy products ghee (clarified butter) is the best - it is like a medicine (highly pitta and vata reducing) and can be cooked with and added to practically everything. Normal butter is also good and definitely better then margarine and other such processed spreads! Milk (organic and unpasteurized only!) should only be taken warm and, spiced with ginger, cardamom, cinnamon or turmeric. Good alternatives to cow‘s milk are soy and rice milk. Fresh cheeses such as quark, mozzarella, feta and ricotta are easier to digest then hard, old ones and are also less mucus producing. They are best enjoyed with some black pepper to stimulate agni (digestive fire). Pasteurized and homogenized dairy products block the channels of the body and are best consumed as little as possible. If no other source of milk is available then rather avoid dairy products. Ghee can be found in local health stores or prepared by gently heating unsalted butter on a low heat until it separates and is clarified. Ghee becomes a beautiful golden colour when ready.
SWEET FRUITS: Such as apples, pears, apricots, mangos (sweet and ripe!), grapes, cherries, plums, sweet berries, peach, plum, fresh figs, dates and also pomegranate. Bananas are very cold in energy and therefore best eaten when cooked with a little spice such as cinnamon. They should be avoided while having a cough, cold, flu or mucus accumulation in the respiratory tract. Unsulphured dried fruits are okay, but have to be soaked or made into a stew with a little jaggery and spice such as clove, cardamom and cinnamon. Fruit juices are excellent energizers and concentrated form of nutrition. Apples and pears should be best taken stewed or steamed with a little ghee, spice and jaggery. Try to eat only seasonal fruits which are organic and tree ripened. Unripe fruit should be cooked or made into chutneys or preserved as if taken raw they will cause indigestion. Papayas are an excellent digestive. Papaya, orange and pineapple juice is a special mix for digestion and vitality (note do not take when pregnant).
Special Note: Always take fruit by itself unless it is cooked. Raw fruit is best taken early in the morning as breakfast. Fruit digests quickly generally and when taken correctly produces ojas (essence) for the body.
SEEDS AND NUTS: Such as pumpkin, sesame, poppy and sunflower seeds, pine nuts, almonds (without skin), walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios and brazil nuts should only be eaten in very small amounts (max. 10 daily!) as they are heavy to digest and vata increasing in excess. They are best soaked and made into a paste or milk. Peanuts and cashew nuts should be avoided. The flesh, milk, cream and flakes of coconuts can be used liberally.
BREADS: Unleavened and unfermented breads are best for all. Learn to make chappatis, rotis, tortillas etc.
SEASONING: Gomasio (toasted sesame ground with sea salt by hand), umeboshi, tamari, miso, lemon, umeboshi vinegar etc. Can all be used in moderation as seasonings to meals. Do not use any processed or prepared seasonings.
SEA VEGETABLES: Kombu (kelp), Wakama, Nori, Agar-Agar, Dulse etc. Can all be taken well cooked with legumes, grains or vegetables. Nori can be taken raw and toasted in the form of sushi which it is commonly known for.
SALT: Black salt is the best and most balanced salt for general use. Sea salt is also good. Salt should be well cooked into the food and not just added at the end. For cooking of legumes, salt can be added once the legumes are soft but still should be well cooked into the legumes.
COOKED VEGETABLES: Pumpkin, squashes, marrow, courgette, spinach, french beans, mange-tout, asparagus, fennel, sweed, sweet corn, onions, carrots, parsnips, beetroot, cellery, chicory and leeks. However, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, peppers, broad beans, kohlrabi and potatoes should only be taken occasionally. Baking and streaming are the best methods of preparing vegetables. Stir fry is also fine. Use a little ghee or olive oil, some raw sea salt or black salt and some spices to flavour. Raw parsley and coriander and other herbs such as oregano, basil etc. can be taken anytime and are wonderful condiments to a meal with very good blood purifying properties.
RAW VEGETABLES: (carrots, cucumbers, celery, peppers etc.) should be avoided (except as juices), but lettuce and all salad leaves can be taken at lunch time, preceding the meal and served with oil. Fresh vegetables can be taken as a juice. Fresh vegetable juices are wonderful super-nutrient packages that digest easily. Carrot juice is a wonderful daily elixir. Try to get a slow juicing masticating juicer.
PULSES: Pulses are the best source of vegetable protein and should form the main component of your diet along with grains. Green mung and split mung beans, tur dal and red lentils are easy to digest, balancing and nourishing to the body. Chickpeas, chana dal, black-eyed and kidney beans should only be taken very occasionally and must be thoroughly soaked and well cooked. To get the full value from pulses they should be eaten together with grains (esp. rice). Tofu made from soya beans can also be enjoyed. Of all the legumes, mung dal and yellow mung dal are the best. Adzuki beans are also very good but must be well soaked and cooked with a small piece of kombu (deep sea kelp) ideally. Always use turmeric and hing when cooking legumes. These spices remove the windy (Vata increasing) nature of the beans.
GRAINS: Including rice (brown basmati, short grain brown rice), oat, rye, maize, millet, amaranth, quinoa, kamut, spelt, polenta; organic wheat or spelt. Flours made from the above grains are fine and should be used as soon after grinding as possible. Ideally invest in your own grain mill. Flat breads should be eaten well toasted and if taken leavened bread then sour-dough is the best method of leavening. Buttermilk can also be used to leaven bread or cakes. Porridge of any grain made without milk, but with cinnamon and cardamom, coconut flakes, soaked raisins or stewed fruit is an ideal breakfast: easy to digest, highly nutritious, warming and energizing. A little ginger can be added in cooler weather.
Special Note: Grains should be taken from organic sources only as non organic grains are highly contaminated and being the main components of our diet we should pay attention to using organic grain when possible.
Guidelines for Eating
Take your main meal at lunchtime.
A short brisk walk is an aid to digestion.
Do not get up immediately after eating. Sit for a few minutes.
Sit while eating.
Try to cook and eat with full consciousness (no TV or radio).
Share your food.
Give thanks to where your food came from (Creator).
Do not rush while you eat and take time to chew your food.
Eat in a calm and settled atmosphere.
Do not eat too late and leave 1-2 hours before sleeping.
Try to eat at regular times each day. Only eat when hungry and when the last meal has digested (after 3-4 hours).
Favour organic foods as much as possible.
Try not to overcook food. Cook till soft but not mushy.
Eat till 3/4 of your capacity.
Cooked is better than raw. Raw food can be taken as juices or smoothies.
Warm, sloppy, soupy meals are better than dry solid meals.
Do not mix milk with fruit, honey, meat or fish.