No Tomatoes—Seriously?

Concern for what and how we should eat is at an all-time high, and this is fueling interest in all kinds of nutritional philosophies.  Ayurveda—the time-honored medical science from India—has used food as a medicine for thousands of years and so many are curious about its unique understanding of food as an integral part of health.

Ayurvedic nutrition is based on a profound understanding of the effects, or karmas, that foods exert in the body.  Each type of food, known in India, has been studied and its qualities and effects observed and described.

Some qualities act in concert with one another and cause effects that are not desirable.   Two of these effects are called abhishandi and vidahi.

Abhishandi foods are those that increase sticky secretions and moisture in the body.  These foods combine the heavy, sour and oily qualities which then increase sticky secretions and moisture in the body.  An example of this is molasses.  Yogurt is said to be abhishandi.  Tomatoes and white potatoes are quite possibly abhishandi.

Vidahi foods cause burning and combine the sour, pungent, heavy and oily qualities which then cause burning—coffee and tomato sauce are examples of vidahi foods.  These foods are easier to identify because they are often triggers for burning in the chest, or sour, burning liquid that comes up into the esophagus or throat—commonly known as heartburn or acid reflux.

It is recommended that foods that are either abhishandi or vidahi be consumed only occasionally and if there is a disease or imbalanced condition in which they are directly implicated, not at all.

Unfortunately, tomatoes are in both categories.

Wow, what do we do with pasta then?  No more spaghetti sauce, are you kidding?

No problem, you can actually make a tasty “red” sauce without tomatoes!

Here’s how:

Tomatoless Red Pasta Sauce

  • 1 Roasted Butternut Squash
  • 1 Roasted Beet, peeled and cut in to small chunks
  • 1 medium onion or 1 leek, diced
  • 2 to 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 to 2 Tablespoons of mild-tasting oil—olive, grapeseed, etc.
  • 1 vegetarian bouillon cube and 2 cups of water or 2 cups of vegetarian broth
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons of crushed dried basil, as per taste, or 2 to 3 Tablespoons minced fresh basil
  • Other spices you like to put in tomato sauce
  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon of Pink Himalayan Sea Salt, depending on taste

 

  1. Scrape the butternut squash flesh into a bowl and reserve.
  2. Put the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot and heat to a low-moderate level. When the oil shimmers, add the diced onion or leek and sauté until the onion starts to brown.
  3. Add the minced garlic and sauté for a few moments
  4. Add the basil and stir it into the onion-garlic mix
  5. Add the butternut squash flesh and stir it to mix all the ingredients well. Sauté 5 to 10 minutes, stirring enough so that nothing sticks to the bottom
  6. Add the bouillon cube and water or the broth. Stir to mix the ingredients and then simmer for around 20 minutes—until the mixture has cooked down to a thicker consistency.  Stir occasionally so that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot.
  7. Remove the pot from the heat and place on a pot holder on your counter:

 

  • If you have an immersion blender, let the mix sit for about 10 minutes and then use the immersion blender to blend it to a smooth, thick consistency
  • If you have a regular blender, then remove the pot from the heat and place on a pot holder on your counter. Let the mix sit for 20 to 30 minutes to cool down.  Then blend the mixture in batches, blending each batch to a smooth, thick consistency.
  • After your sauce is blended into a nice consistency. Add one chunk of beet to the mix and blend.  If the color of the sauce turns to the reddish, tomato-sauce like color you like, then return the pot to the stove and heat to cook down the sauce a bit more.  If you would like a redder color, then add another chunk of beet and blend, assessing the color.  Stop adding beet chunks when you attain the color you like.
  • Note:  I’ve found that adding 1 quarter of a beet gives a nice orangey-red color, but you may want your color darker.  Adding the whole beet makes it beet-colored, which is fine, but this may not work for people, like kids, who like things to look like what they expect.

 

  1. Now, just heat your sauce on low and bring to a simmer. Obtain the juice from ½ of your lemon, and add a teaspoon of it to your sauce.  Add ½ teaspoon of salt and stir well.  Simmer another couple moments and then taste for tartness and saltiness.  Adjust the amount of lemon juice and salt to your taste.
  2. Serve over pasta, vegetables or other grain.
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Got the Holiday Travel Blues? Ayurveda to the Rescue!

Many of us will be traveling this holiday–by the end of travel, we will likely feel exhausted and out of whack, but then need to jump right into the whirl of holiday festivities.  At some point during or after our visit, we might be bloated, constipated or even sick.

This is because travel specifically disrupts the flow of Vata in our systems.  Vata is responsible for the smooth flow of movement, regulation and elimination.  Travel is especially hard on Vata because it often requires that we sit in one position for a long time, carry heavy suitcases and bags, move quickly and then stop, and stand in long lines—all of which are specific causes for disruption of Vata, especially for its function of eliminating wastes.  Thus, many find their bowel function discombobulated during or after travel.

If we are flying, these causes can be especially pronounced and jetting through the air at high speed is a sure recipe for extreme Vata aggravation.

Then, when we get to our destination we engage in parties and gatherings where it’s easy to overeat and overdo, talk a lot and loudly, and eat a lot of foods that are dry—crackers and chips—and also those that are heavy and rich—desserts, cream sauces, etc.  We stay up late and get up early.  These things aggravate the flow of Vata even more.

So what to do?  Continue reading

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Fall–The Season of Transition

Fall–changeable and unpredictable, one day is sunny and warm, the other is chilly with maybe even some rain.  It’s a season of harvest and markedly shorter days and longer nights.
In Ayurvedic Medicine, Fall is understood as the season where Pitta is at it’s peak. In India, Fall is the transitional period from the Monsoon season, where Vata is at it’s peak, to Winter where all three doshas are at a lull.  Here, we do not have a monsoon season, just a long period of accumulated heat and dryness that starts sometime in Spring and continues to the first real rains.  This has led many here to say that Vata is at it’s peak in fall.    Classically though, Vata is at it’s peak during the colder, rainy period and so may be at it’s peak in early winter here.
Some recent science investigating seasonal gene variation found similarities in gene expression during monsoon season in equatorial climates and cold winter season in more northern climates.
A colleague and I are doing a study investigating this–we’ll be needing people to volunteer to collect data on what they are feeling in their bodies to match up against what practitioners are observing here and in India.  It’s a pilot study, so we hope that it will lead to further research.  If you’re interested in volunteering to collect data, stay tuned.  We’ll be sending the survey out in a month or two.
For now, it would seem that attention to both Pita and Vata should be the order of the day and individually we should attend to whether we predominantly feel hot, dry, oily and/or cold and act accordingly.
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Tis the season….

Tis the season to think about dieting.  Or is it?  Many of us are thinking about New Year’s resolutions that revolve around weight.  Thinness is the Holy Grail of our time and there is immense pressure from the medical community, media and our peers to join in the quest.  We know that if we don’t try to lose weight we won’t be healthy or beautiful—we’ll be at risk for a myriad of diseases, we won’t be able to wear the cutest styles or have a love life.  Our idols are airbrushed to an impossible level of thinness, but we don’t care, we believe the hype.  And, if necessary, we’ll nip, we’ll tuck and we’ll starve ourselves because we want to be happy and beautiful.

Ayurveda is often misused in the war on weight.  If we just eat the appropriate tastes or the right combination of foods, then, magically, our bodies will transform into that thin, happy version of ourselves that we yearn for.  Funny thing though in Ayurveda, weight on its own is not really considered to be a parameter of health.

I talked to Dr. Yashashree Mannur, BAMS, my teacher, about what Ayurveda–the Ayurveda based upon the texts that are thousands of years old—has to say about this.  Here’s what she had to say…

Continue reading

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Fava and Spring Onion Rice Salad

You may have heard that salad is not an encouraged item on the Ayurvedic menu…so, I use the term “salad” loosely here.  Yes, it is true that raw foods are not encouraged on a regular basis in Ayurvedic nutritional science, as they are rough, cold and difficult to digest—all qualities that are increasing to Vata.  So, this is a salad of cooked items, dressed in olive oil with spices.  It features spring onions, fava beans and mint or cilantro—all available in spring time farmer’s markets.

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Spring Mediter-Indian Split Yellow Peas

In springtime, according to our digestive fire and constitutional nature, we can incorporate a little more of the lighter, rougher and dryer qualities in our meals because Kapha dosha, the water and earth elements, is at its peak.  Yellow Split Peas are a good source of the astringent taste and are therefore Ruksha or drying.  They  also have a bit of the Khara or rough quality.  Turmeric is drying and warm, while fresh ginger adds some umph to your digestive fire.  These qualities can be helpful during mid-Spring when accumulated  Kapha is  in its liquid stage after the late-winter/early spring build up. Continue reading

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Ritucharya–Honoring Seasonal Change

Ayurveda recognizes that we are creatures of our universe not apart from it—our bodies are exquisite symphonies of regulation, metabolism and structure interacting with the external environment.  That symphony takes its cues from the daily and seasonal light-dark cycle.  When this pattern is disrupted our natural rhythms become disrupted as well.  The best way to resist this disruption is to have daily and seasonal routines that we follow which also signal to our internal systems what to expect.  Ayurvedic medicine calls these routines dinacharya for daily routine and ritucharya for seasonal routine. Continue reading

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Abhyanga–Love your Skin!

excerpted article also available on GoFitty.com and EverydayAyurveda.com

If you have ever consulted with an Ayurvedic Practitioner, chances are that they recommended abhyanga to you.  Abhyangas are a prized therapy in Ayurvedic Medicine and can be received from a massage therapist or self-administered.  Christine Tykeson, fellow Ayurvedic Practitioner and Massage Therapist in Lompoc, CA, has been doing extensive research into the use of Sesame oil and Ayurvedic Body Therapies and shared her insights with me recently. Continue reading

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Detox. Seriously?

These days the media waves are cluttered with diets and products that claim to aide in detoxification.  Modern medicine is contemptuous of these claims and is quick to point out that there is very little science to support claims about detoxification.  Yet detoxification is an age-old treatment and has been used by traditional medicine systems the world over.  In Ayurvedic medicine, detox is a premier treatment, the pinnacle of which is Pancha Karma (PK).  PK involves an intensive regimen that includes simplified diet, herbs and therapeutic practices that help the body recover from the lingering results of improper diet, poor digestion and environmental toxins, the effects of which accumulate over time. In short: detoxification.  In India, many undergo these treatments in hospitals where the process is supervised by medical professionals.  More and more westerners, including myself, have also undergone these treatments.  In my case, I underwent PK to address troublesome symptoms of peri-menopause and can say unequivocally that after my Pancha Karma, I no longer experience my symptoms, the most troublesome of which were daily hot flashes.  As a side benefit, I lost ten pounds.

Methodical detoxification has a long track record in traditional medical systems other than Ayurveda, as well.  Continue reading

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Gut Check: Biodiveristy in Your Own Belly

At your core, deep inside your gut, you have a garden…a plethora of bacteria creating your very own bio-network.  The health and happiness of this intimate ecology influences your health, your likelihood of being obese and a myriad of other health concerns.  All of us live in a grand symbiosis where we play host to a trillion little one-celled creatures—they outnumber the cells that make up our tissues by ten to one.  We provide the little guys with a place to live and regular access to food, and they help us with digestion and influence how our metabolism and immune system works.  But you are not just a passive host—the choices you make about food are your contribution to this system that, in turn, supports your health. Continue reading

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