Spring Cleansing Part 3: Roar for Raw!

Summer is here and the sun is out, so if you’ve ever been tempted to try a raw food diet, then this might just be your moment.

What’s it all about?

  • This is food in its most nutritious state, with the vital elements of nature still within it – sun energy, water and nutrients from the earth, so it’s no surprise to find that it must consist of unprocessed and uncooked foods.
  • To be truly following a raw food diet, 75% of your total food intake has to be raw. More commonly, it is a vegan diet but it is possible to include raw fish, eggs and meat.
  • The only way food can be cooked is by using a dehydrator where the temperature never goes above 118 degrees F (48 degrees C). So you can use a conventional oven if the temperature goes down low enough.
  • You can eat a raw food diet with no special tools at all, but the following will allow you more scope for variety: Blender, food processor, juicer (masticating is best), spiralizer (fabulous for courgette spaghetti) and a dehydrater. READ MORE

Spring Cleansing Part 2: The Cleansing Power of Foods

Veg

“By nature the month of April, can give you a total new lease, eat light and eat right. In spite of the taxes and cleaning the houses and all other stuff, this is one time that you can give yourself a new sprouting energy.” Yogi Bhajan

Our diet should support the body’s natural detoxification processes by ensuring that we are taking in the right balance of nutrients at the same time as not burdening the system with congesting toxins.

So when are considering foods for cleansing, we need to consider what we put in….and what we take out! What this looks like ultimately is an alkalising diet, which is primarily a plant-based, whole food diet, low in animal protein, dairy, processed grains, sugar, alcohol and caffeine. READ MORE

 

Breakfast Re-set!

Leek, cougette & feta omelette 2

I used to have trouble with a Western breakfast. I can’t abide porridge, muesli leaves me cold, toast leaves me heavy and fruit is somehow not enough. Then a couple of years ago I went to Japan with my sister and my Japanese brother-in-law and found myself in breakfast heaven! Pickles, omelette, miso soup, fish and all sorts of other savoury delights, all exquisitely presented, making my taste buds dance and leaving me completely satisfied. Now I wasn’t ever going to get up at 5am to start pickling the daikon as my brother-in-law’s mother does, but it did get me starting to think creatively about what I wanted to eat when I broke my fast each day. It allowed me to be unshackled from the admittedly self imposed restriction around what breakfast should look like.
So here are some of my current favourites:

THE SUBSTANTIAL BREAKFAST

When I have a little more time in the morning and often when I’ve done a strong yoga practice or have come back from a swim and I feel in need of something substantial, I go for my favourite omelette/frittata. I gently sweat a chopped leek and courgette with a few mushrooms until soft (use a frying pan with a lid) Then I add either some cubes of feta cheese or smoked tofu and 2 beaten eggs and continue to cook with the lid off. Then I pop it under the grill for a few minutes to cook the top, slide it onto a plate and sprinkle with spouted mung beans or have a small side green salad.

THE VIBRANT BREAKFAST

Winter breakfast saladSpiralised courgette, avocado, orange, olives, red pepper, walnuts and seeds make a very delicious, nutritious and satisfying Winter Salad. It might seem a little strange to opt for salad for breakfast but give it a try – if you take the ingredients out of the fridge a while before making so you are eating it at room temperature.

Another option on a breakfast salad is

Yogi Bhajan’s Fountain of Youth

 

 THE ‘ON-THE-HOOF’ BREAKFAST

Bircher meusliOf course muesli not an unusual breakfast choice for many of us, but have you ever tried making Bircher muesli? It’s a great option when you’re short of time. The slow energy release oats are soaked overnight in apple juice and milk of your choice, then grated apple, honey, yoghurt and cinnamon are mixed in and a delicious nutty topping added. The great thing about it is that you can prepare most of it the night before; put the oat mixture into one jar and the dried ingredients into another….in the morning you add the grated apple etc. to the oat jar, tip the toppings in and off you go!

 

THE WARMING BREAKFAST

Banana & Apple SurpriseMy current favourite when I want something warm and comforting with a little bit of natural sweetness is Banana & Apple Surprise – with the surprise being a delicious layer of maca (for energy and stamina) and cacao nibs nestled between a bottom layer of mashed banana and good tahini and the top layer of warm spiced cooked apple.

 

 

 

THE CLASSIC BREAKFAST

Poached eggs on rye with rocketIt’s a classic but such a goody! Avocado on rye toast, with poached egg and rocket. Packed with protein, good fats and healthy nutrient dense dark leafy greens, it’ll set you up for the day

It’s always a good idea to include some protein in your breakfast. Some great sources are eggs, nuts & seeds, lentils & beans and tofu & tempeh. Not only does protein keep you feeling full for longer, but also it is absolutely essential for every function in our bodies.

I’ll leave you with an interesting fact: The glycaemic index is the measure of classifying foods according to their potential to raise blood glucose levels, leading to a surge and then plunge in energy levels. Cooked and cooled rice, pasta and potatoes are lower on the glycaemic index than when they are hot, even if they are re-heated, leading to energy levels that are steady and more sustained….so here’s a big-up for eating the leftovers of last night’s dinner for breakfast!

 

 

 

The Egg and The Orange or The Natural Wisdom of the Body

The egg and the orange - square copy

I can pinpoint the exact moment when the seed of my interest in nutrition was planted.

When I was in my early teens I noticed that when I ate a boiled egg, I always felt like eating an orange afterwards. Other than noting this, I didn’t think too much of it until years later when I discovered that when we eat iron rich foods such as legumes, nuts, seeds, dark green vegetables, dried fruits and eggs in the same meal as vitamin C rich foods such as kale, kiwi fruits and red peppers, a wonderfully clever biochemical action occurs – the amount of iron that we can absorb in the gut actually goes up. Iron and vitamin C make a prefect partnership…..and my body actually already knew this without me having to rationalise it!

My second eureka moment came a few years ago when I gave up working in the way that I had been for many years and took some time out. Without the imposition of the socially structured norm of breakfast, lunch and dinner slotted around the working day, my true hunger patterns began to emerge. I discovered that actually, I wasn’t really hungry until around 11am and that often I only needed two meals a day rather than three, I found that my digestion was happier when I ate less grain based carbohydrates and swapped cow’s cheese for goat’s or sheep’s. It was as if a light had been turned on and so I began to listen to other clues that my body was giving me. Soon I began to feel in tune with my body in a new way – as if we were talking at last, and that in turn brought me a new sense of wellbeing. Yogi Bhajan observed:

When you do not consciously relate to your body, your mind does not relate con­sciously to you.”

Somewhere along the line our relationship with our bodies has become fractured, we have become strangers to ourselves. We no longer hear the messages that our bodies are sending us or we choose to over-ride them.

So we are back to the whole idea of conscious eating. In a lecture in 1992, Yogi Bhajan taught a special kriya called Bhoj Kriya, which he prescribed to bring greater awareness to the experience of eating and our relationship to food.

https://www.3ho.org/articles/bhoj-kriya-how-eat-consciously-good-health

In his thought provoking book ‘The Yoga of Eating: Transcending Diets & Dogma to Nourish the Natural Self’, Charles Eisenstein talks about shifting trust away from an outside authority and introducing oneself to a higher authority aka: your own body. It’s not always easy when we are busy and rushing around to keep that connection intact, but if we can just keep our ears open a little way we may hear the body’s call to balance and harmony.

When we begin to explore the relationship between our whole health and what we eat and the manner in which we eat it, we may discover a new response to our needs around food that is more intuitive and individualised and therefore more nutritious and nourishing on all levels.

It’s a journey well worth embarking on.

 

 

We Are What We Eat – Right?

IMG_3710

Well actually maybe that’s not quite right. It might be more accurate to say, ‘We are what we digest and absorb’.

The quality of the food we put into our bodies is extremely important, but let’s not under estimate the other factors that contribute to good digestion. We want to maximise the nutrients and energy we get from food whilst putting the least stress on our bodies and keeps us feeling well and comfortable.

Our digestive system is really just one long tube from mouth to anus with different actions occurring at different locations along the way. If any of these locations are blocked or failing to function optimally, then the associated task is hindered and reduced in its efficacy.

Yogi Bhajan had lots to say about diet and yogic eating. Let’s take a look at the science behind some of his wise words:

“Eat only in a pleasant, relaxing environment.”

We don’t always find ourselves in the ideal environment, but taking small steps to create a little peace and relaxation around meal times can go a long way towards ensuring good digestion can take place.

So why is this so important? Bodily functions are controlled by either the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) or the parasympathetic nervous system (rest & digest). Psychological stress due to busy lives and long to-do lists puts us frequently into ‘flight or flight’ mode causing our digestive systems to suffer. Because we are effectively in survival mode, our gut motility (the propulsion of food through the digestive system) and our gastric secretions are reduced. Conversely, when our parasympathetic nervous system is triggered and we are in ‘rest & digest’ mode, gut motility and secretions are high.

One way of switching us into our ‘rest & digest’ mode is to breath deeply a few times before a meal. Aha! The wisdom of chanting Sat Nam 3 times before a meal – a pause, a moment of gratitude for the gift of food and then three deep inhalations acting as a trigger. Now we are ready to receive, digest and absorb.

 “Prepare your food with love and care.”

The process of digestion begins with our eyes, nose and brain even before we have put food into our mouths.

The sight, smell and anticipation of food triggers salivation and gastric juice secretion produced in readiness for breaking down food and absorbing nutrients. A hurried sandwich wrapped in plastic and eaten on the hoof denies us the vital initial cues for the digestive process to begin.

When we give our attention to the food that we are preparing or receiving, we are laying the foundations for optimal gastrointestinal function.

“Chew well, the stomach has no teeth.”

Digestion begins in the mouth. When we chew (a minimum of 6–10 times) we are breaking down food to reduce the burden on stomach digestion.

“If you do not mix saliva in every morsel of your food, you are eating poison.”

Salivary glands produce digestive enzymes that begin the process of breaking down fats and the starch in carbohydrates.

“Eat less and meditate more.”

Eating slowly naturally leads to eating less as it takes around 20 minutes for your brain to signal to your stomach that you are full.

The action of eating itself can become a meditation if we eat with awareness. When we savour and appreciate the food that we eat, we not only increase its nutritional benefit but also our overall sense of wellbeing.

“Develop a habit to nap after meals.”

Lying down after eating can improve digestion but if this is not possible then at least staying calm and relaxed after eating will go a long way to supporting good digestion.

And don’t forget sufi grind, rock pose, baby pose and knees to chest – all excellent asanas for aiding digestion.

Developing conscious eating habits can go a long way towards reducing the likelihood of common problems such as bloating, diarrhoea, cramping and constipation.

A happy digestive system is the foundation for all round good health.

 

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