There’s a school of thought that I’ve begun to make forays into recently that goes back centuries: It’s called Ayurveda, or the ‘science of life’; otherwise known as a ‘mind-body health system.
Ayurveda is based on the understanding that the mind and body are inextricably interconnected. A sickness of the body can be healed by the mind as long as it is operating at it’s highest potential. Four years ago I was diagnosed with a chronic health condition - an inflammatory bowel disease called Ulcerative Colitis. After suffering for prolonged periods of time with debilitating flare ups, I began to make quite drastic changes to my diet in an effort to restore the balance in my body and to fight the disease from the inside out. Hence my current, and growing interest in Ayurveda.
Ayurveda teaching proposes that the eating of warm or warming foods create a much better and stronger digestive system by balancing out your doshas. Your body doesn’t have to work nearly as hard to process food that is cooked already and therefore saves vital energy it could use for much better purposes, like keeping you warm in these snowy mountains! Raw food is thought to ‘extinguish’ the digestive system fire that we all contain with us. Even drinking warm water over cold water can make a dramatic difference to your ability to digest things efficiently.
It’s winter and boy, is it cold out there in Tahoe. So how to fire up your insides and that digestive system I hear you ask? There are many ways to do this, but one that I would like to focus on as the purpose of this post is the idea of bringing detoxifying herbs into your diet, such as ginger, turmeric and cumin. Ginger has no end of nutritional benefits associated with it, particularly so in these cold winter months when it’s mostly used to ward off coughs, colds, pneumonia and bronchitis amongst other respiratory conditions. It’s also known to be fantastically beneficial in the treatment of all sorts of digestive upsets - gas, bloating, constipation you name it.
So, ginger. Top stuff. Now, how to sneak it in to your food on the daily. Yes, yes, there’s the age old lemon and ginger with some raw honey and hot water. Get’s old pretty quick when you’re sick as a dog.
What about getting it into your breakfast?
During the trial and error overall of my diet, I chose cut out dairy, amongst other things. Cow’s milk was the first to go. Now I’m not suggesting this is right for everyone, but if you are the kind of person that lived off cereal and milk, (I would often eat this for breakfast, lunch and dinner in my student days) it can be a little disconcerting not knowing where to turn for breakfast. It was that cold crunchiness that got me. Cornflakes and full-fat creamy milk. Even in the winter.
Well, let me tell you about smoothies in place of milk. And avocados. And eating chocolate as the first meal of the day.
I can almost guarantee your satisfaction if you’re looking for a dairy free alternative!
A strong and guiding principle of my own diet is to operate under the concept that every ingredient should have a purpose, so with this and Ayurveda in mind I want to share a recipe designed to provide you with optimal nutritional content, whilst being winter-friendly and digestion supportive. One thing to note, there is no need to add any ice to this recipe. In summer, yes, this would be wonderful all chilled and crunchy but in winter, do yourself a favor and skip it. Keep that fire burning.
Chili Spiced Ginger & Cacao Smoothie Bowl
8 oz unsweetened nut milk (coconut, almond, cashew)
1 chunk root ginger (leave the peel on if organic)
1/2 tsp chili powder
2 heaped tsp cacao powder (I use Navitas Naturals)
1 tsp maca powder (again, Navitas have a great organic option)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large medjool date or 3 small dates
1/3 an avocado
1 small ripe banana
1tsp golden ground flaxseed
pinch sea salt
Put all ingredients in a blender and blend for 30 seconds.
Once poured into a bowl, I top mine any number of things. Homemade granola usually features heavily. If you don’t have the time for this, try dried fruit, coconut or toasted nuts and seeds.
Let me tell you the ways this smoothie can offer you nutritional benefits on top of the raw ginger addition!
Cacao: antioxidant packed with an abundance of vitamins and minerals including copper, magnesium and iron, cacao also helps to balance your hormones.
Maca: a rich source of vitamins, minerals and enzymes
Dates: nature’s caramel that’s packed with fibre and potassium among many other benefits; they also contain polyphenols, the antioxidants that fight disease causing free radicals.
Avocado: contain no end of health benefits; the healthy fat that’s good for the heart, skin, kidneys, liver, eyes, weight loss, brain health and pretty much everything else.
Banana: the ripeness is crucial as this makes it much easier for your body to digest. Bananas are a potassium packed powerhouse that also provide you with a healthy dose of fibre.
Flaxseed: this high protein seed is full of the good kind of fat, omega 3 essential fatty acids; it’s mucilaginous nature and fibre content also makes it great for gut health.
Almond Butter: full of healthy fats and minerals like magnesium and calcium along with vitamin e and fibre. Choose raw and organic options for optimal benefits.
For a more detailed understanding of Ayurveda, go to http://www.chopra.com/.