This is Part 3 of our series on Ayurveda and Health written by guest expert Lynne Stewart, B.Sc. MBA (Owner/Instructor SOL BARRE, Pilates & Yoga; Speaker/Writer, SOL Wellness).
Taste’s Intelligence – Why Is My Child Such a Picky Eater? If everyone is exactly the same, we should all eat exactly the same. But do our bodies, metabolism, shape, age, energy, personalities all look the same? Is it possible our choice of foods and tastes that appeal to us are different for some intelligent reason? Children, unaffected by processed foods and sugar, may be just about the most intelligent eaters around. Let’s see what they know about good health and food choices?
In Ayurvedic medicine, food is considered medicine and each taste has an intrinsic ability to heal and improve our tissues, our energy, our emotions and overall our immunity and health. There are six tastes defined according to Ayurveda and our approach to eating should attempt to represent all the tastes in meals and in our days.
The first place we recognize a taste is on the tongue and this is the first stage of digestion and immunity. Tongue scraping is a common Ayurvedic practice to keep access to the taste buds clear which can reduce unnatural cravings.
Let’s get familiar with the six tastes. The first three are the most common tastes represented in the North American diet and the last three are the ones that we likely need to make more of an effort to include in our day.
The Sweet taste (Earth & Water) is considered to be building and nourishing to all the tissues and brings an immediate feeling of satisfaction. Sweet is also cooling, calming, and is said to give strength, increase longevity, promote growth and is good for the voice, hair and skin. As much as we feel guilty eating things like carbohydrates, butter, and dairy, Ayurveda considers these things to be important in nourishing the entire body and sustaining strong immunity. Yes it is very possible to overindulge in the sweet taste and since sweet is increasing to Kapha, the result of excess sweet can be weight gain, lethargy, and emotions such as possessiveness and attachment. White sugar is to be avoided and natural sugars such as maple syrup are best to use.
Here’s a nice long list of sweet options for you! Milk, butter, ghee (clarified butter), rice, wheat, honey, licorice, dates, fennel, flaxseed, grapes, apricots, melons, bananas, almonds, sesame seeds, marshmallow, beets, carbs, millet, corn, wheat, oats, and rice. My favorite is rice pudding.
The Sour taste (Earth & Fire) is considered to be stimulating and creates a sharper mind. Nutritionally it helps to improve absorption, extract iron, and improves circulation. Because it can increase Pitta due to it’s heating quality, excessive sour in the diet can lead to feelings of jealousy, anger and envy. The sour taste is nourishing to all the tissues ecept the reproductive tissue.
Sour can be found in lemon, citrus, yogurt, aged cheeses and pickled foods using vinegar.
The Salty taste (Water & Fire) enhances and increases salivation and digestion. It softens and aids in the growth of tissues. It helps to maintain elecrolyte balance, provides energy, and can relieve stiffness and spasms. Excessive salt can result in kidney stones and skin problems. Psycholgically salt in the diet can promote conifence and calm the nerves. But an excess of salt can lead to feelings of greediness and overambition.
Anything salty qualifies but it might be helpful to consider the effects of different salts. Himalayan (rock) salt is cooling. Mineral salt is moderate in its cooling/heating effect and Black salt is heating.
The Pungent taste (Fire & Air) is considered to be oily and clearing. It can be thought of as an antiobiotic and aids in circulation.
Pungent is the spice of life! Consider chillies, ginger, cumin, cayenne, black pepper and spicy foods.
The Bitter (Air & Space) is important in detoxifying and purifying.
Bitter foods leafy greens, basil, lettuce, nettle, bitter melon, turmeric, fenugreek seeds, barley and aloe vera
The Astringent taste (Air & Earth) is drying and lightening and tends to absorb water. It can tighten watery areas, dry fat and is cooling in nature.
Astringent foods are lentils and other pulses, beans, tofu, quinoa, sprouts, apple, pear and pomegranates.
In Ayurveda representing all the tastes throughout your meals or your day will reduce any extreme cravings for certain tastes. A study was done on children to see how and what they would eat without prompting and all children tended to eat nutritionally and calorically what they required over the course of the day although their food choices differed on taste, warmth, cooked, raw, and assimilated (as in soups).
Different constitutions will gravitate towards certain tastes more so than others and in different seasons different tastes and types of foods will be more balancing.
Stay tuned for the next article on Eating for the Season.
Buying and cooking meat sometimes is a guessing game as to which part of the animal is the most suited for the type of cooking one is planning to do as well as which part is the most healthiest. Some of us choose to buy organic – grain-fed, antibiotic-free & etc – while the rest of us feel the cuts of the meat are a lot more important than the meat being ‘clean’. That’s a debate for another time. Today, here are meat-choosing tips from the very popular Biggest Loser trainer, Jillian Michaels:
As with all foods, when selecting meat there are some good and some less-than-stellar choices. Full-fat meats pack a lot of calories and have tremendous endocrine-disrupting power as a result of all the garbage in them. So if you love a juicy rib-eye steak, I sure hope that you are paying attention.
Livestock absorb the many pesticides, hormones, and other chemicals that are often used on industrial farms to increase meat growth, boost milk production, or kill bugs and fungus on crops. Those pollutants find their way into nonorganic meat and dairy. When we eat those fatty meats and other animal products, we are absorbing all those chemicals too. The result: Your body is like a giant toxic-waste dump!
When you’re grocery shopping, you need to select your meat wisely. Always go for organic meat. Pasture-raised, grass-fed beef is one of the best options to choose since conjugated linoleic acids (CLA), found in the meat of organic pasture-fed cows, is a fat that we know is incredibly healthy for you. You also want to select leaner cuts of meat. Look for the words loin or round, such as “sirloin” and “eye of round.” Moreover, trim any visible fat when you’re preparing your meat.
Before you get all bummed out about avoiding fatty meats, let’s remember the basics of weight control. The primary reason not to eat full-fat meat when trying to lose pounds comes down to simple math: Ounce for ounce, those foods have way more calories than leaner options.
Jillian’s recommendations prove all meat are not the same and some finicky, detailed-driven choices can do our body much good. As per her recommendations, here’s a meat recipe from Jillian’s low fat meal plan:
Grilled Skirt Steak With Chimichurri Sauce
This recipe makes 4 servings
1/4 cup(s) onion(s), red chopped
3 clove(s) garlic
1/2 teaspoon pepper, red flakes crushed
1/2 cup(s) parsley, flat-leaf packed
2 tablespoon oregano leaves packed
1/4 cup(s) oil, olive, extra-virgin
2 tablespoon vinegar, red wine
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper, black ground
1 pounds beef, steak, skirt
cooking spray, olive oil-flavored for the grill
In the work bowl of a food processor, place the onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Pulse until finely chopped. Add the parsley and oregano leaves, and pulse until the herbs are coarsely chopped. Add the olive oil, vinegar, and the salt and pepper.
Place the skirt steak in a shallow pan and pour 1/3 cup of the chimichurri sauce over it. Turn to coat well. Cover and refrigerate, preferably for at least 4 hours and up to overnight. Cover and refrigerate the remaining sauce.
If using a gas or charcoal grill, spray the grill with olive oil and preheat a medium-hot grill. If using a grill pan, spray with olive oil and heat over medium-high.
Grill the steak for 4 to 5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Let stand on a cutting board for 5 to 10 minutes. Thinly slice the steak and divide among four plates. Top each serving with 1 generous teaspoon of chimichurri sauce and serve.
This is Part 2 of our series on Ayurveda and Health written by guest expert Lynne Stewart, B.Sc. MBA (Owner/Instructor SOL BARRE, Pilates & Yoga; Speaker/Writer, SOL Wellness). Read Part 1 on Ayurveda 101 here.
The foods we choose to eat each day provide nourishment and energy and we engage in this practice daily to satiate and stay strong. One of the most fascinating things I learned from Ayurveda is that food choices today directly impact our health for approximately the next 40 days.
The path that food travels is through what Ayurveda calls the Dhatus – also translated as tissues. Each Dhatu nourishes the next tissue beginning with plasma and moving through the 7 Dhatus completing the cycle at the reproductive tissues. Beyond the reproductive tissues this nourishment builds Ojas or our life’s energy and immunity.
Ayurveda allows us to explore and understand our own unique constitutions. Our constitutions are a combination of doshas, which are a combination of the elements: earth, fire, water, air and ether. Constitutions are unique to each individual, and are basically determined at conception. Ayurveda calls this your Prakriti. Throughout your life, the demands of your day, the changing seasons, or environment, can affect you. Your Prakriti can be affected by elements present in food, atmosphere, activity, and other influences and these create what is called your Vikrati, or your current state. The difference between your Vikrati and your Prakriti is considered to be your imbalance, which can result in feeling poorly. As we seek our way back to our Prakriti or balance, we can use food, sleep, and activities (such as breathing, meditation, yoga, exercise, nature, etc.) to affect a change and return us to better health.
In this article we are going to explore the Dhatus (tissues) to gain insight into ways we can use the approach of “nourishing” to build better health. This concept of “nourishment” may stand in stark contrast to the concept of detoxification. Nourishment is a “building” type of endeavor whereas “detoxification or cleansing” is a “stripping” type of pursuit. Depending on one’s current state of health, strength, and constitution, choosing between nourishing and detoxifying is an important decision to make for a successful healthy outcome.
Let’s explore what the Dhatus are and learn a bit more about foods that support the different tissues.
Rasa is plasma and is the first tissue that benefits from nutrition. This is a “watery” product that nourishes the entire body, including lymphatic and breast milk. Nourishment in this tissue results in a feeling of “satiation” which leads to good physical and psychological health. This tissue and its nourishment is of primary importance to breast milk. Any type of busyness or intense focus can be depleting. A lack of hydration or too much heat or spice in your diet can also be depleting. Consider the importance of salt and sweet in the context of hydration as opposed to just plain water. Oils are also considered beneficial to improve this tissue if dehydration occurs.
Raktu is blood and is the second tissue in this cycle. This tissue is considered to have the element “fire” present in it and invigorates and creates a strong mind and passion. Consider that the liver and bile are influenced by “fire” and we learn that anything that overheats can create issues in the liver. So a key thing for good blood health is to find a balance between cool and hot. Intense focus, intellectual stimulation, or spicy foods can all contribute to too much fire in the blood which overall leads to inflammation and potentially dangerous health issues. It is just as important to find a healthy balance in the mind as it is in the foods eaten. Nutrition affects this dhatu between 2 and 8 days after.
Mamsa is muscle and is the third tissue. Muscle is influenced by the “earth” element and can reflect strength and self-confidence when in balance. Different types of activity are ideal based on the dominant dosha in a person’s constitution. Kapha is present usually in larger framed individuals. Their best activity would be aerobic in nature. The Pitta constitution would be better with a more moderate strengthening program instead of aerobics. The Vata dosha is much better balanced through breathing, meditation and calming approaches. Foods that have the “earth” element present include grains, which are considered sweet also. Nutrition affects this dhatu up to 15 days after.
Medas is fat and is comprised of water and earth. A balanced and nourished medas dhatu manifests in the capacity to give love. If this dhatu is high, one’s emotions are of attachment, at times beyond what is balanced. In general, the view of medas is that if it is in excess the best remedy is lighter foods such as vegetables, and adding spice to the diet. If there is too little medas then using the sweet taste that is present in carbohydrates builds the element of “earth” back in. This tissue is affected by foods within up to 22 days from ingestion of food.
Asthi is bone and is influenced by the elements “earth” and “air”. This tissue gives structure and the psychological ability to stand up for oneself. If there is a weakness then earth needs to be added in the form of sweet foods. If there is inflexibility or stiffness then the “bitter” taste in the form of vegetables is recommended.
Medha tissue is the spinal cord, brain and nerves and is influenced by the elements of “water” and “air”. These elements in balance help to regulate the flow of nerve impulses (air) and protect against excessive motion (water). The nervous system is quite affected by the intake of stimuli through senses other than food. Things such as meditation and breathing are ideal to balance this tissue. Foods that are sweet can be cooling and nourishing for this tissue. Nutrition affects this dhatu up to 36 days after.
Shukra dhatu is the final dhatu and the site of reproductive tissue and contains the essence of all the prior Dhatus. Health in the context of confidence, bright eyes and luminous skin reflect a balanced shukra dhatu. Water is the key element to build this tissue up; nourishing and building foods such as milk are recommended. A natural creativity reflects a balanced shukra dhatu.
The point of this information than can be to recognize that good health may take up to 40 days to fully manifest, which is why there is such importance placed on the new mom and the time she takes at the beginning to rebuild her body, find balance and most importantly nourish and build health back to the reproductive tissues and ultimately to Ojas. Any illness or imbalance that seems to be present in any one of the tissues can be addressed by foods or activity to bring better flow and health to the entire system.
Next week we will be discussing the six different tastes.
Taste’s Intelligence – Why Is My Child Such a Picky Eater? If everyone is exactly the same, we should all eat exactly the same. But do our bodies, metabolism, shape, age, energy, personalities all look the same? Is it possible our choice of foods and tastes that appeal to us are different for some intelligent reason? Children, unaffected by processed foods and sugar, may be just about the most intelligent eaters around. Let’s see what they know about good health and food choices.
In the 21st century, it’s well-known that any obvious and unwanted sexual move can have repercussions – whether they happen in a workplace or a public arena. As various controversies have come up in Ontario over the last few weeks, the shades of harassment, reactions to sexual aggressive behavior, consequences to those proven to be guilty of sexual harassment and aggressiveness have been all the talk in the media and public forums lately. But, what defines sexual harassment? Are the lines being crossed crystal clear or quite murky?
Most consider sexual harassment as something that makes an individual uncomfortable and uneasy to continue on with their usual behavior. Of course, context and cultural backgrounds play a huge part in interpretations as well. Actions such as slapping a woman’s bottom in an office environment is a long lost action; yet, similarly uncomfortable behavior such as glancing at busts during conversations and unwanted brushing or touching even if done on shoulders or upper backs continue. Someone from a few decades ago would expect to get a comment on a new hair cut or outfit even at a workplace and would consider it rude if it went unnoticed. However, most women today not only would not expect it, but some would even feel uncomfortable if commented on by men.
This definitely leaves today’s men feeling like they’re walking on minefield. Admittedly, men also don’t consider themselves as too analytical when it comes to basic touching and mindless chatter (i.e. sexual references or jokes) that may or may not lead to anyone (especially those that are easily offended) feeling uncomfortable or worse, harassed.
I recall from several years ago when my male manager casually commented on my noticeable weight loss during a conversation and when I mentioned my exercise routine and thanked him for which I thought was a compliment, he quickly noted that he was glad I didn’t take it too personally or his comment making me feel uncomfortable. Context is everything. I had known him for a couple of years by then and had come to a safe conclusion that he was a gentleman who knew his limits and respected his colleagues, both men and women. If it was another man that I hadn’t known well or didn’t regard in a positive way, I don’t think I would have been comfortable continuing that conversation. Of course, context is everything!
Even in other settings like gatherings and parties, some consider a quick hug over greetings is polite and casual while others might consider it unnecessary, especially if the hugs linger longer than preferred. In some cultures, it’s even considered uncomfortable or impolite to just sit next to the opposite sex. Two people of the same age and background might draw the line at different points without any understandable reasoning to an outsider.
So, for those of us that mean no harm, but still want to make sure we don’t come across as offensive and on the other side of the coin, that we want to make sure our comfort zones aren’t invaded….: we need to make sure our comfort zones are made aware of – not going on a slippery slope and then, crying mishap. And, we need to be more vigilant about how our behavior will leave another feeling or reacting. This yardstick will vary from person to person, but that is the only measurement that can dictate a safe interaction. Easier said than done I am sure…
This week’s post is Part 1 of a series on Ayurveda and Health written by our guest expert Lynne Stewart, B.Sc. MBA (Owner/Instructor SOL BARRE, Pilates & Yoga; Speaker/Writer, SOL Wellness).
Living in balance is a goal we all try to manage, but it can be a confusing and mysterious pursuit as we search for an understanding of what balance feels like and what are simple and appropriate strategies to find and maintain balance. I first discovered Ayurveda over 10 years ago and completed a questionnaire that asked me various things including my digestion, my sleep patterns, exercise choices, my emotions and personality.
Try out this questionnaire on Joyful Belly. Similar questionnaires are available elsewhere with other questions, but the result is always trying to discern your constitution based on the influence of doshas.
Ayurveda’s framework is comprised of the five elements of Fire, Water, Earth, Air and Space. There are three doshas called Pitta (Fire & Water), Kapha (Earth & Water) and Vata (Air & Space). Your constitution (also referred to as Prakriti) is made up of these three doshas. Your current state of balance (or Vikrati) is influenced by factors such as the foods you ate, the type of sleep you recently had, activities and then environmental factors such as seasons, time of day, and any other things in your surrounding that may affect your current state. Our ultimate balance can then be understood and managed through this knowledge and balance between our Prakriti and Vikrati.
Ayurveda aims to understand which of the doshic elements predominate in a person’s constitution and once that is understood then choices can be made around food, sleep and play to keep the elements in balance for your best health.
For instance an individual with high Pitta would tend to be passionate, intellectual and at times aggressive and controlling. They would tend to have pretty decent sleeping habits with the exception of having a tendency to go to bed late as they find their minds rev up just between 10PM to midnight, a time when Pitta’s energy is high. An individual with strong Vata tendencies would tend to be busy, moving and at times anxious and nervous. They are usually light sleepers who wake quite early, usually between 4AM – 6AM, which is the Vata time of day. Individuals that have the heavy earth element Kapha can be strong, caring, loving and at times stubborn. They are the forever sleepers; they tend to sleep in, unless they have had the opportunity to discover that waking early is their best method to having a great day. So what we glean from this is that there are certain predominant energies through different times of day and some individuals are more heavily affected by these than others.
Vata is a busy, energetic, moving energy that dominates the early morning part of the day. Vata is generally defined by the “wind” element and affects air and wind in one’s system, manifesting as indigestion, burping and gas. The Vata personality is very busy, always moving and creative and energetic. Their play tends to be a constant moving choice, like step classes, walking or a form of Vinyasa Yoga.
Pitta and its hot digestive fire is higher midday when we eat our lunch (which in Ayurvedic knowledge, should be your largest meal of the day). Pitta is generally defined by the “fire” element and affects digestive fire, which is fast and hot. The Pitta personality is passionate and at times moves towards anger. Their play or exercise tends to be in areas that are competitive like Ashtanga Yoga.
Kapha is a heavier energy that is prevalent in the mid-evening timeframe, when we should be nesting at home and heading to bed, as well as the mid-morning time, which is why if one sleeps in, their energy is low most of the day. The Kapha is generally the “earth and water” element and shows usually as a heavier stature and strength that is more enduring. Kapha personalities tend to be very strong, stoic, loving and warm, and at times stubborn. Play for a Kapha can go from doing nothing when imbalanced to finding very challenging, hard working types of exercise, such as Cross-Fit.
What is interesting is understanding what the doshas require for balance.
Food - For Vatas where digestion is cool and filled with air and wind, a warm, comforting approach to food is best where foods are considered to be “assimilated” in the pot (think soups, chilies and casseroles), which reduces the load on the digestive system.
Play – Vatas tend towards more active moving forms of exercise. This is their nature, however, they need to balance this movement with “stillness” particularly first thing in the morning.
Sleep – Vatas tend to be light sleepers who also wake early. It is their nature and so for Vatas the early morning meditation is a key thing for balance.
Food – In the case of Pitta, where digestive fire is hot and fast, a cooling, and at times raw, vegan diet is best to reduce heat, inflammation and to slow digestion down.
Play – Pittas tend towards competitive sports and situations but to stay in balance the Pitta person must also find time to play easily, be in nature, and to “surrender” to the world around to reduce the potential imbalance of an ongoing competitive approach to exercise.
Sleep – Pittas usually have decent sleep patterns but risk imbalance by staying up late. The liver, a pitta organ, actually rejuvenates itself in the evening between 10PM and 12AM if we are sleeping. However, if we are still up, the intelligent, passionate Pitta mind re-engages diverting the healing resources towards the workings of the mind.
Food – Kapha’s digestion is also generally slower and tends towards mucous and “ama” which is waste. For Kaphas, foods that speed up metabolism, such as spices, is key.
Play – Kaphas are strong and have endurance, so they need to be challenged intensely in their approach to exercise. They also need movement to balance out potential lethargy that can arise when Kaphas becomes imbalanced.
Sleep – The Kaphas tend to have good, long sleep patterns, but risk feeling lethargic and lazy if they sleep in. The best thing Kaphas can do for themselves is wake early on a schedule and get moving.
Where do you go with all this new information? It’s important to answer the questions with a knowledge of answering around your Prakriti and your Vikrati. You’ll find you need to go back a couple times to ensure you’ve answered around one or the other. What you should be – your Prakriti – and what you currently are – your Vikrati – defines the imbalance that you are currently experiencing due to food, sleep, play choices and other environmental factors
Stay tuned for next week where where I explain how our choice of foods is important to our overall health as evidenced over a period of 40 days in its building of our tissues or in Ayurvedic terms, the 7 Dhatus.
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