It always pays to look to the past to learn more about the present - and the future. People were fermenting things and drinking ACV and eating local, seasonal whole foods for centuries before the current fads, so they were definitely onto something - even if that was just lack of preservatives, modern medicine and long-distance trade. Although we have all of this modern-day magic, it's definitely to our benefit to take a leaf out of their book!
Ayurveda is a practice that originated in India, over 5, 000 years ago. It comes from the Sanskrit words for 'life' and 'science,' literally translating to 'The Science of Life,' and is a holistic spiritual, philosophical and physical approach to health. The most important tenets of the practice are balance, both within yourself and with the natural cycles of the world, and mindfulness. In this post, we'll mostly be talking about Ayurvedic eating, and quite superficially at that, so if you'd like to learn more about this ancient practice here is an excellent place to start.
When it comes to food, Ayurveda doesn't just look at what you eat, but also how you eat, when you eat, why you eat and how you connect to natural cycles. The focus is on knowing and understanding yourself, how foods and seasons affect you, and how to balance out the natural energies within you and the energies around you.
On a simple level, Ayurveda is about eating seasonally appropriate whole foods, that are as natural and untouched by synthetic and artificial products as possible. 'Seasonally appropriate' doesn't just mean foods that grow in a particular season, though. In cold, dry months, eat warm, moist foods. In hot, wet months, eat cold, dry foods. In cold, wet months, cook warm, dry meals - you get the idea.
The true practice of Ayurvedic eating goes way beyond this. Ayurveda states that there are three doshas or energy types. While everyone contains a bit of all three, one is usually dominant. Different elements govern each dosha, and each one has specific foods that either balance the energy out or cause it to become aggravated. So in addition to linking eating with the season, you think about foods that balance out your dosha.
Consuming foods that help your body balance out and adapt to climate changes can boost your immune strength and morale. As the winter months loom closer, consider following some Ayurvedic guidelines to ward off those pesky colds and coughs, the dreaded flu and the winter blues.
Eat Lots of Root Veggies
Root vegetables are nutrient-rich, containing lots of fibre, minerals, vitamin A, vitamin C and antioxidants. Having grown underground all summer, they're also dense and warm, especially when cooked into delicious soups or warm salads, so they balance out that cold spell nicely.
Including more fats in your diet is almost a necessity in the winter months! A fat-rich diet provides insulation as well as essential nutrients required to restore, rebuild, and renew before the spring. Lean fish, more olive oil, coconut oil, butter, and ghee are excellent ways of getting what you need.
Fermentation and Fibre for the Win
There's never really a wrong time to indulge in fermented foods, but in winter the health of your bacterial-buddies is especially essential. Getting plenty of fibre is another way to ensure the proper functioning of your intestinal pathways, so make sure everything is running smoothly by eating wheat, seeds, most grains, rye, and rice, as well as plenty of fruit and veg. Keep your immunity up by looking after your gut!
Spice it Up!
Cook with lots of warm spices, like turmeric, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, tulsi, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and black pepper, and put ginger in everything. Not only are they delicious in curries, soups and other spicy dishes that warm the cockles of your heart, but added to a mug of warm milk, they can promote good sleep as well as health.
Pump Up the Protein
Our appetites tend to increase during the colder winter months, so make sure you're eating plenty of protein to satiate your hunger and keep your body strong and healthy. Proteins are the building blocks of the body, so they're essential in keeping us up and running. Eat more animal meat (still no more than 10% of your diet, though) and include whey protein powders, nuts, seeds, Spirulina, yoghurt and eggs in your meals.
Stick to the Hot Stuff
Steer clear of cold, gassy drinks, and stick to hot water, tea, coffee, cocoa and mulled wine instead!