Most of us will consider the food choices we make as a reflection of our internal state – if we are stressed out, our eating style will be affected by it. Conversely the food we consume affects our bodies as well as the mind. Each and every cellular molecule in our body is created from the food we put into our body, including the water we drink and the air we breathe. Besides nourishing our bodies, food affects the quality of our lives, our moods, energy and our overall physical and mental health.
It is also too easy to lose our connection to the food we eat, and how we eat it. How many times have we felt pressed for time and we eat on the go, consuming what’s convenient and fast, rather than adequately nourishing our body. We have learn to block out signals from the stomach, suppress our cravings, rather than trying to really understand and determine what our body requires. Often many of us have eaten something simply because “it’s there,” rather than because we’re actually hungry for it.
Yoga teaches us to be mindful of all our lifestyle choices and how they impact us. When your life is balanced and relaxed, your diet routine is set right. When I turned to yoga, I never imagined how it could transform my eating habits. I was going through a difficult phase and started experiencing symptoms like a high heart rate, a racing mind, and complete inability to stop and calm down. These, in turn, affected my eating habits and my body was experiencing a lack of nourishment.
Through consistent meditation and asana practice, I could find myself making small changes to my food choices. My mind was calmer, more focused and aware, I gave more importance and respect to food as it was the source of energy for my body.
Practicing awareness and mindfulness has made me question where my food comes from and it extends beyond going to the supermarket to purchase, say an apple. It helps me gain a deeper understanding of the evolution of the apple from seed, to photosynthesis, to plant, to farmer’s hand, to transportation, and finally to me.
The mindfulness of yoga has taught me to listen to my body, make nutritious choices, and consume enough food to fill my stomach. I had a newfound relationship with food, where I began feeling it was my responsibility to supply my body and mind with the right energy sources.
Smoothies are great, who doesn’t love a good smoothie? You get to put loads of lovely fruits and veggies together, blend them up and there you have it, a tasty chilled drink that fills you up. So with my love of smoothies and learning about the doshas I just had to make a smoothie only using the foods that are related to my dosha, I call it the ultimate smoothie. Firstly by doing this I did research and took a few different quizzes (just to make sure) to know what my Dosha was. Upon this search, I discovered that my body type is predominantly Vata. So know I needed to know what foods were good for my dosha body type, Vata. So again I did lots of research and came up with a long list of foods for Vata dosha bodies. So from this list, I chose out a few things that I could make my smoothie out of.
The list of ingredients for my ultimate smoothie:
-Half a banana
-And chia seeds
topped up with coconut water to help blend it all together.
In the end, my smoothie was delicious and super healthy. I’m always suggesting my friends who don’t have a blender, to go get one! I rant on firstly about how love smoothies, especially a strawberry and banana smoothie, YUM! I tell them that making smoothies is really easy and can be really yummy and healthy at the same time. For me personally, eating food and trying to gain weight has always been a hassle, and sometimes it really handy to just blend something up quickly to give your body what it needs. You can even buy powdered nutrients and protiens to put in your smoothies to enrich it even more, but that isn’t for everyone.
Understanding that I’m a Vata-Pitta Dosha, below are two versions of one of my favorite workout pre/post snack, Oats! As a Vata dominant Dosha, I to eat before every workout or feel lethargic during my workouts. For YTT, I make my cold overnight oats each Sunday in a giant mason jar that I have for breakfast each morning (sorry Nauli…). As I’ll be heading to Boston in a couple weeks, I wanted to prepare a warm version of my favorite oats to pacify my Vatta dosha that will likely be thrown out of balance (too much) given the cold weather.
Warm Carrot Cake Oatmeal
For the oatmeal:
1 cup (125 g) finely grated peeled carrot
1 1/4 cups (310 mL) unsweetened almond milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Dash ground nutmeg, to taste
Pinch fine sea salt
1/2 cup (50 g) rolled oats
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, to taste (optional)
Chopped toasted walnuts
Cold Strawberry Chocolate Overnight Oats (current obsession)
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup (heaping) rolled oats
2/3 cup unsweetened chocolate almond milk
1 tablespoon chia seeds or ground flax meal
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
0-2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
1/4 cup chopped fresh strawberries
Food has such a powerful impact – affecting our physical appearance, physiological processes and emotions. With such a diverse variety of food items to choose from, making small changes in what we eat and observing the effects these have on our body help us to decide which foods best nourish our bodies and minds.
The Yogic Diet comprises 3 main gunas (categories): Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic. Sattvic foods are seen as pure, wholesome foods that increase energy and prana (life force) within us. These leave us feeling calm, refreshed and alert, and are generally primary sources of energy so are largely plant-based. Sattvic foods include fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products, nuts and oils, whole grains, legumes, honey and mild spices that have not been processed.
Rajasic foods are said to be stimulating, such as spices, caffeine, tobacco, processed sugar, onions and garlic. They make one overly alert and thus difficult to find calm.
On the other hand, Tamasic foods make one feel dull, sluggish and perhaps even lazy. These include alcohol, meat, fish and mushrooms, as well as foods that have been frozen, fermented, reheated, fried, stale or laden with preservatives. Unfortunately, this is the kind of food the large majority of the population consumes in this day and age, be it due to convenience such as microwave meals or taste preference, it not only provides insufficient prana to the body, but also inadequate fuel for the mind. From a nutritional perspective, some of these food items may not necessarily be harmful to health – for example frozen vegetables or meat still retain majority of their nutrients, but the process of freezing has depleted its prana.
Besides that, the manner of preparation and the way it is eaten can also determine the guna. Food that is prepared with love and awareness is Sattvic, while overeating or scoffing down your food is said to be Tamasic, even if the food itself is Sattvic. Thus, we would ideally have wholesome foods prepared with love and care, eaten in a mindful and relaxed manner.
The effects of food on our body can perhaps best be seen in meditation. During mediation, the 2 main issues are an over-active mind, brought about by ingesting excessive Rajasic food, and conversely, falling asleep due to too much Tamasic food. Thus, Sattvic foods are best for attaining the balance between the 2 to quiet the mind whilst maintaining alertness to explore our thoughts.
Cranberry Banana Bread topped with chia seeds and butterfly pea flowers
Ayurveda translates to complete knowledge about life. It focuses on balance of the interplay between the body, mind and spirit, where imbalances lead to illness. There are 3 main doshas (changeable body types) –Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Each body type is associated with the 5 different elements – Vata goes with air and space/ether, Pitta goes with fire and Kapha goes with water and earth. Your dosha is determined by 3 main criteria: physical appearance, physiological processes and your behaviours or mindset. By doing an online quiz, we found out our doshas, where most people have 1 or 2 dominating doshas. Besides that, we learnt about the health conditions each dosha is more susceptible to, and how to alter our diet to prevent this. I have summarised some characteristics of each dosha below:
Medium, warm temperature
Low, but strong immune system
Quick learner, spontaneous and likes change
Opinionated, intense focus, usually a leader
Easygoing, friendly, slow learner but retains information well, likes routine
Metabolic syndrome: Obesity, type II diabetes, high cholesterol
Let food by thy medicine
In Ayurveda, diet plays an important role in affecting our physiological processes, acting as both a preventative and therapeutic measure. There are 6 main Ayurvedic tastes – sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter and astringent, which are also associated with the elements as shown in the table below:
Dosha suitable for
Most of the class is Pitta dosha, so I made a pitta-pacifying cranberry banana bread to celebrate the end of our first week of YTT200. Since Pitta is associated with the fire element, Pitta-pacifying foods consist of those that are cooling, hydrating and subtle. These help to balance moisture, achieve optimum temperature and neutralise any excess acidity in the body. As such, Pitta should increase intake of sweet, astringent and bitter foods and decrease that of salty, sour or pungent. As a general guideline, hot, spicy and fried food should be avoided, as well as fermented foods such as sour cream or alcohol. A more comprehensive recommendation of foods that Pitta should consume is shown in the table below:
Cranberry Banana Bread Recipe
As we practice asanas for 2h a day, we need to replenish the glycogen we’ve consumed, as well as provide our brain with the much-needed fuel for the afternoon of theory. Since our brain’s main metabolic energy is glucose, which we derive mainly from carbohydrates, I thought banana bread would be a generally sattvic snack to fuel us through YTT (which is also gluten-free). It has elements of Pitta-pacifying ingredients such as sweet overripe bananas, oat flour and cretan honey, astringent cranberry raisins and a small amount of cinnamon that contributes to the bitter taste. I’ve also topped it with chia seeds which absorb water to keep us hydrated and is rich in fibre to aid digestion. Besides that, butterfly pea flowers have anti-oxidant, anti-depressant properties that reduce stress and hypertension, and is beneficial for hair and skin.
3 medium bananas
2 cups oat flour
2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
Sprinkle of cinnamon
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp cretan honey
Butterfly pea flowers
Preheat the oven to 180°
Add the dry ingredients into a bowl
Mash the bananas and add them into the bowl
Add the wet ingredients and mix well
Fold in cranberry raisins
Grease baking tin (I like to use the inside of the banana peel, it works pretty well!)
Pour the mixture into the baking tin and top with chia seeds and butterfly pea flowers
Bake for 25min, then leave in for another 5min with oven off
And there you have it, a quick easy pitta-pacifying snack fix. Would love if you gave the recipe a try, let me know what you think!
Ayurveda is the complete knowledge of life. It is derived from ancient India Philosophy. Based on the philosophy of Ayurveda, it say that all the matter in this universe are made of 5 elements: air, water, space, fire, and earth. They are made by this 5 elements with different proportion, so that there are variable creation in the universe with different characteristic.Read More