Late Night Eating Puts on the Pounds

Regular eating after 8 PM leads to weight gain, according to modern research. Numerous studies have shown that those who dine late in the evening typically have waistlines two inches larger than those who dine earlier. The results of these kinds of studies underscore the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda.

Ayurveda gives the knowledge of how to live one’s life in accord with the natural rhythms and cycles of nature. The classic Ayurvedic daily routine is based on a foundational understanding of nature’s functioning and the acknowledgment that we are a part of nature. When we are living in tune with nature’s cycles it means that all our mind/body systems are supported by the same cosmic forces that maintain the world around us.

In one study was based on the data analysis of almost 5,500 Chileans. It was noted that “the body clock produces optimal levels of appetite enzymes and hormones during daylight hours.” Those who ate late had an average Body Mass Index (BMI—a measure of weight in proportion to height) that was at least a half a point higher than those who dined earlier.

Understanding the Ayurvedic daily routine means understanding the three doshas, Vata, Pitta, and Kapha and how their influence changes throughout the day. (If you are not familiar with the doshas, please read The Raj blog, Understanding the Doshas.) Pitta dosha, which is responsible for transformation and metabolism, peaks in the daylight hours from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. For this reason, Ayurveda recommends eating one’s main meal at noon, when one’s digestive powers are at their peak.

The second Pitta cycle is from 10:00 PM to 2:00 AM. This Pitta cycle is a more subtle cycle of transformation. This is the time for the body’s self-repair mechanisms to kick in. Research has found that even our joints contain little biological clocks that trigger repair mechanisms to heal aching joints at night if we are asleep. If we are active during this late hour Pitta time, the energy that is meant to be used for regeneration and repair ends up being spent in other ways. If we are trying to digest food from a big, late-evening meal, the results will be sluggish and it will not be as effective as the mid-day process. Not only will the body fail to process the food efficiently at night, the body’s attempt at digestion will draw energy away from what the body should be doing at night: healing and regenerating on a cellular level.

Going to bed before 10:00 is one of the greatest health tips on record. Sleep is right up there with nutrition and exercise in terms of its importance in keeping us healthy.

While we sleep, our body is hard at work performing repairs on the heart, blood vessels, brain and other tissues that help keep chronic disease at bay. When we cut back on sleep, we cut back on the body’s all-important nightly maintenance schedule. Eventually, this neglect will take its toll, setting the stage for major problems.

(As an aside, Ludwig van Beethoven kept an early bedtime routine, going to bed at 10 p.m. at the latest. He was able to optimize his early-morning routine (a time when Vata predominates, encouraging creativity) because he was fresh and vitalized from a properly timed night’s sleep.)

Modern research has been making the connection between the body’s natural biorhythms and weight gain for some time now. A 2013 study showed that when we don’t get enough sleep we trigger reactions in the brain that confuse the signals of tiredness and hunger, and that this can lead to increased cravings for sugar and starchy foods. In Ayurvedic terms, we would say that an increase in Vata (due to a lack of rest) causes the body to crave Kapha foods in order to reestablish balance. Another study found that sleep loss not only boosts hunger but also slows the rate of calorie burn, promoting weight gain.

Yet another study took a look at “night owls”; people who ate the same amount of calories per day as those who went to bed at normal times, but who ate a larger proportion of those calories at dinner or after 8:00 p.m. Researchers found that calories consumed after 8:00 p.m. were most strongly associated with weight gain, and concluded that it’s not only the quality of your diet that matters but the time of day you’re eating.

Lead author on the study noted, “The study suggests regulating the timing of eating and sleep could improve the effectiveness of weight management programs.” This is why The Raj Ayurvedic weight loss programs can be so successful. It takes into  into account not only your individual body type and the way your body reacts to specific foods, but also your entire daily routine and your relationship with the world around you. Getting back in step with the cycles of nature means that your body can function in a more effortless and effective mode, no matter what you want it to accomplish.

For more information on The Raj  Weight Loss program, visit:

http://www.theraj.com

Natural Ayurveda Tips for Constipation

158185172Constipation is a common problem. It is related to an imbalance in Vata dosha, and its subdosha, Apana Vata. Apana is downward moving and governs elimination and menses. An imbalance in apana vata can cause dryness and sluggishness of bowel functioning.

If you are Vata in nature, you may be more susceptible to constipation. Because Vata increases in the body after the age of 60, constipation is more common among older people.

If you have a tendency towards constipation, you want to avoid the following factors, which aggravate Apana Vata:

AVOID

Lack of exercise

Not drinking enough fluids

Dry, rough foods

Stress (a major cause of vata imbalance)

Multi-tasking

Eating heavy meals at night

Here are some general recommendations to avoid constipation:

DO

Go to bed early (before 10:00 pm) and rise early (before 6:00)

Drink plenty of fluids. Warm fluids are ideal. The general rule is to drink half your body weight in ounces each day. Drinking two glasses of warm water when you wake up can help stimulate bowl functioning. Hot water with black salt is sometimes recommended.

Eat fresh fruit juices are also helpful.

Eat cooked apples for breakfast. Try soaking raisins over night. Enjoy both the “raisin water” and the plump raisins in the morning.

Be sure to sit for 10 minutes after finishing a meal to support the digestive process.

Eat your main meal at noon.

Try to get in at least a half hour walk every day. Taking a walk after lunch (after first sitting for 10 minutes when your meal is finished) is ideal.

Gentle stretching exercise such as Yoga asanas and Sun Salutations help pacify Vata dosha and the twisting motions can massage the digestive organs and increase oxygen delivery and blood flow. Regular yoga can be very helpful in having more regular bowel activity.

Look to your diet—are you getting plenty of fiber? Vegetables, fruits and whole grains are high in fiber. Cheese, eggs, meat, packaged foods and overly refined foods can lead to constipation. Cold foods and drinks will interfere with digestion, leading to the build up of ama and causing constipation. Get to know which foods are vata aggravating and avoid them.

Warm oil massages in the morning before your bath or shower can help pacify Vata dosha.

Traveling can aggravate Vata, causing constipation. Eating lightly, drinking plenty of water, a warm oil massage and taking Maharishi Ayurveda Products Digest Tone or triphala with warm water will help keep Vata in line when traveling.

If you have chronic constipation, you probably have compromised a digestion. If home remedies are not helping, consider that it is time for Panchakarma, the Ayurveda series of detoxification treatments.

While the body has its own brilliant systems for the elimination of impurities, with chronic constipation the body can’t keep pace with the rate in which toxins (ama) build up in the tissues, cells and joints. According to Ayurveda, toxins or ama clog the system and form a breeding ground for disease. A 3 to 7-day cleansing program can start to remove the build-up of ama and restart your digestive process.

For more information on Ayurveda detox or cleansing programs, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa:

www.theraj.com

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Why Ama Not Feeling So Well?!

What is “Ama”?

“Ama” is the Ayurvedic term for toxins and impurities that build up in the physiology, creating blockages to the flow of nutrients, circulation and biological signals. These impurities can be attributed to environmental pollutants, poor digestion and/or stressful experiences.

Ama tends to build up in the tissues and channels of circulation over time. The longer these toxins remain in the physiology, more deeply imbedded they become. These long-standing blockages have been identified as the the root cause of many diseases and chronic disorders.

Signs of Ama

1)   The frequent need to spit or clear throat

2)   A heavy feeling in the body (sluggishness)

3)   Physical weakness

4)   Fatigue

5)   Coated tongue

Quick Tips to Reduce Ama and Feel Better

Boil water for 10 minutes in the morning and put in a thermos that you can take with you. Sip hot water throughout the day. This will easily and naturally help to dissolve ama.

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Improve your dietary habits by eating more cooked veggies (organic, fresh vegetables are recommended). Eat your biggest meal at lunch, when your digestive fire is strongest, and have a lighter meal at night.

Avoid cold food or drinks, especially with meals. Iced drinks with a meal or a frozen dessert after a meal will severely diminish your ability to digest what you have just eaten. Ama will accumulate as a result.

A warm oil massage in the morning will help clear ama from the skin tissues and will also provide a layer of protection from environmental pollutants.

Visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa to learn more:

www.theraj.com

Ayurveda Tips for Holiday Eating

In the United States, the Thanksgiving holiday (the last Thursday of November) marks the beginning of six weeks holiday festivities, family feasts and seasonal treats. The ancient Indian health science of Ayurveda offers helpful tips on how to navigate holiday season without gaining weight or over-eating.

Winter cravings

The increasingly colder days of fall bring with them an increase in Vata dosha — the subtle energy in the body that governs movement. When Vata dosha predominates, there is an increase in dry, rough and cool qualities in the body. This dryness can disturb various tissues and organs. Many people notice dry skin and lips during the winter months. Dryness can also occur in the colon or large intestine, leading to constipation. Simultaneously you may find that you develop cravings for heavy, sweet and unctuous foods. This is simply your body’s attempt to balance the increase in Vata by increasing Kapha. Unfortunately, these heavier foods can also lead to poor digestion and to an accumulation of toxins over the winter, which could lead to allergies in the spring.

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Holiday Eating Tips

The following tips can help you navigate the holiday festivities, pacifying Vata dosha while avoiding the weight-gain often brought on by Kapha-increasing foods.

  1. At the start of the holiday season, consult an Ayurvedic expert to see if you have any nutritional deficiencies or imbalances. If these are left untended, you may find yourself at the mercy of cravings and compulsive eating.
  2. When you first arrive at a gathering, request a cup of hot water. This will help to pacify Vata and also help you avoid mindless eating. In addition, people often mistake thirst for hunger. If you are well hydrated, you will feel less compulsion to eat. Drinking plain hot water throughout the day is a simple Ayurvedic secret for improved health.
  3. Always sit down at a table to eat. Don’t eat if you are standing or moving.
  4. Whenever you eat, give eating your full attention. Enjoy your food — even if you are eating something “naughty”. Eating mindlessly does not allow you to properly taste, experience, or digest your food. As a result, even if you are full, you will feel unsatisfied and want to eat more later. Don’t multli-task at meal times.
  5. Learn about the six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent. Each taste satisfies a different need. Missing one or more of the tastes can result in cravings. Try to have all six tastes at each meal. If this sounds daunting, there are spice combinations (churnas) made specifically for this.
  6. Favor warm, cooked foods. If you want to indulge in heavier foods, do so at mid-day, when your digestive “fire” is stronger. Try to keep evening meals light, favoring soups and cooked vegetables.
  7. Try to take small portions. Ideally you should feel refreshed and energized after eating, not dull. Over-eating compromises digestion. When you overeat, even though you ingest more than you need, your body actually assimilates less. This can result in nutritional deficiencies, perpetuating cravings and the habit of overeating.

Eating with full attention and enjoyment improves digestion. It settles and strengthens your entire system. This can have far-reaching health benefits seemingly unrelated to nutrition.

If you find that you have over-indulged during the holidays, consider enjoying traditional Ayurvedic detoxification treatments, called Panchakarma in January or February. The soothing oils used in the treatments help detoxify body fat and the recommended diet before, during and after treatment is the perfect way to get back into healthy eating habits. Scheduling Panchakarma treatments in January can reset your physiology for the rest of the year and help eliminate the effects of holiday indulgences.

Learn more about Ayurveda treatments for weight loss and detoxification at The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa:

www.theraj.com

Avoiding Colds with Ayurveda

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Our bodies are more susceptible to health problems when the seasons are changing because our body functions differently in each season. When it is hot outside, our agni (or digestive fire) automatically decreases. Thus during the summer months our digestive capacity is diminished. Once the outside temperatures begin to fall, our internal fires naturally start to build and our desire to eat increases. Unfortunately the transition from one season to the next rarely proceeds systematically. Instead we deal with day-to-day temperatures that can fluctuate dramatically. Going from hot to cold to hot to cold, it is easy for our digestive system to become compromised. Too often as we enter the fall season, our desire to eat heavier foods collides with an inability to digest them. When the food we eat is not fully digested, what should be a clear extraction supplying the organs and tissues with high quality nutrition becomes instead a toxic substance that clogs the channels and tissues. Ayurveda refers to this toxin as ama. The accumulation of ama can compromise our immune system and make us more susceptible to colds and flu.

Signs of Ama Accumulation:

  1. A thick coating on the tongue when you wake up in the morning
  2. Constipation and/or digestive issues like gastritis
  3. Bad breath
  4. Feeling sluggish and tired
  5. Chronic sinus issues, allergies, chronic colds or bronchitis

One of first organ systems to be affected by ama accumulation is the respiratory system. This build up creates the conditions favorable to phlegm and mucus in the lungs and sinuses. A build up of Kapha can lead to sneezing, cough, and runny nose. According to Ayurveda, the common cold results largely from an imbalance of the Kapha and Vata. Kapha, we have seen, is responsible for the respiratory system and lungs, while Vata is responsible for immune system.

This is why people who are Kapha dominant, and/or in an unbalanced state due to diet or lifestyle errors, are more prone to colds and sinus infections. (Conversely, when Kaphas are healthy and balanced, they can have the strongest immune system. It’s a question of balance.)

Increasing Immunity

Although, technically colds are caused by the rhino virus, we all know people who never catch a cold and others who always do. The ability to withstand exposure to a virus is a function of your immune system. B balancing Kapha and Vata and reducing ama is vital if we want to avoid colds.

Ayurvedic Guidelines to Prevent Colds

  1. Stay Warm: Dress in layers so that you can be prepared for the fluctuations of heat and cold between inside temperatures and outside. Be sure to cover your head and ears when you go outside. The ears are one of the main seats of Vata. Drink warm liquids throughout the day.
  2. Sip hot water throughout the day. This will help the body flush out ama, pacify Vata and help hydrate your mucus membranes.
  3. Warm Foods: Follow the general Ayurvedic advice to drink liquids at room temp or warm/hot. If you drink milk, first bring it to a boil and cook with ginger root, cardamom, or clove in order to balance milk’s natural Kapha quality.
  4. Avoid cold food, avoid most dairy and other sweet, Kapha-promoting foods. Yogurt in the form of lassi is okay at noon, but not at night.
  5. Fruit: Stick to apples, pears and other seasonal or dried fruits like dates. Stewed fruits are excellent at this time of the year. (Or any time of the year!) Again, try adding spices like ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. Avoid bananas, as they are quite cooling.
  6. Vegetables: Avoid cold veggies like carrots, cucumber, raw tomato, and salads—these are foods that can dampen Agni, our digestive fire. Favor warming veggies like baked hard squash, and green leafy veggies, lightly cooked.
  7. Soups: Soups are an ideal choice at this time of year. Soups are easy to digest and moisten and lubricate the mucosa in the nose and throat, making it harder for rhinoviruses to penetrate. Throw in lots of warming spices.
  8. Spices: Keep your insides warm with thermogenic spices — cumin is an excellent burner of ama. So are ginger, black pepper, coriander, oregano, thyme, sage, fenugreek, and fennel. If you drink milk, drink it hot simmered with ginger, cardamom, clove, and cinnamon. Turmeric is an excellent spice that builds immunity and reduces ama. So is fresh ginger. Used together, these spices can help combat the heaviness of a rich meal.

What To Do If You Get a Cold?

  1. Drink ginger tea. It acts as a decongestant and helps stimulate digestion. Ginger can reduce excess Kapha and stimulate circulation, making it an excellent medicine for colds and flus.
  2. Try drinking warm water with fresh squeezed lemon and honey to sooth a sore throat and help with coughing. (Remember, never bake with honey or put honey into water that is too hot to sip.)
  3. Gargle with salt water. Gargling loosens excess mucus and removes bacteria and fungi from the throat. The Mayo Clinic confirms that gargling with salt water can provide temporary relief for sore, itchy throats.
  4. Breath in eucalyptus drops. Bring a pot of water to a boil and remove from its heat source. Take a towel and create a tent over the pot. Put in a drop or two of eucalyptus oil and breath deeply.
  5. Use oil, inside and out! To counterbalance the dryness of Vata give yourself a warm oil massage every morning before your bath or shower. Include a small quality of healthy oils like olive oil or ghee at every meal. Flaxseed oil is high in Omega-3 fatty acidsThe delicate nature of seasonal transitions is exactly the reason that Ayurveda recommends the purification treatments of Ayurveda (Panchakarma or PK) to be taken at the beginning of each season. Panchakarma taken at the end of summer, for example, helps release summer heat, irritation and inflammation. Getting rid of any accumulated ama also helps insure protection against colds, congestions, respitory infectcions and the flu.

For more information on increasing your immune system and removing ama, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa web site:

http://www.theraj.com

 

Understanding Arthritis: The Ayurvedic Perspective

It is estimated that over 350 million people around the world suffer from arthritis. If you are feeling aches and stiffness in your body, experiencing pain and swelling in the joints or are simply have trouble moving around, you might have arthritis.

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Because the medications that reduce the pain of arthritis also can have serious side effects, many people are looking into alternative, natural approaches to arthritis. Research has shown statistically significant improvements in patients with arthritis when Ayurveda doctors were allowed to create individualized, patient-specific combinations of herbs and therapies for each person. Why was this a requirement for success?

Ayurveda identifies 3 categories or types of arthritis corresponding to Vata, Pitta and Kapha doshas.

Vata Aggravated Arthritis

Those with Vata aggravated arthritis may find that their joints may pop and crack because they are dry. Joints also may feel cold to the touch. With this type of arthritis, joints are painful mostly with movement and usually there is one particular area, which is tender or sore.

Pitta Aggravated Arthritis

With Pitta aggravated arthritis joints there is usually inflammation. Joints become swollen, red and hot to the touch and can be painful even when there is no movement.

Kapha Aggravated Arthritis

With Kapha aggravated arthritis joints also appear red, but the joints feel cool instead of hot. There can also be stiffness in the joints. In this case, pain occurs when one is at rest and movement can actually decrease the sensation of pain. Waking up in the morning after a night without movement can be quite painful for many with Kapha aggravate arthritis.

AMA: The Underlying Causative Factor for All Dosha Types

As mentioned, treatment for arthritis is specific to the dosha that is aggravated. But it is also important to understand that the underlying cause of arthritis is poor digestion. When people make choices in diet, life-style and daily routine that do not support their fundamental mind/body type, one or two doshas, Vata, Pitta or Kapha, can become aggravated. When that happens, the aggravation of doshas interferes with digestion, which in turn leads to the creation of ama, a sticky toxin that results from poorly digested food. Ama accumulates in the colon, from where it gets absorbed into the body and circulates, eventually accumulating in the tissues and joints.

Ama is “colored” by whatever dosha is out of balance: thus there is Vata-aggravated ama, Pitta-aggravated ama and Kapha-aggravated ama. Ama settling into the joints is what causes the symptoms of pain, inflammation and swelling.

If you are seeking alternative approach to dealing with joint pain, the best first step is a consultation with an experienced Ayurveda expert. Using pulse assessment, an expert can locate the root cause of your particular kind of arthritis and design the most effect approach for your specific symptoms and degree of imbalance and accumulation of ama.

Ayurveda Panchakarma treatments address arthritis on many levels. Panchakarma begins with a home cleansing program that starts to loosen and remove impurities, and helps open the channels of elimination in preparation for the more intensive treatments. The treatments themselves are gentle, yet powerful therapies that remove the toxins and impurities from your tissues and help open the channels of circulation and elimination. An individualized treatment program will be designed to specifically address the dosha that is causing problems, as well as removing ama and blockages from the joints and tissues.

For more information on Ayurvedic treatments for arthritis, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

www.theraj.com

Avoiding Hay Fever: Making a Healthy Transition from Summer to Fall

September is an especially important time of the year for those who suffer from hay fever. You can more fully enjoy the crisp, clear days of the new season by taking simple steps at the beginning of the transition to address Pitta imbalances and impurities that have accumulated throughout the summer.

 

It is important to appreciate the huge changes that occur during the transition from summer to fall — changes both in climactic and doshic influences. As the fall season begins, the predominance of Pitta dosha, which has been steadily accumulating over the summer months, gives way to a rise in Vata dosha. The added influence of Vata can actually result in an upsurge of Pitta disorders; particularly skin disorders, allergies, eye problems and digestive disturbances. This happens because Vata, which is moving and changeable by nature, mobilizes the underlying accumulated Pitta imbalances, which then rise to the surface.

 

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Hay fever is particularly common during the transition of summer to fall. It is basically an imbalance in the immune system (a condition called immune hyperactivity.) The immune system mistakes something that is normally benign (such as pollen or dust) as something harmful and releases a variety of chemical mediators, which leads to the painful symptoms of hay fever. According to Ayurveda, it is ama (or toxins) and low immunity that triggers these reactions, as the body tries to purify itself of impurities related to digestive (Pitta) imbalances.

 

Remember, during the summer months our bodies reacted to the high external temperatures by lowering our internal digestive fire. If we did not adjust our eating habits to accommodate our diminished capacity for digestion, it is probable that we accumulated ama (impurities) during June, July and August.

 

For this reason, fall is an ideal time to think in terms of detoxifying the physiology. It is one of the best times to participate in the classical detoxification and purification treatments of Ayurveda, known as Panchakarma. These therapies are designed to strengthen the physiology, remove accumulated impurities and balance the doshas. This allows one to go forward into the fall and winter season with a balanced physiology. If you do not have time for a full Panchakarma program, check with an Ayurveda expert to see if Nasya treatments would be helpful. Nasya is a treatment used to purify the head and neck region.

 

TRANSITIONAL SUMMER TO FALL TIPS

Maintain a Pitta-pacifying diet while it is still hot outside, but also begin to add Vata pacifying behaviors. Make sure you are drinking plenty of room temperature water, but also start sipping some hot water throughout the day.

This is an especially important time to avoid foods that are difficult to digest, such as cheese, non-vegetarian foods, processed foods and cold drinks and ice cream.

To pacify the rising influence of Vata, be attentive to the regularity of your daily routine. Go to bed on time, wake with the rising sun, give yourself a daily oil massage, eat at regular times, and be regular with your mediation practice.

For more information on Panchakarma treatments and consultations at The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa, visit:

www.theraj.com

Getting the Most From Your Fruits and Vegetables

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With the fullness of summer comes bustling farmers’ markets and overflowing shelves in the fruit and vegetable sections of our grocery stores. It is the time of the year when the availability of local produce is at its peak. Indulge! Studies have shown that eating seven or more servings of fruit and vegetables a day can extend life expectancy a staggering 42%.

To cook vegetables or to eat them raw is the question of the season. According to Ayurveda, this decision is best made with an understanding of your body type, your state of balance or imbalance, and the quality of your digestion.

Ayurveda’s main text, the Charak Samhita, recommends primarily cooked foods because cooking increases the element of agni that is essential for the assimilation of nutrients and their transformation into the bodily tissues. The higher proportion of nutrients available in raw food doesn’t count if you can’t digest, absorb and assimilate them. Let’s look first at body types and who can eat what. Then we’ll move on to specific foods and how to best make their nutrients available to us.

In order to choose the best option for your physiology, not only do you need to evaluate your individual physiology, it also helps take into account seasonal influences. In the summer, for instance, our body reacts to the high external heat by turning down our metabolism. This means that for many the ability to digest food is severely diminished.

Raw Food vs Body Type

In general, those with Pitta, or Pitta/Kapha body types who do not have significant Vata imbalances can handle raw foods in their diet, especially in the late spring and summer seasons. This is because the element of “fire” or “agni” is very lively in their constitutions and they benefit from a cooling diet.

The overly cold, dry, light qualities of raw foods, however, may create problems for anyone with a severe Vata imbalance. They may find an increase in symptoms of abdominal gas, bloating, constipation, worry and anxiety, and dryness. Those wishing to balance or counter Vata imbalances do better with a diet that is warm, moist and easily digestible.

Those with Kapha imbalances may find that the cold nature of raw foods leads to allergies, sinus problems or asthma.

One solution for those who prefer raw foods but lack a strong Pitta component is to enjoy raw juices. Juicing or blending with “super blenders” that basically pulverize foods allows you to break down the cellulose the surrounds the outer layer of fruit and vegetable molecules, thus allowing you to derive optimum nutritional benefits.

Nutrient Availability in Foods 

It turns out that many vegetables only offer their full nutritional value when they have been cooked. Let’s look at how to get the most out of this summer’s fresh, organic vegetables.

It is important to note that when I refer to cooking vegetables, I am usually referring to steaming for 4 or 5 minutes or baking in the oven with a slight drizzle of oil. Obviously, mushy, over-cooked vegetables are not going to provide many healthful nutrients. Boiling vegetables removes many important minerals and nutrients.

  1. Cooking vegetables reduces the mass of the vegetable, concentrating more nutrients with less bulk. Bitter greens like spinach and kale are generally more edible when cooked because cooking also eliminates the oxalic acid, which interferes with calcium absorption.
  2. Cooking significantly improves the digestibility and bioavailability of starchy foods such as potatoes and yams, squashes. This is also true with grains and legumes.
  3. One note about whole grains: the phosphorus in bran is tied up in a substance called phytic acid. According to the book, Nourishing Traditions, phytic acid combines with iron, calcium, magnesium, copper and zinc in the intestinal tract, blocking their absorption. This is why many traditional ways of cooking grains include presoaking or fermenting grains before eating them. These processes neutralize the phytates, essentially predigesting the food so that their nutrients are more available. Phytic acid is also present in nuts, which also should be soaked before eating.
  4. Green beans always need to be cooked until soft otherwise, they are actually toxic. Raw beans are poisonous because they contain prussic acid, which is deactivated only by cooking.
  5. Cooked carrots, spinach, asparagus, cabbage, and peppers supply more antioxidants such as carotenoids and ferulic acid to the body than they do when raw,
  6. Mild heating, such as steaming, appears to improve the extractability of beta-carotene from vegetables, along with increasing betacarotene’s bioavailability. Beta-carotene absorption can be as low as 1-2% from raw vegetables such as carrots.
  7. Lycopene in tomatoes is thought to be responsible for reducing the risk of some cancers and heart disease. Studies have shown that the absorption of lycopene is greater from cooked tomatoes. However cooking tomatoes can destroy other vitamins, so it is good to include raw tomatoes in one’s diet as well as cooked tomatoes.
  8. Steaming asparagus ignites its cancer-fighting potential.

If you have any questions about which form of vegetables is best for you, check with an Ayurveda expert in your area. Ayurveda pulse assessment will reveal what kinds and forms of vegetables will be most helpful in creating a healthy balance for your mind/body system. Ayurveda recognizes the unique differences of each individual. In order to correctly determine your optimal requirements, it is important to understand your level of balance and imbalance. For information on Ayurvedic consultations, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

http://www.theraj.com

 

Summer Eye Care: Protecting Your Eyes with Ayurveda

According to Ayurveda, the eye is the seat Alochaka Pitta, one of the five subdoshas of Pitta. Pitta governs heat, metabolism and transformation. Whenever our eyes are open, they are involved in the complex process of transforming light into ideas: distilling foreground from background, recognizing objects presented in a wide range of orientations, and accurately interpreting spatial cues. Researchers estimate that the human retina can transmit visual input at about the same rate as an Ethernet connection, at roughly 10 million bits per second.

Given the Pitta nature of our eyes, it follows that they can become sensitive and irritated when we are exposed to excess heat. Regardless of whether you have a predominance of Pitta in your constitution, everyone should take extra caution in protecting their eyes in the summer.

Tips For Protecting Your Eyes in the Summer

Wear sunglasses and a hat during the day. Bright light can actually cause an inflammatory response in the eyes which can lead to damage of the optic nerve. Sunglasses will also help protect the eyes from the dust and other environmental particles that increase in the summer months. Look for a label that says 99-100 percent UV absorption or UV 400 (which means they block all UVA and UVB rays).

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Cool compresses can help draw out Pitta from the eyes. There is a reason for the traditional spa image of a lady relaxing with slices of cucumbers over her eyes. Cucumbers not only have high water content, they also have an anti-inflammatory effect. Cotton balls with sprayed with rose water or chamomile water can also be used as compresses to reduce heat in the eyes.

Air conditioning, dry winds and dust can cause eye dryness or irritation. If your eyes are feeling dry, see an Ayurvedic expert regarding lubrication for the eyes, and drink lots of room temperature water and fluids.

Getting a good night’s sleep will help refresh and rejuvenate the eyes. Your eyes are very busy during the day and need a good night’s sleep stay healthy. Additionally, a lack of sleep tends to increase the retention of blood and fluid around the eyes, leading to dark circles under the eyes.

During the Pitta season, everyone should eat a Pitta reducing diet, even if Pitta is not your main dosha. Increase your intake of vegetables and fruits. Cucumbers, cilantro, dill, fennel are all are very cooling. Rice, especially white basmati rice, and barley are ideal grains for summer. Emphasize foods that are liquid rather than dry, and cool or lukewarm rather than hot.

Stress, anger, anxiety, alcohol, spicy food, pollution will all increase your risk for eye irritation.

If you spend long hours in front of a computer, your eyes can become strained. Be sure to look away from the computer every thirty minutes or so. If you are able, take time to stretch and look out a window. Switching focus from near to far allows the ciliary muscles in the eye to relax. The ability of our eyes to change shape to allow for near-focus or far-focus is high when we are young and decreases with age. Doing focused work for hours on end can increase eye strain and decrease our overall ability to change focus.

Netra Tarpana

Netra Tarpana is a special Ayurveda treatment that strengthens and protects the eyes against the sun’s rays, relieves tired, achy eyes, and improves vision. This treatment is known to be very rejuvenating for the eyes and is an ancient remedy for many eye and sight ailments.

Freshly made dough rings filled with fragrant oils are placed around the eyes, and gently filled with herbal healing to bathe and lubricate the eyes and surrounding area. As a side benefit, Netra Tarpana also helps address sagging around the eyes and crows feet.

Ayurveda Consultations

Burning, red, or bloodshot eyes, extreme sensitivity to light, and a yellowish tinge in the whites of the eyes are all signs of excess Pitta circulating in the system. If you have any of these symptoms, it is best to consult with an Ayurvedic expert.

To schedule a consultation with an Ayurveda expert or to learn more about Ayurveda treatments, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa:

www.theraj.com

 

Taste: Your Mind/Body Messenger

savor

When you sit down to eat, slowly savoring the blends of spices and sauces, the freshly cooked foods and delicious dessert, instantaneous messages from your taste buds prepare your stomach for digestion.

How Taste Talks

Ayurveda describes the deep link between health and taste. It posits that taste “speaks” to Vata, Pitta and Kapha doshas, the three governors of your body’s functioning. For example, if you eat a hot chili pepper, your eyes water, your body heats up and your mind gets a shot of mental clarity. The spicy taste increases Pitta, which is hot by nature. If you ate some mint chutney, it would cool off the hot Pitta. In this way, various tastes increase or decrease Vata, Pitta and Kapha.

Ayurveda has long considered food as medicine. The tastes you choose to eat have the power to help bring your body into a health balance—or to create imbalance.

Which Tastes Are For You?

Ayurvedic texts divide all foods into six tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, astringent and pungent. Sweet doesn’t just mean sugary—it includes breads, milk and cream, and rice. Astringent means dry foods such as beans, broccoli and apples. Bitter tastes include grees such as spinach. Pungent foods are spicy and hot.

How do you know which tastes to eat? The main guideline is to include all sixe tastes at every meal, to satisfy all three principles.

Besides making sure that you are eating all six tastes, favor—meaning, add more—of the tastes that balance your particular mind/body type. For instance, if you have more of slow-moving Kapha in your constitution, you will probably feel lighter, more active, and mentally sharper by eating more of the the tastes that decrease Kapha. Thus your diet should include more pungent spices such as ginger, bitter foods such as leafy greens, and astringent foods such as bean soups.

Here is an overview of how tastes influence the doshas:

Vata Balancing: sweet, sour, salty

Vata Aggravating: bitter, astringent, pungent

Pitta Balancing: sweet, astringent, bitter

Pitta Aggravating: sour, pungent, salty

Kapha Balancing: bitter, pungent, astringent

Kapha Aggravating: sweet, sour, salty

So, if your mind/body type is more Vata, favor sweet, sour and salty foods. And if you have a lot of fiery Pitta, eat more sweet, bitter and astringent tastes and avoid large quantities of pungent, sour and salty foods.

It is helpful to also pay attention to the time of year and which dosha is dominant in your environment. During the cold, dry, windy weather of fall and early winter, Vata dosha is naturally enlivened. At this time, start to reduce the amount of foods that increase Vata and begin to favor those spicy Pitta foods that you were avoiding all summer. Kapha increasing foods can also be enjoyed at this time. But as the late winter and early spring become increasingly wet, Kapha dosha begins to dominate and it is better to shy away from Kapha foods and add in more foods that increase Pitta. Continue to balance Vata, which may have build up over the past season. During the hot days summer is it best to minimize heating foods.

One easy way to make sure you are eating the right combination of tastes is to use Vata, Pitta and Kapha herbal seasonings, or churnas, which contain traditional spicy mixtures that target specific doshas.

Above all, Ayurveda says to enjoy your food. Whatever you are eating, relax, take your time, and enjoy. Savor the taste. Then your body’s important messenger can do its job.

For more information on creating a healthy balance in the body through Ayurveda treatments and consultations, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

http://www.theraj.com