Summer Recipes—Foods That Can Lengthen Your Life

One of the delights of summer is the joyful abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables on grocery shelves—or growing up out of your garden. According to Ayurveda, sweet fruits and bitter greens help pacify Pitta dosha.  According to the scientific community they also protect us from falling ill.

An international research study conducted by the University of Adelaide found that people who consumed a diet high in fruit, vegetables and certain grains had a lower risk of developing not just one but multiple chronic conditions including anemia, hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, hepatitis, coronary heart disease, asthma, stroke, fracture and cancer. The study found that people who eat a higher amount of fruit are less likely to develop any chronic disease, while a high intake of vegetables helps prevent people with one chronic disease from developing a second.

In addition, numerous studies at Harvard and other research facilities in the United States and Europe found that individuals who ate more than five servings of fruits and vegetables per day had roughly a 20 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke compared with individuals who ate less than 3 servings.

So pile your plate high with these health-creating foods! Here are a few summer recipes to try out:

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Asparagus and /or carrots with lemon-herb sauce

Steam your chosen amounts of asparagus and/or carrots to the point where they are “fork-friendly”. This means a bit more than al dente but not soft or mushy. Then pour the following lemon-herb sauce over the vegetables.

Lemon-Herb Sauce

Juice one lemon. Add a pinch of salt and 1 tablespoon of honey (use only unheated honey). Mix together in a blender with a few leaves of fresh basil and mint. Puree until smooth.

Cucumber Raita

This side dish goes well with dal, rice, curries and other Indian dishes.

Combine in a mixing bowl:

1 cup fresh yogurt

1/4 cup cucumber (peel and dice finely_

1 tablespoon ginger root, peeled and grated

1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro (the leaves of the coriander plant)

1/8 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

salt to taste

Cooling Mint Tea

1 cup fresh peppermint leaves

1 quart boiling water

1 quart room temperature water

2 teaspoons sweetener

Pour the quart of boiling water over the mint leaves. Cover and let steep for 20 minutes. Strain the tea into a pitcher or glass jar. Add cool water sweeteners. If you are adding honey, make sure the water has cooled down first. This is a great drink for aiding digestion. Drink at room temperature for maximum assimilation. Remember that iced and chilled drinks dampen our digestive fires, making it difficult to properly digest our food.

Dandelion Salad

If your lawn is full of dandelions, stop complaining and start picking. Dandelions are one of the most nutrient-dense plants you can eat. Their leaves, when young and tender, have a slightly bitter taste like arugula. The older the pant, the more bitter the greens. Before you start picking, be sure that the yard in which the dandelions are growing has not been treated with chemicals.

1 cup dandelion greens, washed and dried

8 large leaves of butter lettuce, washed and dried

1/2 cup feta cheese or goat cheese, chopped or crumbled.

Dressing

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/8 cup olive oil

sweetener to taste (just a bit is needed)

1 tomato chopped

fresh basil

fresh ground black pepper to taste

Boiling the dandelion greens is better for older, larger leaves as it removes their bitterness. Some even recommend boiling the older greens twice: once for 2 minutes, drain and boil again for 2 minutes.

For information on consultations with Ayurveda experts and learn more about your individual mind/body type, visit The Raj, Ayurveda Health Spa:

www.theraj.com

Minimizing Summer Skin Problems with Ayurveda

By this point in time, everyone knows that the sun can cause severe damage to the skin. Our skin is the largest organ in our body and is one of the main organs of purification. It acts as an insulator, regulates body temperature, and protects us from the harmful radiations of the sun. During the long days of summer, when exposure to the sun is at its peak, the risk of damage to our skin increases multifold.

Over-exposure to sunshine can allow extreme ultraviolet (UV) rays to penetrate through the layers of our skin, harming the DNA of our cells. From the perspective of Ayurveda, the intensity of the sun’s heat during the summer also aggravates Pitta dosha.

According to Ayurveda, most skin problems are associated with an imbalance of Pitta dosha, which governs metabolism, heat, and digestion. Pitta has five subdivisions or “subdoshas”, and one of them, Bhranjaka Pitta, resides in the skin. Its imbalance can cause rashes, boils, acne, and skin disorders of all types.

Problems with Pitta dosha are not limited to the summer time. One of the reasons that acne is common in early adolescence is because that is the time of life when Pitta begins to increase in the physiology. In babies and young children, Kapha is the predominant dosha. Kapha is the formative element that maintains the physical structure, providing support and substance in the body. Kapha makes up our bones, muscles, and fat; it lubricates joints and helps us maintain immunity. During the crucial early years of growth and physical development, Kapha is working overtime.

As we approach adolescence, however, the body begins transitioning from Kapha-predominate to Pitta-predominant. The hormonal changes of puberty are activated by Pitta. This increase in Pitta also causes skin problems.

Whether we are in the Pitta time of life or not, if we have problems with acne, rashes or other skin problems, one of the most basic Ayurvedic approaches is to pacifying Pitta dosha.

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Tips for Pacifying Pitta Dosha

1) Avoid foods that aggravate Pitta, such a fried and oily foods, processed foods, chocolate, and junk food. Avoid hot, spicy or sour foods (including cheese). Avoid red meat, which is especially Pitta aggravating.

2) Opt for foods that pacify Pitta. Sweet fruits and fresh vegetables are your best choice in the summer. In addition to being cooling, they provide essential nutrients and have free-radical fighting properties. Look for locally grown asparagus, zucchini, summer squashes, celery, cucumbers and an assortment of leafy greens. Sweet, juicy fruits such as watermelon, mangos, grapes and pears all help cool, nourish and cleanse.

3) The sun can increase the production of sebum, causing the skin to become more oily than usual. When the oil combines with dirt and sweat, pores can get clogged. Be meticulous about your cleansing routine, morning and night. Do not apply oils to areas affected by acne, even when you do your daily Ayurvedic oil massage.

4) Avoid harsh chemicals. Make sure the water you bathe with is not highly chlorinated or chemically treated. Swimming pools, while providing a cooling sports activity during the summer, can aggravate Pitta-related skin conditions. Fresh lakes and ponds are a better option, if available. Ideally, use a water filter on your shower.

5) Instead of washing your face with soap, mix room temperature, purified water and barley flour to a thin paste to make a gentle and effective cleanser. To really pamper your skin, remove the paste using room temperature milk — followed by a final rinse with room temperature water.

6) Drink more water. Water is the best beverage for those with skin problems. Fresh fruit and vegetable juices are also fine but avoid canned or bottled juices and sodas, as those contain less of the vital qualities needed to nourish your skin. Air conditioners are also dehumidifiers. While they keep us cool they are also very drying. Air conditioners also prevent sweating, which is our body’s natural way of detoxing. Drinking lots of water will help keep your skin hydrated and will also help in the elimination of toxins.

7) Avoid caffeinated drinks, carbonated drinks and iced drinks. Caffeinated drinks are actually dehydrating. Ices and carbonated drinks can diminish our ability to digest food, leading to a toxic accumulation of ama. Because the skin is one of the leading organs for elimination and purification, an accumulation of ama can lead to skin problems.

8) Get plenty of rest. Because the summer daylight hours are longer, it can be tempting to stay up late. However, no matter what the season, the rest gained from 10:00 PM to 2:00 AM is considered to be the deepest and most regenerative sleep.

Your pineal gland is your internal clock. As the sun sets, the pineal gland senses the change in light transmitted through your eyes and it begins to secrete melatonin, preparing the body for sleep. Typically, within one to two hours after the sunset, you will begin to feel drowsy as melatonin levels rise. This is the body’s signal to go to sleep. By midnight your melatonin levels have peaked. There is a gradual decline in melatonin levels after midnight.

If you are still up and active after 10:00, the “second wind” phenomenon kicks in. This is driven by Pitta dosha. This late-night Pitta cycle is designed to repair and regenerate the body. This can only be experienced if you are asleep. Repeatedly staying up during the evening Pitta cycle can create deep Pitta imbalances and interfere with the body’s ability to stay balanced and healthy.

9) One of the main seats of Pitta is the eyes. Always wear sunglasses in the summer. In the evening, try splashing cool water on your eyes. Soaking a cotton ball with cool water or rose water and placing it over your eyes for 10 minutes can help cool the eyes.

If your skin condition persists or worsens, you may want to consult with an Ayurveda expert in your area. For more information on consultations at The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa visit the web site:

http://www.theraj.com

Foods for Life

Along with increasing hours of sunlight and rising temperatures, spring brings an abundance of colors and options in the produce aisles. This is the area of the grocery store where indulgence is encouraged! A 2014 study found that eating seven or more servings of fruit and vegetables can extend life expectancy “a staggering 42%”. And, not surprisingly, the report found that fresh vegetables extend life more effectively than canned. The paper, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, concluded that the more fruits and vegetables we eat, the less likely we are to die at any age.

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This brings us to the on-going question of raw vs. cooked vegetables. 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 is useless if the food can’t be digested, absorbed and assimilated. In order to choose the best option for your physiology, it is helpful to understand your state of doshic balance and imbalance, the strength of your digestion, and to take into account seasonal influences.

In general, those of with Pitta, or Pitta/Kapha body types who do not have a significant Vata imbalance 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.

If you are adding raw foods to your diet, here are some tips that can help you to maintain a healthy digestive fire:

Sip small quantities of warm water with your meals

Never include ice-cold foods or drinks with your meal. Allow refrigerated foods to come to room temperature before eating.

Try eating a slice of ginger, topped with a pinch of salt and lemon juice, about 15 minutes before your meal. This will increase the element of fire or agni and will help improve digestion and the assimilation of nutrients

Add a bit of fresh lemon or lime juice to whatever you are eating

Adding organic olive oil to salads will help counter the drying property of raw foods

Next week we’ll look at which vegetables offer more nutritional value when they have been cooked and which offer more nutritional value when eaten raw.

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