Ayurvedic Diet and Recipes
Breakfast: start your day the Ayurvedic way
Getting to grips with what really is (nutrition-wise) the best way to start the day can be quite confusing. This has become particularly true in the last decade
with so much conflicting information available online. Global interest in everything from veganism to keto has seen a huge rise in controversial
information with many touting completely opposite 'do's and dont's' and that THIS way as the RIGHT way for EVERYONE. Knowing all of this can result
in a full blown ethical/nutritional dilemma before 8am. Add to this the fact that many recipes which even say they are "Ayurvedic" actually contain
agni depleting and incompatible foods (because they look oh so instagrammable!). End result - utter confusion about what really is best for our bodies.
Why Ayurveda is different
The truth is, there is no hard and fast rule for everyone, what we need is dependant on dosha and season. Fortunately, Ayurveda gets this and gives unique insight into how different people have different nutritional needs. Understanding and integrating this into our lifestyle means we not only know WHAT to eat but how, when and why so we can get the best from our selves from the moment we wake.
Ayurveda argues that the way we 'break our fast' each morning is key to the days energy, so we hope you agree that its worthwhile learning the truth on ayurvedic breakfasting. The principles are straightforward and once you get cracking (eggcellent pun right?), you will find starting your day the Ayurvedic way makes a lot of sense and, better yet, you will feel great! (come on early morning meetings!!)
What Ayurveda really has to say about the morning munch:
Light, bright and easy
Our digestive fire (agni) is at its weakest, and most sluggish, in the morning. Between 6:00am to 10:00am is kapha time on the Ayurvedic clock so breakfast should be light, easy to digest and ideally include a few spices (especially if you are a Vata or Kapha type) as it will help to get Agni started. Our pitta friends, with strong appetite might need a little more food than kapha and vata types to keep them fuelled until lunch but be careful not to overeat!
I'm feeling hot hot hot!
To help wake the Agni after a long slumber, breakfast should be warm or hot, especially for cold vata and kapha types. Cold, sugar-laden, cereals covered in chilled milk make digestion even more sluggish and increase the likelihood of developing Ama. Also, we regret to say that those chilled breakfast smoothies (even though they are full of fruit and veg) are not a good way to start the day either (unless you are pitta dominant and have a very strong agni) as the raw nature of the food is likely to cause gas and bloating - again before 10am, think room temp, warm or hot hot hot!
Full o' Fibre
Another really important thing to remember is fibre content. The first meal of the day, ideally eaten after the morning visit to the loo (as this prepares the digestion of new intake of food) should, more so than any other meal, contain a solid amount of fibre.
High fibre foods make you feel fuller for longer, as they release energy slowly and the 'bulk/roughage' encourages healthy, regular motions supporting the body to get rid of toxins. This is the reason why (wholegrain) wheat products and porridge have been popular breakfast options for centuries! Nutritious fibre filled goodness can be found in whole grains (brown rice, bran, bulgur wheat and barley), grain-like seeds (buckwheat, quinoa), nuts, seeds and steamed greens.
Sadly, breakies which are low in fibre (such as the beloved sweet pastry/muffin/white toast) prevent proper stool formation and also reek havoc with blood sugar, causing energy to spike and drop, leaving you feeling hungry and tired a few hours later!
Bacon's ok right?
You know I am going to say it - those breakfast meats aint great! Although for many bacon and sausages are the reason to get up in a morning, eating these too often (more than once a week) - unless you are a labourer needing to keep your energy up - will likely increase unwanted weight, cholesterol and acidity. Heavy breakfasts eventually overwhelm Agni resulting in Ama making you feel tired, congested and foggy headed.
So what should I eat?
Porridge is the winner
The best breakfast, according to Ayurveda, is a bowl warm of spiced
grains/grain-like seeds such as oats, barely, rice , bulgur wheat,
buckwheat, quinoa or chia. Porridge is a great, all year round,
breakfast as it is easy to make, satisfying to eat, easily absorbed,
provides good fibre, protein and slow release carbohydrates AND
good for all dosha types (dependant on ingredient).
Versatility is key
Vegans can enjoy with milk alternatives such as soy, almond
and cashew - be careful with oat milk on your porridge as this
can make your breakfast too high in sugar overall
Those with difficulty digesting gluten or have excess
weight/diabetes and/or are taking a lower carb diet,
can favour grain-like seeds (quinoa/chia etc) with the
addition of other seeds such as flax, sesame, pumpkin etc.
In summer, or for those pitta types, you can do overnight
oats (eating at room temp) with coconut yoghurt, cardamom
and raisins for a sweeter, cooler porridge - also using sweeter
grains such as rice will keep the hangry pitta happy
In autumn, or for those vata types, you can add a little ghee,
cinnamon, cardamom, nuts/nut butter and seeds to add warmth
and unctuousness - hotter and sweeter grains such as oats and
rice are best and adding flax keeps the vata types gut regular
In winter/spring, or for kapha types, allow porridge to cool a little
and add honey, cinnamon and ginger to support the immune
system and reduce allergies - hot, dry, rough and astringent
grains like barley and bulgur or grain-like seeds, such as
buckwheat, are best to keep sluggish kapha moving
Full of beans!
Second best to grains are lentil/bean breakfasts, especially those made with mung beans. Those on low carb diets or who've tried FODMAP might feel 'the fear' when thinking of lentils but they dont deserve the bad rep they get! When soaked (to remove gas causing lecthins) and eaten with warm with spices, the health benefits of these little babies are unreal! When eaten right they are light, easy to digest, full of protein and fibre, keep you full for ages, increase gut health by reducing gut inflammation and scrape cholestorol which reduces blood pressure - simply amazing and great for kapha!
Sunny side up
In 3rd place for best breaky foods (and for you grain and lentil haters out there) we have good old-fashioned egg. Important to note though (and contrary to belief) eggs aren't an all year food stuff. Once upon a time, eggs were only available seasonally from Spring to Autumn, as it's the sunshine itself initiates the laying! So, if eggs are your thang (and the sun is shining) we recommend ditching the processed fat and having your eggs scrambled with ghee, spices and vegetables (dependant on dosha), as a vegetable omelette or as poached on toast with a side of greens. Eggs sandwiches are good occasionally when on the go but its always better to get some of your 5-a-day as early as you can! Also, important note for you Kapha and Pitta types - you guys only want to be having eggs 1-2 times a week if you want to stay in balance as they are heavy and heating.
Not hungry in the morning? Try a chai!
If you don't feel that hungry in the morning or are looking to lose weight, having a cup of hot spicy chai or a smaller breakfast of berries (summer) or soaked nuts (winter) at 10am (when pitta time begins) is a good alternative and should keep you going to lunchtime. Those with little appetite that need to gain weight, chai is also recommended to encourage appetite and ensure you get some good fats and protein in the morning; adding ghee or coconut oil to chai is also great way to make it more filling and nutritious! Alternatively, you can blend up your hot chai with oats for a scrummy breakfast smoothie.
Creamy and Fragrant Rice Porridge
In Ayurveda, rice is considered a nectar. It's simple, sweet, nourishing yet easy to digest! This is such a simple and delicious meal (or snack) that can be eaten on its own or with a side at any time of day. As it's such a speedy meal, we highly recommend enjoying for breakfast as an alternative to porridge!
Kheer - Sweet Rice Porridge
Kheer (meaning milk in Persian), or Indian rice pudding, is a popular yet simple dessert made of milk, rice, cardamom and sweet ingredients such as dates or raisins. Kheer can be enjoyed as a healthy alternative to contemporary desserts or can even be enjoyed as breakfast in Autumn to nourish and soothe Vata, aid sleep and soothe dry skin.