Ayurvedic Diet & Recipes
Lunch: the Ayurvedic perspective
For much of the western world, weekday lunch means busy days bridged only by a quick trip to Pret for an off the shelf sandwich, a few snacks
stuffed while running around after the children, or worse - the "working lunch". For many of us, we eat quick, cold food in a rush or while still working,
all of which bombs our digestion.
Eating lunch this way is the norm for many of us however in many parts of Europe (which have some of the healthiest and oldest populations) the mid-day munch is still considered the most important meal of the day with countries like Italy, France, Spain and Greece still having the traditional 1-3 hour lunch break. Food is often cooked fresh at home and eaten leisurely (beats the usual 30-60 minute face stuff at the desk right?). In Ayurveda, we agree with Europe, lunch really is the most important meal of the day - and we're not saying that just to get a longer lunch break. The reason is that Agni (our digestive fire) "follows the path of the sun"meaning that between 10am and 2pm (pitta time on the Ayurvedic Clock), when the sun it at is peak, so is our digestion. As Agni is at its strongest, we are at our most hungry (or hangry) and better able to digest a larger meal, extracting most of the days nourishment from mid-day dining. Obviously, by saying this we cant magically increase lunch breaks or change the fact your boss expects your to watch presentations during your "break" but being aware of the way it works can help you to make the best possible choices possible, so you feel your best for the rest of the day.
What Ayurveda really has to say about the mid-day meal:
Large and in charge
So digestion is strongest at lunch - what we are saying is simple: make lunch your biggest meal. While breakfast is usually light and simple (grains, lentils, eggs or fruit) lunch should be more complex and include; good proteins such as lean meat, fish or heavier veggie and vegan alternatives such as nuts; a good dose of unprocessed high quality fats; 3-5 different types of vegetables and a moderate to smaller amount of carbs. It takes time to get used to swapping meal sizes with that of the evening sup but get the balance right and you wont face that mid-afternoon energy slump and be reaching for biscuits at 3pm.
Trying to digest while distracted or worse, during heated debate, is mission impossible and will leave you bloated, tired and miserable. As often as possible avoid additional "work" or activity while having lunch; try to sit quietly concentrating on the taste and texture and scrumminess of your food. Enjoying lunch with colleagues and friends is a nice way to relax (no shop talk!) though traditional Ayurveda says digestion is at its best when there is no talking or laughing so try to keep gossip down to a minimum and just enjoy each others company.
Salads are ok, right?
If your'e a pitta type and a particular fan of salad, lunch time is the only time. If your'e environment is warm (i.e its spring or summer) & digestion is strong (i.e you are pitta) you can get away with cold food at lunch without too many problems. BUT if your'e vata/kapha dominant or have vata/kapha disturbance, raw foods are best avoided/kept to a minimum as they will not be digested well and will create bloating, gas and ama.
Foods are more easily digested when lightly steamed, boiled or fried in ghee (for vata and pitta) and seasoned with spices suited to your dosha. No need to go crazy on the spices until later though though (unless it's really cold out), too much spice at lunch can irritate pitta and will make you feel hungry again (even if you dont need food) later on.
Fresh is best
When we are busy it feels like leftovers or buying out are the only options. As the latter gets expensive, left-overs from last night or (gulp) even earlier
(such as a weekend batch cook) are quite often the go-to. Sadly, left overs are low in prana (life-energy) meaning that, although they "have all the right nutrients",
they do not nourish our energetic/pranic body and can lead to low mood and poor energy levels. Furthermore, the ageing process (a vata process)
which begins in food which has been left for more than 4 hours reduces digestibility, increasing likelihood of causing vata disturbance and symptoms (gas and bloating).
Making lunches in the morning (such as in an instant pot while your getting ready) and taking to work in a thermos, or buying fresh, is best. If that's not possible, eat a small portion of your meal at night and eat the rest the next day, it's second best to fresh. Eating this way will boost the nutrients you get from food, maintain agni and the dosha, will improve energy levels and mood and will keep your immune system strong preventing coughs, colds and infections.
Always eat seasonally
The key to maintaining bio-rhythms and good health is to always eat seasonally, i.e eating food which would naturally (without GM or over manufacturing) grow at a particular time of year. What foods grow when can be found easily online and should be considered with every shop. To help get you started we have included a few key pointers:
In Spring - Think kapha-pacifying spices and bitter vegetables (such as spring greens, asparagus and salad leaves) to boost sluggish hand cleanse the liver. Fresh spring produce such eggs, cheese and lamb (and reduced carbs/grains) encourage the body to burn fat as fuel and help slough off winter weight gain.
In summer - Lunches should be refreshing with cooling pitta-pacifying spices (cardamom, coriander) and bitter/sweet vegetables - broccoli, cauliflower, courgette, peppers, fennel and (towards the end of summer) sweet roots such as carrot and beets. White meats and white fish, lentils, beans, peas and pulses are optimal sources of protein maintaining alkaline/acid balance during hotter months. Slightly more carbs than in spring can be added to keep pitta types sweet and salads with olive oil on hot days are just delicious.
In autumn - It's Stew Season! Think oily, soft, liquid and warming foods which contain vata-pacifying spices like ginger, cinnamon, asafoetida, clove and garlic and grounding vegetables such as sweet roots (carrot, parsnip, squash). Pair with well-cooked red meats, well-soaked and specified lentils such as black gram (urid dhal), whole grains fresh from the Autumn harvest and lashings of ghee - (unless your kapha is too high, then less ghee!)
In winter - Lunches at the coldest time of the year should always include some spice to keep agni up and keep the circulation and lymphatics mobile. The most beneficial are ginger, cinnamon, garlic, black pepper and methi. Pair with hearty grains such as barley; roots and winter greens; white stewed meats and mung lentils. Start to scale back the moisture/roots and grains as it heads in to spring and start preparing for detox!
Clean Beets N Greens Kitchari
Beets 'n' Greens keep you fresh and clean! Struggling with Acne? Skin rashes? Volcanic eruptions of emotions? Or excess weight and digestive issues! It sounds like you could do with a gut and liver cleanse! What better (and more delicious) way to promote natural cleansing than with Faith's Beet n Greens Kitchari. Perfect all year round but is absolutely QUEEN come Spring Cleanse season.
All-Seasons Simple Tridoshic Kitchari
Ayurveda's ultimate healing food - kitchari - also known as a hug in a bowl is a soothing combination of soft mung dhal and rice mixed with digestive spices, vegetables and healthy fats. Kitchari is delicious, easy to digest, suitable for for all dosha, low in calorie, high in fibre, Agni strengthening and gut cleansing.