By Rama Prasad
Along with smiles and flowers springs bring any digestive leftovers! - Dr Rama Prasad
Spring is the season for cleanse. Traditionally, grandmothers did it. Yogis did it. Ayurvedis do this. If we don't do an appropriate one, body does it in its own way. Upper respiratory inflammations and allergic reactions are just examples.
Spring is the time for blooming energy for fairly healthy people. Sun is out, warmth is back and garden comes to life. Bees and butterflies just drop in in your backyard. Blooming time.
If our health is compromised, toxins (ama) are produced. If body recognises them, it develops an immune response - inflammation. Inflammation tries to eradicate the toxins.
By Matthew Hooper
"Winter is the energy recharging
time of the year".
- Dr Rama Prasad
With winter on
the way we start to look for a few items we may have forgotten about. We look
for things on a bodily level, the coat at the back of the cupboard, we dust off
the heater. And, in the same natural way, we start to look at warmer foods.
Instead of a T-shirt we take a jumper, instead of a Caesar salad, we look for a
casserole. It seems to be a natural progression. Following the philosophies of
Ayurvedic, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Western dietitians, it is
indeed natural to look for a few new items on the winter menu.
Talking with Stella Pericleous, TCM practitioner; Rama Prasad, Ayurvedic practitioner; and Clare James, a dietician in the western tradition, I discovered a few home truths about winter food and winter eating. I discovered that it’s important to keep the body warm on the inside as well as the outside. To do this it seems it is important to keep the body active on the inside as well as the outside. Stella notes, ‘in winter the Chinese philosophy about warm, cooked food becomes especially important.’ The TCM approach says ‘food is medicine.’ The medicine for winter is keep it warm.
Stella recommends slow cooked foods, hot pots, stews filled with seasonal vegetables (such as beet, carrots, zucchini, pumpkin), and mild spices. If you are a meat eater – lamb, beef, pork, a little fish. She also recommends nourishing teas like Oolong and Ginger. Hazelnuts and walnuts are especially beneficial in winter. Slow cooked rice or congee also play a big part in the TCM approach to winter eating. This may be mixed with googy berries, dates, ginger and cinnamon.
that in winter the body needs more heat, but it also needs foods that are easy
on the digestion. When the digestion is easy the energy uptake is more
efficient. ‘Meal times are sacred, and just as important as what you eat is how
you eat it,’ she says. Sitting down and enjoying the warms foods of winter is
what she recommends.
Rama Prasad says ‘If you have a good winter, you have a good year.’ He reminds me that in Ayurvedic philosophy there is an emphasis on the importance of the seasons. ‘Winter is the energy uploading time of the year. In winter the body needs to acquire energy for the rest of the year. What we see in the human body in winter is that the digestive fire is the strongest.’
In winter the Ayurvedic approach focuses on the earth (stability, integrity), and water (elasticity, flexibility) elements. The body is hungry and we need to build up energy levels in response to this. Rama suggests eating strong proteins, good quality carbohydrates and high quality fats (of course in the right proportion!). Like his counterpart Stella, Rama suggests eating warming foods, ginger, garlic, mild spices, soups and casseroles, and eating dinner early to boost the digestion and metabolism. Exercise and warmth are important to maintain body's vitality.
Clare James acknowledges she has a holistic approach to food and health. ‘The main thing I would say about winter eating is to eat low GI foods that keep you warm, keep you fired up all day.’ Clare emphasises that food types and combinations need to be selected according to an individual’s constitution, but like Stella and Rama she recommends mild spices, slow cooked foods, soups, casseroles, warm drinks. Like Rama, and Stella, she recommends eating early in the evening. Also, eating a lighter meal at the end of the day is important. Clare also recommends a bit of a detox at the start of each season. ‘This will allow you to metabolise things a bit better,’ she says.
Each of the practitioners mentioned above emphasises that all comments made above about food are general comments and food intake should be tailored to suit individual needs.