Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Vata-Balancing Recipe: Baked Butternut Squash with Walnuts

In Ayurveda all medicine is local. It must be individualized and tailored to each person's setting and environment. Right now in San Francisco it's cold and windy, which tends to disturb Vata. Mark Twain once said "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco."

So even though it's summer I'm sharing the following recipe which is great for cold weather -- that's the beauty of Ayurveda:

Baked Butternut Squash with Walnuts – Vata-Balancing version

Ingredients: (organic recommended)
1 medium-size butternut squash
2 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter)
1 tablespoon black strap molasses
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
12-14 raw walnuts

• Preheat oven to 350 F
• Wash squash and then cut lengthwise down the middle
• Scoop out the seeds
• Lightly coat the exposed parts of the squash with 1 tablespoon ghee
• Place skin-side down in a baking pan
• Cook for about 30 minutes until squash is tender
• Scoop out the squash and spoon into a shallow smaller baking pan lined with 1 tablespoon ghee
• Add ground ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and black strap molasses. Mix well and top with raw walnuts
• Bake for another 15-20 minutes until walnuts are crisp

Vata is light, cold and dry so the foods that balance this have the opposite qualities: heavy, warm, and moist. Squash is a vegetable with powerful vata-balancing properties, which is why it's often recommended in the winter. The ghee and walnuts provide grounding and calming qualities. Sweet and spicy tastes are especially good for balancing vata, so the combination of ginger, cinnamon and cardamom will balance the heavy qualities of the dish. Black strap molasses are an all-natural sweetener that is rich in potassium and calcium. This dish is an integrative medicine bonanza of blood sugar and cholesterol lowering cinnamon, walnuts high in omega-3's, squash rich in vitamins A and C, and calcium and iron from the molasses.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Introduction to Ayurveda Part 2

Now let's talk a little more about the cornerstone of Ayurveda, the doshas...

The doshas are known by their original Sanskrit names: vata, pitta, and kapha.

The vata dosha combines the elements space and air. It is considered the most powerful dosha because it controls very basic body processes such as cell division, the heartbeat, breathing, discharge of waste, and the mind. Vata can be aggravated by, for example, fear, grief, staying up late at night, eating excessively dry cold foods, or eating before the previous meal is digested. People with vata as their main dosha are thought to be especially susceptible to skin and neurological
conditions, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, anxiety, and insomnia.

The pitta dosha represents the elements fire and water. Pitta controls hormones and the digestive system. A person with a pitta imbalance may experience negative emotions such as anger and may have physical symptoms such as heartburn, rashes, or inflammation. Pitta is upset by, for example, eating spicy or sour food, fatigue, or spending too much time in the sun. People with a predominantly pitta constitution are thought to be susceptible to hypertension, heart disease, infectious diseases, and digestive conditions.

The kapha dosha combines the elements water and earth. Kapha helps to maintain strength and immunity and to control growth. An imbalance of the kapha dosha may cause excessive sleepiness, obesity, problems with blood sugar, or nausea immediately after eating. Kapha is aggravated by, for example, greed, sleeping during the daytime, eating too many sweet foods, eating after one is full, and eating and drinking foods and beverages with too much salt and water (especially in the springtime). Those with a predominant kapha dosha are thought to be vulnerable to diabetes, obesity, and respiratory illnesses such as asthma.

Now let's talk briefly about treatment. The goal of treatment is to restore each person's doshas to their original state of balance, what they were born with. Ayurvedic treatment is tailored to each person's constitution. The goal is not to acquire equal amounts of all 3 doshas but rather to attain one's own individual unique balance. Therapies include:

• Dietary recommendations individualized to each person
• Cleansing and detoxification therapies
• Herbal therapies
• Yoga
• Meditation
• Exercise: Individualized to a person's constitution
• Massage: Medicated herbal oils are often used.

Next week: a great Ayurvedic recipe for summertime.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Introduction to Ayurveda Part 1

In this post, we will be starting to talk about what exactly Ayurveda is.

In brief, Ayurvedic medicine is a holistic system that seeks to integrate and balance the body, mind, and spirit. This balance is believed to lead to happiness and health, and to help prevent illness. Ayurvedic medicine also treats specific physical and mental health problems, by seeking to correct the underlying root causes that have led to the development of these problems. It emphasizes:

Connection with Nature. Ayurvedic medicine believes that each person is connected to and should live in harmony with the rhythms of nature, e.g. seasons.

Constitution (prakriti). Constitution refers to the unique body type an individual is born with. The prakriti is a person's unique combination of physical and psychological characteristics and patterns, tendencies, and weaknesses. The prakriti is believed to be unchanged over a person's lifetime. The goal in Ayurvedic treatment is to correct imbalances and achieve a harmonized, well functioning physiology that is as close as possible to one's prakriti.

Life forces (doshas). Each person's physiology is governed by the three life forces or energies called doshas. These control all the activities of the body.

  • Each dosha is made up of two of five basic elements: space, air, fire, water, and earth.
  • Each person is born with a unique combination of the three doshas, although one dosha is usually prominent. Doshas are constantly being formed and reformed by food, activity, and bodily processes.
  • Each dosha has its own physical and psychological characteristics.
  • An imbalance of a dosha will produce symptoms that are unique to that dosha. Imbalances may be caused by a person's age, unhealthy lifestyle, or diet; too much or too little mental and physical exertion; the seasons; or inadequate protection from the weather, chemicals, or germs.
In the next post, we'll get into a little more about the doshas, which are one of the foundations of Ayurveda.