Nutrition

Yummy Radishes!

Today I was working in our beautiful organic garden, and as we harvested our delicious multicolored radishes, I thought, Wow, what an underused vegetable—why don’t more people enjoy them? And even more important, why are their health benefits so seldom mentioned? This unassuming root vegetable actually packs more nutritional punch than you may suspect, including the power of sulphur-based plant chemicals to stimulate the flow of bile, which makes them a valuable tool for optimizing the digestion of fats and cleansing the blood and the liver. Radishes have also been used to dissolve gallstones and kidney stones. 

Radishes contain manganese, vitamin B6, folate, riboflavin and copper, as well as three minerals—potassium, magnesium, and calcium—that support healthy blood pressure. (The National Institute of Health’s DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) recommends increasing our intake of foods that provide these nutrients.) As a potassium-rich food, radishes also help reduce water retention by lowering salt levels and boosting urine output. 

Radishes are also a very good source of vitamin C—providing 25 percent of the daily recommended value.  In addition to helping rebuild tissues and blood vessels and keeping bones and teeth strong, vitamin C fights disease and helps protect our cells from an onslaught of destructive free radicals. The natural antioxidant action and immunoprotective effects of this one vitamin play an important role in reducing the risk of potentially lethal health threats, including cancer, heart disease, and stroke.

Radishes can also help relieve congestion and prevent respiratory problems, such as asthma or bronchitis. They have antibacterial, antifungal, and detoxifying properties and contain compounds that soothe rashes, dryness, and other skin disorders.

Most people eat radishes raw, but from an Ayurvedic perspective, it’s best to eat them freshly cooked. Radishes greatly increase the pitta energy in the digestive tract, which is good for both vata- and kapha-dominant types, because it clears food stagnation and has a laxative effect. While pitta individuals may find heavy consumption of radishes overstimulating, they can eat them in moderation. Raw radishes may be difficult to digest and cause gas in vata individuals, so they should stick to cooked radishes to enhance their diets with this vegetable’s vata-balancing qualities.

Yummy Recipe: White Radish with Mung Dhal & Radish Greens

INGREDIENTS:

For the seasoning

2 tbsp oil
 tsp mustard seeds
½ tsp cumin seeds
2 to 3 dry red chilies, broken into bits
½ tsp asafetida
½ tsp turmeric powder
radish greens cut from the radishes, finely chopped

500 gm or 2 white or pink radishes, finely chopped
100 gm (½ cup) mung dhal
1 tsp sugar
1¼ tsp salt or to taste
3–4 tbsp grated fresh coconut (you can also use frozen)

METHOD:

In a small or medium-sized saucepan, pour in enough water for cooking the mung beans and add them to the pot. Bring to a boil over a medium heat, and simmer until cooked halfway, about 12 to 15 minutes.

In a wok or kadhai, heat the oil over medium heat. Reduce the heat before the oil smokes, and add the mustard and cumin seeds. When the seeds pop, add the chilies, asafetida, turmeric, and radish greens. Stir fry for 30 seconds.

Add the finely chopped radishes, cover, and cook over a medium-low flame, stirring from time to time until the radishes are half-cooked, about 7 to 8 minutes. Stir in the mung dhal, mix well, cover, and cook until the radishes are fully cooked, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the coconut, mix well, and switch off the burner. Serve hot with rotis or rice.

*Note that raw brassicas contain chemicals called goitrogens that can block the thyroid function. These chemicals are easily inactivated by steaming or cooking, so always ensure you eat these nutrient-packed foods freshly cooked. 

 

 

Disclaimer
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease. 

To Supplement or Not To Supplement?

Ayurveda believes you should get your daily nutrients out of food as much as possible, and you can do this by eating plenty of fresh vegetables, fruits, grains, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, healthy meats and seaweeds. That said, there are cases in which it makes sense to supplement your diet with vitamins. Vegetarians should take vitamin B12 and possibly vitamin D, since they are missing out on these nutrients by not eating meat. Pregnant women should take extra folic acid. Those with osteoporosis will need to take extra calcium, magnesium, trace minerals like boron, and other supplements that specifically support their bone health. People recovering from a long illness may need to take certain immune-boostig supplements.

Its important to keep in mind that the American soil from which most of our food derives from is significantly depleted of nutrients, and as a result, our food is not as nutritious as it once was, which begs the question of what if we are even getting enough nutrients by eating a wide variety of foods. If this is of concern to you, you may consider taking a general mineral supplement or daily multivitamin. Whenever possible, ingest supplements that are extracted from a whole foods source like fruits, vegetables and grains. These will have the best bioavailability, meaning the highest absorption rate by your digestive system. The best way to take vitamins and minerals in is powdered from, liquid concentrate or as a oil. Avoid taking mega- doses or and dose larger than recommended dietary reference intakes, no matter how good you think they may be for your health. 

Supplementing your diet with vitamins should be the exception, not the rule, they are, after all, called supplements. Nutrients are much more accessible and easily processed by your body when they are consumed in food forms versus supplement form. Also, there is the danger that a person taking vitamins will then rationalize that there is no need to focus on balanced nutrition from food, but there is no magic bullet and no replacement for a diet of healthy, whole foods. 

Healing, Anti-aging Foods

For thousands of years, humans treated their bodies as personal laboratories to discover which foods were therapeutic and which were poisonous. Prehistoric humans evaluated "healthy" and "unhealthy" foods based on their reactions to what they put in their mouths. Occasionally, eating a certain food, herb or plant would bring a certain relief to a particular ailment, and that food would be noted as possessing healing qualities. Over time, patterns emerged and were combined into longstanding principles governing healthy diet and nutrition. After thousands of years of experimentation and documentation, and which consensus of modern science, its is widely agreed that fresh fruits and vegetables should be humans' primary foods. Fruits and vegetables are low in fat and sodium, high in fiber, and best of all, these superfoods are packed with powerful antioxidants crucial for maintaining your health. 

All whole, unprocessed foods from the earth- fruits, vegetables, grains, beans and legumes, nuts, seeds - possess rich, healing properties. Take just one example: cranberries. Cranberries are antioxidant-rich and have been traditionally used in the prevention and treatment of urinary tract issues. While preceptive and health-conscious humans have recognized this truth for centuries, studies now show that cranberries contain hippuric acid, which inhibits the growth and attachment of various strains of bacteria, such as E. coli, to the bladder. Studies also proved that cranberries improve dental health and help heal stomach ulcers by inhibiting H.pylori. Cranberries are merely one healing food in your arsenal to achieve good health and longevity. As Hippocrates says, "Let food be they medicine, and medicine be thy food."

In many years of studies of centenarians, it was discovered that the same ten foods kept recurring again and again in the diets of long-lived individuals. They are plenty and wonderful healing foods and can be the best when it comes to longevity and self-healing:

1.Sweet Potatoes
2. Corn
3. Peanuts
4. Pumpkin
5. Walnuts
6. Black Beans
7. Sesame Seeds
8. Shiitake Mushrooms
9. Green Tea
10. Seaweed

Mung Dal Soup: Highly Nutritious and Detoxifying

A highly nutritious Ayurvedic recipe which detoxifies, kindles digestive fire and sharpens the mind. It promotes weight loss, reducing swelling and water retention. Mung beans are available from health food shops, Indian grocers and sometimes supermarkets. They come in green or yellow varieties. Green is more detoxifying. Eat only mung bean soup for 3-7 days and nothing else! You can eat as much as you need to satisfy your appetite, once the previous meal has digested (leave 3-4 hours  between each meal).  Make up a fresh batch for each day, reheating only as much as you need for each meal so the meal is as full of ‘prana’ (energy) as possible. A food thermos works very well if you don’t have a kitchen at work. Try not to use a microwave!

Mung beans are less gas-producing than other beans, help remove toxins from the body (including heavy metals!) and stimulate the digestive fire. This dish will balance all threedoshas. The following soup recipe is highly nutritious and naturally detoxifies the body. It works by cleansing the liver, gall bladder and vascular system of any ama (undigested toxins).

400g mung beans (whole green or split green or yellow)
2 litres water; ½ tsp. turmeric powder
2 pinch asafoetida; Lime or lemon juice; fresh root ginger
2-3 cloves garlic; an inch of fresh root ginger
1 tsp. cumin seeds 
1 tsp. coriander seeds; rock salt or herb salt
Makes 5 generous portions

Wash the mung beans and soak for at least four hours or overnight. Heat ghee or olive oil in a pan and add teaspoon of turmeric and 2 pinches asafoetida (to prevent gas). Sauté for a few seconds then add the beans, fresh water and fresh root ginger. For one part soaked mung you need about four parts of water. Simmer for 30-40 minutes adding more water if necessary, until beans are soft. In  a pressure cooker this takes 8 minutes once the vessel has come to pressure. You can then turn off the heat and leave the pot to cool for a further 10 minutes before opening it. Once the beans are cooked, heat ghee or olive oil in another pan, add 2-3 cloves chopped garlic (if you wish) and sauté lightly for a minute until soft. Add chopped fresh root ginger, then one teaspoon of cumin and coriander seeds plus any other herbs or spices (except chillies) eg: cardamom, black pepper, cumin seeds and briefly sauté. Add these sautéed spices plus some rock salt into the beans and simmer for a further few minutes. Serve soup warm with a squeeze of lime juice and some fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped. You can also add green leafy vegetables, pumpkin, leeks,  courgette, fennel, parsley, mint, coriander, or basil for variety, yams, carrots and other seasonal veggies. You can also add 1 tsp. of ghee or – if you are vegan or do not like the taste of ghee – 1 tsp. of an omega 3/6/9 oil. Omega oils should be added to food after it has cooled down a bit, as these oils are not heat stable and thus also not suitable for cooking.

6 tastes of Ayurveda

According to Ayurveda, the sense of taste is a natural guide map towards proper nutrition. Ayurveda identifies six taste by which all foods can be categorized: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent. By having a balance of the six tastes though out the day, all of your dosha have been given the nutrients needed to function correctly. In addition, including all six tastes in your diet contributes to feeling satisfied at the end of the meal and minimize cravings. Cravings are often caused by not having all of the six tastes in your daily diet. Many people omit the bitter and astringent tastes, but when having these tastes at the end of the meal, it reduces your desire for sweet, thus eat your salad at the end of each meal instead of the beginning.

The six tastes offer us a user-friendly guide map for how to nourish ourselves. Rather than looking at nutritional labels for X amount of protein or Y amount of carbohydrates, the six tastes naturally guide us towards our body’s dietary needs. Each taste feeds our mind, body, senses, and spirit in its unique way. From a modern nutritional perspective, the six Tastes satisfy each of the major nutritional building blocks. 

Sweet foods, for example, are rich in fats, proteins, carbohydrates, and water, whereas Bitter and Astringent foods are high in vitamins and minerals.

The brain sends the body signals when it requires energy in the form of food. By incorporating all six tastes into each meal, we ensure that these signals are adequately met, thus avoiding food cravings or the over-consumption of certain foods.

Including the six tastes in each meal doesn’t need to be a daunting task. Adding a squeeze of lemon to cooked dishes, for example, can quickly satisfy the sour taste, while adding a side salad will fulfill the bitter and astringent tastes. Examples of each tastes responsibility in the body and food sources are listed below:

Sweet (decreases Vata and Pitta, increases Kapha)- Builds tissues, calms nerves: grains, rice, bread, sweet fruit, beets, potatoes, sweet potatoes, milk, oils, meats, nuts.

Sour (decreases Vata, increases Pitta and Kapha)- Cleanses tissues, increases absorption of minerals: citrus fruits, yogurt, alcohol, vinegar, cheese, tomato, raspberries, strawberries.

Salty (decreases Vata, increases Pitta and Kapha)- Improves taste to food, lubricates tissues, stimulates digestion: Natural salts, sea vegetables.

Bitter (increases Vata, decreases Pitta and Kapha)- Detoxifies and lightens tissues: coffee, rhubarb, turmeric, most green and yellow veggies, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, leafy greens, cabbage.

Pungent (increases Vata and Pitta, decreases Kapha) Stimulates digestion and metabolism:  garlic, onion, ginger, wasabi, black pepper, cloves, cayenne pepper, horseradish, salsa, jalapenos.

Astringent (increases Vata, decreases Pitta and Kapha): Absorbs water, tighten tissues, dries fat: fruit peels, unripe banana, leafy greens, blueberries, cranberries, beans, legumes, peas, green tea.