Food as Medicine

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. 

Vata in the Fall

This time of year, many of us feel out of whack. Fall usually increases the Vata energy in all of us, which in excess can result in anxiety, pain, the urge to travel (which would of course make Vata even stronger), dryness of skin and hair and many other symptoms. We may find it harder to concentrate or focus for any length of time. We may feel compelled to create changes in our lives – when actually steadying the course is just what we need. If you are primarily made up of Vata energy, you will feel this even more keenly than the rest of us!

To keep Vata in balance, there are any number of things we can do. Food is the best medicine. So eat lots of Vata-balancing foods, which are generally hot, well-cooked and wet. Eat seasonal foods such as cooked onion, carrots sweet potatoes, parsley, beets, radish  grapefruit, grape strawberries, raspberries, figs and avocado. Also use whole grains such as whole wheat, basmati rice, brown rice and oats. Increase pecans, walnuts almonds and pine nuts. Drink warm water with ginger and lemon through out the day. 

For reducing Vata, take time before you shower and give yourself a sesame oil massage. Let oil soak in for 20 mins. It is good to calm your mind at this time, practice breathing exercises and meditate. Also, much of our grandmothers’ seasonal advice is well-aligned with what Ayurveda has to say about reducing Vata. For example, bundle up in cooler weather, drink warm (caffeine free) liquids, and protect your head (especially the ears) from the wind.  

The best way to deal with seasonal change is to get ahead of it. If you eat for your Ayurevdic constitution all year, and do a seasonal cleanse/panchakarma program at each junction of the seasons, you can avoid/prevent/lessen the imbalances often caused at these times of year.