Food as Medicine

Yummy Radishes!

Today I was working in our beautiful organic garden and as we harvested our delicious multi-colored radishes, I thought,  "Wow, what an understated vegetable, why don't more people enjoy them? And more so, why are they never mentioned for how good they are for our health?"  This unassuming root vegetable actually packs more health benefits than you may suspect, like, the simple fact that they stimulate the flow of bile in our system which makes them a useful tool for cleansing fat, blood and the liver. Radishes have also been used to break up gall stones and kidney stones. 

Radishes contain magnesium, manganese, calcium, vitamin B6, folate, riboflavin and a good amount of copper. Radishes are excellent for blood pressure, as they high in potassium, which supports the body in keeping the blood pressure at safe levels. Since potassium is a diuretic, it flushes stored water from the body and the National Institute of Health DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) recommends increasing potassium, calcium and magnesium to keep blood pressure in balance.

Radishes are also a very good source of vitamin C – 25% of the daily recommended value – helping to rebuild tissues and blood vessels, and keeping bones and teeth strong. Vitamin C fights disease and rescues the cells from an onslaught of destructive free radicals. This is done through electrolytes and natural antioxidant action of this one vitamin, increasing immunity of the body, and helping to fight against all kinds of diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and stroke.

Radishes can also have effects on relieving congestion, and preventing 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 prospective it is best to eat them freshly cooked. Radishes can provoke the pitta in the digestive tract. This is good for both Vata and Kapha, as it clears food stagnation and has a laxative effect due to its diuretic nature, all while having a cooling effect so the vegetable can be eaten by Pitta in moderation. If you are a Vata individual you may find a raw radish to be difficult to digest and they can create gas sotry to avoid eating them raw, but don't leave them out of your diet, as they are Vata balancing.

White Radish With Mung Dal & Radish Greens Recipe

Ingredients:

For the seasoning

2 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
2 to 3 dry red chilies, broken into bits
1/2 tsp asafetida
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
radish greens cut from the radishes, finely chopped

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

Method:

In a small or medium sized sauce pan pour in enough water, add in the mung dal, bring to a boil over a medium flame and cook until half cooked, about 12 to 15 minutes.

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

Add the finely chopped radish, cover and cook on a medium low flame, stirring in between until the radishes are half cooked, about 7 to 8 minutes. Put in the mung dal, mix well, cover and cook until the radishes are fully cooked, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Stir in the coconut, give it a good mix and switch off the flame. Serve hot with rotis or rice.

 

*Note that raw brassicas contain chemicals that can block the thyroid function called goitrogens. These chemicals are easily inactivated by steaming or cooking, so always ensure you eat this 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.