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Bhutanese red rice.

Would you like arsenic with that? Of course not! We all know arsenic is poisonous. In fact inorganic arsenic is a potent carcinogen, associated with higher rates of skin, bladder and lung cancers. There is no determined safe level of arsenic in rice. This points us to a more general problem--there are 'safe' levels of everything from plutonium to mercury, but nobody really knows the effects of chronic low-level exposure to these so-called 'safe' levels

News about arsenic in our rice was first broken in a 2012 study by Consumer Reports. Despite the organization's demand, the FDA has yet to set a federal limit for arsenic in rice and rice products. Now, a new study published by Consumer Reports points to ways that children and people with food allergies could be consuming excess arsenic. Children and adults with food allergies or coelic syndrome often make use of substutute foods that are rice-based. Examples include: rice cakes as a bread substitute, rice pasta as a substitute for wheat pasta and rice milk as a substitute for dairy milk. In addition, rice cereal is a favoured baby food. This is of especial concern where young chilren are concerned, as they will be far more vulnerable to toxins such as arsenic. The new consumer report states: "rice cereal and rice pasta can have much more inorganic arsenic--a carcinogen--than our 2012 data showed...Rice cakes supply close to a child's weekly limit in one serving. Rice drinks can also be high in arsenic, and children younger than 5 shouldn't drink them instead of milk."

Consumer Reports has come up with rice levels assigning a point value to different types of rice foods, with the suggestion that we consume no more than seven points a week. As they point out, just one serving of rice cereal or rice pasta alone can put a child over the recommended weekly level.

US-grown rice can be particularly dangerous, because of our prior use of lead-arsenate insecticides (banned in the 1980s but still contaminating our land and water). Rice from the Southern states has the highest arsenic levels. Brown rice has more arsenic than white rice because arsenic tends to concentrate in the germ. Basmati rice from India, Pakistan and California had much lower levels of arsenic. And among the lowest levels of all was Bhutanese red rice.

The texts of Ayurveda devote significant space to a discussion of the merits of different kinds of rice. Basmati rice--a medieval innovation--comes under the heading of shali rice (long grain rice) and as such is considered superior to many other types of rice. However, the highest praise goes to red shali rice, best and most healthful of all types of rice. Bhutanese red rice has the benefits of a whole grain, yet is low in arsenic. It is a good source of fibre and B vitamins and contains minerals such as manganese, magnesium and molybdenum. The unique colour of red rice is associated with its content of anthocyanin and proanthocyanidins, linked to blood pressure reduction and better management of diabetes. So red rice is a smart choice both Ayurvedically and in terms of lowering arsenic consumption.

How to lower your arsenic consumption:

  • Wash your rice thoroughly. This will reduce up to 30% of the arsenic

  • Use trusted suppliers such as Lundberg and Lotus Foods. These suppliers have great integrity and voluntarily test their rice. Lotus is the supplier of Bhutanese red rice.
  • Avoid processed rice products such as rice milk and rice pasta. These products are usually made of rice from the Southern States.

  • Enjoy foods such as quinoa, millet and buckwheat. For gluten free pasta, select buckwheat noodles or a quinoa pasta.

  • Give Baby a variety of foods. Rice cereal is high in arsenic. In addition, feeding babies mainly rice cereal is thought to be the reason why kids tend to favour bland, white foods such as mac 'n cheese. Introduce all kinds of foods, especially vegetables, to your baby's inquisitive palate.

What about all the arsenic I've already eaten?

If you've eaten a lot of rice and rice products down the years (especially the higher arsenic kinds), you might indeed have a higher-than-average arsenic level. Ayurveda considers this in the category of dusha visha or chronic, subclinical poisoning. According to the texts on Ayurvedic toxicology, chronic poisoning can flare up and become symptomatic when the body is under stress. So the texts recommend a specific remedy, dushivishi, for chronic poisoning. In our pharmacy, we're working on creating this formula and hope to have it available by fall (we have to grow one of the constituents ). A Pancha karma cleanse is also recommended for clearing the body of accumulated toxins. And regular use of cilantro helps chelate toxic metals and pull them out of the body.

So enjoy your rice judicioulsy, favouring basmati rice and Bhutanese red rice, and remember to keep your diet varied!

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A traditional Ayurvedic meal featuring Royal Rice

Resistant starch (RS) is the latest buzzword in glycaemic control, prebiotic support for our microbiome and improved fatty acid metabolism. How does this hot new topic relate to the ancient teachings of Ayurveda?

In this article we will consider:

  • What is resistant starch?
  • What are the different types of resistant starch?
  • How does resistant starch help us?
  • What kind of resistant starch is best for me?
  • How does it feature in an Ayurvedic diet?
  • Should I worry about resistant starch?

As some of you know, my watchword is: eventually the latest research will 'prove' controversial teachings of Ayurveda to be correct. Resistant starch is one such example, as you will see.

What is resistant starch?

Resistant starch is starch that is resistant to digestion by small bowel enzymes. As such it acts as part of our dietary fibre, passing into the large intestine and being fermented by our gut microbes. Note the word fermented here. If we introduce too much resistant starch too fast, or the wrong kind for our particular microbiome (aka agni type), we will get gas--and Ayurveda takes gas seriously as a symptom of vata buildup.

What are the different types of resistant starch?

There are four main types:

  • Type I is found in seeds, beans and whole grains and is resistant because it is encapsulated. The Ayurvedic diet is full of this type of resistant starch.
  • Type II is inherently resistant due to its amylose content. Green bananas, raw potato starch and raw plantains fall into this category (but could be very vata disturbing).
  • Type III is formed when we cook and cool starchy foods. This type of resistant starch is thankfully not destroyed when the food is re-heated--in fact it may even increase. (That's a mercy, because we don't want you to eat cold food!)
  • Type IV barely deserves a mention as it is a chemically modified high amylose industrial corn product, which we definitely don't recommend.

How does resistant starch help us?

  • Resistant starch feeds our gut microbiome, the key factor in good health.
  • Resistant starch is beneficial for glycaemic control, lowering the postprandial glucose spike--or in plain English, it helps your blood sugar not to spike up after meals. Foods with more resistant starch are considered as having a lower glycaemic index than foods with less resistant starch.
  • Regular intake of resistant starch improves insulin sensitivity.
  • Resistant starch improves fatty acid metabolism.
  • Resistant starch lowers appetite.

What kind of resistant starch is best for me?

Read this carefully--there are a lot of people who want to sell you a product with the buzzword 'resistant starch.' Probably the different types of resistant starch would have different effect on the microbiome, but the research on this isn't done yet. But Ayurveda tells us that we need 'different strokes for different folks.'

  • If you are kapha prakriti, try to meet your RS needs with type I sources. Quinoa and cooked buckwheat groats are brilliant sources of resistant starch that will best suit your metabolic type, as well as some whole beans and some seeds. If you are on our Diabetes Prevention diet, make sure to include these foods on a regular basis to help your gut bacteria and glycaemcic control.
  • If you are vata prakriti, your digestion is more delicate and you are more gas-prone. It's fine to have some Type I RS to the extent that you can tolerate it, but you can also support your microbiome with Ayurvedically prepared Type III RS. And in a few minutes I'll tell you how to make that!
  • If you are pitta and have really strong digestive fire, you might want to try including green banana in your diet! But many of us pittas are quite delicate and probably would do well with a combination of Type I and Type III RS.

How does RS feature in an Ayurvedic diet?

As it turns out, Ayurveda has come up with ancient agricultural and culinary techniques that create Type III and IV RS using the basic food--rice. A new, hot off the press Sri Lankan study recently presented at 249th ACS National Meeting & Exposition in Denver, CO has served only to illustrate the advantages of these traditional techniques. Here are some highlights:

  • Traditional rice varieties like basmati rice and Bhutanese red rice have higher levels of RS and are inherently lower glycaemic than new and 'improved' varieties.
  • Parboiled rice--a traditional Indian rice processing technique--contains more RS. and hence a lower glycaemic index.
  • Traditional cooking methods create more RS in rice. For example, pilaf rice and fried rice have more RS than boiled or steamed rice.
  • In the Sri Lankan study, rice was cooked the traditional Sri Lankan way, then cooled for 12 hours in the refrigerator, with an increase in RS. This increase was not reversed by re-heating the rice. And this is important because rice can be a source of botulism and should either be eaten fresh or heated up thoroughly.

How to Make:

Lower glycaemic rice: boil the rice in extra water until it begins to fluff up. Then drain, rinse, add new water and finish cooking. This simple method lowers the glycaemic index of rice.

Yellow Rice: Adding turmeric to your rice will lower the blood sugar spike from eating rice.

Sri Lankan high RS rice: Start with a traditional and ideally a parboiled rice. Wash thoroughly and soak for an hour. Then cook the rice with a teaspoon or two of coconut oil. This should help increase the amylose in the rice--and it's delicious and traditional. After cooking the rice on the stovetop for 40 minutes, oven-dry it in a low oven for a couple of hours. Now refrigerate the rice for use the next day. Steam or better still fry it before you eat it. Voilà--higher RS rice!

Should I worry about Resistant Starch?

  • If you are on a standard American diet, (SAD) you're not getting enough RS. But then, you are not getting enough of many nutrients. So instead of adding commercial RS to your deficent diet, why not start eating an Ayurvedic diet of whole grains, beans, vegetables, nuts, seeds and healthy oils?
  • If you are on a Paleo diet, you should worry about RS because you're probably not getting enough. Bear in mind that your microbiome is totally different from that of a hunter-gatherer who never tasted sugar or refined flour and never had any exposure to antibiotics.
  • If you are on an Ayurvedic diet, rest assured that our ancient sages have already featured plenty of RS into your diet, as long as you adhere to traditional foods, traditionally prepared.


Sunset on a Tuscan olive by Sadananda

On Thursday this week, Holy Thursday (or Maundy Thursday in Britain), Catholic cathedrals around the world will be conducting a special olive oil blessing, the Chrism mass. All the oil to be used throughout the year for confirmation, ordination and anointing the sick and dying will be consecrated by the local bishop. My birth name being Olivia, the ancient name of the goddess of the olive groves, I always loved this ceremony and naturally feel a special affinity for olive trees.

Olives were loved across the ancient Mediterranean world and have been cultivated in the Levant for over 6,000 years. In Greek mythology, the creation of the olive tree was the result of a contest between Athena, Goddess of Wisdom, and Poseidon, God of the Sea as to who would be the patron of a newly-built city in Attica. Poseidon struck a rock with his trident and water gushed forth, creating a spring of salty water. But then Athena struck a rock with her spear and produced the olive tree. The citizens chose the gift of Athena --peace, plenty and fruitfulness. And so she forever became the patroness of the city, named Athens to this day. The athletes competing in the Olympic games were massaged with olive oil and the victor was crowned with a wreath of olive leaves.


The Romans similarly saw the olive tree as the gift of Minerva, goddess of wisdom and healing, while to the Egyptians, Isis bestowed the olive tree.

The olives have their own Catholic saint as well--Saint Olivia of Palermo, a Sicilian noblewoman who was martyred in Tunis, or so her legend goes. She is still the patroness of Tunis, whose cathedral today is dedicated to St Vincent de Paul and St Olivia. Even more remarkable, the grand mosque of Olivia, the oldest mosque in Tunis, is said to stand over her tomb, and she is revered by the Muslims of Tunis.


Saint Olivia of Palermo with olive branches


Mosque of the olives (or of Olivia) in Tunis

Noah's flood finally came to an end when the dove returned to the ark bearing an olive branch--showing that dry land had appeared again. The dove with the olive branch has become a symbol of peace, as has 'holding out the olive branch.' Jesus spent the last night before his crucifixion in the olive grove of Gethsemane, while St Francis made his hermitage on Mt Subasio beside an olive that is growing to this day.

Today olive oil is revered as a bestower of good health, due to its content of oleic acid and other monounsaturated fats. The main fat used in the Mediterranean diet, olive oil consumption is associated with a low mortality from cardiovascular disease, as summarized in a review article by Marıa-Isabel Covas.

The olivey taste of olive oil is associated with special phenolic antoxidants, oleuropein, hydroxytyrosol and tyrosol, while carotenes and tocopherol (Vitamin E) are also important components.

Good olive oil should have a peppery, somewhat acrid taste. It's worth spending money and also taste-testing carefully. Many blogs and news sources have been reporting on a study from UC Davis indicating that a number of well-known brands of olive oil are adulterated. I have several issues with that study. Sample sizes were unscientifically small. The study was funded by the California Olive Oil Council and by some of California's largest olive producers--and recommended we buy only California olive oil. And a single study does not prove anything--the results have to be reproducible by other researchers. Even more intriguing, the link to the pdf of the actual study has been removed from UC Davis Olive Center's website. However, there is no doubt that olive oil scams abound, as they have done for 6,000 years. See this website for more information. Some tips for buying the best possible olive oil include:

  • Don't buy the cheapest--good oil isn't cheap
  • Taste test before you buy--look for the fruity, bitter and peppery taste
  • Use a light-protective container--and use up the oil quickly (never a problem in our household)
  • Buy oils bottled this year, or within their 'best by' date.
  • Buy only olive oil labeled 'extra virgin'
  • Prefer PDO and PDI olive oils, coming from a protected geographical location.

Fair Trade olive oil is also available. For my birthday I got Rumi Tree olive oil from Palestine, sold at our local fair trade shop.

Another confusing issue about olive oil is the claim some make that 'you shouldn't cook with olive oil.' This is not true. And were it true, the entire Mediterranean diet, demonstrated to be so healthy, would be invalidated. Olive oil smokes at 420'F, a far higher temperature than the 'sizzle point' at which you can effectively stir-fry or sauté your food. Some studies have subjected olive oil to high temperatures (below its smoke point) for long periods of time without destroying its special phytonutrients. I'm leaving the references at the end of the article in case you need further convincing. However, since some of the olivey flavor is lost in cooking, Spaniards and Italians (and Alakananda & Sadananda too) always add some extra, fresh olive oil at the table.

Olive trees should never be harmed, even in war. As it says in the Book of Deuteronomy in the Torah, 'Are the trees your enemy, that you should attack them?' They give us so much--shade, shelter, wood, olives and oil. (Deut. 20, 19). As gifts of the Ancient Mother, the trees and those who tend them deserve our love, respect and protection.

1. Bastida SS-M, FJ. Thermal oxidation of olive oil, sunflower oil and a mix of both oils during forty continuous domestic fryings of different foods. Food Sci Tech Int 2001;7:15-21.
2. Gennaro L, Piccioli Bocca, A, Modesti, D, Masella, R, Coni, E. Effect of biophenols on olive oil stability evaluated by thermogravimetric analysis. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 1998;46:4465-4469.
3. Allouche Y, Jimenez A, Gaforio JJ, Uceda M, Beltran G. How heating affects extra virgin olive oil quality indexes and chemical composition. J Agric Food Chem 2007;55:9646-54.
4. Cicerale S, Conlan XA, Barnett NW, Sinclair AJ, Keast RS. Influence of heat on biological activity and concentration of oleocanthal--a natural anti-inflammatory agent in virgin olive oil. J Agric Food Chem 2009;57:1326-30.

In our last blog, we discussed ways to include all six tastes in your meal, with the addition of chutneys and pickles. Another way to enhance the beauty, taste and medicinal properties of your menu is to use garnishes. In this article we will look at some Ayurvedic garnishes, their culinary use and health benefits.

Cilantro or coriander leaf is among the most popular Ayurvedic garnishes. It has a sweet taste, reduces pitta, aids digestion and soothes mucus membranes. Cilantro is anti-histamine, anti-inflammatory, alleviates arthritis and lowers blood sugar. More amazing still, it chelates heavy metals like lead and mercury, helping remove them from the body. So be sure to include plenty of cilantro in your daily diet!

As a garnish, cilantro is often paired with coconut.
Coconut is sweet and cooling, calming pitta and reducing burning sensations and pain. It is strengthening and nourishing, is high in fibre, and gives food an excellent taste.


Dhokla garnished with coconut, cilantro and mustard seeds.

Indian Beet Soup.jpg

Indian spiced beet soup garnished with cilantro and coconut

Mint is another well-loved garnish found in India--where it is called pudina--and across the Middle East. As a cooling pungent, mint affords unique benefits for pitta and for use in hot weather. But it also has benefits in winter as it is diaphoretic (promotes sweating) and helps relieve colds and flu. Mint soothes the digestion, calms the nerves and helps urinary tract inflammation.

I love to pair mint with paprika for a colourful effect. Like mint, paprika is good for urinary and respiratory problems, so there is a good synergy as well as a colour contrast.


Cucumber raita garnished with mint and paprika


Baba ganoush garnished with dill, mint and paprika; humus garnished with mint, paprika and black olives. The addition of fresh turmeric to the humus gives it a lovely golden colour.

Parsley is a favourite garnish in European foods. For a Mediterranean flavour and appearance, choose flatleaf parsley, used widely in Italian and French cuisine as well as in Tunisia and Morocco, where it is called maadnous. Curly parsley is a mainstay of garnishes and sauces in Britain. The curly leaves are a very handsome garnish with a more pungent taste than flatleaf parsley.
Unlike cilantro, parsley is mildly warming with a pungent taste. Parsley is a good diuretic and emmenogogue. Beneficial for vata and kapha, it makes an excellent garnish choice in fall and winter.


Potakhe de Potiron (chana dal and butternut squash Moroccan soup) garnished with flatleaf parsley.

Slivered almonds are a garnish useful in both sweet and savory dishes. Known in Sanskrit as vatada and in Hindi as badam, almond is heavy, oily and warming, qualities that make it perfect for vata. Yet by its sweet taste and heavy quality it also relieves pitta. It is demulcent, aphrodisiac, enhances semen production and builds ojas, our core strength and immunity. Almonds fried in ghee add a delicious taste, aroma and crunch.


Moroccan rice pilaf garnished with slivered almonds.

Pomegranate seeds are a favoured garnish in Persian and Indian cuisine, used in soups, curries and meat dishes as well as desserts. Known in Sanskrit as dadima, pomegranate is a 'superfood', pacifying all three doshas and acting as a brain tonic, demulcent and general tonic. Pomegranate lowers cholesterol and blood pressure and inhibits breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, and leukemia. It adds a burst of flavour, colour and phyto-nutrients to any dish.

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Almond and rice dessert garnished with pomegranate seeds

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According to Ayurveda, A balanced meal should include all the six tastes--sweet, salty, sour, bitter, astringent and pungent. In this blog we'll discuss the benefits and drawbacks of each taste and look at how to plan a menu that includes all six tastes for optimum health and nutrition.

The sweet taste is building and nurturing and calms pitta and kapha. This does not mean you have to eat a lot of sugar. Many staples such as rice and wheat, as well as vegetables such as sweet potato, provide the sweet taste in your meal. But a hint of intense sweetness, such as a date chutney, can lift the enjoyment of the meal. The sweet taste in not beneficial to kapha, which is why we suggest that kapha individuals limit starchy and sweet foods such as rice, bread and desserts. And ancient Ayurvedic texts point out that excess of the sweet taste is associated with diabetes and obesity. Hence some of us who are blood sugar-challenged may choose to substitute mashed cauliflower for rice.
In the thali pictured above, rice and bottle gourd provide a mild sweetness and apple chutney provides a hint of intense sweetness.

The salty taste is an essential component in giving taste to food and promoting digestion. But ancient Ayurvedic texts suggest that excess salt consumption may be related to aging and cancer. Salt your dishes such as dal, kitcheri, sabji, soup, lightly--just enough to bring out the flavour. Then put a salt shaker on the table for vata. A bit of the salty taste helps vata digestion. But pitta and kapha should stay away from the salt shaker, as the salty taste is injurious for them in excess. In the thali pictured above, the dal and sabji are lightly salted.

The sour taste improves the taste of food, helping us to feel satisfied more easily. It helps kindle the digestive fire and expel gas. When a meal lacks the sour taste, we may eat more, because our senses have not been pacified by the enjoyment of the meal. In Ayurveda we provide the sour taste by using lemon or lime as a seasoning. Tomato is also a source of the sour taste. In addition, vata can eat lime pickles, since the sour taste is good for vata. The sour taste is too hot for pitta and too moist for kapha, so pitta and kapha should not eat strong tomato sauces or a lot of citrus fruits. In the thali above, lemon has been used as a seasoning in the dal. The fruit chutney provides some sourness and so does the home made fresh turmeric pickle, which is marinaded in lime.

The bitter taste is detoxifying, antibacterial, cleansing to the liver and blood. It clears the palate, enhancing the other tastes, and improves digestion. It is the best taste for pitta and kapha.The American and British diets tend to be deficient in the bitter taste, leading us to crave coffee. The bitter taste can be provided by using fenugreek seeds as a seasoning, as well as by including bitter greens in the diet. A special vegetable, bitter melon, also known as karela or bitter gourd, provides plenty of the bitter taste in the meal. In the thali pictured above, Eggplant sabji with bitter melon provides healthy bitterness!

The astringent taste is anti-inflammatory and very good for pitta and kapha. However, it is challenging for vata, which is why astringent foods such as beans and lentils must be well-seasoned with tastes that are good for vata, such as lime, fresh ginger and jaggery (raw sugar). In the thali above, the dal and the fresh turmeric chutney provide astringency.

The pungent taste helps kindle digestion and hence should be included in moderation in every meal, to balance the heaviness of the sweet taste. The use of fresh ginger and mustard seeds as seasonings and the addition of chutneys and pickles to the menu bring the benefit of the pungent taste. Kapha can have a larger spoonful of pungent seasonings since the pungent taste is very good for kapha. In the thali above, the chutneys provide pungency, as does the turmeric pickle, which contains fresh ginger and yellow mustard powder.

Recipes pictured on this thali: Eggplant sabji with bitter melon, Chana Dal Puree with Tender Bottle Gourd Cubes, Turmeric Pickle, Apple Chutney.


Mountain calf in Dolomites, Italy; photo by Sadananda

1. Cost: My very first attempts at going vegetarian in 1971 were motivated largely by the cost of British beef and the fact that, living on my student grant, I had to stretch every pound of spending money three ways. So I became vegetarian until I got tired of living on cheese on toast, for I simply didn't know what vegetarians eat! Today, with grass-fed beef going for $8 per lb at Whole Foods and antibiotic-free chicken at $5 per lb, beans sound like a pretty good option. A vegetarian diet or even some meatless days could potentially reduce your food budget while still allowing you enough cash to get your five-a-day of fruits and veggies.

2. Health: That's right--health can be a reason to go vegetarian or vegan. Despite the popularity of diets like the Paleo diet that emphasize meat, many of my patients have been advised by doctors to follow a vegetarian or low-meat diet. Some of them are following Dr Esselstyn's plant based diet for heart healing, others want to manage diabetes with a low-carb vegetarian diet and still others have been advised to follow the Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes plant foods. Vegetarians are at lower risk for developing heart disease, colo-rectal, breast and ovarian cancer, diabetes, obesity and hypertension, in large part because a vegetarian diet is typically higher in fibre and lower in fat than a meat-based diet.

3: Social Justice: I became vegetarian permanently in 1974 after spending two months in Tanzania, working on a children's ward. Every child I admitted died, usually from measles complicated by malnutrition. Then I came home to my London teaching hospital, where most of my patients were sick from excess consumption. After reading Diet for a Small Planet, I was deeply impressed by the argument that seven pounds of grain goes to produce one pound of beef rather than going to feed hungry people directly. So for reasons of social justice, I chose to become vegetarian.

4. The Environment: As early as 1971, Diet for a Small Planet author Frances Moore Lappé was calling for environmental vegetarianism. Since then, the argument has only grown stronger and more urgent. From the 2000s, cattle ranching has been the main reason for destruction of the Amazonian rainforest. More compelling still, meat eating is a major contributor to climate change. Researchers at Cambridge University and the University of Aberdeen in the UK have pointed out that livestock production accounts for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, an amount equal to that produced by all the world's cars, trucks, trains and shipping. Two thirds of all agricultural land is used to grow feed for livestock, whereas only eight per cent is used to grow food directly for human consumption. And meat production puts pressure on our dwindling freshwater supplies as well. "The biggest intervention people could make towards reducing their carbon footprints would not be to abandon cars, but to eat significantly less red meat," said Professor Gidon Eshel, at Bard College in New York. Researchers suggest cutting red meat consumption to a maximum of two portions a week to help tackle climate change.

5. Compassion: As a girl, I couldn't understand why we loved some animals--like our Siamese cat, Victoria--as family members, but ate others. Cows and sheep seemed just as loveable as cats and dogs. The violence inherent in killing farm animals for food becomes even greater when we think about the conditions many of these animals endure on factory farms. The documentary Food Inc makes this only too clear. The great Buddhist teacher, the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, was born into the meat-eating culture of Tibet, but became vegetarian--and a strong advocate of vegetarianism because of the suffering endured by millions of animals who are killed for food. Personally, after becoming vegetarian for reasons of social justice, I was stunned by the renewed relationship I experienced with animals of all species. Animals began to seek me out with new confidence and intimacy--and still do. Although compassion for animals wasn't the original reason I became vegetarian, it's a major reason I have chosen to remain so for these past forty years.

6. Yoga: Some years ago, when we were in Assisi, Italy, doing yoga on a roof terrace, a former Olympic gymnast who lived in the neighbourhood came to congratulate us on our excellent gymnastics! But the truth is, yoga is not a form of gymnastics or athletics, but a spiritual discipline.The Hatha Yoga texts, Gerhanda Samhita and Hatha Yoga Pradipika prescribe a building diet of strictly lacto-vegetarian foods for practitioners of yoga. Omitting this fundamental step could result in your yoga practice doing more harm than good in the long term. The Bhagavad Gita develops the theme of diet in terms of three gunas or modes of nature--sattva, rajas and tamas, or purity, passion and ignorance. Flesh foods have a strong component of rajas (passion) and tamas (ignorance) and so are deemed unsuitable for practitioners of any form of yoga or meditation. Fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes and dairy products are considered sattvik or enhancing purity and clarity of mind and are the recommended diet for spiritual practitioners.

Considering these six good reasons, perhaps you might decide vegetarianism is for you. If so, take your time to transition, to avoid shocking your system. This blog contains many great vegetarian recipes, so you won't have to struggle the way I did when I first tried vegetarianism!


Cattle on Shotley Peninsula, Suffolk, UK.

Tridoshic 'Yam' Kitcheri

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1cup split hulled mung beans
1 cup basmati rice
3 tbsp ghee
1 and half inches minced fresh ginger
2 tbsp shredded coconut
1 tsp turmeric 
1 handful cilantro leaves
8 green cardamom pods
8 whole cloves
11 black peppercorns
3 inch piece cinnamon stick
3 bay leaves Salt to taste
1 large yam, cubed (actually a golden sweet potato)

  • Rinse mung beans well with cold water and soak for a few hours 
  • Rinse rice well and soak while beans are cooking
  • Put ginger, coconut, turmeric, cilantro and some water in a blender or food processor and blend. Use enough water to blend well.
  • In a large pot, melt ghee over medium heat and sauté cardamom pods (split open first), cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon stick and bay leaves for a few minutes. Then add the blended spices and sauté for a few more minutes until lightly cooked
  • Next add beans and yams; cook for a couple more minutes. Add enough water to cover the beans with at least 3 inches of water and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to simmer. Cook for about 45 minutes or until the beans are completely broken down. Then add the rice and cook until the rice is broken apart. Add more water as needed Salt to taste and enjoy!


Peas in pods.

Peas in pods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I always eat my peas with honey;
I've done it all my life.
They do taste kind of funny
but It keeps them on my knife.

My father used to enjoy reading me this rhyme from the Penguin Book of Comical and Curious Verse. He also loved to grow peas in the garden of our Victorian house. We would shell them and eat them lightly steamed with butter and mint.

As a teenager I used to volunteer for Help the Aged by visiting a ninety year old widow, Mrs Scopes. She loved to tell me 'Old Wive's Tales'. One oft-repeated saying was "Peas give you cancer, my father said." As it turns out, this adage could not be further from the truth. In fact an unique constituent of green peas, coumestrol, is being investigated for its benefits in preventing cancer. A Mexico City study pointed to the potential of green peas in preventing stomach cancer (1). And the Prostate Cancer Sweden Study points to green peas as helpful in preventing prostate cancer (2). The antioxidant components of green peas may also be helpful in breast cancer (3) as well as in preventing heart disease.

According to Ayurveda, green peas are pitta soothing and laxative, beneficial for purisha vaha srotas or the colon. Enjoy green peas with rice, in kitcheri,in a sabji or vegetable curry with cauliflower and potato or in matar paneer. Or serve them like my father did, lightly steamed with butter and mint

1. Hernandez-Ramirez R, Galvan-Portillo M, Ward M et al. Dietary intake of polyphenols, nitrate and nitrite and gastric cancer risk in Mexico City. Int J Cancer. 2009 September 15; 125(6): 1424-1430. 2009.
2. Maria Hedelin, Åsa Klint, Ellen T. Chang, Rino Bellocco, Jan-Erik Johansson, Swen-Olof Andersson, Satu-Maarit Heinonen, Herman Adlercreutz, Hans-Olov Adami and Henrik Grönberg, et al.  Dietary Phytoestrogen, Serum Enterolactone and Risk of Prostate Cancer: The Cancer Prostate Sweden Study (Sweden) Cancer Causes and Control

Volume 17, Number 2 (2006), 169-180, DOI: 10.1007/s10552-005-0342-2
Pamela J. Magee* and Ian R. Rowland Phyto-oestrogens, their mechanism of action: current evidence for a role in breast and prostate cancer British Journal of Nutrition (2004), 91, 513-531

English: A bowl of white granulated sugar. The...

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 Addiction to sugar is a significant cause of overweight, obesity, diabetes, dental caries, candidiasis and adrenal deficiency. In addition, by lowering immunity, white sugar may contribute to the incidence of cancer and acute and chronic infections. Although white sugar as an addiction of choice affects all ages from infancy on, individuals born in the 1950s are particularly susceptible, due to the prevalence of sweetened infant formula at that period.  All types of agni may be involved in sugar cravings, but the nature, consequences and management of sugar addiction differs depending upon the agni type.


Visham Agni and Sugar

The individual with visham agni has cravings for sweet, salty, sour, spicy and oily foods. They are just as likely to indulge in tortilla chips and salsa, potato chips, French fries and ketchup, salted peanuts or crackers as in sugar. To complicate matters, manufacturers frequently include sugar in savory items such as crackers, chips or peanut butter. Often, such individuals may realize that sweet baked goods such as cookies upset their digestion. Instead, they will use M&Ms or chocolate peanuts, seeking the combination of sweet, fat and crunch.

 The impact of white sugar on such an individual can be devastating to the adrenals. Vata-provoked clients with visham agni are prone to under-eating and random meal plans. Breakfast could be a few Twinkies or a Power Bar in the car on the way to work. Feeling hungry while at work, they may snack on chips, crackers, doughnuts or whatever is in the office or the vending machine. After a salad for lunch, they are hungry again by mid afternoon and begin consuming chocolate and other munchies. By dinner time, they have no appetite left, having wasted their available agni on junk foods. Each time sugar is eaten, it stimulates an adrenal-type energy rush, gradually leading to adrenal exhaustion, especially if combined with caffeine. As the adrenals become increasingly exhausted, the urge to eat sugar grows stronger, in response to the need to "get some energy". As much as sugar may be a cause of overweight in other agni types, it  can contribute to chronic underweight in the person with visham agni. Yet despite being underweight, the junk-food junkie may have more toxic hard fat in the system than the pitta with a chubby little belly.


A young woman with this agni condition worked at a residential elder care facility. When at home, she followed a strict diet of brown rice, steamed vegetables and carrot juice. At work, she indulged in big portions of lasagna and stacks of Oreo Cookies. After explaining to her that there was in fact nothing wrong with lasagna for her constitution, we encouraged her to stash healthy treats at the elder care facility, so that Oreo Cookies would not tempt her.  This strategy works well for both visham agni and tikshnagni.  Creating a stash of suitable treats made with whole sugars or other natural sweeteners gives an outlet for the desire stimulated by the presence of poor quality sweets.

A good remedy to balance sweet cravings for vata can be prepared using Ashwagandha. Roast an ounce of Ashwagandha in ghee and add a tablespoon of date sugar. Store in a screw top glass jar in the refrigerator.  This can be eaten in the morning about twenty minutes before breakfast, in the mid afternoon-- if sweet cravings arise-- and at bed time with a cup of hot milk. To help reduce the stress levels that exacerbate sweet cravings, tulsi tea can be used as a general beverage or Tranquil Mind formula can be taken three times daily. For adrenal exhaustion, Stress Ease can also be taken.


Tikshnagni and Sugar

The individual with tikshnagni craves sweet, bitter and astringent foods. A sugary cup of black tea satisfies the desire for a mixture of sweet with astringent, a cup of sweet latte or a rich dark chocolate meets the need for a mixture of sweet and bitter. Unfortunately, caffeine and white sugar provoke pitta, intensifying tikshnagni. Thus, the more the pitta individual indulges in white sugar, coffee, tea and supermarket chocolate, the worse their tikshnagni becomes and the more strongly they crave sweets. Next, they begin to crave yeasted breads and sweet baked goods in an attempt to diminish their raging inner fire. Yeast, being sour, further provokes pitta, worsening tikshnagni.  People with tikshnagni need extra protein, a slower burning fuel. Thus the empty calories of muffins, cookies, cupcakes and brownies only serve to make them hungrier. Soon they are twenty to thirty pounds overweight while being essentially malnourished.

A fifty year old real estate agent with a pitta prakruti presented with a lifelong history of tikshnagni and compulsive overeating. She came from an alcoholic family and had been an active alcoholic herself for ten years, a typical finding with tikshnagni and sugar addiction. She had a set of very strict diet guidelines that inevitably fell apart each evening. Until that point each day she perceived herself as a person who ate healthily and avoided dairy and processed flours. She took fruit for breakfast and typically ate a business lunch with her clients. Feeling remorseful about the size of her stressful lunch, she took only fish and salad for dinner. Like most stressed out individuals with tikshnagni, she began craving chocolate around four in the afternoon, but held back, determined to be 'good.' By the end of her austere dinner she was ready to spend the rest of the evening consuming chocolate, ice cream and cookies. She was about forty pounds overweight.

Her troubles each day began with her fruit breakfast. Although this may be a good strategy for a healthy pitta with a tranquil life, fruit was not advisable for breakfast given her tikshnagni and the competitive nature of her job, with its stressful lunches. Instead of starting the day with the sweet taste, she could begin with bitter.  A half teaspoon of Mahasudarshan in a teaspoon of honey works well for most people to diminish cravings for breads and sweets. This can be followed, twenty minutes later, by a breakfast containing protein. It is better to avoid a sweet breakfast altogether in this situation and to start the day with a small but complete meal such as a bowl of kitcheri and a whole wheat chapatti.   

To regulate tikshnagni she could prepare Shatavari Kalpa.  Roast an ounce of Shatavari with ghee and add a tablespoon of sucanat or turbinado sugar. This can be taken mid-morning and mid-afternoon to prevent hypoglycemia and to regulate tikshnagni. For stress and addictive tendencies she should drink Brahmi tea three times daily. She could also take Stress Ease three times daily.

Mandagni and sugar.

For the kapha individual with mandagni, sugar addiction is truly a   life or death situation. Waking sluggish and dull, kapha seeks energy from a donut or sugary cereal with cold milk. Although this gives a short burst of adrenal energy, these foods, to which a majority of individuals with mandagni are allergic, serve only to make him more sluggish and sleepy. Worse still, in kapha individuals, the insulin response is easily over stimulated. Whereas vata will burn all the sugar they consume in a frenetic rush of adrenal energy, kapha's body will immediately respond by storing sugar as fat. Gradually, the pancreas becomes more and more oversensitive, leading to a peri-diabetic condition of obesity, low energy and constant cravings for sweets and refined flours. White sugar and refined flour do not contain enough chromium for their own metabolism and thus deplete the body of chromium, essential to metabolism and to the functioning of the pancreas. Continued over-consumption of such refined foods will tip the kapha individual from peri-diabetes to diabetes proper, complete with retinopathy, neuropathy, arterial disease and diabetic ulcers. This is truly a high price to pay for a bowl of cereal and a Snickers Bar a day.

A forty year old financial planner had reached a level of mandagni so severe that not only wheat, dairy and sugar but even brown rice made him nauseated, tired, heavy and dull. He was sixty pounds overweight and lived on an energy roller-coaster, consuming caffeinated soda and sugar to get a burst of energy and then breads and cereal to calm him down. The breads made him tired and lethargic, so then he needed sugar and caffeine, which wired him, after which he needed more bread. In a few short years, if he did not change his ways, he would be diabetic.

He could be helped by taking a teaspoon of Shardunika after each meal or Sweet Ease formula three times daily. This would help balance his insulin secretion and reduce his craving for sweets. As with tikshnagni, a morning dose of Mahasudarshan would help with his craving for breads. Ten minutes before each meal he could take a half teaspoon of organic turmeric powder to aid in balancing the blood sugar load from that meal. To help reduce weight and kindle agni, he could use Trikatu. For stress he could take Bacopa tea three times daily or Mental Clarity formula, which would help with the sluggishness and lethargy that drove him to drink Pepsi-Cola.

In accordance with the basic principles of Ayurveda, although white sugar is a poison for all three doshas, its use must be handled very differently depending upon agni type. It is essential, as we have seen, to provide dietary counseling and to offer appropriate stress- reduction strategies, as sugar consumption is a manifestation of mental stress and a cause of physiological stress. Because of the importance of stress in the overall picture, it may often be wise to begin the treatment program with the appropriate stress-reducing herbs and to hold the other suggestions for a later appointment.



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Gluten Free Eating

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Gluten Free Eating

by Alakananda Ma

Photograph of 4 gluten sources. Top: High-glut...

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Your Ayurvedic Practitioner has determined that, according to Ayurveda, you may be benefitted by a gluten free diet. Typically you will do a three-month trial of this diet, to see if the effects are beneficial for your overall health goals. The trial will work ONLY if you are totally gluten free for the three-month period. Tell your Doctor that you are on a gluten free diet. For certain tests, it may be necessary to eat gluten in order for the test to work.

Gluten is the protein part of wheat, rye, barley, and other related grains. Some people cannot tolerate gluten when it comes in contact with the small intestine. This condition is known as celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. There is also evidence that a skin disorder called dermatitis herpetiformis is associated with gluten intolerance.

In patients with celiac disease, gluten injures the lining of the small intestine. This injury results in weight loss, bloating, diarrhea, gas, abdominal cramps, or vitamin and mineral deficiencies. There may be many other manifestations including neurological or cognitive effects, malaise, fatigue or inflammation. Not all people with gluten sensitivity notice intestinal symptoms. When patients totally eliminate gluten from the diet, the lining of the intestine has a chance to heal and other symptoms may abate or disappear.

Removing gluten from the diet is not easy. Grains are used in the preparation of many foods. It is often hard to tell by an ingredient's name what may be in it, so it is easy to eat gluten without even knowing it. However, staying on a strict gluten-free diet may dramatically improve your condition.

Oats is a grain the merits special attention. Oats are believed safe in patients with celiac disease although this was not always the case. The problem with oat products is not the grain but rather the manufacturing process. When oats are processed in the same facilities as wheat, contamination can occur even with the best cleaning protocol. Oat products can now be found that are not cross contaminated. These can be tried after an initial period of 6 months to see if they can be tolerated. Most, but not all patients can tolerate pure oat products. Many other products are contaminated with gluten in the milling process so it is safest always to purchase food labeled gluten free. Most natural foods markets now have a gluten free aisle for your convenience.

  • Do not eat anything that contains the following grains: wheat, rye, and barley.
  • The following can be eaten in any amount: corn, potato, rice, soybeans, tapioca, arrowroot, carob, buckwheat, millet, amaranth and quinoa. (But if they are milled, look for the gluten free label!)
  • Distilled white vinegar does not contain gluten.
  • Malt vinegar does contain gluten.

Grains are used in the processing of many ingredients, so it will be necessary to seek out hidden gluten. The following terms found in food labels may mean that there is gluten in the product.

  • Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (HVP), unless made from soy or corn
  • Flour or Cereal products, unless made with pure rice flour, corn flour, potato flour, or soy flour
  • Vegetable Protein unless made from soy or corn
  • Malt or Malt Flavoring unless derived from corn
  • Modified Starch or Modified Food Starch unless arrowroot, corn, potato, tapioca, waxy maize, or maize is used
  • Vegetable Gum unless vegetable gums are carob bean gum, locust bean gum, cellulose gum, guar gum, gum arabic, gum aracia, gum tragacanth, xanthan gum, or vegetable starch
  • Soy Sauce or Soy Sauce Solids unless you know they do not contain wheat, as in wheat-free tamari.

Any of the following words on food labels usually means that a grain containing gluten has been used

  • stabilizer
  • starch
  • flavoring
  • emulsifier
  • hydrolyzed plant protein

There are now several companies that produce gluten-free products, and several support groups to provide delicious recipes and help patients adapt to the gluten-free diet.

Organized Groups

The Food Allergy Network

11781 Lee Jackson Hwy, Suite 160

Fairfax, VA 22033-3309

(800) 929-4040


American Celiac Society

P.O. Box 23455
New Orleans, LA 70183-0455


Celiac Sprue

Association/USA, Inc.

P.O. Box 31700

Omaha, NE 68131-0700

(402) 558-0600
(877) CSA-4-CSA


Celiac Disease Foundation

13251 Ventura Blvd., Suite 1

Studio City, CA 91604-1838

(818) 990-2354


Gluten Intolerance Group

15110 10th Avenue SW, Suite A

Seattle, WA 98166-1820

(206) 246-6652

Companies That Sell Gluten-Free Products

Dietary Specialists, Inc.

P.O. Box 227

Rochester, NY 14601

(716) 263-2787

To place an order: 1-800-544-0099


Ener-G Foods, Inc.

5960 1st Avenue. S.

P.O. Box 84487

Seattle, WA 98124-5787

(206) 767-6660

Toll free: 1-800-331-5222

Gluten Free Pantry
P.O. Box 840
Glastonbury, CT 06033



3750 Francis Hughes

Laval, Quebec

Canada H7L5A9

1-(450) 629-7689

Toll free: 1-800-363-DIET (3438)

Fax: 1-(450)-629-4781




The Really Great Food Company

P.O. Box 2239

St. James, NY 11780

Toll free: 1-800-593-5377




The Gluten-free Gourmet
More from the Gluten-free Gourmet
Bette Hagma

Gluten Freeda Online Cooking Magazine




Food Group

Do Not Contain Gluten

May Contain Gluten

Contain Gluten

Milk & milk products

whole, low fat, skim, dry, evaporated, or condensed milk; buttermilk; cream; whipping cream; American cheese; all aged cheeses, such as Cheddar, Swiss, Edam, and Parmesan

sour cream commercial chocolate milk and drinks, non-dairy creamers, all other cheese products, yogurt

(Buy natural live yoghurt without thickeners or make your own)

malted drinks

Meat or meat substitutes

100% meat (no grain additives); seafood; poultry (breaded with pure cornmeal, potato flour, or rice flour); peanut butter; eggs; dried beans or peas; p

meat patties; canned meat; sausages; cold cuts; bologna; hot dogs; stew; hamburger; chili; commercial omelets, soufflés, fondue; soy protein meat substitutes

croquettes, breaded fish, chicken loaves made with bread or bread crumbs, breaded or floured meats, meatloaf, meatballs, pizza, ravioli, any meat or meat substitute, rye, barley, oats, gluten stabilizers

Breads & grains

cream of rice; cornmeal; hominy; basmati rice; brown rice; red rice; wild rice; gluten-free noodles; rice wafers; pure corn tortillas; specially prepared breads made with corn, rice, potato, soybean, tapioca arrowroot ,carob, buckwheat, millet, amaranth and quinoa flour; puffed rice.(Note: many vatas do not tolerate GF flour with tapioca flour, so just use plain rice flour or rice bread)

packaged rice mixes, cornbread, ready-to-eat cereals containing malt flavoring

breads, buns, rolls, biscuits, muffins, crackers, and cereals containing wheat, wheat germ, oats, barley, rye, bran, graham flour, malt; kasha; bulgur; Melba toast; matzo; bread crumbs; pastry; pizza dough; regular noodles, spaghetti, macaroni, and other pasta; rusks; dumplings; zwieback; pretzels; prepared mixes for waffles and pancakes; bread stuffing or filling (Note: you can special order gluten free kosher Passover matzoh online)

Fats & oils

Butter, ghee, sunflower oil, olive oil, coconut oil, mustard oil.

salad dressings, non-dairy creamers, mayonnaise

gravy and cream sauces thickened with flour


plain, fresh, frozen, canned, or dried fruit; all fruit juices

pie fillings, thickened or prepared fruit, fruit fillings



fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables; white and sweet potatoes; yams

vegetables with sauces, commercially prepared vegetables and salads, canned baked beans, pickles, marinated vegetables, commercially seasoned vegetables

creamed or breaded vegetables; those prepared with wheat, rye, oats, barley, or gluten stabilizers

Snacks & desserts

Turbinado sugar, raw cane sugar, jam, honey, molasses, pure cocoa,  popcorn, carob

custards, puddings, ice cream, ices, sherbet, pie fillings, candies, chocolate, chewing gum, cocoa, potato chips

cakes, cookies, doughnuts, pastries, dumplings, ice cream cones, pies, prepared cake and cookie mixes, pretzels, bread pudding


tea, carbonated beverages (except root beer), fruit juices, mineral and carbonated waters, wines, instant or ground coffee

cocoa mixes, root beer, chocolate drinks, nutritional supplements, beverage mixes

Postum™, Ovaltine™, malt-containing drinks, cocomalt, beer, ale, gin, whiskey, rye


those made with allowed ingredients

commercially prepared soups, broths, soup mixes, bouillon cubes

soups thickened with wheat flour or gluten-containing grains; soup containing barley, pasta, or noodles

Thickening agents

 arrowroot starch; corn flour, germ, or bran; potato flour; potato starch flour; rice bran and flour; rice polish; soy flour; tapioca, sago


wheat starch; all flours containing wheat, oats, rye, malt, barley, or graham flour; all-purpose flour; white flour; wheat flour; bran; cracker meal; durham flour; wheat germ


glutent-free soy sauce (tamari), distilled white vinegar, olives, pickles, relish, ketchup

flavoring syrups (for pancakes or ice cream), mayonnaise, horseradish, salad dressings, tomato sauces, meat sauce, mustard, taco sauce, soy sauce, chip dips



salt, pepper, herbs, flavored extracts, food coloring, cloves, kitchen spices such as turmeric cumin, coriander and fennel, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, cream of tartar.

curry powder (safer to make your own) seasoning mixes, meat extracts

synthetic pepper, brewer's yeast (unless prepared with a sugar molasses base), yeast extract (contains barley)

Prescription products


all medicines: check with pharmacist or pharmaceutical company





Alakananda Ma's Gluten Free Recipes

Cleansing Kitcheri

1/2 cup split mung beans
1 cup basmati rice
Wash them both thoroughly, melt ghee and add spices: fresh ginger, tumeric (fresh or powdered), powdered fennel, cumin and coriander. Add rice, beans and 6 cups water, then bring to boil. Turn down to simmer for 45 minutes or until mung beans are very soft in pot on stove (or make in crock pot cooking overnight--be sure there's plenty of water or you're making a much larger batch to activate the heating elements in the crock pot).

After cooking, add salt to taste. If you live at altitude, cook the mung beans for 45 minutes while soaking the rice, then add the rice and cook for 45 minutes more.



Tridoshic Yam Kitcheri


Pacifies vata, pitta and Kapha


1cup split hulled mung beans

1 cup basmati rice

3 tbsp ghee

1 and half inches minced fresh ginger

2 tbsp shredded coconut

1 tsp turmeric

1 handful cilantro leaves

8 green cardamom pods

8 whole cloves

11 black peppercorns

3 inch piece cinnamon stick

3 bay leaves

Salt to taste

1 large yam, cubed


Rinse mung beans well with cold water and soak for a few hours

Rinse rice well and soak while beans are cooking

Put ginger, coconut, turmeric, cilantro and some water in a blender or food processor and blend. Use enough water to blend well.


In a large pot, melt ghee over medium heat and sauté cardamom pods (split open first), cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon stick and bay leaves for a few minutes. Then add the blended spices and sauté for a few more minutes until lightly cooked.


Next add beans and yams; cook for a couple more minutes. Add enough water to cover the beans with at least 3 inches  of water and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to simmer .Cook for about 45 minutes or until the beans are completely broken down. Then add the rice and cook until the rice is broken apart. Add more water as needed  Salt to taste and enjoy!



Golden Harvest Rice


This warming fall recipe makes use of the seasonal vegetables of harvest time. Soothing for vata and easily digestible, it can be balanced for pitta with the addition of cilantro and for kapha with cayenne or black pepper. Omitting the cashews, it is a great recipe for small children! Serves 6.


1 cup basmati rice

2 cups water

1 pinch saffron

1 medium sized pumpkin or winter squash

1 yellow or orange bell pepper

1 cup sweet corn

½ cup cashews

8 cloves

3 cardamoms, split open

2 black cardamoms, split open

1 tsp cumin seeds

½ tsp mustard seeds

1 bay leaf

1 stick cinnamon

1 pinch hing

1" piece of ginger, finely chopped

3 Tbsp ghee or sunflower oil

1 tsp salt


Wash the basmati rice; soak for an hour and drain.  Allow to air-dry. Boil the water; add the saffron and leave to steep. Peel and cut the squash or pumpkin into 1" cubes and stir-fry or sauté in 1 Tbsp of the ghee or oil until fork-tender (about 30 min). Meanwhile, chop the pepper. Heat half the remaining ghee or oil in a heavy flat bottomed pan and gently fry the cashews until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon. Add the remaining ghee, if needed. When the ghee is hot but not smoking, lower the heat and add the spices and ginger, frying until the ginger browns and the mustard seeds pop. Add the hing and within a few seconds the pepper and corn. Stir fry for a few minutes, and then add the rice and cook for a minute or two until the grains are translucent.  Add the saffron water, cashews and squash. Bring to the boil, cover and cook at low heat for 25 minutes. Stir with a fork and serve with wedges of lime.                         







Cold Cure Dal



Serves 4-6

1 cup red lentils

4-6 cups water

One bottle gourd (louki) peeled and  cubed

1" piece peeled and grated fresh ginger

1 tsp turmeric

2 tbsp ghee

2 royal black cardamoms, lightly crushed open

1" piece cinnamon stick

2 bay leaves

1 tsp garam masala

1-2 tsp cumin seeds

Half teaspoon fenugreek seeds

1 pinch hing

1 tsp jaggery or muscovado sugar

1-2 whole dried red chillies

1 handful chopped cilantro

2 medium tomatoes, chopped

6 curry leaves


This is a recipe for a chilly day, when you feel shivery, spaced out, as if you might be getting a chill or a head cold.

Wash the lentils carefully. In a large pan, boil together the lentils, tomatoes, ginger root, turmeric, half the ghee, cardamom, cinnamon stick and bay leaves. When the lentils begin to break up, add the louki. Alternatively, for a quick recipe, pressure-cook the dal with the above ingredients and meanwhile, steam the louki.

In a wok or frying pan, heat the rest of the ghee. Turn the burner to warm and add the cumin seeds, then the fenugreek seeds.  When they have browned, add the sweetener and chillies, and then the hing and curry leaves. Immediately add to the cooked lentil-louki mix. It will sizzle as you add it. Cook for ten minutes more to let the flavours mingle. At the last minute, drop in the cilantro and add salt to taste.  Serve over basmati rice.


Louki is a smooth green gourd that is demulcent and rejuvenative. Its astringent and slightly bitter taste benefits pitta and kapha. The spices in this recipe have been specifically chosen to

Kindle agni, burn toxins, promote sweating, strengthen the lungs and sinuses and drive out cold and damp. Enjoy!





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