Healthy Breakfast in Ayurveda
I came upon this Harvard University Medical School Health blog article called A Doctor’s Recipe for a Healthy Breakfast that advocates for a huge amount of frozen fruit first thing in the morning. While I agree with the basic premise of her article, which is to avoid refined carbohydrates, the idea of eating 3.5 cups of frozen fruit in the morning is an extreme choice Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda would not be able to endorse.In fact, while its true that fruit, unlike say, a bagel, does have fiber and lots of great things, 3.5 cups of it might just be too much sugar for some people.
Respect Your Digestive Fire
An important finding in Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine is that digestion is a warm process. Eating frozen cold foods damages the digestive fire which does not respond well to cold, especially when cold outside. . This is why all traditional cultures eat warming cooked foods for breakfast, from hot soy milk and left over rice with egg, vegetables and meat, or congee in China to steamed rice and lentil cakes Iddli and Sambar lentil and vegetable soup in South India.
Fruit is Cooling
Most fruit is cooling (raspberries are an exception, as are peaches), so to us, the amount of fruit recommended here might be a bit extreme and also too much sweet food at once. Fruit in Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda is generally recommended on its own, as well, as opposed to with yogurt. Mango Lassi aside, which is a between meal desert drink in hot dry weather, most yogurt eating cultures from Russia to Sri Lanka do not take yogurt and fruit at once, if anything they tend to drink their yogurt, Kefir style, with herbs and spices or plain. In India yogurt can be had at breakfast but its diluted with water and spice. Otherwise its taken at noon, when digestive fire is maximum.
Frozen Fruit: Where Did the Qi Go?
Although frozen fruit does contain all the vitamins of fresh fruit, one thing missing in frozen foods is Qi. Compare a frozen peach to a fresh one, or even frozen banana to fresh. What’s missing is the aroma, the fragrance, the texture, the juiciness. Those are all evidence of what Chinese medicine calls Qi, like the steam rising off of freshly cooked rice. ,. Same thing with frozen organic t.v. dinners versus fresh made food. One fills the room with a wonderful fragrance, the other does not.
Yogurt is Heavy
Yogurt is quite heavy in Ayurveda, which can makes it unsuitable in the morning for folks with problems of mucus, like chronic asthma or sinus infections. They can have yogurt mixed with water and spices like cumin powder to increase digestability. This is called “buttermilk” in South India.
Since digestion is a process of warm transformation of food into energy, in Ayurveda we protect the digestive fire/Agni with judicious use of spices and herbs. In the case of fruit-nuts-yogurt, this is basically a sweet dish still. So it needs to be balanced with spices like ginger, cardamon, and cinnamon that stimulate gut fire to deal with the slightly cloying nature of that much sweet food at once.
Eat Vegetables and Fruit Separately
We definitely do not recommend mixing green veggies like kale with sweet food like fruit. Kale and hearty greens are best cooked, in soups and stir fries or Indian style. Not overcooked, but cooked. Its cooking that breaks down the cellulose in vegetables. Some nutrients in vegetables are better absorbed when cooked, like carrots. Cooking with spices like cumin and coriander increase digestability. In fact hot soup is a great breakfast in cold weather, miso soup, or dal with rice or whole grain bread.
Myself, being a cold, thin, dry Vata type by nature in Ayurveda, I like to make very low sugar “breakfast cookies.” Here’s one way, using dried Chickpeas and Nuts . Nuts are moistening, warming, grounding, and nutrifying, all qualities the Vata dosha type needs. This is a food choice that helps maintain stable blood sugar, loaded with protein and healthy fat. I usually have these with Ayush Pro-Vata tea and hot milk from grass fed cows or goats, which is also a good choice for Vata; warming, stimulating to Agni, warming, and nourishing. As a Vata type, i like to use lots of warming spices in my tea, from ajwain and ginger to clove and even black or long pepper. Ditto, in my cookies i use ginger, cardamon, nutmeg, cinnamon.
I will write soon on how to modify for Pitta or Kapha dosha. But for starters, Kapha dosha should drink herbal tea or green or ooolong or pu erh tea without milk.
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