Perfect seasonal food – home made baked beans

beansSpringtime is the time to treat our palates with bitter, pungent and astringent tastes. Pulses, spiced right, are perfect spring food because they are astringent.

Knowingly, they are also “airy”, which is also a good property of food in this period when the season makes us feel heavy and tired. Nature balances itself through opposites and you can play with this concept a lot when you cook. Just remind yourself of the season’s qualities and then cook with opposite quality food.

Spring is a strong period of growth. The waters of the soil start flowing in late winter bringing qualities of heaviness and coldness around but providing life giving material for nature to wake up. Structure, cohesion and bulk created by the nature bring about feelings of heaviness, stiffness and tiredness. To avoid the season’s disorders taking over your body and mind resort to food that has opposite qualities: light (e.g. pulses), stimulating and heating (spices and herbs). Cut down on heavy items i.e. reduce the use of fats and you can almost avoid dairy. Generally eat less, especially in the evenings.

Sage is an optimal kitchen herb for this season. Being bitter, pungent and astringent in tastes it perfectly fits in to balance seasonal disorders. It is one of the herbs of choice for respiratory disorders, which are very typical of this season. Read more details of sage’s health benefits in Anne Macintyre’ site.

Here’s an old Italian recipe I love Fagioli all’uccelletto, which usually is made with cannellini beans. In fact, this is the original baked beans recipe. So, instead of buying ready-made ones make them yourself, which is far far better.

This time I’ve used giant beans because I prefer them out of all white beans. In Italy this dish is usually offered as a side with meat or fish but it makes a perfect supper in spring. A couple of dry crackers instead of bread is a perfect accompaniment (bread should be cut down in spring).

Another addition to the traditional recipe is the use of asafoedita spice (hing), which greatly reduces the gassy element of pulses. Take it as a default always to cook pulses with this gas smelling herb that actually reduces gas. Don’t be put off by the smell, you’ll be grateful for the effects. Use sparingly!

Also, I’ve stopped using vegetable oils for cooking. I use ghee instead as it does not turn rancid when you heat it and it feeds the friendly bacteria in the gut. I add olive oil in the end to get the proper Italian flavor out.

Spicy beans with cherry tomatoes and sage / Fagioli all’uccelletto

1 can of giant/cannellini beans (or dried if you have time)

15 cherry tomatoes

1 clove of garlic

3/4 tbsp ghee

Fresh sage

Pinch of chilli

Pinch of cracked black pepper

Pinch of asafoetida

Himalayan rock salt to taste

Cook the canned beans for 5 – 10 min in water with 5 leaves of fresh sage. If you are using dried beans then cooking takes longer and you need to have soaked the beans overnight first. Cut cherry tomatoes in half. Add ghee into a pan with crushed garlic and fresh sage. Fry on a low fire to savour the fat. Add tomatoes cut side down and put the lid on the pan. Make sure the heat is low. You want to cook the tomatoes, keep the juice and avoid burning. Add the beans once they have cooked and soft, evaporate excess liquids, add salt, pepper and asafoetida. When you serve, pour a thread of olive oil on top.

Enjoy!

Just chew

chewAwareness in action is what makes life tasteful. If we only cultivated this ability a bit more we would live our lives much happier and healthier. Awareness means to stay in the present, enjoy the moment in all its flavours. When awareness is lost we either worry about future or delve in the past. Or, we’re multitasking, like watching TV whilst eating.

What’s wrong with multitasking? It messes up with your concentration. Things are best done with, yes, full awareness, especially eating. What’s wrong about TV dinners is that the television takes priority. It takes priority from what should be one of the most important things in our lives. Instead, we have started considering eating as something secondary, something we can do whilst carrying out work by the computer, on the go, whilst driving.

The idea that food is a commodity of second order has had tremendous consequences on our health. Obesity, late onset diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and certain cancers are directly related to faulty eating habits. If we only sat down and ate with awareness we would experience a drastic drop in the occurrences of these conditions.

So why is it bad to concentrate on something else whilst eating? It is because our brains, when engaged in eating prevent us from sending food down without proper chewing. The process of chewing becomes much longer and this has amazing benefits in terms of digestion.

When our minds are on the TV screen the food is able to pass down to the stomach only after two bites. Incompletely chewed food is very hard to digest and causes bloating, gas, acidity and other digestive issues. But, if we chew properly the stomach and the enzymes in it are able to process the well-chewed bulk easily. Why? Because of the mechanical break down and mixing of saliva. Saliva has enzymes that are necessary to digest carbohydrates. Most digestive problems with bread and wheat products are due to not chewing properly and not mixing enough saliva in them. Gluten is a hard to digest protein and if it has been let to bypass the first phase of digestion i.e. chewing it becomes even harder, if not impossible to digest.

To prove I’m right about chewing and eating with awareness, try eating with your eyes closed. This way the brain is directed to survey the full eating process. You’ll notice that it is virtually impossible to send food down without it being well chewed. You will also notice that you eat less. Proper chewing makes you feel satisfied faster. Also, when the brain monitors how much volume and nutrients go down it will turn your appetite off when you’ve had enough. Even if you had the tastiest food on your plate you just don’t have the taste sensation anymore to enjoy it. Try this trick and see what the right consistency of the food should be and what is the ideal portion size for you.

Every process that starts well is easy. When the foundations are laid well you need less effort for the rest. So it is with digestion as well. If you chew properly you should be able to avoid overeating, make sure you absorb all the nutrients and eliminate the waste in a satisfying manner. Once this is happening you notice not only that you are physically healthier but also, you enjoy higher levels of concentration and awareness.

To book for a health consultation for individual diet and lifestyle program click here.

Oh So London visit

We had lovely Lucy McGuire from Oh So London website visiting us. The visit was followed  by a lovely article on us in this website which you can read here.

During her visit she made this little video clip of me talking about spiritual healing. Come in and watch it here.

How you eat your food can resolve your gluten intolerance

wheatIn my practice I often, in fact more and more, meet people who have very negative thoughts about gluten. Some of them have real problems with it. Although I am actually of the opinion that gluten should or at least can be in our diet I do respect the fact that many of us have problems in digesting it and that some people really have serious issues like celiac disease.

Faulty digestion is usually the problem behind gluten intolerance. Digestive problems can originate from faulty eating habits or psychological issues. If our digestive system worked properly and we ate gluten in a reasonable manner we should be able to digest it. No bloating, no gas, nor digestive complains should arise.

Most of the times the digestive problems are due to how we consume our food. The way we eat is often more important than what we eat. Gluten intolerance is usually a consequence of years of bad eating habits. The food itself might have been nominally healthy but the way it has been consumed has deteriorated the gut environment and caused a reactive intestinal lining where hard to digest items are not processed to satisfaction.

The good news is that once gluten intolerance is spotted it doesn’t necessarily mean that gluten is to be totally avoided henceforth. The thing to do is to clear the GI-tract from toxic sludge and enhance digestive capacity and the bacterial balance. Sooner or later it should be possible to re-introduce gluten in the diet without any digestive complaints.

Personally I would still advice anyone to stay away from white wheat flour. It provides empty calories i.e. doesn’t have much of a nutritional content and is highly glutinous. Still, an occasional intake of this shouldn’t be a problem once the digestive fire is burning strongly and steadily.

To find our how you can enhance your digestion come for a consultation. Book here.

Revolution starts from the dinner table

revolutionRussell Brand calls for revolution. I agree, it is high time, and hopefully not too late for us to take action. But, the question is in the air: how and where do we start a revolution, especially if you don’t have time to go and march in the streets? You can do your own little bit but what effect does that have on a large scale? Unfortunately, most of us don’t have the luxury of a world wide influence like our Mr Brand, and we are easily left feeling helpless in front of a world full of inequalities and injustice.

The matter of fact is that if we do take action, even if it feels insignificant in front of the large scale problems, we take part in the process and it is exactly what a positive revolution should try to achieve: increasing the awareness of individual women, men and children to make wise choices about the health of the planet, it’s economy and their own peace of mind.

So where do we start increasing awareness? This task sounds almost mysterious. As if we’d need to go and find other realms of consciousness within our normal daily life. Not at all. It only means paying attention on what we do and the choices we make. And, you can start from the most basic activities of your day: choosing the right kind of food for your meals and eating it with full concentration.

  • Eat in a peaceful state of mind
  • Avoid media and intense conversation whilst eating
  • Chew properly
  • Don’t drink during meals
  • Eat one meal a day with eyes closed

The beauty of this practice of increasing awareness in eating is that the awareness starts expanding to other areas of life. Once you start and notice the results you won’t be able to stop it to influence all the activities. You just need to start from somewhere and I can’t find anything better than eating.

Eating with full awareness not only makes us more conscious of the quality of food we consume. That drives us to make wiser decisions when shopping. Focused eating also helps our digestive systems to process the food better thus enhancing the overall functioning of the GI-tract. Once our gut works well it has a beneficial effect on our minds. The gut health is directly related to our state of mind. Good gut health means better cognitive functions. Once we have achieved a positive and enthusiastic mind we are more inspired to make the small changes which eventually result in big changes.

It all comes to making right choices. Wise choices are made by a clear mind. A clear mind is devoid of mental mucous which develops if our digestive systems are not working properly. Clear digestive systems are at the basis of proper functioning of our bodies and minds. When we nourish them with proper food we are already taking part in the change the planet needs us to make. Therefore

  • Eat with awareness
  • Choose organic
  • Reduce meat eating to two times a week or become a vegetarian
  • Cook from scratch
  • Eat seasonal food
  • Avoid anything processed (even organic food can be highly processed)
  • Avoid wrapped food as much as possible
  • Avoid multinational brands
  • Shop locally
  • Use social media to spread the word

Spread the word through social media. Often considered a necessary bad but I think now it is time to harness this resource to its fullest capacity. Social media gives us a chance to communicate and not feel alone with our big and small attempts to create a better world. Social media can bind a large crowd together to stand against the disproportionate forces of economy that rule the world. It makes you feel that you are contributing to a common cause.

Start the revolution from your dinner table. Make choices that will encourage your local environment and businesses to thrive. Together they can form close nit communities where people can help each other to be more self sufficient and less dependent on corporations and the forces of economy directed from far and away. All you need to do is start taking care of the quality of your food and how you consume it.

 

Garden herbs for this season

Chopped flat leaf parsleyNature is very clever in keeping us healthy. Our digestive power varies according to the digestibility of the foods of the season. In autumn and winter our digestive power usually gets a bit stronger in response to the seasonal produce. The harvest is quite hard to digest and also a bit mucous forming. This is fine as the body and mind enjoy rich and nutritious meals in order to cope with winter.

Because of the digestive fire getting stronger it is advisable to keep it burning on a steady flame by nourishing it with mild spices. Strong ones like chilli can get the flame too high. Problems of overheat like acidity are then common especially because this season’s food is naturally acidic. Grains, pulses and nuts are all acidic to some degree. This season is also when meat can be eaten (by the ones who choose to eat it) and it is also acidic in quality.

To spice my autumn food up I personally prefer garden herbs. Parsley, coriander, sage, rosemary and thyme are my favourites. I picked up a tip from Jamie Oliver and freeze the fresh ones I buy and use as much as I need at one go and always have fresh ones at hand, even in winter. I use plenty of them in chicken stock, in roast veggies, pasta sauces and, of course, my favourite coriander, parsley and mint chutney. Here’ the recipe. It is excellent with dals and curries. Also yummy on toast bread.

2 bunches      coriander

1 bunch          parsley

½ bunch        mint

2                      garlic

1”                    ginger

½-1                 Lemon juice

2 cups            Sunflower oil

Rock salt

Chop fresh herbs and mix them with the grated garlic and ginger. Add lemon juice, sunflower oil and finally salt to taste.

 

Asafetida – the spice of the season

asafetidaThe latin name for Asafetida, or hing in Sanskrit, is Ferula fetida. “Fetida” implies smell. Indeed, the powdered spice is very pungent and almost rotten in smell and can be felt from a distance. It is like someone had passed gas. Ironically, this herb actually relieves gas. It is our spice of choice for the seasons of autumn and winter because during these times we tend to create more gas in our bodies.

Ayurvedically, gas is related to the bodily humour of vata. Vata dosha is made of ether and air. These elements give vata its behavioural patterns. Vata creates space and fills it with air. This might be going on just now in your own digestive tract causing discomfort of some degree, especially if you are a vata type, in other words, if your body type is “airy”, light and delicate. I am referring to now because, at this moment, we have moved into vata season. That means that vata energy is dominant in the nature. Nature makes us feel light and airy. Even the sturdiest and most grounded people might be feeling the effects. Problems like light sleep, irregular digestion and joint pains are very common.

When vata energy goes out of balance it starts easily creating upward movement in the body. Air can get trapped in the gut and create bloating. Anxiety is another good example. The sensation is like something was pushing from below, forcing the breath to move to the upper parts of the lungs and become faster and shallower.

Asafetida is a fabulous spice to counteract the upward moving vata. It has an amazing capacity to restore the correct movement, improve the intestinal transit and help elimination. This herb is a wonderful aid for vata kind of constipation (due to dryness) and by suppressing vata it can relieve all kind of symptoms of vata like pain and other nerve related problems.

As mentioned above, the herb is very strong. It is to be used with care. You can use it in your food: a pinch is enough. In fact, it is highly recommended to be used with beans and lentils. Pulses are astringent in quality and can easily cause gas. Asafetida helps to digest them better and this way they become safe to take, even in autumn and winter.

In India, and also outside, hing is often used by those who avoid onion and garlic in their foods as they are too rajasic, or too stimulating for the mind. Hing gives the food that pungency it might miss without those vegetables. Those who want to go on a sattvic diet might want to introduce this spice in their everyday kitchen. I, personally, use hing together with onion and garlic because I can’t really think a life without them.

I have just prepared a new batch of hinguashtaka powder, a mixture of eight herbs with asafetida. If you have problems with digestion and elimination you can order some from me. It tastes disgusting but it works wonders.

Nutritional confusion

Dieting confusionI recently sat down with Angie Greaves from Magic Radio and Feeling Fab website to have a proper chat about nutrition. She finally said it in a nutshell: “There is a total nutritional confusion”. I couldn’t agree more. We are so bombarded by the media with all sorts of facts about the good and the bad of our diets that no-one really knows what is right and what is wrong any more.

Let me tell you what is wrong first of all: there is no one piece of advice that is good for everyone. We have to come to an understanding that every one of us in the universe is a uniquely built being and responds differently to every variety of food, food supplements, activities and stressors from the environment. A jog might be beneficial for people with good stamina but not for someone who hasn’t been jogging for a long time. An apple a day might keep the doctor away from someone who doesn’t get an acid attack right after eating it. Different sorts of vitamins of might benefit you or not. It depends how you digest what you take in.

I have a number of clients coming for a health consultation who tell me that there is nothing wrong with their diets and that what they eat is said to be healthy and with a high nutritional content. Still they complain they can’t lose weight, they feel tired or have problems of different sorts, ranging from digestive issues and skin complaints to headaches and sleeplessness, to name a few.

Here lies another core problem behind our dietary confusion. We don’t know anymore how to consume our food. It isn’t enough to know the nutritional contents of your smoothie. If you have it at the wrong time of the day, combined it with the wrong foods and perhaps eaten on the go, you are not likely to get many benefits from it. On the contrary, bloating, gas, cramps and unexplained pains become an unwelcome but familiar presence in your life. When you know all the simple things about correct eating you will be able to enjoy proper tasty food, not have uncontrollable cravings and have your body return to its ideal weight without too much effort.

And what lies behind it? That’s the Feeling Fab that Angie is talking about. When we feel good and relaxed our bodies are able to heal themselves. Most importantly, our minds are able to make decisions on our health that are conducive to stability, wellbeing and happiness. What this means, is that it is all in our minds. And believe it or not, your diet has much to do with your mindset.

Life – Light – Love

Hungry after your meals?

Hungry again

Have you ever thought why you feel hungry in the morning after having enjoyed a heavy meal in the evening? Or, have you ever wondered why you feel peckish only after an hour of your lunch?You would think that your body was satisfied for a little while but you still are craving for food. There is a simple explanation to this: you have not absorbed what you have eaten.

If you do not absorb you do not get the nourishment and energy you need. And then, you start craving more food, even if you still have food sitting in your stomach.

This is one of the most common reasons people have digestive and weight management problems. And of course, why we have cravings as well. When we eat at the wrong time or consume too much food at one sitting our digestive process is likely to slow down or stop all together.

Imagine yourself having a heavy meal and going to sleep before it’s been digested. At night the body should concentrate on other things other than digestion and having new food in the stomach confuses the body clock. Because of this the food can stay in your stomach for a long time and be only partially absorbed to your system. For this you might still get a taste of your evening meal in your mouth in the morning. And, because you haven’t absorbed you will feel hungry and crave for sugar and carbohydrates especially.

The same can happen after lunch. If you have eaten too much, too quickly, concentrating on anything else other than eating your digestive process will be in danger. Consequently your food just sits in your tummy causing gas and/or bloating. Nothing is absorbed and when that happens you get afternoon cravings. Sugar and carbohydrates become suddenly very attractive and hard to resist. This is because the brain uses them for energy and they can release it very fast.

For you to avoid these scenarios make sure you eat with awareness, slow down, chew well, take a break to eat, do not wash your meals down with a drink and make sure you are not eating bland food. Make is tasty; you need to satisfy your taste buds as well.

If you want to get to grips with your own digestion book for a consultation here.

Bloated?

bloatedstomachBurp, burp, burp…bloated and heavy I am. I just can’t get my food to digest. It is sitting in my stomach. Actually, it is lying on the bottom of my stomach whilst I lie in bed and can’t get to sleep. I’ve eaten a heavy meal and I know tomorrow morning I’m going to wake up with puffy eyes and ravished by hunger.

What’s gone wrong?

Firstly, you need to digest your food before you go to bed. Your body should concentrate on metabolising the food it has absorbed during the day and not digesting new food. Result: bad sleep and possibly violent dreams.

If you eat a heavy meal then lie down, the chances that your digestion slows down dramatically – or even stops – are great. This means that the amount you absorb is nowhere near the amount that you have eaten. Therefore you’ll wake up in the morning crying for food. And piling up new food on undigested food creates digestive toxins, sluggishness, bad breath, smelly gas and a variety of digestive issues. Result: myriad of health issues depending on your individual susceptibilities and tendencies.

A great way to understand if you have digested your previous meal is to have a half a glass of hot water. Wait for a few minutes and if you burp, you have not digested yet. At this point, stay up a little longer and have a sip of Jagermeister. 🙂