Having worked in the wellness industry for over a decade, it’s heartening to feel a shift in the general approach to good health… a move away from the fads, -frees, and extremes, towards balance, moderation and good old good sense. These things really needn’t be complicated – and the foundation to all this is our food. I am not quite sure when raw fudge, vegan brownies and plant cookies started dominating my Instagram feed, but they’ve piqued my curiosity a great deal… and, so often, disappointed in the flavour and texture stakes. Add all the dates, cashews, cacao and bananas you like to your Magimix – that’s a bit more magic than your machine is capable of, despite its name. Whatever comes out will invariably taste of precisely what went in… which isn’t to say that there isn’t room for lovely nutty, coconutty, cocoa buttery balls in one’s diet (I have a vanilla & coconut recipe that I make for vegan friends which really does go down a treat), but having moved more and more towards a whole, unfussy and seasonal diet, I also wonder what these balls are eaten in lieu of… a square meal? A piece of fruit? A ‘real’ pudding?
Real puds are, as anyone who follows us on Instagram or Twitter, the real deal for us. I have a sweet tooth that is just about kept in check with things such as Chywanaprash in my tea, regular meals (a hearty lunch sets me up for the day and evening, when I often have a lighter meal for dinner), and good dark chocolate, but I shall always savour and enjoy my puds too (have you tried the Pots & Co Salted Caramel Pots?!), as long as the ingredients used are natural and recognisable (yes, sugar, that includes you too). It isn’t a daily occurrence, but it’s an enjoyable and guiltless pleasure – again, balance, always. What is important, however, is to recognise that for most of us (and if we are still just as active and busy), our bodies will need more calories in the winter – to heat us, fire up our taxed immune systems, find energy during shorter days and darker mornings – and reaching for chocolate is not the answer. Just eat more of the good stuff (all of our recipes are filled with natural, wholesome ingredients, so it’s hard to go wrong), and don’t skimp on satiety. A hearty portion is often just the ticket in winter, whereas, quite naturally in summer, one’s appetite shrinks. Again, this is good sense territory – and satiety is not the same as over-indulgence.
As Jan kicks off (read The Cosmic’s astrology report here, to understand why this January doesn’t really feel like January), it’s always tempting to weigh things up, and look for things to cut out or down on. I’ll implore you not to make a detox one of them. We’re not made to cleanse and renew in winter – that should be saved for spring. In spring we are supported by everything around us – we are naturally seasonal beings, and our bodies are attuned with the ebbs and flow of the year (even if we are not actively aware of it). In spring, when the temperature tends to rise, skies brighten and days begin to lengthen, our bodies themselves feel a reawakening. Our diets can once again take in fresh shoots, seeds, salads… warm still, lest we shock our bodies as they move to shifting the cold and damp hangover of winter.
Ayurveda (and Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM, for that matter) knows that raw foods require more digestive energy. The more easily digested a food is, the more bioavailable it is to us. Fans of all-raw diets miss the point that we just can’t break down an unrelenting stream of all-raw food all the time. A lot simply passes straight through… good for cleansing & cleaning, certainly, but not actually ideal in terms of nutritional uptake. Ayurveda also believes that when your digestive system is working hard, your body has less energy for other essential functions – such as immunity. Ayurveda also believes that the digestive system is healthiest when the food that is put into it is kept simple, and made easier to break down. Light cooking – steaming/grilling etc, are encouraged in summer, when our digestive systems tend to be stronger (summer’s heat raises our Pitta element, which also governs our digestive fire). In the winter, our Kapha element is raised, which produces more cold and damp within our systems. To counteract Kapha, it’s good to introduce heat to the diet in the form of warming spice (we rarely go a day without deploying ginger, cinnamon, cumin, nigella and turmeric), but to also do so in a literal sense – with hot food. Shelve the cereals and granolas until spring, and focus on warming nut milk and simple grain porridges (we also regularly use goat’s milk, as we don’t seem to have the same tummy troubles as we commonly get with cow’s milk), eggs with simple sourdough bread, lightly spiced waffles or pancakes, or our Mumbai Pain Perdu (yum).
Ignore the technicolour call of those berry bowls and raw ice-creams, unless you actually live in Oz (or anywhere hot), remembering that your day’s diet should continue to consist of nothing more taxing than good seasonal soup, stews, broths and warming curries. Winter also allows us more scope to enjoy a bit of red meat and a glass of red wine – Ayurveda knows that both introduce ‘heat’ into the system (the meat sweats anybody?), and this is fine in winter. Once a week for red meat is perfectly OK (if you can, please make it organic and grass-fed, it makes the hugest difference to both flavour and digestibility).
For more on Ayurveda during the changing seasons, read this.