“Without proper nutrition, medicine is of little use… With proper nutrition, medicine is of little need.”
-Caraka Samhita, 2000 Year-Old Ayurvedic Text
Ayurveda is a 5,ooo-year-old tradition of holistic medicine that comes from India. I was lucky enough to be given a birthday gift from my good friend, Kathy, for a wonderful cooking class where we both learned the basic principles of Ayurveda and how they apply to cooking. This informative and demonstrative class was taught by the passionate Divya Alter and her lovely co-teacher at Bhagavat Life located at 25 1st Avenue in New York City’s East Village.
Although clarified butter (or “ghee”) and yogurt is often used in Ayurvedic cooking, these ingredients were omitted from the entire class to accommodate me, the only vegan. I totally appreciated the fact that Bhagavat Life is both vegan-friendly and gluten-free friendly, and I recommend notifying them in advance of any class you may wish to attend (and I highly recommend that you attend one of their classes) if you follow a vegan or gluten-free diet.
The class began with Divya explaining the basic Ayurvedic principles, and I was enthralled! I’ve read a lot about macrobiotics, and I find it so interesting that it shares so many of the same principles with Ayurveda. Balancing your foods and avoiding foods that might upset your body chemistry (such as coffee, white sugar or nightshade vegetables), are common to both, as is following a whole foods diet consisting mostly of fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains. Ayurveda teaches you to use food as your medicine and to eat foods for your unique body type.
I don’t want to give too much away about what I learned about Ayurveda (in case you want to learn for yourselves from Divya), but there are some basic things which I found truly interesting. Ayurveda states that regular detoxification of the body is essential for good health; however, you must prepare your body for any detox or cleanse, and the process must be slow and gentle or it can do more harm than good. Many of the popular cleanses that people do today are too harsh, rapid or brisk which may cause the body to re-toxify. Bhagavit Life is now offering some Spring Cleanse packages, and you may want to look into them if you are interested in a good detoxification program.
Another main goal of Ayurveda is to remove toxins from the body and to prevent them from accumulating. The ancient texts of Ayurveda state that “ama” or toxic residue builds up in the body if digestion, or metabolism, is compromised. In general, “ama” (or sticky toxins from indigestion) is produced from a diet high in animal protein. A diet composed of fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, select dairy products (unhomogenized milk and soft-curd cheeses), and warm cooked foods (especially foods cooked that day) is much better. Vegans would omit the dairy products, and might opt to add more raw foods into their diets.
After Divya taught us about Ayurvedic principles, the cooking demonstrations ensued.
We were shown how to prepare about 5 or 6 wonderful dishes which included a soup, a rice and lentil stew, some coconut chutney, a colorful raw salad, and a simple healthy dessert and snack. We were also given the recipes for every dish that was made, as well as for a wonderful cooling drink for the liver.
At the end of the cooking demonstration, we were served our delicious feast which was a combination of all the fabulous prepared dishes, and included the lovely soup and dessert. I must admit that I felt very light, healthy and satisfied after this very balanced meal!
Although I don’t want to give away Divya’s recipes, or talk too much about the delicious foods she prepared (you must attend the class to find out for yourselves), I will give you this simple morning detox recipe she provided. Divya recommends eating a stewed apple every morning (before breakfast) to help expel toxins accumulated in the body during the night, support regularity, optimize dietary pH balancing, “light up” the fire of digestion, and boost immunity to prevent most colds and flus. Why not give it a try and see how it makes you feel? Here is the extremely simple recipe…
STEWED APPLE FOR MORNING DETOX
1 organic apple, peeled, cored, cubed
1/4 cup water
2 whole cloves
Place the apple pieces in a small saucepan and add the water and cloves. Cover and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat and simmer until the apple is soft and translucent and slightly mushy. Different types of apples take different amounts of time to cook, so check in 5-7 minutes.
Drain and eat first thing in the morning, as early as possible.
As previously mentioned, everyone in the class was given the fabulous recipes to take home. Yeah! Many people asked Divya where to buy some of the spices and other necessary ingredients, to which Divya kept replying “go to the Indian store down the block.” We finally got her to pinpoint the store to a location on 1st Avenue near 5th Street. After the class, Kathy and I decided to try and find “the Indian store” to which Divya referred to. We found it!
Kathy and I entered the DUAL Specialty Store located at 91st 1st Avenue (between 5th and 6th Streets) only to discover several other people from our class already shopping. DUAL specializes in “Indian & World Imports” and carries an extremely impressive variety of spices, herbs, teas, seeds, nuts, seasonings, condiments, beans and grains. I was absolutely stunned at the wide variety of specialty items in this wonderful store and I felt like I was a child in Disneyworld! I was even more stunned by the exceptional sales help. DUAL is also a great source for vegan baking items, and I highly suggest that you visit it, if you can, especially if you love to cook or wish to experiment with Indian cooking.
My experience at Bhagavat Life was wonderful, and I highly suggest clicking here to check out their cooking class schedules, cleansing programs and other services, including catering and meal delivery.
Thank you Kathy for this thoughtful and enjoyable birthday gift and for sharing it with me! Everyone should have a friend like you!