Tea, Food and Community

Tea, Food and Community

Monday, February 16, 2015

Eating to Balance the "Vata" of Winter in Connecticut

At the start of the New Year, was one of your resolutions to "lighten up"? Here in Connecticut, we are still in the heart of cold, windy dry winter. "Vata" is the Ayurvedic quality of lightness, dryness and coolness reflected in our winter season. Our diet anti-dotes to the weather are certainly not processed sugary carb-laden foods (they are never the anti-dotes!), but rather nature's bounty of foods that oleate and warm us. (Oleation is the Ayurvedic method of using ghee, sesame oil, or herb-infused oils internally and externally for greater well-being). Warming, slow cooked soups and one-meal dishes will reduce any extra "Vata" of the season that may be unbalancing to us. These whole foods serve help us feel more balanced and centered as we transition out of winter into spring. Eating with the seasons is good for our bodies... and our budgets.

What foods does nature provide us with to balance us during this season?

One, enjoy the sweetness of fall-harvested or cellar-stored root vegetables:
  • Winter squash, Sweet Potatoes (yams), Carrots: those beautiful yellow and orange colors reflect the richness in beta-carotene, which are important for a strong immune system to help protect against colds and flu. These vegetables provide a natural sweetness to our diet, and are a wonderful addition to soups. Think: a soothing dish of roasted root vegetables (parsnips, carrots, turnips etc.) baked with coconut oil, rosemary, sea salt and black pepper.
Two, oleate, oleate, oleate! Meaning: enjoy healthy fats and keep yourself oiled up! If you skin is dry, note that internal oleation will help your external visage as well as help to soothe your central nervous system!  
  • Nuts and seeds are naturally high in protein and fat, as they are high in omega-3 fatty acids and minerals, which are also important to store each winter. And you have so many choices! Sunflower seed butter, cashew milk, almond butter, chia seeds etc. All the nuts and seeds, in their various forms, make wonderful additions to smoothies, sandwiches, dips, soups, casseroles etc. In fact, they are a staple of our Passiflora kitchen.
  • Olive oil is loaded with antioxidant polyphenols, which support healthy cardiovascular function. But never cook with olive oil as its heating point is too low - always use after heat.
  • Avocados are about 85% fat. They are high in omega-3 fatty acids as well as carotenoids, which are powerful and natural antioxidants.
  • Ghee (organic clarified butter) is made up of butyric acid as its primary fat, and the microbes in the gut make butyric acid. Add ghee to your soups and other dishes! And you could also try the very trendy bullet proof coffee: just whip your coffee in the blender with some organic coconut oil and ghee, and smooth out the stress of your day. Healthy essential oils help us to go the long distance and help soothe our frazzled nerves.
Third, focus on foods that are sweet, sour and salty.   
In addition to the sweet taste and properties of the root vegetables and squashes, the salty and sour tastes also help to calm any excess "vata" of the season. When temperatures drop, the cold aggravates our nervous systems, we become less able to handle stress, and we tend to experience more feelings of anxiety. Add to this the spaciness of travel and our constant addiction to our electronic devices, and we find it difficult to get re-balanced.   
To increase foods with sour and salty taste and properties, consider the following...   
Sour: Freshly squeezed lemon juice mixed with room temperature water drunk immediately upon rising (it's rejuvenating!) A tablespoon of fermented kimchi with a small plate of greens garnished with avocado accompanying a warm dinner soup. Feel free to enjoy more sauerkraut and other fermented foods this season - the lactic acid in these foods wards off bad bacteria. When you visit us, enjoy our Passiflora tempeh reuben with sauerkraut on sour dough flax bread. YUM!
Salty: Foods with a salty characteristic are warming and increase circulation. Plant-based examples of salty foods include kelp and all seaweeds, black beans, walnuts, chestnuts, and goji berries. Plus, of course, sea salt! Sea salt is rich in minerals, and balanced minerals are essential for many of our cellular functions.
Finally, enjoy Ginger Root - add it to salad dressings, to soups and stews, add to juices and smoothies, or boil a knob of fresh ginger in water to make a delightful tea: 
  • Ginger is great with any green tea or on its own. Ginger root is naturally warming and anti-inflammatory. 
  • Enjoy ginger root, fresh from the store, peel, chop and slow simmer, starting in cool water. Once the quantity of liquid is reduced in half, take off the burner and add a touch of raw honey and lemon. Refrigerate and re-warm to have a small serving before each meal.
And no matter what you eat, it is most important to RELAX while eating. Enjoy your food, savor each bite, eat with love and gratitude for the farmers, workers, and chefs that brought you your meal. This simple act can help you to feel loved and complete.
Staying Warm and Centered through Winter  
Moving beyond food, staying warm and oleating within our lifestyle practices helps us to stay present in winter and during the seasonal transition. What does this mean? More silence and less talk. More time for a soothing oil massage before the shower, and less rushing in the morning. Taking more time to breathe in and out now, before our garden soil calls to us. Life is about creating daily habits that serve us and ridding ourselves of those that don't. Winter will be gone soon enough, so use this time to embrace the natural seasonal activity of going inward so that you may spend time outward when the season changes to spring and summer.
A Simple Daily Breathing Exercise  
Remember to breathe deeply at least once a day to take yourself out of stress mode. To get rid of habits that may no longer serve you, do a number of rounds of a simple breath each day. Here is one of our favorites: inhale to the count of 5 seconds, pause for 5 seconds, and breathe out for 5 seconds on the exhale. While you do this hold your hands in front of your heart center with your fingertips touching. Breathe this way for as long as you feel comfortable. Enjoy.
Here is a recipe we love from a site we love!
Red Lentil and Squash Curry Stew
Yield: ~4 serving
  • 1 tsp Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp good quality curry powder (or more to taste)
  • 1 carton broth (4 cups) I used low-sodium
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 3 cups cooked butternut squash
  • 1 cup greens of choice
  • Fresh grated ginger, to taste (optional)
  • Kosher salt & black pepper, to taste (I used about 1/2 tsp salt)
1. In a large pot, add EVOO and chopped onion and minced garlic. Sautee for about 5 minutes over low-medium heat.
2. Stir in curry powder and cook another couple minutes. Add broth and lentils and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook for 10 minutes.
3. Stir in cooked butternut squash and greens of choice. Cook over medium heat for about 5-8 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and add some freshly grated ginger to taste.   
Karen Tyson is a certified herbalist, nutritionist and Ayurvedic lifestyle consultant.  
The menu at Passiflora offers local, organic food to keep us in balance with the seasonal changes in Connecticut.  
Stop in for breakfast, lunch or an early dinner - it is our goal to  ensure you leave feeling better than you did when you arrived!  

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