The Sri Aurobindo Ayurvedic Health Center is right next door to Shelter, and offers weekly classes by the Ayurvedic doctor in residence, Dr. Nivay. Last week Leonie and I decided to check it out. Dr. Nivay was a very nice man who is learning French and laughed at his own jokes. Here is what we learned:
First of all, doctors do not cure diseases, our body’s life force does. Health care in India (and the US) is all about building shiny new hospitals and medical centers. Modern doctors study the biology of the body, disease and medicine. But what they don’t study is how our diet and lifestyle affect our overall long-term health. When you go to the doctor, does she ask about what you eat, or give you a recommended diet along with your prescription drugs? Probably not.
There are four pillars in Ayurvedic health: a natural diet, a lifestyle with good sleep and exercise routines, detoxification or inner cleaning, and stress management, as our physical body is intricately connected to our vital and psychic health.
This month’s theme was ‘Foods that Cure.” We learned a lot about how to prepare and eat food to maximize its benefits. Here are a few tips:
- It is important not to overcook your food, as heat destroys the vitamins. When cooking vegetables do not cook them to mush, but only enough to take the raw edge off. They will taste better and last longer in the fridge too.
- Vegetables should be eaten with the peels on as much as possible, as under the peel are where the vitamins are (this is why eating organic, natural produce is so crucial.)
- Add salt after you cook your food, you will need to use much less. Although our body needs some salt to survive, salt is not a digestible or conscious mineral. Green veggies like chard, for example, have a lot of natural salt in them.
- Fruit and salad should be eaten on an empty stomach for maximum absorption of vitamins.
- When making tea, add the milk after you boil the water and tea leaves together. This preserves the natural vitamins and minerals in the milk. Milk also has good bacteria that help your digestive system, if you boil it too much you kill the good germs along with the bad.
- Try to eat less refined sugar, as it is 3 or 4 steps removed from its original form of cane sugar. Jaggery (boiled sugar cane juice), honey, agave syrup, are all natural sugars that are better metabolized. Sugar is not bad, but as Dr. Nivay says, “why not go for the better alternative?”
- Drink water 30 minutes before you eat or 60 minutes after. The purpose of water is to cleanse your system. If you chug water after a meal, you will wash away your body’s natural enzymes that help digest your food.
Controversial: Meat or no meat?
- Dr. Nivay argues that humans have evolved to be vegetarians, as we have similar teeth to other herbivore mammals. His other hen animals are killed, their muscles become filled with the poison of anxiety and fear. These toxins get ingested when we consume meat.
- I would argue that humans have eye teeth and canines to eat meat as well, but I think it makes sense that humans would have evolved to eat both. This makes us more adaptable to diets across varied climates and availability of plants and/or animals.