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Authors Posts by Nahid Ameen

Nahid Ameen

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Attitude – Gratitude – Food – Belief

If you have read my blog post on my opinion about vegetarianism and non-vegetarianism, than you know that I support any lifestyle you chose for your own health. However always have an open mind and keep your options open. If you label yourself as “vegan”, “raw” etc. (unless for religious or cultural reason) than when it is time that do you need something that doesn’t “fit” into the labelled category, you will give more priority to the label than your health. I follow Ayurvedic lifestyle because it was nearly what I grew up on. Healthy, fresh, delicious, supportive of sourcing food correctly and most importantly for a foodie like myself – it is so delicious!

What is the world’s best diet? What do I recommend?

What I like to share with my clients is to eat real, whole foods that are sustainably grown and supports the local economy but avoids genetic modification (GMO foods). Because when you “buy” food you are literally voting with your money to either support the farmers who care about our food and our health or an industry that provides us with cheap food like substances with minimum or zero nutritional value. Industrialized foods are grown in a way that is unsustainable and harmful. As far as I am concerned I stand for our health and the health of the earth.

One other thing I recommend is supporting the body’s natural cleansing and detoxing pathways by doing a cleanse, two to three times a year.

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Avoid the food scare:

In many regions, countries and cities people have followed various kinds of diet (and when I say diet, I mean their eating habit not what they didn’t eat!) depending on availability of foods, season, weather and religious reasons. The world was much simpler before with vegetarianism and non-vegetarianism. Now I see people follow a diet because they are scared of a certain type of food than concerned about their health and knowing what is suitable for them! This is because

  1. We see an increase in processed, packaged foods and boxed take outs filled with colours, additives, chemicals and processed oils.
  2. The introduction of seed modifications or GMO foods.
  3. Over farming of certain grains, legumes that caused a nutritional deficiency in the food and harmed the soil.
  4. An increase in diseases due to eating less variety (eating same foods more often).
  5. Increase in obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and high blood pressure.
  6. Price of organic foods at the specialty grocery stores affects their lifestyle.
  7. Being confused or not knowing the price/value of real, wholesome foods.
  8. Losing the interest is food preparation, cooking and sharing responsibility due to a much more mechanized life.
  9. Because it is easy and cheap to depend on others for your food.

If we leave it mostly on nature and just focus on preparing the food for better digestion I do not think there would be so many different types of lifestyle and dieting methods propping up.

It is more important to understand nature’s abundance (in variety of foods it has to offer) and how we can eat better and digest properly our foods, than learning another new way of eating.

#1 health promoting lifestyle

If you just think about what you enjoy eating (of course from wholesome, real food choices from nature), then learn how to prepare it in a best way for digestion and watch your portion keeping in mind if you have a sedentary lifestyle or a very active lifestyle, then most of your health problems will be solved.

I know this sounds extremely simple but maybe that is what we need to believe in. Solutions are really simple we just don’t sometimes care to apply it more regularly.

I promise you, whether you are a vegetarian or non-vegetarian if you focus on sourcing, preparing and balancing portion you will never need a doctor for chronic conditions created from food and lifestyle imbalances.

In my opinion, health = Sourcing sustainable real foods + preparing or cooking it for better digestion + understanding what is the portion size that is right for you.

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Why your attitude towards your choice should be relaxed?

Avoid preaching or judging or segregating each other due to lifestyle choices. I am vegan, I am raw, I am a vegetarian or I am a meat eater – so what? Does it mean if you have a parent, child, friend or family member who is not, you will not be near them anymore? When your behaviour towards a certain healthy lifestyle is stress-less and enjoyable the rest will follow. You don’t have to reject someone if you don’t understand their way of living. Imagine your body and mind will be free of “restrictions” and your set an example for others. They may decide to join you or not join you but you are no longer labelled! But free! This relaxed way of being will bring in the following benefits:

  1. You are no longer known as the “extremist” when it comes to food.
  2. You are no longer “trying” to change everyone around you. On the contrary people are following you.
  3. Your own practices towards healthy eating will give your even more energy and pleasure. This process will ensure a sustainable health for you.
  4. You can bring the most deliciously prepared healthy food and share with friends, family and neighbour, instead of avoiding the parties! YAY!

Learning about health is also a personal journey. Today you maybe a meat eater, tomorrow you may want switch to eating like a vegetarian because that is what gives you more satisfaction or stronger health or vice versa.

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You must be wondering what a contradiction from my last blog post? However you know that I am a fan of REAL food. Unprocessed, natural and health promoting. So here I go about real dairy…

According to Ayurveda milk from cow’s milk is pure or sattvic in nature and has medicinal value. Milk is sweet in taste and cooling for the body. Milk becomes heavy when boiled for a long period of time. However Ayurveda only recommends drinking warmed milk, therefore avoid drinking cold milk (mucus forming and not suitable for people with Kapha dosha imbalances) and over boiled milk.

Why do I still drink milk?

Well first of all I respect all lifestyle choices and diet that promotes health without being judgmental and opinionated. We are all free to make our own choices and this is my choice. So I do not apologize for it. I love adding milk to my tea or coffee.

However I do not consume commercial or non-organic milk that has been inundated with anti-biotics, hormones, corn and waste matters.  Although I am unable to find raw unpasteurized milk (wait isn’t that banned in Canada?) I drink organic and whole milk. Not those skim, 1% or 2% milk that has been fortified. Read my previous blog post to know the nasty truth about commercial milk. Oh yes! All that is true and I would rather drink Almond milk for the rest of my life than voting for commercial milk with my hard earned money!

Raw milk

What is RAW milk?

“Raw” means milk that has not been pasteurized and homogenized. Read my previous blog to understand why this is important. Small dairy farmers produce fresh milk that is not processed, injected with antibiotics or hormones and not fed corn and industrial by products. These farmers practices sustainable farming by raising their cows in the pasture, feeds them grass that are not showered with chemicals and treats them humanely. The milk from these cows is safe for consumption however they are not allowed to sell their milk unless pasteurized. As a matter of fact it is illegal to sell  raw milk in Canada.

Benefits of Unprocessed and Raw Milk:

According to all the Ayurvedic texts here are some benefits of raw milk. The only suggestion Ayurveda makes is drink warm milk or warm spiced milk.

  1. Milk is nectar or elixir for humans. The cow considered a holy animal in South East Asian countries, that converts vegetables and plants into nutritious milk.
  2. In these countries great emphasis is given to how the cows are treated, raised and what they are fed. These animals in the rural areas are treated as a pet.
  3. Ancient Indian medicine men placed great emphasis on milk as a healer. It provides all the ingredients needed for growth and development, vital force (ojas) and bestows longevity.
  4. Traditionally milk has been used in Indian subcontinent as a complete food for infants to six months of age. Even yogis, ascetics and aspirants on the spiritual path consume milk.
  5. Milk contains plenty of protein, vitamins and essential minerals. The amino acids and the minerals in the milk are necessary for the functioning of the brain and nervous system. Raw milk is rich in fat soluble vitamins such as A, D and K.
  6. Whole milk provides energy because of the high content of fat and protein. Our body accepts foods that are whole and natural more readily than processed.
  7. Whole milk would also contain enzymes that would easily break down the food in our body and supply nutrients.
  8. Raw milk contains an abundant number of beneficial bacteria or probiotics. These live probiotics support our immune system and our colon health.
  9. As one of the best known elixir, milk provides energy as soon as it goes down the throat. Milk strengthens our glands.
  10. According to Ayurveda milk is food that is readily converted into semen for men.
  11. It easily produces new blood, which quickens the healing process of the body.
  12. Milk is a diuretic; it cleans the kidneys and urinary tract by prompting urination.
  13. Milk also serves as a neutralizing agent for poisons and toxins.
  14. Water content of milk helps in the digestion of iron, iodine and other minerals. The phosphorus and iron in milk are good for blood and eyes.
  15. Milk has been used as a medium to transport medicinal herbs and spices in our body for better absorption.
  16. Yogurt, a milk derivative has long been the secret of the Hunza valley people.

How to find the right Raw Milk:

Make sure you know the farmer or you were about to visit the farm. If not make sure from other people it is indeed a reliable source. When you get to know the farmer or people raising the cow you can always speak to them to learn how they raise their cows in different seasons, what they feed their cows. Ask them if they test for pathogenic bacteria count regularly and if they chill the milk immediately after milking. Check the sanitation process and how the cows are kept in the barns. It has to be cleaned and so do the cows. Best way to figure out if the milk is suitable for you is to find out if the farmer and his family members drink the milk.

 

 

Please share this blog if you LIKE it. Wait for my next blog on how to combat dairy intolerance and indigestion from dairy. I will also be posting videos and recipes using organic milk. If you are in Canada find out about Michael Schmidt who is doing an amazing job raising cows and producing raw milk.

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When my mother was raising three of us (3 sisters) it must have been a crazy time for her, for we never had much in common other than food choices. I liked to read story books, whereas my immediate younger sister (Sania) was extremely nerdy and last sister was so young that I can only remember her loving to get attention from all of us. I loved going out with my friends, eating out, talking a LOT and mostly spending time out of home. Sania loved studying, hanging out with family, enjoying with our cousins and staying home to study. She loved getting dressed up and make up and I did not. Besides all the differences we had one thing in common between all three of us – food choices. I loved dahl (lentil soup) and so did they and I hated dairy and so did they.

Milk was forcefully induced upon us. We really did not like drinking it. We especially hated the fat laying round in our glass of milk. We would spoon it out and literally throw it aside. (I would not do this today!) And because we were growing children so my mother made us drink a glass of milk almost every day. Those days in Bangladesh dairy never came in a bottle or in a cartoon. We had our own dairy supplier, a milkman who came almost every morning to deliver fresh milk. Can you imagine? He owned his own cow and he would deliver fresh, raw and unpasteurized milk every day!

My mother started complaining that he (the milkman) would mix water in the milk to lighten it and increase the quantity so he could sell more. I say to my mother that we were extremely fortunate that he just added water. Today the dairy industry does not keep their animals clean, inject hormones and anti-biotics in their cows, pasteurize and homogenize the milk they sell in the market. The milkman we knew was so poor that he would not even think of going through so much trouble. And I can bet you – even if he was offered money for it – he would still feed grass to his cow not corn! That animal brought him bread and butter and he would not think of doing such a thing to his cow.

What is the problem with commercial milk?

  1. Rarely will you find milk from pasture raised cows. They are all kept in confinements with hundreds of other cows.
  2. Poor sanitation and cleaning of the animals.
  3. They are fed mostly grains and corns than green grasses. Most grains come from genetically modified seeds (GMOs).
  4. Often by products from industrial factories – animal parts, feces, blood, feather, junk food, candy and even plastic is mixed in their food.
  5. Due to poor husbandry practice they are induced with anti-biotic’s often.
  6. In the USA they are injected with synthetic hormones (rBGH) to make them fat. Sometimes they have a hard time standing on their own legs. This synthetic hormone Is a known carcinogen. These hormones results in an infection of the udder [Mammary gland] of these cows.
  7. Chemical additives preservatives and other enhancers are added to commercial milk when packaging the milk.
  8. Synthetic version of vitamins and minerals added to the milk.
  9. Fat-free, low fat, 1%, 2% or skim milk literally is stripped off of all nutrients naturally occurring in the milk. And then they add back small amounts of fat to make it 1% or 2%.
  10. All commercial milk in Canada is pasteurized. This process applies heat to the milk to kill bacteria’s or germs. However it destroys the enzymes in the milk The milk is then homogenized, which is a process of forcing milk through tiny holes at an extremely high pressure. This decreases the fat globules to such a small size that they are unable to clump back together. I will explain more about how these two processes hinders nutrient absorption, change in the fat and protein structure of the milk and leads to allergies, osteoporosis and intolerance.  As a consumer it is your right to know about the milk you are consuming.

Dairy

This inhumane treatment causes a shorter lifespan in comparison to cows that are pasture raised. The average lifespan of a cow is 42 months, compared with 10-12 years for a pastured cow. The cows that lived on a grass fed diet produced an average of 12 pounds of milk per day while lactating however today cow’s are producing up to 50 pound of milk per day – over a fourfold increase which is beyond the capacity of what the cow was naturally capable of producing.

So how are we surviving and not getting sick consuming milk from such factory raised animals? Considering the fact that these cows have been raised in unsanitary condition, unpasteurized milk from these factory farmed cows will be absolutely unsafe for human consumption. When industrialized dairy farmers ran into the trouble of producing unhealthy milk they adopted the pasteurization and homogenization process to kill the harmful bacteria and viruses. However even with pasteurization the cells are not cleaned but heated; therefore the milk will contain dead pus cells.  The force of homogenization destroys vitamins, minerals and enzyme from the milk.

Dairy commercial

Don’t get upset when you read all these information. Do your own research to find out what is really going on and why does Canadian government talk about us not having enough milk when most of us get our supply from eating pizza, chips, cookies, cheese, yogurt (Activia?), chapman’s ice cream, salad dressings and sour cream? Is milk the ONLY way to get calcium in our body? How about spinach, kale, almonds, sesame seeds? WHAT!! Yes they all contain generous amount of calcium.

So is milk all bad? Should be all go vegan? Or stop drinking milk? Is this the reason many of us are either allergic to dairy or have lactose intolerance? That is for you to find out. However read my next blog on benefits of milk, what do I prefer instead of commercial milk (hint hint: not just non-dairy options) and Ayurvedic perspective of drinking milk…

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I never oppose a certain way of eating or lifestyle. I am all for food, health and well-being of a person. Whether someone is following a vegetarian diet, non-vegetarian diet or they are vegan, raw, or paleo – I support and understand that it is a personal choice. We all have different experiences in life, with our health and we all have a different cultural/religious background. To begin with all of us grow up with palate that our parents introduce to us. Then some of us may deviate from it, explore new things and decide what will be our new palate or lifestyle when it comes to food. Or others remain the same – their usual palate is what they grew up on with some changes. Just like myself. Not that I don’t explore new things, eat more raw greens and superfoods but I still think what my mother fed us was more nutritionally sound and flavourful. Therefore most days both hubby and I stick to traditional Bengali food. And of course I very supportive of any lifestyle that promotes eating chocolates! We are all free to make our own choices.

Let’s look at why people may choose a certain lifestyle to promote their health. There is the endless debate on being a vegetarian is better than staying non-vegetarians.  I think it is important to understand both sides and accept their choices without being judgmental. Seriously people the world is already divided on so many levels we don’t need to add to it by being critical about a certain lifestyle.

Why someone may choose a certain lifestyle?

Here is a summary of what I hear from friends, family members and colleagues who are into healthy eating…

Vegan and vegetarian point of view:

  1. A person may have chosen to become vegan or vegetarian to support the environment, reduce their footprint in terms of wasting water and landscape.
  2. They chose this way of living for moral and spiritual reasons such as not wanting to hurt any animals.
  3. Many are vegetarians because of religious or cultural reason.
  4. Some maybe following a Yogic lifestyle. In terms of Ayurveda/Yoga an individual may choose to avoid meat because it is “Rajasic,” meaning meat creates increased passion or disturbance.
  5. Some people choses to become raw, vegan if they have experienced extreme health crisis or just because they simply wanted to.
  6. Individuals can also become dairy free for either lactose intolerance or dairy allergy from the protein of the commercially produces milk and milk products.
  7. Maybe there body cannot process too much animal protein and cause them digestive or other health issues.

When people have celiac disease or irritable bowel syndrome, their NDs or Nutritionist may recommend them to go gluten free or wheat free. You may combat this by doing a proper detox or an elimination diet and then reintroducing them back after healing your gut and learning how to properly source and prepare grains.  No matter what the reason is we all know a plant based diet or a diet high in plant based foods will supply us rewarding benefits because vegetables supply us with an array of phytonutrients, antioxidants, and chlorophyll and have an alkalizing effect in the body.

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Non-Vegetarian point of view:

Remember I am covering lifestyle choices based on health. Non-vegetarians who are healthy eaters consume fair amount of vegetables and fruits too. I am including people who are following Traditional Diet (Western Price & Nourishing Traditions outlook), GAPS diet, Paleo or Primal lifestyle or the very popular Mediterranean diet. They kept animal proteins in their diet because

  1. They want to maintain a healthy weight (popular high protein diet), correct their metabolism, and/or want to reduce grain intake for better skin.
  2. To balance their eating habit instead of being in a deprivation state (especially if they were meat eaters before and found it challenging to eat healthy in a vegetarian lifestyle to become healthy).
  3. To correct their energy level because meat based foods supply us with greater amount of B12 than vegetarian sources.
  4. To avoid processed, packaged junks that causes health issues because most processed foods are made with grains, flours, dairy, refined sugar, refined salt and hydrogenated oil.
  5. To be rid of any disease that can be eliminated with the help of this kind of lifestyle. Such as allergies, weight gain, ADD/ADHD etc. to name a few.
  6. To manage their intake of carbohydrate and protein ratio.
  7. They workout for long hours and do not know how to maintain a healthy diet being a vegetarian while working out.

Not in defense of the meat-eaters but just a common knowledge that it hurts plants and trees just as much when we pick vegetables, leaves, and flowers from them as it hurts an animal. With the exception of fruits. So if there is guilt in eating animal protein, there may also be guilt in eating herbs, plants etc. Trees too have life! They do feel pain but they are not vocal.

There are also other ways we kill living organisms such as washing our hands kills bacteria’s, driving and walking may kills insects, digging earth or farming (vegetables or animals) will kill worms. However it is a personal choice to be or not to be a meat eater.

I am not stating this to encourage everyone to become non-vegetarian but I am trying state that it is indeed an individual choice. Find out what really works for you rather than jumping on a bandwagon with either lifestyle. If you are a vegetarian since birth or for religious reason than I am pretty sure you know what you are doing. If you still are challenged eating healthy than consult someone professional to upgrade or modify your meal plans.

Remember people may choose a certain diet or lifestyle for a number of reasons. It doesn’t matter why – we should show respect as long as it is promoting health. When you chose your own way and succeed by eating whole and real food, I promise you others who are into process, packaged foods will follow because in their case it is just lack of education, not because they couldn’t make up their mind on a healthy lifestyle.

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The similarities in these lifestyles:

I know people who become vegetarian for health reasons. I also know a few colleagues who were vegan and now they follow 80/20 rule for eating vegetables and meat. I have also known friends who ditched low carb but started watching their portion size due to the fact that they live a sedentary lifestyle. I know author, researchers in health field who promotes fermented foods, ketogenic diets and dairy free lifestyle. No matter what you chose to follow vegan, vegetarianism, paleo, primal, grain-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, wheat-free, egg-free – first and foremost get to know what you prefer, what promotes your health and what is necessary for your body type. Here are some interesting similarities between these lifestyles:

  1. They all promote health and well-being.
  2. They all educate us on healthy living and creating a disease free life.
  3. All these lifestyles essentially talks about supporting real, wholesome foods.
  4. They encourage eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens.
  5. They also encourage healthy fats whether it is derived from vegetarian or non-vegetarian sources. Such as nuts, seeds, unprocessed oils, butter, ghee, animal fats from organic or free range animals.
  6. I am more than 100% sure they all tell us to drink water.

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Ayurvedic Understanding of Lauki 

Dosha: VP (K when juiced)

Taste:  Bitter & Slightly Astringent

Quality: Dry and Light

Potency: Cooling

Post Digestive: Bitter 

Parts Used: Vegetable, Flower, Leaf and Roots

I am writing in details about how and when to eat the vegetable and mostly the benefits of the vegetable. However the if you are fortunate to find the plant – the leaf can be used to clear skin infections and the flower is extremely beneficial for the female reproductive organs. The root is highly effective for kidney stones, prostate health and as a diuretic.

Vitamins and Minerals:  Vitamin C, Thiamin, Niacin (vitamin B-3), Pantothenic acid (vitamin B-5), Pyridoxine (vitamin B-6) and small amounts of Folates. It also contains minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, potassium, sodium, manganese and magnesium

How to Eat?: 

Lauki or Lau (in Bangladesh) or Bottle Gourd is mostly available in tropical countries. If you live in the West like me you can only purchase Lauki from Indian or Desi grocery stores. Best to make soup, light curry, raita, bhaji (stir fry), achar (pickle), or kofta (vegetable balls) using lauki. I have seen people making South East Asian desserts such as halva and khir. Lauki juice can be taken if you are a Kapha dosha predominant. Drink 200 ml (or 1 cup) lauki juice between 12-3 PM. I love making Lauki kofta and my mother cooks lauki curry with potatoes and tomatoes. When making raita you must precook the lauki.

Do not eat with other bitter vegetables such as bitter gourd. rapini or other bitter leafy greens. 

Kapha individuals when juicing lauki can add parsley or cilantro or celery (for Kidney Cleanse), add Tulsi or Holy Basil or mint leaves (for heart health), ginger or turmeric (raw, very small amount for detoxing effect as well as digestive and respiratory health) or a fresh pear apple, peach or apricot. Do not add salt to lauki juice as it naturally contains sodium. Do not consume more than 200 ml at a time. 

Lauki or Bottle Gourd and Dosha:

Lauki or Bottle Gourd or Calabash has been used in South East Asian countries as a weight loss tonic as well as in skin care regime. A highly prized vegetable in Ayurvedic medicine as it increases ojas (immunity) and nourishes Vata and Pitta dosha. 

Vata and Pitta must consume cooked lauki or bottle gourd. If you are kapha then use thermogenic spices like ginger, cayenne or drink the lauki or bottle gourd juice for weight loss.

About bottle gourd/lau/lauki:

This South Asian squash is indeed bottle shaped, light green and long. The flesh inside is spongy and you can also cut it into small pieces and make a curry out of it. Bottle gourd or lauki is over 90% water therefore it is easy to digest. Due to its sodium content it is best to eat before sunset otherwise instead of the beneficial diuretic effect it will promote water retention. Best time to eat Lauki in noon for lunch.

Health Conditions it Can Improve: Jaundice (leaf juice), Diabetes, Obesity, Constipation, Acidity, Skin Condition, Stops Premature Aging, Swelling (if taken at noon), Insect Bites (leaf) and Anemia (Iron). It also combats Parasites or Intestinal Worms, Insomnia, Depression, Improve Memory, Cold/Cough/Sinus, Asthma, Fever, Colic Pain and Ulcer.

Women suffering from reproductive issues such as PMS, PCOS, water retention, Hype or Hyper thyroid, Leukorrhea and Infertility (female egg), can also take this vegetable and the flower of the plant. Again best taken during lunch. Avoid after pregnancy as in pregnancy the chances of water retention is high.

Ayurvedic health benefits of bottle gourd/lau/ lauki:

  1. Ayurveda recommends cooked lauki or bottle gourd for better digestion. It is cooling, calming, diuretic and anti-bilious (reduces bile and stops indigestion). The B vitamins assist in increasing the body’s metabolic rate to better digest fats, proteins, sugar and carbohydrate.
  2. Like cranberries, bottle gourd or lauki supports the kidneys and the urinary system of our body by reducing burning sensation from high acidic urination. It also reduces the chances of urinary infection because it is alkalizing and has a diuretic effect. Consume if you have high creatine and uric acid.
  3. A nutritious vegetable for the female reproductive system. 
  4. It is extremely popular for weight loss. Especially the bottle gourd or lauki juice when taken at noon.
  5. Bottle gourd is extremely popular for reducing high blood pressure and bad cholesterol in some people. However when taking cardiac medications or when the cardiac condition is severe do NOT take lauki as it can create more pressure on the cardiac muscles.
  6. Lauki or bottle gourd is known to combat excessive thirst in diabetic patients. However do not take if lauki is too bitter or with other bitter herbs. 
  7. The fiber and the minerals in the bottle gourd or lauki supports healthy digestion and combats flatulence (by killing intestinal parasites), constipation, colic pain and ulcer.
  8. In Ayurveda it is also know to prevent premature greying and improve hair growth. It will NOT change the grey hair to black but will stop more greying as it contain B vitamins and has a cooling effect on the scalp. Grate and apply with yogurt or apply cider vinegar. You can mix my Healthy Hair Mask in yogurt and add lauki in it.
  9. The Vitamin C and Zinc in lauki prevent pre mature aging and wrinkles as well. Lauki juice can be applied externally for skin care uses such as pimple, acne, dark circle, puffy eyes etc. .
  10. Bottle gourd is recommended by Ayurvedic doctors for reducing liver inflammation.

Note: Due to the fact that lauki is cooling – many think that it cannot reduce respiratory condition. However Lau or Lauki juice taken with ginger or black pepper can help with respiratory health but only if taken before sunset or by 3 pm. 

Learn how to make Lauki Kofta!

Have you ever cooked with bottle gourd. If not does this blog post inspire you? Post a comment below.

Question of the day: Which of these benefits is useful to you?

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Call it lau, lauki, doodhi or bottle gourd this nutrient rich vegetable gets a lot of attention in Ayurveda. It’s more or less neutral taste makes it unique because you can use it in many recipes. And I will be sharing the best recipe of all with you today – bottle gourd kofta! Kofta is generally a Middle Eastern or South Asian dish made with minced meat and spices. They are often shaped into small balls and then spiced in gravy. I am taking the same concept only changing the meat into bottle gourd or lauki. And I promise you it is indeed tasty. Surprise your guests or family members by making this dish for a main meal. Even for a vegetarian this will be a pleasant surprise. You will find bottle gourd at any Indian or South Asian and Chinese groceries around your area. It is also known as fuzzy squash in Canada.

Lauki Kofta Curry Recipe:

Lauki

Quick tips for making extra or preparing it faster:

  1. Use the garam masala recipe from my previous blog posts. I tried using store bought and it doesn’t taste the same!
  2. Get 2-3 bottle gourds, peel and cut them into small pieces and freeze them for easy cooking next time.
  3. Make extra kofta’s, fry them, let them cool and freeze them. Next time you cook, all you have to do it make the gravy or enjoy the kofta’s with sauce or salad.

Read this blog to learn about the benefits of bottle gourd or lauki in Ayurveda.

Did you like this recipe? For more recipes sign up for my newsletter or leave a comment below if you have any suggestions.

Lauki Kofta Curry Recipe
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For the koftas
  1. • 1 medium size bottle gourd (yields up to 2 cups)
  2. • 3 tbsp. of chickpea flour (also known as besan)
  3. • 1 tsp. of garam masala powder
  4. • ¼ tsp. of cumin powder
  5. • A pinch of turmeric
  6. • 1 green chili, thinly chopped
  7. • 2 tbsp. of coriander leaves, finely chopped
  8. • Salt and white pepper
  9. • Coconut oil for frying
For the gravy
  1. • 1 medium sized red onion
  2. • 1 large tomatoes
  3. • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  4. • ¼ cup of raw cashews, soaked
  5. • ¼ tsp. of garam masala
  6. • ½ tsp. of cumin powder
  7. • ½ tsp. of coriander powder
  8. • ¼ tsp. of turmeric powder
  9. • ¼ tsp. of cayenne powder
  10. • 5-6 curry leaves
  11. • 1 cup of bottle gourd juice
  12. • 2 tbsp. of coconut oil
  13. • Sea salt to taste
Instructions
  1. 1. Rinse and peel the lauki or bottle gourd using a peeler.
  2. 2. Cut it into half and spoon out the seeds as much as you can.
  3. 3. Cut lauki or bottle gourd into smaller pieces so that it is easy for grating.
  4. 4. Use a grater to grate lauki or bottle gourd. No need to fine grate with the smaller holes but the other side of the grater (bigger holes) is fine.
  5. 5. Use a nut milk bag inside a bowl and put all the grated lauki or bottle gourd in the bag.
  6. 6. Squeeze the juice out of the lauki or bottle gourd gently and leave it hanging is possible.
  7. 7. Do not throw away the water as we can use it for the gravy.
  8. 8. Transfer the grated bottle gourd in another bowl and add rest of the ingredients for the kofta.
  9. 9. The chickpea flour or besan will work as a binding agent to make the lauki balls.
  10. 10. Form the balls and keep them aside.
  11. 11. In a small pan add coconut oil so it is half way covered.
  12. 12. After the oil is hot add the lauki or bottle gourd kofta’s and fry.
  13. 13. Use a tong to turn the kofta’s after 5-6 minutes.
  14. 14. Regular deep frying will required more oil but since the kofta’s are well bind I just use a small pan and fill half way with oil.
  15. 15. Once both sides are fried into golden brown, put the kofta’s on a paper towel that can soak excess oil.
For the gravy and completing the curry
  1. 1. Peel onions and roughly cut in big sizes.
  2. 2. Peel garlic and wash the tomatoes.
  3. 3. Rinse and dry the cashews.
  4. 4. Put onion, tomato, garlic and cashew in a food processor and chop until fine.
  5. 5. In a pan heat coconut oil and add the onion paste.
  6. 6. Add all the powdered spices and the curry leaves.
  7. 7. Pour in the bottle gourd or lauki juice and cover for 7-8 minutes until the gravy is cooked.
  8. 8. Add in the salt and lastly gentle add the koftas.
  9. 9. Cook for another 2-3 minutes and your delectable bottle gourd kofta is ready!
  10. I know it looks like a lot of steps. However I tend to write down even the small details for people who are cooking this dish or any South Asian dish for the first time. Once you do it, you will understand how easy and simple it is. I sometimes make it watching TV or listening to an audio book.
Conscious Health https://conscioushealth.net/

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I just LOVE dry skin brushing! Although I am unsure if there are any scientific research done of dry skin brushing however if I did not feel the difference then I wouldn’t be doing this every time before showering! And if you haven’t tried this as yet – let me tell you that you are missing out on the pleasure most definitely! It is amazing.

Why do dry skin brushing?

The skin is our largest organ in the body that eliminates toxins as well. Supporting this elimination process by dry skin brushing would be optimal for health and well-being.Dry skin

  1. Dry skin brushing is known to stimulate the lymphatic system of our body. The lymph vessels collect the waste materials from the skin. They are essentially little valves that are spread throughout the skin. When we dry brush our skin it helps move lymph fluid and allows it to eliminate toxins.
  2. Dry skin brushing also loosens the dead cells therefore it is amazing for cell renewal.
  3. Brushing will gently remove the dried, dead skin and other debris on the surface of the skin.
  4. On a regular basis our skin is able to eliminate more than one pound of waste. If the skin has closed pores it will be clogged with millions of dead cells and these toxins can cause various skin conditions. However skin brushing helps to reduce this build up by opening up the skin pores.
  5. It also improves circulation and blood flow in the body.
  6. Not only dry skin brushing has an effect on our circulatory system but it also rejuvenates our nervous system.
  7. According to Nadine Artemis (Living libation) oxygen ion levels are increased with air friction. This air friction is created during dry skin brushing.
  8. Skin brushing is also known to stimulate the acupressure point and massages the meridians.
  9. Dry skin brushing also makes the skin soft, tight, radiant and boosts elasticity. You will notice the new glow on your skin!
  10. Overtime it will help to reduce cellulite if you also take care of your diet and add omega 3.
  11. Dry skin brushing exfoliates the skin and strengthens the immune system.

Which areas to focus on when brushing?

  1. Give extra attention to knees, elbows and ankles when you start brushing.
  2. Consider getting a brush for the face and neck area that will gently and effectively remove dead skin and invigorate the skin.
  3. Buy a brush that will also be gentle to use on your breast and areas near  it.
  4. Of course you should be brushing the whole body.

Best time to brush and how oftenIMG_2861

I love to brush in the morning before shower or bath. Ideally if you can do this every day you are literally supporting the body’s natural detoxification system.

How to brush?

First thing make sure both your skin and the brush remains dry during this process.

I simple apply the same method I use to Ayurvedic oil massage. Starting from the feet and working my way upwards. I do smaller and circular motion for ankles, knees, elbow and longer strokes on long bone areas such as arms and legs. When I am brushing my arms, I brush gently towards the chest and on the stomach area brush counter clockwise. Don’t brush too hard that it would irritate the skin. I also use essential oils to stimulate the lymph system.

Have you ever tried dry skin brushing? If you have tell us what benefits you encountered? If not did this blog motivate you to do dry skin brushing? Leave a comment below!

Where to buy the brush?

I am providing two links to purchase the brush from either Amazon Canada or Amazon USA. The right brush is crucial for detoxing. The brush that I use and am recommending does not irritate the skin and leaves your skin soft. So try the brush below and leave a comment to let me know how it went for you!

To Buy from Amazon.com click below:

Amazon com

 To buy from Amazon.ca click below

 Amazon.ca

Aphrodisiac Superfood Elixir

Serving: 2

Ingredients: 

1 cup of cream (substitute with coconut milk)

1 cup of filtered water

1 ripe avocadoIMG_2819

1 tsp. of raw cacao powder

1/4 cup of goji berries

3 tsp. of maca powder

2 tsp. of vanilla bean

1 tsp. of fresh bee pollen

1 tbsp. of coconut oil

A pinch of nutmeg

1/4 tsp. of yogi tea

4-5 strands of saffron

A pinch of salt

1-2 tsp. of raw honeysaffron

Directions:

1. In a cup soak the saffron strands in the cream for 10 minutes.

2. Soak the goji berries in a small bowl or cup to rehydrate them. (10-15 minutes)

3. Add all the ingredients in a vitamix or nutri bullet and blend until smooth and  creamy.

Little about the ingredients:

Avocado: High in Vitamin E that assists in increasing testosterone hormone. Testosterone stimulates sexual responses.

Cacao: Cacao stimulates the reproductive organ of women. It also contains a chemical called phenylethylamine that helps produce the “feel good” hormones in our body.IMG_2815

Goji berries: In Asia these berries are used as a sexual tonic. They improve stamina, mood and well being. It also increases testosterone production.

Maca: Peru’s natural Viagra and a legendary sex enhancing root. It is an aphrodisiac for both men and women.

Bee pollen: Amazing hormone booster for both men and women. In addition it stimulates ovarian functions.

Vanilla: One of the best aphrodisiac for men. It elevates mood and stimulates the sexual hormones.

Saffron: Amazing for the reproductive organ and used for sexual debility. It increases blood circulation and is a mood booster.

Honey: Honey mixed with nutmeg heightens orgasm.

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Nature’s free gift of food…wild foods or wild edibles known for nutritional, medicinal and environmental benefits.

In today’s blog I will discuss tips on food foraging, benefits of wild foods, top wild foods to forage, safety and environmental benefits of wild food foraging.

It all started with my passion and curious for nutrition and herbal medicine, I fell in love with the idea that you can walk in a park, farm lands, oceans and wilderness, identify edible plants from everything around you and eat them! Sounds very simple however it is an art! And once you start identifying the plants you will want to learn more! You fall in love and identifying plants becomes your obsession! In wild foraging you can find berries, bitter leafy greens, sea vegetables, nuts, mushrooms, flowers, salt and spring water. You can find foods that have all six tastes that Ayurveda talks about such as sweet, salty, bitter, pungent (spicy), sour and astringent (drying).

We are all depended on agriculture for majority of our foods but it is more fun being self-sufficient and unlocking the secrets of the nature around us. Food is provided for us in abundance and it is time we value that and take advantage. When you learn about wild food foraging, sprouting and harvesting your own spring water you will know that “hunger” is caused by either lack of knowledge or due to the fact that people are in a place where maybe nature is not supplying resources due to some natural calamities. Well you may want to consider political agenda behind hunger too! Isn’t that the reason GMO seeds were created? Plants, seeds, herbs and spices are being patented?

Ah! let’s keep that for another blog and focus on how to start this natural adventure. This is specially handy for those who loves camping, walking in the wild and eating for energy!

Before you start foraging, learn how to identify plants:

The most important thing to do if you are curious about wild foraging is making sure you learn how to identify the edible from the Horsetailmix. My first experience with foraging was with my herbal teacher Susan Elliotson, who owns a beautiful property in Caledon, Ontario. She has all sorts of medicinal herbs and wild foods growing in her garden. I literally felt like Alice in wonderland! She showed us various plants and how we can use them. We can make teas, pesto, sandwiches, salads, sauces, fritters and herbal medicine using these plants.

Identifying plants before gathering is extremely crucial. You can find out if you have a group of people who go for wild foraging in your area using meetup.com or get a herbal plant book from your local library to identify plants growing near you. There are many plants that look-alike and you must be sure it is the one you are looking for before consuming, Going for a herb walk or foraging with a group of people couple of times will help assist with local edible plant identification. You will also learn which part of the plant is edible.

When you are ready to go deeper, then you can start foraging more often which in turn will give you an edge to understand these plants in their various growing stages.

Safety and general rules of foraging:

Once you learn how to identify plants the next step would be to gather them for consumption. Therefore you need to be respectful, honor the plants that are rare, and make sure you are not picking all of the edible of a certain species around that area (that way the plant can reproduce and stay alive in that ecosystem). Be considerate that there could be others who are foraging too. When you read books or walk with an expert ask them what would be the correct phase to harvest a plant? This will ensure that you are not gathering the plant’s leaves, flower or root in the delicate phase of its lifecycle. For example gathering leaves, flower and fruits during the summer is best and roots during fall.

Also be aware of safety. There are a few plants that are poisonous enough to kill you, some may cause allergic reaction and other dermatitis. Make sure you learn to identify these plants so that you never gather them.

You also need to make sure you are not harvesting from an area where air or water pollution is high or any kind of chemical pesticides where sprayed.

I also want to caution you to not to forage for commercial purpose. Depending on the area you live it may cause legal problem. Always make sure that you ask for permission before foraging anywhere.

What to do after gathering wild edibles:Golden Rod

Learn about the steps after gathering wild edibles. Here are some ideas:

  1. Rinse or soak the plant (leaves and roots) in cool water. Make sure all the dirt from the land is washed away. We did this after collecting dandelion roots. Lots of dirt.
  2. At Susan’s place we used screens and clothes to dry the dandelion leaves and hung the Melissa branches upside down to dry the leaves. Some of my friends use food dehydrator to dry leaves.
  3. If you are collecting mushrooms, specially tree mushrooms then the process of drying and roasting is a bit more complicated. Educate yourself before harvesting mushrooms.
  4. If you are collecting flowers pick through the dirt and give them a quick rinse. We used St. John’s Wort to make medicinal oil and calendula to make a salve. You can also add them in your salad bowl!
  5. Berries and seeds can be stored these for long term usage. Wash, dry and store in a glass jar if you are collecting seeds and wash, dry and freeze if you collected berries.

Benefits of wild edible foraging:

  1. They are available all around you however you need to learn how to identify them and where you pick them from.
  2. They are absolutely free. Just be respectful of the plant and other foragers before harvesting.
  3. You will be amazed and pleasantly surprised when you discover the nutritional content of these plants.
  4. They are extra healthy and fresh because you are picking them in season. Imagine the energetics of the plants when they are picked and consumed fresh – lots of enzymes and chlorophyll!
  5. Most of these plants contain other medicinal properties that can heal you from various ailments. As you learn more and more you will discover from various books, friends or the people in your group who are foraging with you which plants have what benefits.
  6. In any given survival scenario you are a smart and intelligent survivor who would reap the benefits from these plants.
  7. In addition to having the benefit of walking in the nature you are also getting fresh air, sunlight and exercise! Can this really get any better?
  8. You can reduce your carbon footprint and be a conscious person. These plants will not require transporting them in large vehicles, big storage facility and packaging.
  9. You save money and get more nutrition from these foods than the foods in your grocery stores!
  10. You don’t need to worry about food being organic as long as they are wild. Only thing you may want to consider is nothing was sprayed on these plants, i.e. no pesticides, herbicide or chemical fertilizer.

Top wild edibles near GTA (Greater Toronto Area):

I am not sure if these are statistically the most popular or not. However on my walks these are the most common ones I have seen

  1. DandelionIMG_2313
  2. Burdock
  3. Red clover
  4. Plantain
  5. Garlic mustard
  6. Chamomile
  7. Chickweed
  8. Chicory
  9. Yarrow
  10. Golden rod

As a nutritionist as far as I can tell – all of them are packed with nutritional and medicinal values.

I highly encourage you to become curious, explore and enjoy great tasting recipes made out of these plants. Remember if you don’t want to be dependent on pharmaceuticals then you don’t want to depend of health food stores either. I truly believe with a little bit of time, planning and learning, you can make food your medicine!

 

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Aromatic, appetizing and healing – when it comes to Ayurvedic cooking I am on a personal journey of self-discovery! You may want to understand that Ayurvedic Cooking is not just Indian cooking, although spices, herbs that are used are mostly from that part of the world however it is the knowledge applied that makes it unique and wonderful.  Ayurveda teaches you how to speak with the ingredients and therefore no matter which part of the world  you are in, by tasting, looking at the colours, shapes, sizes and the texture of the food, you can easily learn how to make a meal that is Ayurvedic.

Ayurvedic cooking is also called “annayoga” because Ayurveda believes that the act of cooking and eating is a way to protect our lives and support the ‘prana’ or lifeforce.  It teaches us methods to improve our lives by practicing lifestyle and food habits that improves our physical and mental wellbeing. Ayurvedic cooking does not present us with a rule book but provides us with a guideline to understand nature and self. Recipes for Ayurvedic cooking depend on the person, climatic conditions of the region, body type and health condition of the person. It sounds complicated at the beginning, however once you learn the basic principles you will understand they are all “common sense” cooking. I become fascinated with Ayurveda with every passing day as it reveals to me secrets or ideas that are not seen with vision only but experienced with all the five senses and sometimes the sixth one.

12 benefits of Ayurvedic Cooking:

Why cook using Ayurvedic guideline?

  1. Digestion: Ayurveda teaches us to prepare food keeping in mind that “we are what we eat and digest.’ Ayurvedic principles make food easy to digest and assimilate in the body for maximum nutrient absorption. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  2. Food combining: Ayurveda teaches us proper food combining and which foods are incompatible when eaten together and why. For example mixing milk and sour fruits is not ideal for digestion. Therefore this combination is better avoided for our health.
  3. Seasonal eating: Ayurveda encourages seasonal eating. When the food is fresh and locally harvested their flavours are intact and nutrients are optimum.
  4. Spice love: Spices and herbs have as much medicinal value as they have culinary. Ayurveda teaches us how to use these spices intelligently to balance the dosha’s, improve digestion, nutrient absorption, hormonal balance, improve circulation and many more benefits derived from the spices and herbs.
  5. Eating as per body requirement: We have variable needs for nutrients in the body at different stages in life, such as during illness, pregnancy, playing sports, aging and mental stress. Ayurveda recommends foods according to the current condition you may be experiencing.
  6. Dosha: Every individual is unique and they need different foods to maintain mind-body-spirit balance. Ayurveda will teach you how to balance the different dosha’s in your body through food and lifestyle changes. This is unique way of looking at food helps to bring balance in both physical and mental health.
  7. Nutrition and flavour: No other cooking system provides us with recipes, techniques and knowledge that would combine nutrition and flavour in such away as Ayurveda. It is amazing and you must try it. One of clients commented after having a spoonful of rice, “this is the most flavourful meal I have ever had in my life!”
  8. Enzymes and metabolic process: Eating to balance your dosha will support the “agni’ or the enzymes and metabolic processes in the body. Ayurvedic cooking also teaches you which time of the day your ‘agni’ is strongest and what to eat at every meal.
  9. Lose the label: Ayurvedic cooking promotes home cooked meals using freshest, unmodified, whole and real foods. It does not impose on being vegan, vegetarian or non-vegetarian. It looks at the body and the situation and guides you back to eating what is good for you. It embraces all types of foods vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, seeds, fats, meat and spices to teach you how to use them to your benefit.
  10. Six tastes: Ayurveda teaches you all about the six tastes and how to employ these tastes to balance your dosha’s.
  11. Cures: In addition to making flavourful meals for the entire family, Ayurveda reveals the secret in every food and tells us how we can use food to make remedies for various ailments. For example: how to rekindle digestive fire, how to get rid of menstrual cramps, how to boost the immune system, what spice to use for burns and cuts and what teas to make for cold and flu.
  12.  Carrier foods: In addition Ayurvedic cooking identifies the foods that can be used as a carrier to supply medicine (herbal of course) in your body. Such foods are ghee (butter oil), honey and milk.

I also think Ayurvedic cooking encourages “workout sessions” because it promotes using your hands as a tool or utensil for grinding spices, processing grains to make flour, blend buttermilk to make lassi and kneading dough for your bread. In today’s day so many of these can be achieved using grinder, blender and baking mixers. The reason why Ayurvedic cooking encourages your own hands in cooking is because you put your own energy and love in the cooking. There are some people who can always tell apart their mother’s cooking from anyone else’s because mother’s cook with so much love for their children that they can taste the difference and recognize it immediately.

IMG_4412

Lastly it is extremely important to appreciate the food and the cook before eating. In almost all religion there is a small prayer before eating. When you consume food with family, friend or by yourself make sure there are no distractions and that you are in a relaxed state of mind.

According to Ayurvedic cooking it is not just about delicious food rather this way of cooking is the secret for continuous good health and longevity. Ayurvedic cooking means sourcing and preparing food in a way that ensures optimal health of the mind, body and spirit. Of course the food also needs to be delicious that will please the mind and spirit. Ayurveda often speaks about Sattvic food. I will elaborate more about Sattvic foods in the future.

For those who are interested I have created a 12 week online Ayurvedic Cooking program called, 

Ayurvedic Cooking and Nutrition Program for Optimal Health

The “Ayurvedic Cooking and Nutrition Program for Optimal Health” is created for you so that you can learn how to effectively cook using:

  • Ayurvedic philosophies
  • Traditional and holistic cooking techniques
  • Nutritional information

We have put together a Complete course of Ayurveda and Ayurvedic Cooking. 

Learn more about the program when you watch this video

Ayurvedic Cooking and Nutrition Program for Optimal Health is a 12 week online course that you will have a lifetime access to. Please note that I will be raising the price for this program soon. So take advantage while its still at a good price. 

Check out the Course or Program Outline by clicking here. I have broken down all the modules here for you.

Ayurvedic Cooking and Nutrition Program for Optimal Health IS IDEAL FOR YOU, IF…..

  • If you are looking for a PERMANENT solution to correct chronic health conditions that can be healed through proper diet.
  • If you want to reduce digestive disorders, increase energy and reduce stress by eating holistically prepared meals. Learn how to heal your gut, free yourself of food intolerances and enjoy the foods that you really love.
  • If you are looking for a boost or add on to your Ayurveda, Yoga, Nutrition or other holistic healing practice.
  • If you appreciate a holistic approach towards health instead of symptomatic relief.
  • If you are a ‘foodie’ who refuses to compromise flavor and wants to enjoy wholesome foods every day using spices and herbs.
  • If you want to extract maximum nutrients from the food you eat.
  • You want to learn about cooking techniques, recipes and nutrition at your own pace from the comfort of your home, using your laptop, tablet or phone!
  • If you want to have access to a group for Q & A and troubleshooting in your kitchen.

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Note: Price increase occurs every year.

  • Online classes learned from the comfort of your own home. Mobile, laptop and tablet friendly.
  • A complete Ayurvedic Cooking and Nutrition program including videos, recipe handouts and lectures with LIFETIME ACCESS.
  • A 12 week self-paced course. Learn how to improve your health in as little as 2 hours a week.
  • Exclusive content on Ayurvedic cooking, holistic recipes and new research findings on Nutrition and Health.
  • Email notifications for new updates.
  • Ideas on Meal Planning for all three doshas – Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
  • Online Support through Facebook and email.
  • 40 plus videos tutorials and 50 printable recipes
  • Focus on sourcing and preparing food holistically for better digestion and nutrient absorption.

For more information Contact:

Nahid Ameen 

info@conscioushealth.net

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