Thanksgiving is a great time to share Ayurvedic health tips with others. Studies continue to suggest that healthy digestion (Ayurveda refers to digestion as “agni,” literally meaning “fire”) is the bodies natural defense against disease, as it burns away and cleanses the body of accumulated toxins. By incorporating simple Ayurvedic foods & cooking techniques this holiday, we can teach our loved ones how to not only improve digestion, but also balance the three doshas, heal minor health complaints, & boost immunity.
Ayurvedic nutrition emphasizes the use of many culinary herbs & spices; this is especially important during Thanksgiving, when we tend to over-eat. Spicing food greatly aids in the digestive process, speeds up metabolism & reduces post meal gas & bloating.
Jule’s Thanksgiving Digestive Tips:
- Drinking CCF tea at least 30 minutes before the meal. (dry toast equal parts cumin, coriander & fennel seed, add to boiled water. Let sit for 10 minutes, strain before drinking)
- Add cumin & pepper to mashed potatoes
- Mince up fresh ginger & turmeric root; add to veggie dishes- especially casseroles or stews
- Use cardamom, clove, nutmeg & cinnamon in pumpkin pie, desserts or sweet potato/yam dishes. (these medicinal spices also help ward off winter colds & flus)
- Use ghee instead of butter
- Toast fennel seeds in coconut oil; sprinkle on top of the meal OR chew 1 tbs after eating (this helps reduce gas, bloating & enhances digestion) Kid tip: mix fennel seeds with sprinkles, serve after the meal or in between meal snack to stimulate the agni.
Incorporate all 6 Tastes
Ayurveda suggests using all 6 tastes in order to create a perfect meal. When we incorporate sweet, salty, sour, bitter, astringent and pungent tastes within one meal, not only our taste buds, but our entire body and mind are completely satisfied. The 6 tastes balance all three doshas: vata, pitta and kapha. The traditional Thanksgiving menu can have all 6 tastes if prepared correctly. It is in fact a complete meal according to Ayurveda, and is why we feel so content & satisfied afterwards.
Sweet taste – turkey, (yes, meat is sweet!) pumpkin pie, sweet potato or yam dishes
Sour taste – cooked fruits, red wine? 😉
Pungent taste – spices such as ginger, cinnamon, clove in sweet dishes or or peppercorns & garlic in gravy & potatoes
Bitter taste – dark green salads, collard greens, brussell sprouts or green beans
Salty taste – stuffing and most savory side dishes
Astringent – cranberry sauce
The Subtle Belch
After the Thanksgiving meal, we usually feel pretty stuffed. A good Ayurvedic eating rule to remember, is to eat to only 75% capacity of your stomach. Leaving a quarter of the stomach empty helps food move around and digest properly. How do you know when you’re 75% full? Listen for the ‘subtle belch;” and believe me… it is subtle! When you’re about 75% full your stomach releases a little bit of air as it tries to re-arrange the contents & create more space for food. We often times don’t hear this subtle sound because we are talking or eating in a rush. Listen for it, it may surprise you!
Food Sadhana & Giving Thanks
Make mealtime sacred, or at least feel like a special occasion. Remember it’s called “Thanks-giving!” Don’t forget to give thanks on this particular holiday. We should carry on this practice into our regular daily routine, taking a few moments to give thanks before every meal we eat. Praying to God, taking a moment of pause & appreciation before we eat helps us cultivate gratitude & mindfulness during mealtime.
Ayurveda is a life science that encourages us to align with our internal body wisdom; paying attention to and optimizing our digestion is one way we can enhance our well-being. However, Ayurveda also recognizes that healthy digestion goes beyond mealtime- we are constantly digesting impressions from our environment and digesting emotions from our experiences. Taking a moment to give thanks and pause before you eat, helps your mind be present with the food, with the entire experience- when you begin to digest the entire experience more mindfully, your digestion is immediately enhanced as well.
Namaste, Bon Appetit & Happy Holidays!