Posted on Diets

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What are the best cooking oils?

Ghee and olive oil are considered by Ayurveda to be the healthiest fats. Olive oil is a monounsaturated oil. It’s important to choose first cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil, which means that it’s been processed in the traditional way without using high heat and chemical additives. It’s best not to heat olive oil to high temperatures. If you need to cook at higher temperatures use ghee or organic canola oil.

What can ghee be used for?

Ghee is the healthiest choice for many uses: sauteing, spreading on toast, etc. The reason ghee is extolled in Ayurveda is because it’s the most easily digested fat. It’s considered to be a highly intelligent type of fat because it is a food that converts quickly to ojas. Ojas is another word for nature’s intelligence in the body. Ghee can be used by those who are lactose intolerant. I mainly use ghee for spreading on bread, sauteing, adding to casseroles, soups, etc. I haven’t used it as much in baking. I did some research, however, and it seems that ghee can be used very successfully in baking, often substituted 1:1 for butter! Ghee has a lower melting point than butter and a higher boiling point. It seems that it has a lower moisture content than butter. In reading various recommendations from experienced cooks, some recommend using 25% less ghee than butter and adding a little water if the flour seems dry.

Is it hard to make ghee?

We made ghee last night from 6 packs of unsalted organic butter. I made it in my extra large crock-pot overnight. This is our family’s favorite oil for eating or cooking. I cook the butter in a crock-pot unsupervised for about 15 hours until the milk solids fall to the bottom and turn a dark brown. All that’s left is this liquid gold which I pour through strainers into jars. It firms up and keeps for several months on your shelf. It is best not to refrigerate it. In Ayurveda, ghee is considered to be the supreme oil for health. It balances the doshas and ignites digestion. It’s very different from butter as the unhealthy fats are left behind in the cooking process. It doesn’t burn like butter does when you cook with it and it has a delicious nutty taste.

How can I speed up the prep time for cooking fresh vegetables?

That’s a great question! For those who have the book, starting on p.29 of Picture of Health, you will find a whole section on preparing and cooking vegetables—including lists of slow-cooking and faster cooking vegetables. I detail in the “special tip”, on p.30, a system I developed of storing these different types of vegetables, according to their cooking times, in separate sealed plastic containers in the frig. For example, store chopped kale, carrots and cabbage together on one container—-chopped chard, zucchini and cauliflower in another. It really speeds prep time for meals! By the way, if you haven’t bought the book yet, it’s available from our publisher ( ) on Amazon or at our local public library. If you bought it on Amazon, please write a review!

I seem to have trouble digesting breads.  Any tips?

Yes, flat-breads, especially when you toast them and put on an oily spread like ghee, butter, olive oil, nut butter, etc., are much easier to digest and can really cut down on problems that some people have with congestion and gastrointestinal discomfort. Switching from untoasted leavened bread to toasted flatbread can really make the difference. Even just toasting leavened bread can make a difference.


Is it beneficial to eat sprouted breads?

 Sprouted grains are used in some traditional Vedic breads. They are best eaten by those with strong digestion. In general, though, it’s most important to choose bread and other foods that are fresh rather than frozen. Frequently sprouted breads have been frozen because they are so perishable. The most healthy, easy to digest, breads according to Ayurveda are fresh flatbreads, like pita or chapatis or tortillas. Toast these and then put a little oil or ghee on before eating. Toasted flatbreads are fabulous for reducing congestion and for many other ailments.

Is it ok to use vinegar?

In Ayurveda, vinegar is thought to “poison the blood” and is considered to be aggravating to pitta dosha in particular. Fresh lemon is a good alternative and an extremely healthy food. Lukewarm water taken with a little fresh lemon juice, with or without the addition of raw honey, helps remove clogging deposits caused by improperly digested food (ama). Sip frequently throughout the day.

Should I include potatoes in my diet?

Potatoes are of the nightshade family and, like many foods that grow completely underground, are considered tamasic, or somewhat harder to digest. That being said, many find them to be very comforting and grounding. They are best eaten at lunch time. The most digestible are red baby potatoes. The thin-skinned potatoes are easier to digest than thick skinned in general.

Should vegetables be consumed raw or cooked?

Well spiced, freshly cooked vegetables are so vibrant and satisfying without being fattening. They fill you up and are such a great complement to a protein and starch for lunch. Cooked veggies are best eaten within 4 hours after they finish cooking—otherwise they devitalize.  Salads and raw veggies should be reduced, as these are harder to digest.

Now that it’s winter, how should we adjust our diet to fit the season?

During the winter vata season, when the weather is cold and windy, most people will benefit from a general vata pacifying diet: hot stews and soups, grains cooked with a little oil, cooked veggies. People naturally crave hot, hardier foods this time of year. Cold raw foods should be avoided. Avoid eating anything directly out of the refrigerator. Cold milk and cold juices can cause mucous and congestion in children especially. Childhood is a kapha time of life so all children are more prone to these problems. Milk should always be heated to just below boiling with a pinch of turmeric or cardamom before consuming. When cooking for people who have different constitutions in  the winter, favor a general vata diet but  make slight variations according to whom you are feeding. For example, veggies and other foods can be steamed or roasted with minimal oil, then vata and pitta types can add more ghee or oil on their plate before eating. Kapha types might just want to add a few drops of oil as fried foods and too much rich food can weigh kapha types down. Kapha types should also avoid sweet foods in excess but they can really go for the spices as these are balancing for them. Many spices, like cumin, coriander fresh ginger(in moderate amounts), turmeric, and Italian spices are tridoshic and can be used for most everyone, so go for the warming spices this year, just don’t give pittas too much chili, especially at night, as this can cause heartburn, skin rashes and temper flares!



I love Kimchi.  Is it good for me?

In Ayurveda, in general, leftovers and fermented foods are classified as “tamasic.” Such foods are considered counter-evolutionary and keep you stuck where you are spiritually. (for further discussion of this topic, see “Picture of Health” p.53.) Processed foods, fast foods, and microwaved foods also fall into this category

Lassi from freshly made yogurt provides probiotic support and is considered to be vital to health. Lassi contains lactobacillus organisms and keeps your gut bacteria balanced.

Many traditional foods, like Kimchi also contain probiotics. Traditional foods like these usually serve a purpose in the culture they exist in.  Perhaps they evolved because people needed a way to get vegetables in their diet in the winter. Also, in some Asian countries people may not consume milk products like yogurt as much, so Kimchi provides a needed  probiotic source. 

You might want to identify exactly what it is about such foods that you love. Fresh lemon juice is a great substitute for vinegar—according to Ayurveda, vinegar poisons the blood and in general can aggravate pitta dosha. You might try the “ginger pickle” recipe. (p.120  in “Picture of Health”). This preparation is great for stimulating digestion, and might satisfy your craving for sour, pungent tastes.

What is the best way to prepare vegetables?

Eating cooked veggies at lunch is so important. In fact, it’s said that they should take up more than half your plate! Sprinkling spices like cumin, coriander, fenugreek or minced raw ginger and adding a few drops of ghee or olive oil makes them easier to digest and more tasty! It’s helpful to prep the veggies ahead when you have time and store them, chopped, in large plastic containers in the frig. I prepare enough to last for several days. That way, you can just dump the amount you want into the steamer or pan, sprinkle spices in and they’re ready to serve in 10 minutes or less.

Chard is one of my favorites. I just chop and cook the stems and leaves together to save time. Bitter greens like spinach, chard, kale and collards are balancing to Pitta and Kapha. They are fine for Vata also with spices and a bit of oil. Kale and collards need to be cooked much longer to become tender. In fact they hold up well in cholent—I don’t stem them when cooking them this way, but leave them whole. Bitter greens have a purifying effect on the body. In Ayurveda it’s recommended to eat at least a cup of chopped, cooked greens with lunch or dinner to keep your elimination regular. Many cultures have the tradition of eating spring greens as a cleansing tonic after a long winter. (Think of a Passover Seder plate!) They really do have a cleansing, purifying effect. Its a good way to get that bitter taste that we crave into our diet in a healthy way.

Which type of rice should I buy?

According to Ayurveda, white basmati rice that has been aged at least 2 years is the most digestible and therefore most healthy rice. Aged rice is usually grown in India or Pakistan and is available in Indian food stores. The aging process (in caves) reduces the moisture in the rice and makes it fluffier (lighter) and not only easier to digest but more delicious!  By the way, I have found imported basmati to be far superior to domestic. It might be the strain of basmati used, the climate, the aging process, or all three. I know that aging is important. I don’t think domestic growers have figured that out.