I don’t know about you, but breakfast has always been one of my favourite meals. However, with lots of information available on what not to eat these days, and many of us now trying to avoid eating gluten, wheat and dairy and even grains altogether, it can sometimes be very overwhelming to find that healthy breakfast, full of protein, to set us up for the day.
Before even ‘breaking the fast’ however, it is good to clean your teeth, mouth and tongue to remove any residual toxins that accumulate during the night before even taking a drink of water. I will write more on this in my ‘Morning rituals’ blog.
I have studied Naturopathy and Ayurveda thus I love also to talk about the Ayurvedic doshas when looking at food and nutrition. There are 3 doshas (or ‘types of constitution’ or humors/energy) and we are all made up of all 3 but often have a dominant dosha which can cause dis-ease when aggravated. Thus certain doshas do better with certain qualities of food, namely heating or cooling, dry or wet.
This is a quick brief summary but there is much more to it so I will talk more in future blogs.
Vata is the energy of air and movement and often has a cold constitution and weak digestion, and is prone to anxiety and restlessness with dry skin/hair and of a small build. You thus really benefit from some warm and nourishing foods. This is not to say you can’t eat raw food and salads at all, as these are also great, but lunchtime and Summer is the best time and it’s best to include something warm with most meals. Vata aggravation includes feeling weak, lethargic, tired and restless.
Pitta is the energy of fire and heat and often have a much stronger constitution, don’t feel the cold and have a good digestion, and are of a stronger build. Pittas thus need more cooling foods and can much better tolerate raw food. You are more prone to excess heat manifesting as infections, irritability, short temper, anger and frustration and fever, flushed face, nose bleeds, acne, pimples, rashes and mouth ulcers.
Kapha is the energy of water and earth and is very grounded and loving, and much less dry than Vata, however also feels the cold and can struggle with lethargy, sluggishness, weight gain and depression. Kapha thus needs warming too but also needs more spice and stimulating foods to get the metabolism going.
Back to breakfast…..Ayurveda stipulates that what you start the day with will impact the cravings you have and how you feel for the rest of the day.
I always try to start the day with something hot to start the fire of the digestion or ‘agni’ going. This is often a hot lemon water with 1/2 tsp turmeric, ginger or apple cider vinegar added. This is really warming, and great for gut health and helps to get the digestive juices going so the first meal of the day is easily digested.
The hot lemon is perfect to stimulate peristalsis so you can empty the bowels before continuing with any other activities for the rest of the day. Lemons are also high in minerals and vitamins and help loosen ama, or toxins, in the digestive tract.
Turmeric is great for inflammation and liver issues and the addition of apple cider vinegar can help to get your digestion going as does ginger, which is also warming and anti-inflammatory and great for colds as it induces sweating. (Drinking through a straw helps to reduce risk of the acid damaging your teeth enamel!).
Now it’s time for breakfast! However, despite the saying ‘Breakfast like a King’ it is important not to overdo it since from sunrise (6am) to 10am it is kapha time which can aggravate lethargy and is thus a time for exercising and moving. So something warming to the gut and digestion and light to not overload the digestive fire is recommended. The digestive system doesn’t peak until noon (in pitta from 10am til 2pm) so a good hearty lunch is also essential.
Now we are coming into winter it is advisable to start introducing more warmer foods into your diet to help the digestion.
Everyone is different so experiment and see what works best for you and your tummy. 🙂
Porridge with some warming spices is great as we move into winter and you can use chia seeds, quinoa, oats or buckwheat…
Chia seeds are grain-free and gluten-free and full of insoluble fibre and healthy fats leaving you feel fuller for longer, as well as omega-3 fatty acids, helping us with mood, inflammation and the immune system. They also contain many minerals, including manganese, phosphorous and calcium and are high in protein, helping to stabilize blood sugar. It is best to soak them for at least 20 minutes (40 minutes ideally) before using to add moisture as they can otherwise aggravate constipation as they swell in the gut.
Chia pudding recipe
Ingredients (serves 2)
- 2 cups chia seeds (soaked for at least 20 minutes)
- 1 cup almond or coconut milk (or use water if your prefer)
- 2 tbsp maple syrup or use soaked dates
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- pinch of spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg and sea salt
- ½ cup – any combination of goji berries, inca berries or apples and cinnamon is yummy
- 1 tbsp raw cacao powder
- ½ cup of raw nuts such as almonds or walnuts (ideally soaked overnight or 6-8 hrs)
- Fresh berry topping of your choice
Combine milk or water in a saucepan and chia seeds and warm over a low heat. Add in raw nuts and continue stirring for about 10 minutes.
Add in raw cocoa, coconut oil, salt, berries and spices. Warm slowly over a low heat for and additional 5-10 minutes.
Top with some fresh blueberries and some seeds or flaked nuts or coconut.
N.B. This recipe is served warm.. you can just put all the ingredients together and leave to soak in the fridge overnight, but ensure you take it out at least an hour before serving in the winter otherwise it will be too cold on the digestion. Some say heating chia can ruin the omega 3 content but I think a little heating, and not boiling should be fine.
You can use quinoa or oats as well for variation and if you are not grain free. Oats are really nourishing and comforting for the winter and actually have adaptogenic and antidepressant qualities…
You can also add egg whites and/or protein powder for extra protein goodness.
Serve and enjoy!
It is really important to get some protein and fat into every meal if you can, but particularly your breakfast. This will help to keep your blood sugars steady throughout the day and reduce the risk of the 3.30itis sugar cravings.
So if you only have time for oats or quinoa flakes, add linseed meal, LSA, nuts, seeds, maca or protein powder to your porridge and a teaspoon of coconut oil for some good fat. You can even whisk an egg white through it for an added punch of protein.
Trying to go grain-free? There is a lot of talk about Paleo and grain free diets currently.
I try to reduce the amount of grains I eat as I feel they can be inflammatory and irritate the gut. Everyone feels differently about this and I am not that extreme I just think it’s good to listen to how things feel in your body. I have never been big on pasta and bread anyway luckily so it wasn’t really even a conscious choice.
However, gluten has been linked to autoimmune and thyroid issues, so more and more people are reducing their grains, and luckily there are so many yummy alternatives.
I have included some links below to sources to read more on grains and health.
The lovely Kate Callaghan who writes Against the Grain Nutrition blog has also just posted a lovely porridge recipe using pumpkin.
Pumpkin porridge recipe
• 1 cup roast pumpkin, mashed (make the night before)
• 1/2 cup full fat coconut milk
• 1/4 cup coconut flakes (plus extra for garnish)
• 1/4 cup coconut water (or plain water)
• 1 tsp cinnamon
• 1/2 tsp all spice
• 1/4 tsp nutmeg
• 1/8-1/4 tsp vanilla bean powder
• 1/2-1 T Great Lakes gelatin powder
Throw everything in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until warm. Serve in a bowl, top with coconut flakes and a sprinkle of nutmeg. Makes enough for 1-2 serves. Yum!
Alternatively, have some poached eggs with steamed kale, avocado for good fat and coconut oil.
Frittatas are also a great breakfast, just fry up any left over vegetables and herbs and add some whisked eggs and pop in the oven.
I have even used left over juice pulp in frittatas and muffins.
Another option is a smoothie… have I not even mentioned green smoothies yet?
Smoothies are great when you are on the run or in a rush in the mornings. However, it is good to vary your meals and not become too dependent on smoothies. A real meal is always best, though I get we lead busy lives.
I have to admit to having them on days I work in the health shop, running around all day. I am not allowed to eat during work.. well, the poor macadamias get a hiding at times!.. so I ‘drink’ my breakfast and that’s where smoothies come in! 🙂
Nevertheless, as we go into the winter it is important to amend your smoothie a little to ensure that they still work for you in the colder months, especially as Vatas and Kaphas need warming up too.
Smoothies are often nutrient rich, however Ayurveda is also concerned with the ‘qualities’ of the ingredients. Vata and Kapha doshas are very cold constitutions and thus need heat to get the fire of the digestion going. Therefore, a cold smoothie first thing will make our Qi stagnant and thus our digestion.
The ice or frozen fruit is a definite no-no, and the fruit and vegetables used are often also of a cooling quality as well as being ‘dry’, which is also not a great quality for foods as we go into winter, where Vata is aggravated in all of us. This manifests as digestive gas, pain after eating, dry constipation or loose motions (increased mobility); dry/rough skin and hair; variable energy; poor circulation and pain or cracking in the joints. All symptoms often seen in Winter due to aggravated Vata. [Mudita]
If that wasn’t enough, you can also experience increased mental agitation, restlessness, flightiness, anxiety and poor concentration, amongst others. Anyone guess which dosha I am yet?! 🙂
But even if you’re not Vata dominant, we all have Vata as part of our constitution and it increases as we get older and go into colder months. So we all need to help minimise its aggravation. According to Ayurveda, the majority of all diseases, such as autoimmune, chronic fatigue and other diseases of depleted are related to aggravated Vata dosha and are due to tissue depletion and immune system suppression. [Mudita]
Smoothies are also often very dense and heavy, since they use a great many ingredients in one drink, making them hard to digest, so simplicity is the key!
Smoothies are therefore best for those with a strong digestion and a Pitta constitution. However, us Vatas and Kaphas might not want to miss out on all the fun, so here are some tips to make them more Vata friendly especially coming into the winter months.
- Add some hot water or herbal tea to any frozen fruit so to make it at least room temperature. It also avoids that brain freeze and warms up the smoothie. I never drink water or anything cold these days. It makes the digestive system have to work harder to absorb the good stuff.
- Add some warming spices to your smoothie. I love ginger and cinnamon, both great for the circulation and warming and nourishing. Ginger is also great for inflammation. Cayenne pepper is also great for the circulation and metabolism and heating for the body. Avoid too much if you are a Pitta constitution.
- Add some lemon to the smoothie. Only a little as can be cooling in the winter, however helps to break down any anti nutrients i.e. phytates/oxalates, present in kale or spinach, which can deplete essential micronutrients, such as zinc and iron.
- Add some good fat to reduce the ‘dry’ quality of the smoothie. Coconut oil and avocado is great. Although coconut oil is one of the more cooling oils, it’s a great source of medium chain, energy burning fat.
- Avoid overdoing the cooling superfoods, such as spirulina, as well as too many greens, which can cool the body, so not so great in the middle of winter and if you are a Vata like me! 🙂 Superfood powders can also be heavy so use sparingly. Chlorophyll is less cooling and a great cleansing, detoxing superfood.
- Maca powder is a warming superfood and a great adaptogenic plant, meaning it helps to deal with stress and fatigue during the winter. It gives you stamina, and thus a little, now and again, is great, but as well as being heavy, it is also a very potent hormonal herb and has been known to increase PMS and hormonal breast tissue, so use with care. It is ‘super’ after all.
- Nuts are fine as they are warming and add protein and substance to the mix.
- Avoid fruit if you can, as fruit is always best eaten alone as is quickly digested. I can see the frowns on your faces as you read this… however, when eaten with other foods, it stays in the intestines and can ferment, causing the embarrassing gas, wind and bloating. I tend to use more veggies. Cabbage is great as you can’t really taste it (I like bitter and not too sweet though so be warned!) and it’s also great for soothing the gut.
- I often leave out the frozen fruit and add more of the warming cacao, mesquite, chia seeds, maca powder and goji berries, high in vitamin C to ward off winter colds. Add water and shake it up. Deliciously warming and nourishing. 🙂
- If you really can’t go without the fruit, blueberries are yummy and I do like it with blueberries and these are less cooling by nature than banana and also lower in sugar, thus potentially causing less gas!
Chrissie’s Super Smoothie
Cabbage is good for the gut and hardly tastes in the smoothie
2 tbsp cup Chia seeds soaked ideally
1 tsp maca powder or mesquite powder
Garden of Life fermented protein powder
1 tsp turmeric or cinnamon or chai spice mix
2 slices ginger
Coconut water or hot herbal tea
1 tbsp hazelnut butter or handful of macadamias
Squeeze of lemon (helps break down any phytates/oxylates in vegetables)
If you want a little sweeter, add blueberries soaked in boiling water or I sometimes add a nice chai spice herbal tea to my smoothie.
For an energy hit, add 1 tbsp cacao powder.
If I am on the run, I often add my magnesium powder or probiotic to my smoothie and even vitamin C powder so I get all my nutrients in one hit. This makes it pretty dense, so drink it slowly and the warming spices will help to aid digestion. Try not to drink it cold.
Keep warm with the above yummy winter warming food. 🙂
Mudita Institute of Ayurveda
The Yoga of Herbs, David Frawley & Vasant Lad
Grain Brain by David Perlmutter
Ancient Teeth video http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/3816207.htm