Are you Vegan?

In our own home we are “Ayurvedis” and Yogis, if we are anything. This means that we eat mostly a vegetarian diet with the emphasis on locally grown, seasonal, organic, whole foods, balanced in terms of the six tastes and the Doshas. We are not fundamentalists, we don’t believe in denial as a methodology, nor do we claim to be Masters. We enjoy life, for all its beauty and all its bounty, but we try to be conscious about it, to make conscious choices, so that the health, energy, passion, joy, and abundance that we enjoy can be shared by all.

My intention in creating Food: A Love Story is to share that wisdom with you, in the simplest, most accessible manner, so that you are encouraged to love yourself Ayurvedically.

Photo: Getty

Traditionally, Ayurveda has called for milk and ghee as important staples of any diet. I remember an Ayurvedic Doctor in India telling me, “As you know, we love the cow. Cows are sacred for us not only in mythology, but  as a practical matter. We value her gifts and use everything she gives – milk, ghee, even dung for fire!”

In India cows are (mostly) free-ranging, grass-eating, and as a sacred animal, are treated with loving reverence. Milk, according to custom, is only taken in the Spring during calving season, AFTER the calves have had their fill. The milk for human consumption, then, is fresh, whole, organic, non-homogenized and collected according to the principle of Ahimsa, or non-harming.

According to Maharishi Ayurveda, “Milk provides special and unique nutrition that cannot be derived from any other type of food. When digested properly, milk nourishes all the tissues, promotes balanced emotions, and helps to balance all the doshas. It is one of the most important foods to promote Ojas.

According to Ayurveda, Ojas is a refined substance the body produces from the most subtle level of proper digestion. Ojas brings strength, strong immunity, happiness, and contentment. Therefore milk is a very important food to include regularly in one’s diet especially if you follow a vegetarian lifestyle.”

What to do, then, if you are Vegan?

If you avoid dairy, building Ojas will need to be a priority. Fortunately, there are Ojas-building foods of the non-dairy variety. Generally, those are the foods that are naturally “sweet” in taste. Examples are grains, pulses (split-mung dhal, lentils, split beans), root vegetables, seeds, dates, figs, raisins, olives and nuts (we are loving chestnuts lately for a “meaty,” incredibly tonifying snack – look for my soon-to-be-posted recipes for Chestnut Hummus and Chestnut Pesto).

By the way, canned, frozen, processed and microwaved foods must be avoided, as well as eating on the run, in front of the telly or while angry or stressed. All are highly Ojas-depleting!

In my recipes, Vegans can replace ghee with safflower or coconut oil for sautéing. A Vegan option like Earth Balance substitutes ghee for spreading on toast, dolloping on a dish as a final flourish, even for cooking. Coconut milk is a good stand-in for cream or milk, and is so delicious added to stews and stir-fry, it is always my first choice.  Milk can also be replaced with a grain or nut “milk” like Rice Milk, Almond Milk, Oat Milk, etc. For instance, in the Ojas Rasayana recipe under Basics, I recommend Almond Milk as the best substitute for cow’s milk.

I would warn, however, against soy milk as we just don’t know these days where all the soy is coming from, and GMO is definitely not Ayurvedic! Besides, most people get plenty of soy in their diet from its many forms and appearances across the spectrum of “health” food.

Think of Ojas as another way to describe what love does to us physically and mentally. It makes us stable, patient, inspired, confident, happy. It strengthens the immune system, improves organ function, increases clarity and fires up the brain.

So, Vegans, whether you are in love or not, love is in your food, so be sure to get enough healthy oils, enjoy your grounding staples, and relax with sweet, warm, comfort food. Indulge in Ojas-building foods and let love nourish you.