Flavors of Health Online recently spoke with Dr. Nancy
Lonsdorf, Medical Director of the Raj in Fairfield, Iowa,
and co-author of A Woman's Best Medicine, about the general
dietary habits of Americans today and ways to incorporate
ayurvedic principles of healthy eating into one's daily
Dr. Lonsdorf: Ayurveda considers lunch to be the most
important meal of the day. Lunch is better called dinner.
In our American culture, when we were more of an agrarian or
rural culture, we had the main meal at noon. And that was
called dinner. And there was a lighter meal in the evening
called supper. This schedule is actually more in tune with
nature and the natural rhythms of digestion in the body.
The main meal should be at noon, which means we should eat a
full meal -- cooked food, a warm meal-sitting down in a relaxed
environment around noon.
FOH Online: What would the ideal ayurvedic lunch include?
Dr. Lonsdorf: It should have some vegetables, some grains,
and some higher-protein foods like legumes, lentils,
chickpeas, tofu or paneer, which is a type of fresh cheese.
Persons who are non-vegetarian should eat their chicken or
fish or other meats at lunch only. Pure water is the best
beverage with the meal, and it should preferably be at room
temperature or warm, not ice-cold. Ice water cools down
digestion and turns off enzymatic activity, which is
temperature dependent and works best at body temperature,
around 99 degrees.
Ayurveda also suggests that we should
have lassi, which is a yogurt drink, at lunchtime -- it
supplies good bacteria and extra help for digestion.
FOH Online: What about spices?
Dr. Lonsdorf: Spices are crucial to the ayurvedic diet, and
unfortunately the typical American diet does not contain
enough spices as a rule. Turmeric, for example, is a potent
antioxidant, known to contain anti-cancer properties, and is
good for detoxification of the body. It's an incredibly
powerful spice. It works best if you sauté it in a little
oil or ghee or you add a little bit to soups or stews. It
has water-soluble and fat-soluble components like most
So you should have a little bit of this spice
sautéed in some olive oil or ghee in your dishes at lunch
and you should have a little bit in a soup or water-based
sauce poured over cooked vegetables or other foods.
FOH Online: We see some individual herbs and spices being
offered in capsule form-what is your opinion on that?
Dr. Lonsdorf: Spices are really best eaten as food rather
than in a capsule. Today, many people are taking capsules
of turmeric or ginger or garlic in hopes of gaining their
beneficial effects. However, that can sometimes be quite
harmful actually because they're too concentrated. Powdered
turmeric, by itself, for example, can be very hard on the
liver, creating a "heating" or irritating effect that can
worsen Pitta related problems.
You should sprinkle spices
on your food, cook them in ghee or oils, or add them to your
soups or your lentils, etc., while they are cooking.
FOH Online: Tell us a little bit about how eating properly
can help health and well-being.
Dr. Lonsdorf: Just having the main meal at noon -- a very
balanced meal that includes spices and lassi -- would go a long
way towards counteracting the damage caused by the stress
and wear and tear on the body from day-to-day life.
Digestion would improve dramatically. This would help
people get rid of a lot of problems associated with
ama-constipation, gas, bloating, and heartburn.
habits that aid digestion will also help people sleep better
at night because then they are not eating heavy at night,
which disturbs sleep and often will wake people up at 2-3 in
FOH Online: What about energy levels?
Dr. Lonsdorf: If you eat a balanced diet, at the proper
times each day, and are able to get a good night's sleep
each night, you have the basis for a stable, balanced
physiology and your mind and body will function at optimum
levels. If you digest your food properly, your body can use
the nutrients to build the different types of body tissue
and replace worn cells and tissues quickly.
When ama is not
building up in the body, energy levels are high -- you don't
experience post-lunch fatigue or early-morning lethargy.
FOH Online: Food, indeed, is powerful medicine. Thank you,
Dr. Lonsdorf, for speaking with us today on this important
LINK to health & wellness issues
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