If you are an Ayurvedic adherent you have heard of the perils of smoothies. There are a number of reasons that a person who wants a long, happy and healthy life will stick up their noses at smoothies.
Yet smoothies are so easy to make, tasty, satisfying, convenient to carry with you, and a delivery system for all sorts of nourishment! Liquid breakfasts are ideal for those of us who don’t get hungry enough for a meal before we leave the house but still want to avoid the temptation of a mid-morning scone.
Luckily there are ‘smoothie replacements’ that do not offend the rules of Ayurveda and will supply you with the benefits and convenience that smoothies do.
Let’s reiterate the reasons for avoiding smoothies (as they are usually made)
Cold foods are indigestible and damaging to the digestive fire. Frozen fruit, which is a mainstay for most smoothie drinkers, lacks prana and damages the health of Agni (digestive fire).
Raw foods are hard to digest and create ample fodder for parasites. This means they encourage yeasts, bacteria, and possibly even parasites to flourish in your gut.
● Food combinations.
It is rare that a smoothie complies with Ayurvedic food combining laws. Most contain mixtures of fruit with milk or yogurt, or fruit with veggies. These improper food combinations will contribute to weakness and dysfunction in the blood and bone marrow which are felt as fatigue, lethargy, sensitivity to cold, skin and connective tissue problems, etc.
Protein powders, dehydrated ingredients like spirulina or barley grass juice, bee pollen and various ‘superfood’ oils are meant to increase the nutritional content of smoothies. Many of these processed and dessicated foods cause digestive confusion and poor absorption. Even ayurvedic herbs are hard to assimilate if not properly processed first. Your smoothie is probably more nutritious without them. Remember: you are what you digest (not what you eat).
● Size matters.
A small glass of freshly pressed fruit or veggie juice is great for active people with decent digestions. Thirty two ounces of frozen, hyper enriched blends of too many ingredients will be a heavy burden even on those with the best digestion.
Despite the ‘nutrients’ in smoothies you will not get the benefits when you consume food raw, cold (especially frozen!), and in poorly combined forms. Smoothies produce ama (indigestible waste) in most people. Want proof? Check the tongues of people who you see in a smoothie bar for thick white coatings!
Drink your meals Ayurvedically!
If you know anything about ayurveda (or chinese medicine) you know that cooking your food is digestively essential. But the repertoire of American cooking lacks warm beverages that are also satiating liquid meals. Luckily other cultures have caught on to the convenience and benefits of these ‘fast food’ meals.
Below I have included raw, cooked, warm and not-too-cold recipes, and recipes with and without milk products. If you have any digestive disorders avoid the raw recipe (walnut shake) or toast the nuts before you use them.
The ‘lightest’ of these smoothie-stand-in’s is Yusha. Yusha is not a smoothie at all but a light savory soup. It is easy to make overnight in a crock pot then take with you in a thermos for whenever you get hungry. It is light, delicious, nutritious and perfect for replacing a meal on the run!
6 Ayurveda-Approved Recipes For Smoothies
● 1⁄2 cup walnuts soaked overnight
● 3 large dates
● 1 tablespoon honey
● 1 pinch each: ground cinnamon, ginger, cardamom
● a few drops of vanilla
● 2 cups water
Pulse all ingredients in a blender for 2-3 minutes.
There are many variations of this easy drink to try. A splash of rose water is delightful, different types of nuts or seeds can be used as long as they are soaked (avoid cashews and peanuts as they are very heating and heavy). A pinch of salt will bring out the flavors. It might be interesting to try a savory version too.
Takra or Seasoned Buttermilk
Takra is typically served after lunch to counter the symptoms of IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and related digestive disorders by increasing assimilation of nutrients and reducing post-meal discomfort.
But a mid morning sweet takra (savory is also good) is much like a lassi: nourishing, digestion improving and light to digest.
● 1 cup whole milk yogurt
● 3 cups water
● splash of rose water
● 1 teaspoon raw honey
● season with a pinch or 2: ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, etc.
Whisk water and yogurt vigorously until a bubbly foam appears–3 minutes is ideal.
This whisking is essential to transforming the yogurt (that is heavy, heating and phlemy) into the light digestive qualities of Takra. Don’t skip this step!
Add salt and spices to your liking.
Yusha or Green Mung Broth
This broth is leckhan or scraping to the tissues and great for weight loss or detoxification. Drink this broth throughout the day whenever you are hungry.
● Rinse and soak 1/2 cup of green mung beans overnight, or at least an hour. If you use a pressure cooker or slow cooker this is not as important.
● In a soup pot toast spices (hing, turmeric, ginger, ajwain, red pepper, cumin, coriander, etc) in a dab of ghee or oil until their fragrances are released.
● Add the drained beans and 8+ cups of water.
● Boil until the beans are very soft.
● Add salt, cilantro, grated ginger, and pomegranate juice if you want.
● You can strain the beans out and just drink the broth, or leave them in for texture.
Sahlab is a delightful hot breakfast (and dessert) of the middle east. When visiting Palestine I was often in a cue of children outside the elementary school waiting while a street vender ladled steaming styrofoam cups of sahlab out of a giant mobile cauldron, sprinkling each cup with chopped nuts and spices.
Originally the taste and thickening agent came from regional orchid root bulbs. Now we use cornstarch, but rice flour would also be a good choice.
This is a drinkable version, but can be made thicker so it can be enjoyed with a spoon.
● 4 cups milk
● 2 tablespoons cornstarch (or fine rice flour)
● 3 tablespoons sugar
● 2 teaspoons rose water (or vanilla)
● ground cinnamon
● unsweetened dried shredded coconut
● 2 tablespoons pistachio nuts or almonds; chopped fine
Mix the cornstarch with 1/2 cup of the milk.
Bring the remaining milk and sugar to a boil, then lower to a simmer.
Add the cornstarch mixture and the rose water, stir to loosen up any starch that settled on the bottom.
Cook on low heat until it comes to a boil, stirring constantly.
Serve in individual cups.
Scatter chopped pistachios over the surface of each cup; sprinkle with cinnamon and coconut.
Muhallabieh is a favorite pudding of Lebanese, Syrian, Jordanian, Palestinian and Egyptian children.
I have reduced the sugar to make a liquid breakfast cereal suitable for a thermos. Rice may be purchased already ground or crushed at home with a mortar and pestle or electric blender.
● 4 cups whole milk
● 1/4 cup rice, ground (or rice cereal)
● 3/4 cup water
● 1/4 cup sugar
● 1 teaspoon ma’ez zahr (orange blossom essence)
● 1/4 cup chopped toasted almonds, pine nuts or pistachios
Mix rice with water and add to milk which has been brought to a boil. Stir and cook until thickened and then add sugar. Continue cooking and stirring until mixture coats the spoon. Add flavorings and boil a few minutes longer.
Pour into individual serving dishes and decorate with chopped nuts.
Suff – Ethiopian Sunflower Seed Drink
This drink is nourishing, filling, and refreshing. Traditionally consumed during Lent or fasting days Suff makes a great between-meal snack or meal replacer. Several beverages based on seeds (sunflower, flax and sesame) are made in Ethiopia. You can use this recipe with any of these seeds.
● 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
● honey (as required) or sugar (as desired)
● small piece of fresh ginger root; peeled
● 3 cups water
Rinse and drain seeds (this is not necessary if you are using sesame or flax seeds). Then roast the seeds in a dry pan until they smell toasty. After roasting, grind the seeds and ginger with a little water until smooth in a blender or food processor.
Add the rest of the water and blend until very smooth.
Add honey and spices and enjoy!