Tips for Supporting Yourself During a Cleanse

Many of you have decided to enjoy the kitchari kits as a way of gently cleansing and nourishing yourselves during the transition from summer to fall. Whether you’re trying just one meal a day of kitchari or going for a full-on cleanse, the kitchari is a wonderful way to support yourself as the seasons shift. As you clear out your body with this warm, light food, you may be wondering what else you can do to gain the greatest benefit from a cleanse. In Ayurveda, the shift in weather offers a great opportunity to adjust diet and lifestyle in accordance with the seasons to bring greater balance. Here are a few ideas for ways to love yourself as the weather turns cooler!

1. Eat mindfully. Food is obviously essential to our health, to the health of our communities, and to the health of our land. That’s why we go to such great lengths at Al FreshCo to honor each of those components in the kits we make. Too often we rush through our meals, distracting ourselves with music, TV, or reading. While you’re eating the kitchari (or other meals), try tuning in completely to the food in front of you. Notice its textures, tastes, smell. Amazingly enough, how you eat is just as important for your digestion as what you eat. So take the time to enjoy and pause with your meals.

2. Make the cleanse about more than just food. With the kitchari, you’re making a commitment to honoring yourself by simplifying your diet for a short time. Why not carry that spirit into other areas of your life? Try to carve out some quiet space at the beginning and end of each day to sit quietly and focus on your breathing. Perhaps you’d even like to carry the cleanse idea through the rest of the day, stepping back from the busy rush of some of your normal activities. You might limit your use of media or be more intentional about getting outside for some fresh air each day.

3. Give yourself some (oily) love. In Ayurveda, one of the most highly regarded practices is that of oil massage. You can do this yourself each day, taking time to massage some organic oil into your skin and sit quietly for a few minutes while it absorbs. Choose pure oils with no additives, and you can warm them gently in a saucepan before using to make the experience extra nourishing (Just be very careful, as oil heats quickly and can burn severely if it is too hot. Always test before using!) If you tend to be cold and have dry skin, try organic sesame oil (not the toasted variety). If you tend to be warm, try coconut oil. You can also treat yourself to a professional Ayurvedic massage treatment, each of which is carefully tailored for your constitution and particular imbalances. Our friend Stephanie at Samsaraa Massage Therapy offers amazing Ayurvedic treatments should you wish to deepen the beneficial effects of the cleanse!

Why Eating Seasonally is Important for Our Health

In a time when we can have pretty much any food at any time of year, eating seasonally might seem like it limits our choices. Particularly in the dark, cold days of January, the bright pink raspberries in the supermarket look incredibly enticing, even if we know they’ve flown thousands of miles to make it to the shelf. Aside from the ecological impact of transporting food across vast distances, eating food not seasonal to our locale disrupts the deep wisdom of nature and our bodies and the ways in which these entities have co-evolved for optimal health.

Our bodies and our digestive systems actually follow a seasonal cycle, which is intimately tied to the cycles of nature (not surprising, when you consider that we are part of nature). The beginning of the calendar year, in the deep cold of winter, marks the time when our digestive fire is strongest. Our bodies crave the heavier, sweeter foods, which are most nutrient dense and therefore more able to sustain us through the most barren time of year. Foods such as heavier grains (rices, oats, wheat), root vegetables, and nuts tend to store well and are available to us even in the snowiest months. Because of their heavier qualities, these foods require a greater amount of energy to digest, and our bodies respond with an increased digestive fire.

As the seasons shift from the cold, dry winter to cool, damp spring, our bodies also shift. The foods we enjoyed in winter start to feel a bit too heavy for our digestive systems as the dampness in the air can lead to an accumulation of moisture in the body in the form of mucous. This is one of the reasons why congestion and allergies are so prevalent in the spring. Happily, the earth provides the perfect antidote to this accumulated heaviness in the form of detoxifying vegetables and fruits. The dark, bitter greens of spring (think kale, dandelion greens) combined with lighter, crisper textures (pea shoots, radishes), work to detoxify the body from the accumulated heaviness of winter. As the season progresses, beets and cherries join nature’s arsenal against illness.

The summer brings with intense heat and a consequent diminishing of our digestive capacity. You can think of this as the sun doing some of the work for us, as it offers us foods which require less digestive energy due to their lighter textures and high moisture content. Summer in New England is truly the time of abundance, as we see bounties of tomatoes, cucumbers, berries, summer squash, corn, lettuces, and stone fruits. These foods work to replenish the moisture lost in the long daylight hours and to cool the heat which builds in our bodies.

When autumn comes again, we have the fall harvest in anticipation of the dearth of winter. Apples, squashes, and other richly-colored foods indicate the turn toward colder weather and the need for more grounding, heavier nourishment once again. Our bodies are intricately tuned to take advantage of the particular foods which nature offers at any given time. This is why eating seasonally can be so beneficial for the body. Instead of trying to figure out what foods are healthiest or when to eat what, we can simply look to our particular corner of the world and see what the earth is providing.

One of our foundational tenets at al FreshCo is to work with local farmers to source the most local, ethical food we can for our meal kits. We do this because our conception of health encompasses our customers, our land, and the farmers who tend it. If you want to know what is in season locally, you can simply look at our meal kits each week for a simple, delicious way to incorporate more seasonal produce into your diet. We think you’ll notice just how wonderfully eating locally can taste and feel.

Eating Seasonally for Your Immune System

With spring finally bursting forth after a long, hard New England winter, it’s unlikely that many of us are thinking much about the autumn and winter to come. We’re reveling in the bounty that is beginning to show up from farmers’ greenhouse crops and looking forward to the start of farmers’ markets in the coming weeks. Yet even as we anticipate warmer weather, our bodies are already preparing themselves for seasons ahead. As I spoke about in my last article, at this time of year we are provided with foods, which support our bodies’ natural inclination to detox during spring and early summer. Bright, spicy, bitter flavors found in dark leafy greens, radishes, and spring onions help us to decongest our bodies after the cold seasons of accumulation.

Yet the benefits of eating seasonally extend far beyond just feeling better now. Through eating a seasonal diet now, we work to correct any physical and mental imbalances present and to scrub our digestive systems of accumulated congestion, leaving us cleaner and lighter and increasing our immunity when cold and flue season rolls around again. Since it has been shown that 80 percent of our immunity lies within our digestive system, keeping the gut clean and healthy is imperative for good health. And one of the best ways to do so is, of course, to eat in accordance with the seasons!

Spring is a wonderful time to experience the immediate benefits of eating local, in-season produce as well as to prepare our bodies for the challenges of colder weather. It’s also a great opportunity to give your digestive system a rest in order to insure a strong immune system come winter. As such, try loading up on fresh vegetables, especially those with predominantly bitter or slightly spicy flavors (think kale, arugula, radish, onion, sprouts). Reduce your consumption of heavier foods, which are harder to digest, such as dairy, wheat, animal products, and nuts. Lighter grains and seeds—quinoa, millet, sesame and sunflower seeds—are wonderful choices this time of year. If reducing dairy or wheat seems difficult, just remember that everything has a season, and come fall and winter you’ll be able to enjoy the nourishing qualities of those foods in a way which will serve your body’s health.

The more you can focus on eating seasonally, the more you will build your body’s health, both long-term and immediate. If you’re uncertain about what produce is in season, check out what’s available at your local farmers’ market. You can also always check out our meal kits, since we source fresh, ethically-produced veggies from a network of local farmers. The veggies that are ready for harvest in a particular week are the veggies we put in our kits! Eating seasonally is one of the best (and tastiest!) ways of supporting your own health and the health of the earth, two of the things about which we are most passionate.

The Benefits of Seasonal Cleansing the Ayurvedic Way

After a few more days of intense heat and humidity, the change in the air is palpable here in New England. Fall is arriving, and with it come changes in our schedules and lifestyles. Children head back to school, and many of us find our to-do lists getting longer as we move into a busier time of year. Autumn weather brings cooler, drier air and shorter days. These changes are reflected in our bodies as well. In Ayurveda, an ancient Indian system of health, fall is said to be ruled by the energy of air and ether, and these qualities in our environments are reflected in our bodies. As the season changes, you may experience dry skin and joints, earaches, increased anxiety, or digestive issues such as constipation, gas, or bloating. Happily, antidotes to many of these issues can be found through eating a seasonal, local diet consisting of fresh vegetables and grains. You may notice that as fall progresses the produce available becomes heavy, moist, and more grounding (think all those beautiful fall squash, as well as apples and root vegetables). These qualities in food help to ground and nourish our bodies as they prepare for the cold weather ahead.

Ayurveda also encourages cleansing at the turn of the seasons as a way of clearing out accumulated toxins and allowing the body and mind to reset before the new season takes hold. Doing a gentle cleanse which does not stress the body is a wonderful way to re-energize and to boost immunity, especially as we head into cold and flu season. If you find yourself feeling sluggish or not your best, it is the perfect time to offer your body a re-set. While there are thousands of cleanses available, Ayurveda offers a unique and simple way of supporting the body with kitchari, a traditional stew made of mung beans, basmati rice, and spices. This combination is light and very easily digested but also very nourishing. The specific combination of spices has been used over the centuries to offer the greatest support to the digestive system, which plays a vital role in the immunity of the body. Eating kitchari helps give your digestive system the chance to scrub out toxins which can prevent the immune system from functioning optimally. Kitchari is easy to prepare and can be made even more delicious through the addition of seasonal produce. In the coming weeks, we are offering a special kitchari kit (a KIT-chari if you will) to help you start the fall season in your best health!

There are a number of ways to do a kitchari cleanse. Traditionally, one would eat kitchari for every meal for three to seven days to allow the body to clean and reset. This is a wonderful choice if you are willing to commit to a few days or a week of a mono-diet. However, you can still reap the benefits of kitchari even if you only eat it for one meal each day for three to seven days (or longer…kitchari is my breakfast of choice throughout the fall and winter). In this case, it’s best to choose fresh, in-season vegetables and grains for your other meals and to eliminate sugar, dairy, caffeine and animal products for the time of your cleanse. The other kits available through Al FreshCo would be ideal for complimenting the kitchari cleanse!

As we offer the kitchari, I’ll be offering more suggestions on how to support yourself through a cleanse via this blog. If you are interested in more personalized attention or in learning more about Ayurveda and how it can help you to live a more vibrant, healthful life, I offer individual consultations and would be happy to work with you! I can be reached at ashley.temin@gmail.com.