EAT TASTE HEAL: An Ayurvedic Cookbook for Modern Living
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Why Buy Organic?
ayurveda 101
what's my dosha?
the six tastes
ayurveda detox
ayurvedic resources
why buy organic?
why buy organic?
genetic modification
food additives
refined foods
microwaved foods
water quality
cow's milk
healthy food resources

Cows Milk
Cow’s milk is heralded by the modern dairy industry as one of nature’s most wholesome foods. Classical Ayurvedic texts agree with this notion, although a major point of difference exists: the highly prized milk of ancient times is barely comparable to the substance we call milk today.

Similar to GM crops, U.S. milk production may be likened to a large-scale science experiment. Cows grow up on factory farms where they receive regular injections of growth hormones and antibiotics. Instead of grazing on grass, they eat legumes, grains, and other foods that may contain dangerous herbicides and pesticides. Residues from these drugs and chemicals leech directly into the cows’ milk. This prompted the European Economic Community in 1990 to ban the importation of hormone-treated U.S milk (an embargo that still holds today). The widespread use of the genetically engineered hormone rBGH has rekindled this international debate in recent years. This hormone artificially increases a cow’s milk production from 10 to 15 percent.

From an Ayurvedic perspective, the pasteurization and homogenization of cow’s milk renders the food dull or tamasic. While these processes increase the safety, shelf life, and aesthetic appeal of commercial milk, they deplete its vitality. Important enzymes and beneficial bacteria are destroyed in the pasteurization process, making milk difficult to digest. Homogenization is the process of breaking up the fat globules in milk so they remain evenly suspended in the milk, rather than separating into a layer of cream. From an Ayurvedic standpoint, this artificial process changes the qualities and molecular structure of the milk, making it more difficult to digest. The methods used to create low-fat and nonfat milk have similar effects on digestion. Low-agni conditions (common in Vata types) and excess-ama conditions (common in Kapha types) also inhibit the body’s ability to digest milk properly.

Lactose intolerance occurs when an individual is unable to produce the enzyme lactase, which is responsible for digesting the milk sugar lactose. Characterized by gas, bloating, cramping, and diarrhea, this increasingly common condition may be partly explained by the digestive factors discussed above. A broader geographic focus must also be taken into consideration. In areas where dairy farming has been conducted for thousands of years such as northern Europe, India, and certain African countries, lactose intolerance is less common. In cultures not based on dairy farming, by contrast, there is a greater susceptibility to this intolerance.

Ayurveda favors fresh, raw, organic milk. Unless you have your own cow or personally know a dairy farmer, it’s difficult to find raw milk in the West today. Organic milk is the next best option. Regardless of the source, Ayurveda always recommends boiling milk before consumption to break down complex protein molecules, making the milk lighter and easier to digest (while retaining the important enzymes and beneficial bacteria). Simply bring the milk to a boil and let it cool down to room temperature before consuming. Adding a pinch of ginger or cardamom will also increase the digestibility of milk.

Ayurveda never recommends drinking milk straight out of the refrigerator. Cold milk extinguishes the digestive fire, which neutralizes important digestive enzymes and promotes the formation of mucous (or ama). Combining milk with incompatible foods will have similar effects. As a rule, it’s best to drink milk either on its own or with other Sweet foods, such as grains. Consuming milk with fish is a particularly ill-suited combination that leads to digestive disturbances and skin problems. It’s also best to avoid drinking milk with meats, yeasted breads, sour fruits, bananas, and melons.

Vata types benefit from the grounding and strengthening properties of milk. Milk nourishes the deeper tissues of the body and supports the production of the vital fluid ojas. Some Vata types, however, may not tolerate milk due to their greater susceptibility to food allergies. Pitta types benefit from the cooling and calming effects of milk. Kapha types are the least suited to milk consumption, due to its high fat content and mucous-forming effects.

If cow’s milk doesn’t agree with you, there are a number of healthy substitutes available today. Soy milk is one of the most popular options, due to its pleasant taste and high protein content. Other plant-based milks derive from rice, barley, almonds, cashews, oats, and potatoes. It’s best to choose these substitutes in accordance with those foods best suited to your primary dosha. We also recommend buying organic brands when possible, especially for soy milk. Organic goat’s milk is another available option. Kapha types do well with goat’s milk due to its mildly heating property and non-mucous forming effect. Vata and Pitta types, however, do better with plant-based milk alternatives.

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