Native Japanese wisdom dictates, ‘Hara hachi bun me’, which roughly translates as, ‘eat until you are 80 percent full’. Given that the average age of the population in some villages in Japan is over 80 years, they seem to know how and what to eat, to live a long, healthy life!
The good part is, it is not that hard to understand the link between food and health.
Known to a few as a Brand Strategist for budding ‘wellpreneurs’, to many as a raw food chef, to still more as a yoga instructor, but to all as someone who truly believes in wellness and holistic living, Rukmini Bonthala’s journey to health had a bumpy start.
Ulcerative Colitis (simply put, ulcers of the colon, an inflammatory condition) is what it took for her to embark on this journey of connecting food with wellbeing.
“Growing up, we always used food as medicine. For example, as kids, we were given a mixture of honey, ginger juice and turmeric for a cough, to soothe our throat. But we were never consciously taught that food can heal us. In 2009, when I fell ill, I was told that I would need to go on steroid medication to recover. It shook me. This was not the recovery route I wanted, especially after learning the side effects that these drugs would have on my body. I decided to look for alternatives and came across Ayurveda, an ancient healing modality using herbs and foods. I decided to give it a try and without the help of any conventional medicines, I was able to have a full recovery in just a month! This is what opened my eyes to the power of what we eat and how it can impact our healing process,” explains Rukmini.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, many have now taken a myriad routes to increasing their immunity. But Rukmini says that while food is a very critical part of healing, it cannot be the sole focus.
“We should not only think about strengthening our immunity in difficult times such as now. We need to start looking at food as something that will become our blueprint. Is it beneficial for our body and cells or not? Will it strengthen or weaken our immune system? But again, I want to say that food alone is not enough for strengthening our immunity. There are many other pillars of healthy living that we need to focus on as well. Are we getting enough sunlight everyday (at least 20 minutes in the morning or evening)? Are we exercising (even just 4 hours a week is super powerful for our body)? Are we breathing fresh outdoor air or are we stuck inside a closed room? Are we drinking enough water? Are we practicing any stress management daily (something as simple as closing our eyes and focusing on our breath for 2-3 minutes)? Are we sleeping on time (It’s known that the most regenerative and healing sleep happens between 10pm – 2 am)? So health / immunity is a combination of several factors. While we may be told to have this drink or that food to build immunity, we need to remember that it may be a part of the solution, but not the whole puzzle.
So what would a student of Nutrition Endocrinology consider a good meal?
“I believe healthy food is what nature provides us, is full of color, and is a good balance of cooked and raw. I don’t believe in counting calories or doing portion sizes. I believe we should be mindful when eating and be aware of our own limits, and stopping when we feel full. I personally love colorful plates of food. Recently, I’ve been experimenting with a concept called Buddha Bowls, where we add a mix of veggies and grains, so we can eat a wide variety of nutritious foods in each meal. For example:
Main part of the meal – Something like posho, matooke, Quinoa or cooked millet grains
Vegetables (often baked): Carrots, beetroot, Pumpkin, Butternut Squash, Gonja
Protein component – a variety of beans. (I always prefer to soak my beans overnight and cook them the next day)
Leafy Greens – Often steamed or lightly sautéed or even raw as a salad- Spinach, Kale (sukumawiki), local spinach (Swiss Chard) or Dodo
Gravy / Dips – Peanut gravy (very local), hummus (made with chickpeas) or a yoghurt dressing
Nuts and Seeds – Top with nuts and seeds – Pumpkin, Sunflower, Cashew, Chia. Etc.
By having one food from each of these portions, you can build a really complete meal. The quantities can be minimal, but you will still feel full and know that you have eaten a really nourishing meal.
In this talk of immunity, one cannot ignore the whole aspect of internal upkeep.
“The mind and our thoughts play a much more critical role in terms of disease manifestation, as well as our healing journey. Unless we address this, everything we do externally will just be a bandage. I have also realized that for good food habits to stick, a fertile nourished mind is required,” asserts Rukmini.
As we are talking about food, I would like to share a recipe I came across especially when the lockdown started that was being promoted as a protection against COVID 19. While that may not exactly be true, it is something that will strengthen our body and give us a small boost in immunity.
– 5 garlic cloves
– 8 cloves
– 15 holy basil leaves
– 1 tsp. of carom seeds
– 5 mint leaves
– 10 black pepper seeds
Crush all ingredients and add to a pan with 6 cups of water, reduce it till only 3 cups remain, turn off the stove and add in 1 tsp. of turmeric powder and mix it. Drink it 2-3 times a day.
Hope you enjoy this healing drink.