Vegetarian Proteins Part 1: vegetables and legumes.

05/12/2021

Modern times are obsessed with the idea of protein, specifically animal protein. However, Ayurveda offers a different perspective and helps us seek balance across various nutritional factors, including plant-based protein. It tells us that what's essential in our nutrition is the balance of the six tastes, the balance of hot/cold or heavy/light qualities of foods, the balance of plant-based carbohydrates, whole foods, proteins, high-quality fats, vitamins, minerals, and prana, or the vital force, of the foods we eat. The idea of avoiding animal protein in an Ayurvedic lifestyle may differ from one Ayurvedic practitioner to another, but in my opinion and personal practice, it's healthy to reduce or completely eliminate the consumption of animal protein for most constitutions for two simple Ayurvedic reasons:


1. Ahimsa: It's the practice of non-violence in yoga, and Ayurveda is intrinsically connected to yoga. Refraining from consuming animal protein not only avoids the violence inflicted on the slaughtered animals but also the violence inflicted on our land and atmosphere due to the overwhelming pollution created by the meat industry.


2. Digestion: It's the heart and focus of all Ayurvedic medicine, and animal meat is hard to digest. It can take up to three times longer to digest animal protein than to digest plant protein. Our digestive tracts are very long like those of herbivores or omnivores, unlike the short digestive tracts of carnivores that can easily digest meat. Undigested food particles in the body, called ama, create toxicity and inflammation in the body.


I've suggested to many clients who rely on daily animal protein consumption to replace it with plant protein for 1 to 3 days a week. Many understand that this can help reduce their inflammatory response, improve their digestion, and give them more energy, but they nervously ask, "Where do I start?" It's normal not to know how to start this process, which is why I'm writing this three-part article series to help with this transition.


A. ALL VEGETABLES CONTAIN PROTEIN: No one talks about this, but even vegetables that you think are all starch and no protein CONTAIN PROTEIN, like potatoes. After all, protein originally exists in plants that animals consume. Animals are just intermediaries. The crucial factor when relying on vegetables for your protein is to ensure they contain all the colors of the rainbow and to prepare your vegetables according to your Ayurvedic constitution. Naturally protein-rich vegetables: peas, mushrooms, green beans, and avocados.


Vata: Cooked vegetables, especially root variety, prepared with digestion spices and a good amount of high-quality oil like ghee, sesame oil, or olive oil.


Pitta: Lightly cooked or raw vegetables, especially the green variety with a bit of ghee, coconut oil, or olive oil.


Kapha: Baked, cooked, or raw vegetables, especially well-seasoned with many spices and with little or no oil, like ghee or sesame oil.


B. Legumes: One of the densest forms of proteins are beans, lentils, and chickpeas. Beans contain not only high levels of proteins but also vitamins, minerals, and medicinal properties. They are emblematic of Mexican culture, so genetically Mexican people benefit from their consumption. Each legume has different medicinal properties. Here are some examples: blood purifier, diuretic, heart tonic, nutritive, digestive, aphrodisiac, astringent, detoxifying, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, female hormone regulator. It's essential to know how to cook or buy beans so they don't produce gas.


- Don't mix different types of beans when cooking.

- Don't eat beans with fruit or dairy.

- Buy pre-cooked beans without lard or take the necessary time to soak them overnight and cook them for 8-12 hours in a slow cooker or the required (shorter) time in a pressure cooker.

- Hummus is a blend of chickpeas, tahini, and other spices, and it's an excellent source of plant protein. You can find it in supermarkets or specialty Mediterranean food stores.

- For Pitta and Kapha, it's beneficial to consume beans as long as they're properly prepared.

- Vata is more sensitive to the gassy effects of beans, so they should ensure they are well-seasoned, well-cooked, and in severe Vata cases, slightly sprouted before cooking.


Easy Lentil/Vegetable Soup Recipe


For 4 servings


1 cup of lentils


1 carrot


1 potato or chayote


1 small zucchini


1 handful of fresh cilantro


1 tsp of vegetable broth powder (or substitute 1 cup of liquid broth instead of one of water)


6 cups of water


2 tsp of sea salt


2 pinches of black pepper


1 pinch of ground cumin


1 bay leaf (optional)


2 tbsp of ghee or another high-quality oil suitable for your constitution


lemon juice to taste


Instructions:


For Vata, soak lentils overnight, or for very Vata digestion, soak until they start to sprout. Drain and use. For Pitta and Kapha, simply rinse lentils in a strainer before use. Transfer lentils to a medium pot and add water, vegetable broth, and oil. Set to high heat and while waiting for it to boil, rinse and chop the vegetables. Once boiling, reduce heat, add chopped vegetables, bay leaf, pepper, cumin, and partially cover with the lid. Cook at this temperature for an hour or until lentils crumble, meanwhile, clean and chop the cilantro. Add salt, lemon, and fresh cilantro as a garnish and serve.


By Iris Campion.

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