WHY AYURVEDA IS HAVING A MOMENT: AN INTERVIEW WITH DIVYA ALTER

Ruby Warrington sits down with Divya Alter, chef and author of the brand new What To Eat For How You Feelto discuss why the timeless science behind Ayurveda is the perfect food philosophy for the Now Age…

William & Susan Brinson for Divya’s What to Eat for How You Feel from Rizzoli.

“Eating the right foods in the right way makes the light of our soul shine—you experience a tangible connection with the divine energies.”- Divya Alter 

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RW: First up, what would you like everybody to know about Ayurveda?

Divya Alter: That Ayurveda can work for you today! Although written thousands of years ago by ancient Vedic sages, Ayurveda is a universal manual that helps us integrate and balance ourselves on physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual levels. This timeless science helps us determine what to favor or avoid in terms of diet, routine, and environment by considering our individual needs, and what choices we can make to be healthy.

And if we face health challenges, an authentic Ayurvedic treatment goes much deeper than suppressing the symptoms; it addresses the root cause. An Ayurvedic healer’s goal is to assist in restoring the intelligence of one’s body to heal itself.

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RW: So why is Ayurveda having a moment? What makes this the perfect wellness system for the “Now Age”?

Divya: Ayurveda has had many moments through history; it is a divine universal science and its principles are always true. But I think that by experiencing the benefits of practicing yoga, lately many people have begun to explore and embrace its sister science, Ayurveda. It’s also encouraging to see how modern science is doing more research on Ayurvedic herbs, proving the ancient wisdom that was there all along. We know so much about turmeric now!

It is the perfect wellness system because it is highly customized to one’s individual needs. It is the most comprehensive preventative medicine—something we need today especially, as so many of our modern health challenges can be eliminated or minimized through preventative care.

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RW: What has your own journey with Ayurveda taught you about our relationship with plants?

Divya: Ayurveda helped me look at plants—fruits, vegetables, grains, spices, etc.—as my friends. I really want to get to know them! And the more I “hang out” with them, the more I appreciate them and understand when and how to use them in creating delicious, healing meals.

An aspect of every relationship is compatibility. Just like some people really don’t click together, sometimes eating two good foods together may result in them fighting in your stomach. Ayurveda taught me how to enjoy a healthy relationship with food by mixing and matching it properly. This goes beyond matching ingredients to layer friendly flavors and create stunning presentation; my goal is to make delicious food that can always be digested without any problem.

Another fascinating lesson I received from Ayurveda is that herbs and spices, like humans, are composed of the five elements (space, air, fire, water, earth). Dr. David Frawley explains in The Yoga of Herbs that each of the plant’s tissues affects a corresponding tissue in the human body: the watery liquid of the plant works on liquid plasma; the sap works on blood; the soft part of the wood on muscle; the gum of the tree on fat; the bark on bone; the leaves on nerve tissue and bone marrow; and the flowers and fruits on the reproductive fluids. Seeds, which contain all parts of the plant in an un-manifest form, work on the body as a whole.

William & Susan Brinson for Divya’s What to Eat for How You Feel from Rizzoli.

RW: How can eating this way heal the mind and soul, as well as the body?

Divya: Ayurveda recommends that we eat invigorating, “intelligent” foods—the way God or nature designed it in the first place. Fresh, locally grown, seasonal, organic, wholesome (unprocessed), energizing—properly combining such quality ingredients will support your body in doing all the intelligent things it is designed to do.

Eating Ayurvedic clears the body and mind from blockages and helps us feel happiness and bliss. You experience a clear communication between your body, mind, and senses, and you can easily control them. On a soul level, eating the right foods in the right way makes the light of our soul shine—you experience a tangible connection with the divine energies.

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RW: Are any foods “banned” in Ayurveda? Why?

Divya: According to Ayurveda, there is no good or bad food in and of itself. A food or herb can be good for someone or bad for someone—it depends on one’s individual needs at that time.

However nowadays, for the sake of convenience, manufacturers have created a lot of corrupted foods that make our cells act less intelligently (for example foods that are canned, homogenized, or genetically modified). These are bad for everyone. Why let such denatured foods clutter your pantry, and then your body and your mind?

Additionally, the Shaka Vansiya (SV) Ayurveda lineage that I am trained in recommends that we limit or avoid foods that are predominantly clogging, inflammatory, or overly heating to the liver: leftovers, soy, nightshades, onions and garlic, and flax seeds.

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RW: When would be a good time in life to experience Panchakarma?

Divya: Panchakarma is the traditional Ayurvedic practice of purification and nourishment. It is a practice of being open to letting go of physical, mental, energetic sludge, and to receiving nourishment and rejuvenation. It is a time-tested and efficient way to address imbalances resulting from daily wear and tear, as well as seasonal changes and energetic accumulations.

To really experience the benefits of Panchakarma, you have to give yourself the full 30 days for the practice and to do it at an Ayurvedic clinic located in a natural setting. I’ve seen quite a few victims of modern day Panchakarma that is practiced without a personalized protocol. That’s why I have to caution you: don’t do it unless your body is ready and unless an experienced Ayurvedic doctor is on hand to constantly supervise you.

A good time in life would be when you are in relatively strong health, you’re able to afford taking a month (or more) off, when the channels of your body are open to release toxins, and you are at a good clinic under close supervision. The weather should be not too hot or cold (spring temperatures). Such a Panchakarma experience can be truly life changing!

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RW: What is the overall philosophy of Divya’s Kitchen? What’s your message for the world?

Divya: At Divya’s Kitchen we believe that food can heal. That’s why we are devoted to serving you delicious food that your body and mind say YES to!

Our fresh, balanced meals are prepared with love, and deeply rooted in the authentic tradition of Shaka Vansiya Ayurveda that meets us where we are today. Ayurveda teaches us how food can restore the natural healing intelligence of the body.

Divya’s brand new book, What To Eat for How You Feel: The New Ayurvedic Kitchen- 100 Seasonal Recipes, is now available from Rizzoli! 

Divya Alter is a certified nutritional consultant and educator in the Shaka Vansiya Ayurveda tradition. She is the co-founder of Bhagavat Life, the only Ayurvedic culinary school in New York. She and her husband launched North America’s first Ayurvedic chef certification program and Divya’s Kitchen, an authentic Ayurvedic restaurant in Manhattan’s East Village.

THE MAGIC INGREDIENT: 10 HEALTHY DELIVERY SERVICES YOU NEED TO KNOW

Pizza, we love you long time – but these 10 healthy delivery services will change how you think about ordering in, says Magic Ingredient columnist Raquel Griffin

 

As much as I’m all about cooking as much as possible from scratch, the truth is sometimes you just want to let the goods come to YOU (since life in the material world all too often fails in the enough-hours-in-the-day stakes). So if you find yourself short on time and needing to outsource elements of your high-vibe life, here are 10 healthy delivery services that will help to keep the vibes high and maybe even snag an extra moment to stop & smell the roses.

1. The Purple Carrot (National delivery)
The Purple Carrot is a subscription based vegan meal delivery service that takes the thinking and time out of creating a plant-based culinary tour-de-force. They deliver pre-measured ingredients, quick cooking meals (most clock in at under 45 minutes) and easy, yet unique plant-based recipes from some of the world’s most sought after chefs. Even if you’re already Vegan Iron Chef material, everyone needs a night off – and who knows, introduction to this vegan-meal-magic -in-a-box might just be the loving nudge your parents/ friends/ colleagues could use to make going meat-free a reality.

2. Udder Milk Creamery & Raw Dairy Co-op (Northeast delivery)
At a time when raw dairy purchases still happen largely via unmarked brown paper sacks and are vaguely reminiscent of a drug transaction due to raw milk’s illegal status in most U.S. states, the Udder Milk Creamery & Co-op is a revelation. And with a delivery map that keeps expanding (currently they service from New Hampshire to New Jersey) it means raw dairy devotees (along with the raw-dairy-curious) can all get our fix of the white stuff. In addition, they also offer a lovely selection of delicious handcrafted food imported directly from the Middle East. Plus, if you’re lucky enough to get Kathy (one of the owners) talking during your delivery, you’re liable to receive a treasure trove of free healing gems from her fount of holistic health knowledge.

3. Thrive Market (National delivery)
 I’m sure many of you Numis are up on this but if you’re not: THRIVE MARKET, people. Thrive. Market. Similar to popular low-cost online health emporiums like Vitacost but waaayy better, this membership-based delivery service is all about amazing “Wholefoods-like” (read: organic, vegan, non-gmo, etc.) products at wholesale prices. Plus they have an amazing “live good, do good” ethos in which every membership purchased nets a family in need a supply of high vibe groceries via a donated membership, making the pay-it-forward pay-off even sweeter.

4. Notmilk (New York & Brooklyn delivery)
I love making fresh almond milk as much as the next gal but sometimes you had a late night at a Red Tent event and you forgot to soak the almonds…but does that mean that you should have to compromise your high-vibin’ ways? The sisters and NYC hometown heroes’ behind Notmilk delivery service say HECK NO. So whether you’re living life in the fast lane or the thought of blending your own milk seems mildly daunting and/or unappealing their subscription-based delivery service is the easy way to “do fresh.” Not to mention their almond milk flavor profiles are kind of insane…Honey lavender almond milk, anyone? Or their big kahuna of choice – the “custom nut/seed milk blend” option. So, let there be fresh Almond milk for everyone!

5. Mountain Valley Spring Water (National delivery)
In an ideal world, collecting your own spring water would be the way to go and with Find a Spring that is fast becoming a reality. However, for many urban dwellers this can often present a journey of E-P-I-C proportions which is when it’s definitely time to outsource. So call Mountain Valley Spring Water instead. Bottling spring water from the same source in Arkansas since 1871, in a world of bottled spring water charlatans Mountain Valley Spring Water is the real deal. Voted the best tasting water in the world, TWICE, and delivered straight to your door in gorgeous recycled glass jugs. Done and done.

6. Bhagavat Life (New York & Brooklyn delivery)
We’ve all heard of the many benefits of the ancient science of Ayurveda. Heck, many of us are card-carrying oil pullers but how many can actually boast true Ayurvedic cooking skills (and if you can only make kitchari that doesn’t count)?  Enter Bhagavat Life – Wellness Meals delivery service. For those intrigued by the sparkling wellness that Ayurveda can offer, yet intimidated by delving into the world of Ayurvedic cooking, Bhagavat Life offers the perfect entry-point. Plus included with each meal subscription is a health consult ensuring your meals are in perfect sync with your evolving health needs.

7. Aadhi Cuisine (LA & Orange County delivery)
From weekly meal delivery in traditional clay pots complete with coconut shell spoons, Aadhi Cuisine offers a lovingly handmade take on Sri Lankan Ayurvedic cuisine, perfect for Numis on the Left Coast longing for an Ayurvedic meal delivery service they can all their own.

8. Four Seasons Herbal CSA by Field Apothecary (National delivery)
This sweet little Hudson Valley, NY-based herb farm is like a veritable “Tinctures n’ Salves R Us” offering both seasonal and annual memberships to it’s herbal CSA which ships nationally. Their seasonally themed boxes offer a cornucopia of herbal delights and are the perfect solution for concrete jungle dwellers looking to get a daily dose of green-witch/wise woman mojo delivered straight to their door.

9. OurHarvest (New York delivery)
Checking out the weekly farmers market is definitely a highlight for many, but sometimes getting there just isn’t a reality. OurHarvest to the rescue. Working with some of NYC’s premiere greenmarket purveyors, OurHarvest lets you shop local greenmarkets based on your location and offers you the ability to either pick up your items later or get them delivered direct via Uber (of course). Plus, for orders over $25, OurHarvest donates a meal to a local food pantry. It’s all good.

10. Urban Organic (NY/NJ delivery)
Doing home organic produce delivery long before it was cool, Urban Organic offers the most affordable & plentiful organic food delivery in all of New York. At only $25 for a “small box,” filled with 10-30 organic fruits & veggies it’s a steal – and at a time when organic produce is everywhere yet still out of reach for many, Urban Organic offers an oasis of high vibe health and healing to all.