How to eat a vegetable rainbow without eating salads everyday?

Our body needs 13 vitamins and 21 essential minerals! But with each of the 20,000+ species of known vegetables providing a unique set of these vitamins and minerals, how do we make sure we are eating the right nutrients, in the right quantities?

In the book Sapiens, the author Yuval Noah Harari argues that hunters-gatherers, before the arrival of agriculture, satisfied themselves with “a marvelously varied diet”, made possible by the fact that they had few needs and plenty of time to roam around the jungle gathering fruits, vegetable and herbs. Today despite modern agriculture and advanced trade that brings fresh vegetables and fruits from across the world throughout the season at our doorstep, we suffer from vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

It’s akin to the irony of movies. When there are too many movies to watch, we gravitate towards the blockbusters that follow a specific plot trend vs a wholesome portfolio to nourish our senses and inspire creativity.

Luckily, nature has made things simple with a color coding system. The 20,000+ vegetable species can be broadly divided into 5 color codes (Red, Orange/Yellow, White/Brown, Green, Red), each unique for its nutrient profile, together providing Yuval’s “marvelously varied diet”

Then all we need is a simple 3 step rule: (1) Shop veggies of 5 different colors, (2) rotate the mix with seasonal, exotic and experimental varieties (3) Cook and eat

I started off with salads to get around the third step – chop all the veggies, dress them up and eat. But eating raw rainbow salads everyday can get boring. So I gave myself the challenge to come up with fun, easy and delicious ways to eat rainbow meals. Below are three of the successful kitchen experiments that have been #SuccessfullyTasteTested

The Marvelous Yogic Veggie Bowl

Prep time: 10min | Cooking time: 20min | Serves two big bowls

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup beetroot, diced
  • 1/2 cup carrot, diced
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin, diced
  • 1/2 cup potato, diced
  • 1/2 cup cauliflower, diced
  • 1 cup broccoli, diced
  • 1 Tbsp ghee
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 cup water

Instructions:

  • Peel, dice, wash, strain all the veggies
  • In a rice cooker or a pan, add all the 4 cups of veggies along with 1 Tbsp ghee, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper and 1/4 cup water
  • Cover the lid and cook without moving the vegetables, on medium heat for 10 – 15 mins. Make sure the vegetables are fully cooked but have a tinge of firmness / crunch
  • Remove in bowls and serve hot! Add lemon, salt and pepper as required

Notes:

  • Tastes best when served hot, immediately after cooking
  • Best eaten as a salad replacement or with rice and lentil Kichari
  • Eat with a friend or by yourself without TV/phone, to truly enjoy the subtle flavors and nourishments
  • Its real fun to chop the veggies!
  • Use rice cooker to keep things simple and not worry about adding additional water in between
  • Do not touch / move the vegetables while cooking as the colors of some vegetable swill override everything else (e.g. beetroots)

Upcoming recipes in the series:

Coconut Rice with loads of Veggies and a hint of Indo-chinese flavor (coming up soon)

Clear soup with lots of vegetables, Vietnamese pho style (coming up soon)

Trivia

*13 vitamins: vitamins A, C, D, E, K and the B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12 and folate).

*21 essential minerals: Calcium, Phosphorous, Potassium, Sodium, Magnesium, Iron, Manganese, Copper, zinc, cobalt, molybdenum, iodine, selenium, sulfur, chloride, boron, silicon, vanadium, nickel, arsenic, chromium

*Our bodies need energy to survive and carry various bodily functions. We get this energy from the food we eat, specifically carbohydrates, proteins and fats. The enzymes in our body break down the three macronutrients to release energy via chemical reactions. Vitamins and minerals help keep the enzymes active, transport them to the right locations and keep the environmental conditions right (e.g. pH balance, blood sugar levels etc) for the appropriate chemical reactions to take place. Vitamins and minerals are also stores in our body parts (e.g., Calcium in the bones) that provides critical structure to them. Pretty damn important!

Who has time for yoga in a corporate lifestyle? 4 reasons it is indispensable

You think you are focused, till you close your eyes

Last month I attended a 28-day, 200 hrs intensive yoga teachers training course. On day 1, I had the biggest aha moment.

Sitting down to meditate, devoid of any significant work or personal troubles, in a beautiful ashram surrounded by a lakes and mountains, when I closed my eyes to ‘meditate’, I couldn’t tame my thoughts for even a couple of minutes! The mind kept jumping from thoughts irrelevant to thoughts unexpected. I thought I was calm and very much in the moment, but in reality the inner machinations of my mind were constantly dealing with a billion things – from making sense of past memories to deciding responses to future problems, from worrying about the mosquito that is hovering close to my ear to the imperceptible inner working of the cells. Most troubling was the fact that I had little control over any of it. 

Which led me to think, with so many friction points to concentrating, are we really being effective at what we are doing? What if we could reduce the friction and channel our mind, like a prism, on one point, one project, one objective? How incredibly powerful would that be!

As I contemplated and learnt more over for the next 4 weeks, challenging a lot of my own assumptions, I synthesized 4 learnings to take back to the corporate world.

1. Multitasking is NOT possible: We think we can multitask, i.e., doing two or more things at the same time. But the truth is that our mind CAN NOT process two things at the same time. It’s akin to saying, the new iphone screen has a smooth display because we don’t see any pixelated squares. When encountered with two things, our mind divides it into small tasks and processes them linearly, unless encountered with unconscious / subconscious / reflex activities. When we give it too many things to deal with it keeps jumping around like a drunken monkey and gets tired. To be more productive, to be creative, or to really solve a problem, we need to go deep and concentrate on one task at a time.

Experiment: Check your phone at 15min – 30min intervals. In the meantime focus on the task at hand. See your productivity rise. We think the world ends in 30min but it doesn’t 😉

2. Learn how to breathe and use it to your advantage: Breathing is the most powerful activity we do all day. It keeps us alive. However, ‘feeling’ alive requires breathing in the right way, allowing for more oxygen than carbon dioxide in the lungs, brain and all the billion cells to effectively do their functions. Insufficient breaths put incredible stress on the body, reducing brain activity and prematurely deteriorating it.

Experiment: Inhale, abdomen out, expand your chest, expand your shoulder to bring air fully to the bottom of the lungs. Exhale, abdomen in, chest relaxed, shoulder relaxed and let all the air out from the lungs. Just like a baby! Whenever possible, take a counted breath and exhale with twice the counts of inhales. Notice a slight calmness when you exhale and attentiveness when you inhale.

3. Digestion is more important than eating: Do you know that digestion takes up over 50% of the energy we get from the food we eat? Do you know that carbohydrates and proteins take 12 – 16 hrs to fully digest in our bodies? Do you know that feeling hungry can be a craving of the mind and not the need of our body? Constantly eating heavy meals can make us tired and counterintuitively reduce the amount of nutrient absorption in the body. We lose productivity of food and productivity at work!

Experiment: Find your favorite snack. Start with a glass of water, a cup of herbal tea, 3-5 dates, handful of nuts, a fruit bowl, or a yogurt cup and still if nothing works than you are really hungry for food! 

4. Exercise to focus on internal systems as much as external appearances: We have got to keep all the billion cells, 72K+ nerve centers, 650+ muscles, 206 bones and the 78 organs functioning well to be the most productive version of ourselves.This might sound overwhelming because who has so much time to take care of the body?! Just listening to it should be a blow to our lifestyles. Exercise to build bone strength, exercise to increase blood circulation, exercise to stretch the muscles and exercise to massage the internal organs. Yoga is an answer to all or a great supplement!

Experiment: The neck muscles are most susceptible to getting tired as they channel all the nerves through a critical, but narrow highway – from the spine to the brain. Do some neck exercises and you will suddenly feel fresh.

Take care, breathe, and build for sustainable success 🙂

Spice up your winter breakfasts!

Winters are about snuggling in bed, wrapping your hands around a warm cup of tea, losing yourself in fluffy winter jacket and getting those unexpected long hugs from families and friends during the holidays or even as you walk down the road playing the winter air

While we take ample and more care to warm up on the outside, we need to also look out for warming up our insides. During winter our body goes into a bit of hibernating stage and we need to get the digestive fire and blood circulations going with foods that have a warming effect on in our gut

Step 1 – Say hello to Spices this winter. Dig them out of your kitchen racks or order some fresh whole ones online! Spices on the must list for this winter season are – Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Green Cardamom, Blck cardamom, Cloves, Ginger, (Safron and Turmeric – not used in the recipe below)

Step 2 – Dream up your memories of winter destinations and the classic winter fruits and vegetables. I cant help but start thinking of the beautiful Apple and peach orchards of Kashmir in India. Trees laden with fruits set in the backdrop of snowy mountains…

Step 3 – Get into the kitchen to cook up something easy, fun and soul warming. Our recipe for today is Spiced apples!

Recipe:

Prep Time: 2min | Cooking time: 10min |Makes for 2 bowls

Ingredients:

  • 2 apples, sliced into 8 pieces each
  • 1/3 cup of water
  • 1 inch cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated cinnamon
  • 3 pods of green cardamom
  • 1 pod of black cardamom
  • 3 cloves
  • 1/2 inch ginger grated

Instructions

  • In a pot, add water and all the spices . Simmer on slow heat till it comes to a gentle rolling boil ( about 2min)
  • Add apple slices, cover the lid and cook on slow heat for about another 8-10 mins.
  • Remove apples from the heat and serve hot in bowls. The apples should be softened with still a slight crunch and flavorful Feel free to also add the liquid to the bowls, so that the apples keep absorbing the flavors

Notes:

  • You are going to absolutely fall in love with the aroma of the spices when you take off the lid at the end. Take a deep breath and take it all in!
  • Use only whole spices and ground them fresh as needed (ginger, nutmeg). Grounded spices kept for long loose their aroma and benefits
  • Do not cook on high heat. The Vitamin C in Apples can take small amounts of heat but will lose its nutritive value in long high heat cooking styles
  • Enjoy for breakfast everyday as a main or a side 🙂

(While I was researching, it was just crazy to find the health benefits of these spices- anti inflammatory, anti oxidant and anti bacterial. Though, I am still left confused with what specifically all of that means. If you guys have any recommendations on books / blogs that demistify spices, what exactly they do when the enter in the body, less preachy and more explanatory – definitely let me know)