Fast on yummy foods
By sharing some lip-smacking and healthy upvas recipes, Naini Setalvad proves that fasting need not be a bore
Fasting (upvas) is very prevalent in our country. Whether it is some festival days like Ekadashi, Navratri, or Angarika Sankashti, or any day of the week chosen as a fast day, Indians like to observe fasts for health or religious purposes. The literal meaning of upvas in Sanskrit is ‘getting closer to God.’ Fasting imbibes in you the spirit of a seeker and fosters spiritual practice and service, often done individually or in a sacred gathering. Real fasting constitutes complete abstinence from all edibles and consumables except pure water. Fasting enhances self-discipline, self-control, improves health, and infuses the body with positive vibes. Important internal organs like the stomach, intestines, liver, and kidneys are given rest during this period. In short, fasting is an effective cleansing device.
Delightful fasting foods
Over time, to reduce the severity of a fast, some amazing foods were introduced in the fasting menu, and today, the world recognises them as superfoods. However, the essence of fasting is lost on the incorrigible foodie. By deep-frying and adding excessive white sugar, they destroy the wonderful properties of these superfoods that bring about peace, love, and rejuvenation.
I find it remarkably noteworthy that foods eaten during fasts are a balance of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Grains are replaced by seed grains like amaranth (rajgira) and barnyard millet (sama or verghu) or potato, sweet potato, yams, and water chestnut flour (singhada atta). Buckwheat (kuttu), sago (sabudana), and raw banana flour are other salubrious grain replacements. Protein sources are substituted by nuts, seeds, milk, and curd, and cow’s ghee and coconut oil are used as healthy fat substitutes. The spices and condiments used to prepare healthy fasting foods are cumin seeds, green chilli, ginger, lemon, mint, rock salt and sea salt. Sweet cravings are satisfied with fruits, jaggery, and dry fruits. Vegetables like cucumber and pumpkin are enjoyed by fast observers without any guilt. However, permitted vegetables in a fast can change according to the preference of different communities. You would be surprised to know that all your fasting foods are gluten free.
How to fast
Let me share with you what I love to partake of during fasts. I want everyone to learn how to preserve the incredible properties of these superfoods for the overall benefit of the body and mind. Whether you are a student or homemaker, working or travelling, fasting with these excellent foods will energise you.
Begin the day with a glass of water.
Follow it with chanting Om, the universal name of the Lord that reverberates through all of Creation. This practice leads to inner peace and an increase in your spiritual and creative prowess.
After this, chew a few holy basil (tulsi) leaves which are natural de-stressors. Start your breakfast with coconut and banana, which are sources of good quality fat. They increase your serotonin levels and a combination of this trio instantly revitalises you.
If one wants to drink a sweet beverage, then it is better to substitute sugar with jaggery, and if one is still hungry, then it is advisable to add some nuts like walnuts, almonds, pistachios, or cashew nuts to the meal.
For lunch or dinner, eat any permissible vegetable like pumpkin, bottle gourd, potato, or cucumber along with a cup of curd for your protein and probiotic intake. Accompany these with any grain substitute like rajgira or singhada flour (atta), which can be made into rotis (flat Indian bread). Boiled sweet potato or yam can be baked into patties or shallow fried on the tawa (griddle). The kuttu flour can be steamed and made into dhoklas (a Gujarati fermented dish) or even roti. Little millet is an amazing rice substitute. All these foods are satiating, nutrient-dense and low in glycaemic index. This allows the blood sugar and insulin to rise steadily, giving one a steady supply of energy throughout the day.
Snack in between on nuts and seeds like sesame, flax, pumpkin, and melon, which contain powerful antioxidants, good quality fats, and proteins.
Satisfy your sweet cravings with dry fruits like dates, raisins, dried figs, and dried apricots.
Fasting foods can be a balance of all nutrients and can keep you full as well as rejuvenated. So, ditch the fried and sugar-laden foods during your fast and replace them with the menu I have designed, to feel positive vibrations in your body.
Recipe 1: Buckwheat (kuttu) Dhokla
1 cup buckwheat flour (kuttu atta)
1/4 cup barnyard millet flour (sama atta)
1/2 cup sour yoghurt (dahi)
1 green chilli, ground to paste
1 tsp roasted cumin seeds
Rock salt (sendha namak) as required
1 tbsp ghee
1tbsp sesame (til)
1 tbsp ghee
• Combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and allow it to rest for about 30 minutes.
• Stir a tablespoon of ghee into the batter.
• Grease the plate and pour the dhokla batter and steam on high heat in a steamer for about 10 to 15 minutes until done.
• Melt ghee in a wok and put sesame seeds in it; once it crackles, pour it on the dhokla.
• Serve hot with mint chutney.
Recipe 2: Baked sweet potato patties (tikkis)
250 gm sweet potatoes
1 tsp ginger-chilli paste
1 or 2 tbsp water chestnut flour (singhada atta)
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp roasted cumin powder
Rock salt to taste
3 tsp cow’s ghee
• Roast the sweet potatoes in the oven till they are soft and peel the skin.
• Mash them well.
• Add all the ingredients except the ghee and make small patties (tikkis).
• Pan-fry them with ghee till both sides are brown.
• Serve with mint chutney.
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