Here we are at the height of winter. The holidays may or may not have been comforting and joyous, but for many of us they were pound packing, sugar glutting, and alcohol indulging, resulting in a general feeling of heaviness, in body, or spirit, or both. So now tis the season to attempt the unpacking of the pounds, toxins, or winter blues that may be dragging down the body and/or psyche.
For many of us that means cleanses or dietary shifts that often include some sort of healthy smoothie. Ahh the smoothie! This icon of a healthy diet can be amazing, and I drink plenty of them myself, but there’s a really big problem with most of them: They’re usually cold. In fact some recipes use ice as an ingredient. If you live in an area that has cold winters and you want your marvelous magic bullet concoction to have a prayer ofworking for you this winter, loose the ice and WARM THAT SMOOTHIE!
Ok, to that I know many of you will have an initial reaction of pure disgust. But here’s the thing: Cold is never good in the stomach unless it is outrageously hot outside and one is feeling outrageously hot. So at the height of winter when temperatures are dipping into the teens or lower, that cold smoothie is an extremely poor choice to put into the body. Granted it may be loaded with awesome organic ingredients, but your body is still not going to be able to digest it well, if at all. Instead your body will be stressed.
Why? Because cold puts out the digestive fire. This digestive fire that resides in the belly is the power source that drives metabolism. The weakening of the digestive fire is perhaps one of the most dangerously unhealthy trends currently in the western hemisphere. According to Ayurveda (which is an ancient method of health care founded in India five thousand years ago, and is still around today for the very fact that it works) the digestive fire is the key to health. In Ayurveda everything health related is about how one assimilates one’s food and experiences and turns them into one’s body and being. This digestive fire needs to burn steady and strong. If it doesn’t all sorts of issues may ensue, from heart burn to allergies to other major breakdowns that can eventually lead to diabetes, heart disease, depression, or even cancer.
So just what happens when your nice, nutrient rich, freezing smoothie hits your stomach? The hydrochloric acid (think fire), becomes neutralized. When this happens it no longer has enough heat to break down your foods. Large protein, and fat molecules end up moving into the intestines in much bigger forms than they should and wreak havoc. Cilla, the tiny hair like fibers that line intestinal tract and sensitively draw in nutrients, and help move food along, get matted down. Food stagnates. The integrity of the gut wall becomes compromised, (think leaky gut), healthy flora is compromised, allergic responses get triggered, stress hormones are released and inflammation skyrockets.
People often respond to this disastrous cascade by eliminating foods with heavy proteins, such as dairy, and gluten, and eggs, etc. This seems to work for a while but the compromised gut will continue being sensitive to more and more foods causing one’s diet to include fewer and fewer options. At this point one often gives up and eats whatever, suffering the weight gain, indigestion, headaches or other unfortunate manifestations of poor metabolism their body is prone to. Sometimes people go the other way and become food vigilantes who grill the party hosts or restaurant staffs on every ingredient down to what type of vanilla extract was used, and then more often than not end up eating undressed salad greens and carrots (cold mind you) with a forced smile over the knowledge that one is doing what’s right for the body. Some people spend a lot of time waffling between these two options, baffling both themselves and surrounding friends and loved ones alike. Now don’t get me wrong. There are very real sensitivities and allergies out there that need to be meticulously cared for and warming your cold food and drinks before you have them won’t magically cure you. But freezing the digestive fire is only going to add to digestive problems.
So please, warm that smoothie. Heat the milk, or almond milk, or coconut milk, or water or what ever liquid base you use for your smoothie before you pour it into the blender. At first it may seem strange, but give it a chance. Your body will enjoy getting something warm when it is cold out, and will eventually convince your mind, making the warmed smoothie a pleasant and truly healthy treat.