Phalahari - "Paleo" Diet of Yogis
Traditional yogic diet for loosing weight, good health and better practice.
Ivona Peček – Hemwati, Ayurveda Therapist, Sattva Udruga.
How did you learn about phalahari diet?
Yoga master and author of Yoga in Daily Life System, Vishwa Guruji Sri Paramhans Maheswarananda, recommended and explained phalahari diet principles to me. At first I tried to follow phalahari diet for three months, then I prolonged it on the recommendation of Vishwa Guruji. In time phalahari diet became my life style. Before I started to eat according to phalahari diet, I didn't have any specific health issues, but with advancing age and being overweight, problems can be expected. Since I have been following phalahari diet, that is now for more than 3 years and half, I am enjoying in perfect health. In all this time I have got one common cold, that's all. I have also made sureto check my blood from time to time and my levels are as they should be.
Is phalahari diet well known in India?
In India, where I learned more about phalahari diet, it is known that god Rama, his wife Sita and his brother Lakshman were the inspiration for this food regime. These famous divine characters were living in the forest for 14 years and during that time they ate fruits and roots, which were available there. Therefore Phalahari diet is an old yogic tradition. When I attended the biggest spiritual gathering Khumba mela, I also met Ramdev, a very popular yogi in India. He followed the phalahari diet for 12 years and he looks very athletic and healthy. It was his vow to follow phalahari diet until Indian government will not support spirituality. Viswha Guruji offered him a first chapatti when he came from the Himalayas (Indian government organised a free practice of yoga globally – International Day of Yoga).
Which food is to be avoided on phalahari diet?
Bananas and potatoes, but in India they eat both.
Many Ayurveda doctors also suggest that imported bananas are best to be avoided.
Ayurveda promotes the notion that food should be adjusted to our circumstances. While in India on phalahari diet bananas and potatos are eaten, dhal is not on the menu, while in Europe it is included. According to Ayurveda mung dhal is a legume that is very nourishing, but not fattening. It provides us with proteins and energy, promotes the production of blood, while it will not weight you down. Phalahari diet in Europe includes also buckwheat and amaranth. I grind these grains in flour and make chapattis.
So phalahari diet does not mean eating raw food only?
Of course not, Ayurveda is a very old scientific system and it promotes adjustment and stresses the importance of the fact that our food should be above all easily digestible. According to Ayurveda we live in kali yuga and we are much different from the people that lived on raw food in caves. Our digestive system has changed accordingly, also our skin among other things. It is therefore difficult for us to compare ourselves to the people from the past. That is why our food should be chosen according to our current state. Ayurveda suggests that we should also eat cooked food. But please do not torture your vegetable for hours, in 10 minutes your lunch can be ready. If we cook our vegetables, we can use all of them, which means less waste. By all means we should avoid piling waste also in our bodies, because it invites illnesses. To sum up, on phalahari diet you can eat cooked vegetables or even prepared in the oven with some olive oil – delicious. I know a lady who did not need an additional heart surgery, because her condition improved significantly after following the phalahari diet. It can have a very positive effect on your health, proved by medical doctors. But of course, if you have medical restrictions regarding dieting, you should respect that.
Which foods are a part of phalahari diet in Europe?
Phal in Sanskrit means fruit, which means that you can eat all the fruit, except bananas, and all vegetables, except potatoes. Sweet potato is allowed, since it has other properties. As I have mentioned buckwheat, amaranth and mung dhal can be a part of your menu. There is another flour that can be used and it is called besan. It is not to be confused with chickpea flour, because besan is made of another variety (chana dal). Nuts are also included in the diet, the amount of one fist hold per day. Dried fruits of all kinds are recommended from figs, dates, and apples to coconut. Ayurvedic advice is that nuts and dried fruits should be soaked overnight. I would say that the food items in phalahari diet are varied enough.
Would you recommend phalahari diet mostly to those who are overweight?
Phalahari diet is advised to all who, according to ayurvedic principles, have a tendency to increased kapha. It means they have more fat tissue, are more prone to tamas guna, have a lack of enthusiasm, and tend to be less athletic. Phalahari diet will show results in several weeks or in months, but the best results are achieved in a year. With phalahari diet people balance their cholesterol levels, blood pressure and boost their overall immune system. There were fewer heart problems and so on. I should stress that phalahari diet is not suitable for children, teenagers, during pregnancy, people with low weight and those who are recuperating after an illness. Otherwise phalahari diet is recommended for all those who practice yoga during summer months, when fruits and vegetables are easily available. For those who are overweight phalahari diet is a way to loose weight slowly and safely , while being full of energy. I noticed that some people, while dieting, look weak and somehow slow. Phalahari diet is not like that, those following it need less sleep, bad breath or unpleasant body smell vanish, and life energy is renewed. Some also report fewerheadaches, better digestion and similar.
Are there no dairy products in phalahari diet?
No, in principle there are none. But if needed, a very little amount of yoghourt or milk can be used (1 decilitre per day). I also used to take some dairy, but now I stopped and I feel well.
The main characteristic of phalahari diet is an absence of carbohydrates from grains?
That is so, I should also stress that food should be organically grown. At the beginning one has to get used to the fact that it is necessary to eat five or six times a day. In first days of dieting after eating lunch you might be hungry soon after. Food is easily digestible, and thismeans also an increase in one’s visits to the toilet. Our body needs 3 to 4 months to accept the new regime and then the bowel movements are normalised. It is most interesting that you loose weight and eat five or six times a day.
You wrote a recipe collection about phalahari diet. Can you tell us what you have for breakfast, lunch and dinner?
Currently my breakfast is puffed amaranth with cinnamon, cardamom, almond milk and honey or sweetener. A perfect breakfast. I also like to eat fruit and nut bars that I make from dried fruits or smoothie from soaked dried fruits and nuts. For lunch I prepare a vegetable soup and sabdzi (Indian vegetable dish). I should mention that tofu can also be used, 5 decagrams per week. To the vegetable dish I add a few buckwheat chapattis and I must say, it is most delicious and filling. For dinner I prepare a vegetable cooked dish or a bigger salad. After three years of phalahari diet I once wanted to eat something »normal«, but after taking a bite, I was not overwhelmed with satisfaction. Phalahari diet showed me, how mind tricks us in the way to seek novelty, but it is more in the mind than in the taste.
What about coffee and black tea?
Phalahari diet does not allow an intake of coffee and black tea. Very rarely I order a decaff, just to get a taste. During the diet I started drinking jasmine green tea, I love it. You can drink herbal tea, natural lemonade, some fruit juice and above all water. Vishwa Guruji stressed that phalahari diet is not just about loosing weight and health; it opens our muladhara chakra – solar plexus. Therefore it is not only about our physical level, but it supports all that follow the path of yoga and spiritual development.
Can you tell us more about the right combination of different types of food that has a prominent role in Ayurveda?
Following Ayurveda, we should first take food that is more difficult to digest and then follow with more easily digestive dishes. For example first we should eat salad and follow with a cooked meal. It is even preferable to separate raw and cooked meals, as well as fruit and vegetable dishes. We need different enzymes to digest fruit or vegetables, so if we combine them, one of them will not be digested properly. We should eat fruit as a separate meal, at least an hour after a previous meal. Ayurveda favours fresh fruit, if we cook them, spices should be used to assist digestion.
Are there any hindrances for phalahari diet?
For adults that are suitable to follow this diet, the main hindrance can be a lot of travelling.. Shops and restaurants have little to offer except a vegetable soup or steamed vegetables. It can be also quite frustrating if you are on the road and you want to go shopping for food, to discover that 90% of what they sell is not for you. One should take into account that on phalahari diet two meals should be cooked, if you want to be content. That can be off putting for those who are not used to cooking, but with some practice you have a meal in 15 minutes.