Grass Fed Meat and Milk in Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine: Grass fed is meat and milk as our ancestors ate it. Our hunter gatherer ancestors obviously did not drink milk, as they did not yet practice animal husbandry. But they were certainly not vegans or vegetarians, as the term hunter implies. The meat our neolithic ancestors ate was wild game from which our modern goats and cows descend. But humans have been drinking milk in various cultures of Africa, South Asia, and the Near East for 10,000 years of so, long enough for our guts to adapt to this food source. But again, 10,000 years ago, as in some places still today, the sheep and goats and cattle grazed on wild grasses and herbs, which, as you will see, below, is what makes their flesh and milk prana and Qi rich foodstuff.
Grass Fed Meat and Milk in Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine: Freshness-Prana-Qi
Ayurveda is very clear that all food should be be fresh, and so infused with Prana, what is called Qi in Chinese Medicine. Even fruit is much better when picked fresh from the vine or tree. Bananas picked green and shipped halfway around the world give the taste of eternal summer in cold climes, but also produce Ama/digestive toxins much faster and easier than a banana ripened on the tree. Such is the modern world, and while if you want to eat banana in Europe then you have to choose your battles, and, at least, choose the banana varieties that seem to ripen well. At Whole Foods they sell, for example, Red Banana, called Raja Pazham in Tamil Nadu, South India, because its fruit is dense, a deep yellow color, with a lovely texture and taste. But the stuff they sell at Whole Foods is so green that they actually often never ripen. Without knowing it people may be eating a “healthy” fruit in a way that is bad for digestive health, and so bad for all health.
In the case of meat and milk the issue of freshness is huge. Obviously when foods spoil they are good only for scavenger dogs, who evolved to eat such things. Fresh meat has no bad smell at all. Fresh milk has a lovely soft smell and is never even remotely sour. So again, you can buy Raw Milk at the coop if you want, but make sure it is fresh raw milk. I stopped buying raw milk from the coop because it was always spoiled. How do you tell? It tastes sour, called “off.”
Goat-Cow-Buffalo: Different Qualities for Different Doshas
The best milk was given by the cow that morning. That is what I used to get in the small village of Kanadukathan in India. Milk is naturally heavy. Cow’s milk more than Goat, Buffalo more than cow. There are castes, such as the Natukottai Chettairs, who will not, as a habit, drink Buffalo milk, because, since it is so heavy it increases Kapha and Tamas, and these international business folk need to be sharp so they can outwit their competitors. On the other hand, vegetarians in India, who normally drink cow’s milk daily at morning and night, when ill, if they drink milk will switch to Goat’s milk, because it is “drier” and lighter and easier to digest, so more appropriate to recovering from illness.
What is interesting here, before we write this off as superstition, is to observe that, indeed, Buffalo’s milk is in the real world heavier than cow’s milk, because it is higher in fat. As any cheese maker, they will tell you. And Goat’s milk, we all know, is used, even in the west, by folk with digestive problems, because it is easier to digest. Something about the proteins, and also the fat molecules are smaller, which makes 1% goat’s milk taste smooth and creamy like full-fat milk.
What is interesting is that one of the ways that our Ancients figured out the properties of foodstuffs from animals was by observing the animals and their natures themselves. The other way was to observe the quality and effects of the foods produced from the animals. You can drink goat, cow, and buffalo milk and observe its effects on your own body. But you can also notice that water buffalos are much bigger and heavier than dairy cattle, are much slower, considered way dumber, and love nothing more than to wallow in a large pool of water, all very very Kaphic and Tamasic. In Sri Lanka they have wonderful and delicious yogurt made from Buffalo milk. They eat it with desert drizzled with Kittul toddy, a sugary syrup from a particular kind of palm tree. But they treat it the way we in the USA treat, or should treat, ice cream. Its cold, heavy, and should be taken in quite small amounts, and infrequently, because, buffalo milk is very heavy, like red meat. Of course this is also a function of your physical exercise levels. A laborer working hard for 10 hours a day has different needs from a scholar spending most of the day thinking and pondering while sitting down.
Goats on the other hand, are light and nimble and can jump. Its only in children’s stories that cows can jump over the moon or the house. But in the real world goats can, almost. But they are fleet of foot and can run fast in bursts. This is why goat meat and milk is considered lighter than cow or buffalo, because the animal itself is lighter and drier. While even goat milk and meat can elevate Kapha and cause Ama and Tamas when taken in excess, (and excess is again, relative to your Dosha, your Agni digestive fire, and your physical work rate) as a rule Goat products are lighter and easier to digest than cow or buffalo, especially if the milk is from goats grazing on wild herbs such as you get when on the island of Crete, in Greece, and may get here in the Southwest from small farmers.
Goat meat and milk being lighter and drier may elevate Vata if overused, is the red meat and dairy most suitable, in small amounts, to Kapha
Cows flesh being heavy is suitable to Pitta and Cow’s milk being heavy and Sattvic is suitable to Pitta and Vata, but Vata, especially must cook with spices
Buffalo’s milk being very heavy is mostly suitable only to Pitta
Milk is Liquid Meat: Cook It and with Spices
In this last case, “especially if the milk is from goats grazing on wild herbs” we begin to see that, not only are you and I “what we eat” so are the animals we, as predators, derive our food from. So milk and meat from cattle fattened up with hormones, kept in a feed lot or barn without exercise and fresh air, and stuffed with grain and god know’s what instead of its natural diet of wild grasses, is going to be far more Ama/digestive toxin inducing, and far more Kapha and Tamas elevating than the milk and flesh of cattle left to wander in the meadows and eat natural grasses, which, still, even in the best of worlds, should be taken in small amounts and only when very fresh, and in the case of cow’s milk, diluted with some water and cooked with digestive spices like cardamon, ginger, and clove, to break down the proteins into amino acids, just as we cook meat. Milk is liquid meat. And the spices are added because milk is so naturally cooling and heavy, the spices balance the cold energy and also stimulate your digestive fire/Agni, Spleen Hun Hua function (transformation and transportation of foodstuffs into energy). In fact I would go so far as to say that factory farmed milk and meat is not food, but poison. Its what is called “wrecked food” in Chinese medicine, food that has been spoiled in some way so as to be disease forming not health forming. Because you get so many ingredients with factory food that you don’t want, from hormones and pesticides to harmful super-bacteria. And from an traditional medicine standpoint, you put stuff into your body that is weak on the Qi to Substance ration, it is weak in Prana, and its the prana and Qi in the food water and air that are life forming. Even the family dog, evolved to lick feces off of a stick (yes! i caught my dog, Sasha, doing just that in the park) will be more healthy with clean meat than macdonald’s hamburgers.
Which leads to today’sNew York Times article explaining how organic meat and milk, which, by the way, is not at all necessarily exclusively fed on natural grasses, has been found to be higher in the health promoting Omega 3 fatty acids found in foods like wild salmon and sardines. Grass fed milk and meat are even higher in those health promoting substances…
Does Ayurveda Recommend Vegetarianism for Everyone?
Last question is, doesn’t Ayurveda propose a vegetarian diet for everyone? And the answer is clearly NO. Modern Ayurveda as brought to the west is heavily influenced by Yoga, by Brahmanism, and by Western Naturopathy. This is a long story for another time, but each of those brings with it a vegetarian agenda, which is fine, especially from an ecological standpoint. But, throughout its history Ayurveda has recommending flesh foods, especially milk, yogurt, and ghee for Vatta and Pitta dosha, and describes, as Chinese medicine does, the medical benefits of different flesh foods for different health issues. So there is no opposition to dairy products even by vegetarian Ayurveds, on the contrary Milk and Ghee are two of the most Sattvic or balancing , spirit promoting foods. But its has to be of good quality (see, above) and taken in moderation and in the correct manner, and, in the case of Kapha dosha, very infrequently and in small amounts. And there is no history of Ayurveda promoting vegetarianism for everyone, especially not for Vata dominant persons who benefit from the incredible warming, grounding, and strengthening properties of flesh foods. Vata dominants are naturally weak and spacy, and nothing packs the building punch well prepared and well digested meat does, high in iron, easily digested protein, and B-vitamins all in one package. Kapha dominant dosha, on the other hand, needs very little flesh food or dairy, and also, in very small amounts. Because Kapha are nature’s human water buffaloes, even when very intelligent. They are naturally strong, heavy, and dense, and so need a lighter diet high in vegetables and legumes.
Chinese Medicine on Flesh Foods
Everything written above applies to Chinese Medicine as well, with the difference that Chinese culture has zero history of vegetarianism in it, outside of some very very few Buddhist monasteries. Whereas an element of Indian society has been vegetarian for a long time, generally upper castes who led more sedentary existence. Chinese people have a saying, “we eat anything with legs except the table.”
But the difference is, and you can see this even in the cheapest, worst Chinese restaurants in the USA, namely, that the meat is prepared always in small pieces and with vegetables. I loved Chicken chow mein as a kid, which we got one day a week at the school cafeteria. I now realize why, because it had cooked celery and onion in it. I have always loved vegetables. When you eat your flesh foods with vegetables cooked how the Chinese do, with flavorings and sauces that stimulate your digestive transformative fire/Agni you are balancing the heavy dense flesh food with the fire of spices like ginger and the lightness and bitter taste, which promotes digestion, of vegetables. Its all about balance, grasshopper, and you can look under the rocks of traditional culture and find efforts at balancing foods and lifestyles everywhere…
copyright eyton shalom, l.ac. www.bodymindwellnesscenter.com san diego ca may 2016 all rights reserved use with permission