Jasmine Hemsley knows how healthy eating works. The focus is on ayurveda in her latest cookbook, East by West
Jasmine Hemsley caught my attention for the first time when she published Good + Simple, a cookbook focused on nutritional moderation that sharpened my understanding of the benefits of bone broth. Now, a few years after that cookbook was released, she’s decided to share her expertise through another valuable publication that takes a deep dive into the ayurvedic lifestyle: East by West: Simple Recipes for Ultimate Mind-Body Balance.
Jasmine Hemsley answered three questions about Ayurveda and her book for hey woman!:
How do you personally integrate the essentials of Ayurveda into your daily life?
I started off with the things that made immediate sense – eating and sleeping with the circadian rhythm – the natural cycle of the day for better energy and better rest. One of the first most impactful things that I did was to eat my main meal at lunch and make supper a bit earlier and lighter, say around 7pm where possible, which made such a difference to the quality of my sleep compared to eating a bigger meal at 8pm like I’d done most of my life. I also found that if I started winding down for bed at 9pm for 10pm sleep, it was a lot easier than finding myself wired in front of my laptop, phone, or TV, getting overtired and then suddenly hungry again and wanting to snack at 10.30 or 11pm! Of course, this isn’t rigid and it certainly doesn’t happen every day, but when it does I feel like I create energy reserves to see me through the less ideal times rather than constantly running myself into the ground.
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I also learned to become more mindful about my food – not just about delicious dinners out, or mum’s cooking, or something special that I had created – but every time that I was blessed with having food and being able to eat. Taking a moment before eating to appreciate my food stopped me hurtling into it absentmindedly. And that meant I found my meal, no matter what it was, more satisfying (and didn’t have bloating or other digestive issues). While it took awhile for me to really understand how, what, and when you eat affects the mind as well as the body, I became aware that slowly modern science is beginning to validate the more holistic approach of the east to wellbeing – and if that wasn’t enough to persuade me, I think 5000 years of tried-and-tested Ayurveda can’t be wrong!
What are three central takeaways when it comes to identifying what your body needs? How can Ayurveda help?
Ayurveda has a beautiful way of helping you to categorize how your mind and body is feeling, and therefore what simple solutions you can incorporate to help bring balance – the ultimate way to live at your personal optimum, a way that works best for you. The tridoshic theory is a way of describing certain tendencies in our personalities as Vata, Pitta, and Kapha – of which we are a blend of all three with one dosha usually being dominant. I’m very much Vata, for example – I think fast, talk fast, dash around, feel the cold more, and tire easily because I’m always busy doing something and am very often in my head.
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In order to not burn out and get run down – and get a bit more fire in my belly while cultivating a bit more of a laid-back attitude – I’m better with hot, comforting soups and stews with plenty of pungent spices and good fats that are easy to digest and warm me up from the inside out (rather than too many greens and raw foods like salads). I need to reduce stimuli and favor slower exercise and movements that help ground me (rather than running and jumping around, which can be overstimulating). If I can get the balance right, making decisions according to how I’m feeling at any given movement and taking into consideration my environment and the seasons, than I can thrive without any of the negatives of Vata taking hold.
Basically, you add in some of the opposite to help counteract any imbalances you might be experiencing. In this way, the same foods and lifestyle habits that work for me can have completely different effects on my friends and family who are not Vata dominant – nothing wildly different or scary, but a subtle difference. And it’s in recognizing the subtle messages our body might be sending us (as well as the big ones) we can really find a way to thrive that’s best for us.
What would you recommend for someone who would love to adapt their nutrition to ayurvedic principles? What would be some easy first steps to tap into the topic?
Start cooking wholesome, slow-cooked food, which is great for everyone’s digestion, as often as possible – after all, you are what you can digest. Enjoy a sprinkle of herbs and spices regularly in your dishes to take advantage of nature’s medicine cabinet, and sip herbal teas throughout the day. East by West has 140 recipes that draw on different cultural influences from around the world, from traditional chicken soup for the soul and belly warming dals, to twists on modern favorites like teff waffles with turmeric honey drizzle and cinnamon spiced buckwheat banana bread. It has something for everyone – and little pointers and tips throughout that can help you tweak the recipe to how you’re feeling. For example, feeling hot and bothered? Skip the chili and ginger and opt for more cooling and calming herbs and spices like coriander and mint. Feeling all up in your head, or cold and run down? Amp up the ginger, add a dollop of ghee with a squeeze of lime. This way everyone can enjoy their favorite dishes with friends and family while still looking after their individual needs. Just by cooking and enjoying the book you can start to get a feel for what Ayurveda offers and learn the language of “living la vida ‘veda.’”
The front of the book shares tips to keep your digestion lively and the back goes deeper into sharing more Ayurvedic principles – great for enthusiasts and anyone curious to learn what else the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda has to offer.
Julia co-founded one of the first fashion blogs in Germany in 2007 and became a freelance consultant for digital strategies after publishing her first book in 2010. After an eventful four years with Condé Nast working mainly in the digital department of Vogue Germany, she decided to launch her own online magazine with her dream partner, Veronika Heilbrunner. She is based in Berlin and loves to read books.