As a family, we have been recently enjoying this very simple Ayurvedic version of a milk shake. My two daughters who usually love all things cold and sweet (ice cream, milk shakes, smoothies...!) are now hooked to this filling and invigorating milk drink.
First of all, let's talk about milk.
Ayurveda is a big fan of cow's milk for its ojas increasing properties. The word ojas in Ayurveda refers to the overall glow or vitality of a person. It includes a person's strength, immunity, energy and contentment. If you digest cow's milk well, then it is an incredible medicine for your system. Milk also helps cultivate the quality of sattva in the mind - that of calm, wholesomeness and bliss.
The milk referred to in our Ayurvedic texts however, is very different than the milk we consume today. Many factors like the breed of cow, the feed and care of the cows, the freshness of the milk, and the processing of the milk post-collection - all dramatically change the effect it has on our body. Impure cow's milk will not act as a medicine. The process of 'homogenization' itself is extremely troubling. Have you ever wondered what exactly that does to the structure of the milk?
I will not go into all these many considerations here. Let me just say that whenever possible, please buy milk that is organic, non-homogenized, full-fat, in glass bottles and taken from grass-fed cows on small farms...and say a prayer before you drink it - for good measure!
These days more and more people are using the term "lactose intolerant" to describe their relationship with milk. They feel some form (mild or extreme) of digestive discomfort on consuming dairy. In Ayurveda, we understand this to be a symptom of an impaired digestion. The body is simply unable to process the milk. This may be due to a number of reasons such as the milk itself being hard to digest, or the internal digestive fire is too weak, or then perhaps the body has been inundated with toxic-build up from years of stress, environmental impurities, and incorrect eating patterns (overeating, eating at the wrong time, eating foods that imbalance the constitution, and using improper food combinations).
In this case, Ayurveda recommends taking a break from dairy. You would then work to build your digestive potency back up, and properly eliminate toxins from the body. Then gradually, you re-introduce milk again. When re-introducing milk, you would start with small quantities, and boil it with digestive herbs like dried ginger, cardamom and turmeric before drinking. While raw cold milk is heavy and mucous-producing (ever noticed you have more phlegm the day after you eat ice cream?), cooked, warm, spiced milk is easy to digest and nourishing.
If you prefer to use non-dairy milk, then it's best to make it yourself at home. The boxed versions in stores have very little actual nutrition and a whole lot of fillers that can clog up your gut. A simple recipe is to soak 20 almonds at night in a cup of water. Drain the water in the morning, pop off the peals and blend with 2 cups of water till smooth. Add a touch of cardamom, vanilla, rosewater or even maple syrup and you have clean, home-made almond milk!
Cow's milk is great for Vata and Pitta type constitutions. Kaphas can avoid it altogether (they tend to have lots of ojas even without consuming milk). Luckily we are a Vata-Pitta family so milk gets consumed by the gallon at our house!
This recipe has been created by Dr Vasant Lad, a respected Ayurvedic physician and educator. I give my thanks to him for all his work in the field.
Quick and Easy Almond Date Milkshake
You will need:
10 Almonds (soak 8 hours in a cup of water)
3 Medjool dates (soak 8 hours in a separate cup of water)
1 cup milk - freshly boiled
1/2 cup hot water
A pinch of your favourite spice - cinnamon, cardamom, or nutmeg
In separate bowls or cups, soak the dates and almond in water overnight.
Drain almonds. Pop the almonds out of their skins.
Boil a cup of milk.
Place the almonds, dates (with their water from soaking), milk, hot water and a pinch of your preferred spice in a blender.
Blend till smooth and drink warm.
Feel free to play with the density by varying the number of almonds, dates, milk and hot water.
And if you haven't ever tried a hot-milk variation of a shake, I recommend that you try it at least once.