Fasting and health
Ekadashi, if observed in an ideal fashion, by doing nirjala, provides numerous health benefits. Maharaj has built into our religious practice a fixed way to detox our bodies physically, mentally and spiritually by fasting on a regular basis. This is an age-old agna for us, but in recent years there are have been multiple studies backing up the health benefits of this agna. For instance, a 2007 study released by the University of California, Berkeley published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that alternate-day fasting or fasting ‘intermittently’ can result in a number of positive health results including but not limited to a decrease in cardiovascular disease risk; a decrease in diabetes risk; improved cognitive function; and protection against some effects of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. An ongoing study at Intermountain Medical Center's Heart Institute, located in Utah, also credits abstinence from food as a way to derail diabetes.
When it comes to other Ekadashi observances, like jala or farar, the health benefits are often diluted because we assume that fasting will lead to starvation. We all remember a time when Ekadashi meals were starchy, greasy, sugary, and fatty. However, in a society increasingly focused on health and well-being, yuvaks and yuvatis around the world are building lifestyles around proper nutrition and exercise. This means we are adopting healthier meal choices during Ekadashi while still striving to achieve the eventual goal of total niswadipanu. For those who are building up to observing nirjala during Ekadashi, there are several options for healthy meals listed below.
The End Goal
At the very heart of the Ekadashi observance is our drive to reach spiritual perfection. By practicing Ekadashi purely and diligently, we come one step closer to earning Maharaj and Swami’s rajipo and attaining Akshardham.
Tips to stay energized during Ekadashi:
Sometimes, especially as a student, working professional or busy mom, it is difficult to stay energized throughout the day. Here are some tips on how to stay fueled if you are doing farar.
Avoid sweets, caffeine and artificial sweeteners. Yes, that includes the high-fructose corn syrup-laden sodas and colas.
If you are eating cheese, make sure it is rennet-free (all the time, not just on Ekadashi)!
Pack ahead! Especially on those days when you have to attend work meetings or are spending the day at school. Some examples include:
Trail mix with nuts and dried fruits
Apples and nut butter or seed butter (beware of unhealthy peanut butter that contains hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils).
Plain Greek Yogurt or cottage cheese with nuts and/or fresh fruit
Yucca chips or plantain chips
Healthy Ekadashi Options:
Here are some quick recipes to mix up for your farari Ekadashis that are healthy and fruit-and-vegetable-based.
Roasted vegetable soup
Serving size: 4
1 stalk celery
Half box of cherry tomatoes
5 to 6 wide strips of roasted red pepper (bottled)
6 to 7 florets cauliflower
Green or red bell pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut all fresh veggies into medium sized pieces.
Toss in a large bowl with olive oil, salt and some dry oregano and dry basil (do not add the roasted red pepper from bottle yet).
Put on a cookie sheet and roast in the oven on 400 degrees for 35 min. or until golden brown.
When done, put the roasted veggies and add the roasted red peppers in a large pot. Add fresh basil and rosemary. Add about 3 to 3.5 cups of water.
Cook on low for 45 min. Blend. Add salt and pepper to taste.
1 tsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
3 medium zucchini, sliced 1/8" thick
15 oz part-skim ricotta
16 oz part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
¼ cup of parmesan cheese vegetarian substitute
In a medium sauce pan, add olive oil to the pan. Add tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper. Simmer on low for at least 30-40 minutes, covered. Sauce should be thick at the end.
Meanwhile, slice zucchini into 1/8" thick slices, saltlightly and set aside or 10 minutes. Zucchini has a lot of water when cooked, salting it takes out a lot of moisture. After 10 minutes, blot excess moisture with a paper towel.
On a gas grill or grill pan, grill zucchini on each side, until cooked, about 1-2 minutes per side. Place on paper towels to soak any excess moisture.
Preheat oven to 350°.
In a medium bowl mix ricotta cheese and parmesan cheese. Season with dried or fresh herbs and salt and pepper. Stir well.
In a 9x12 casserole spread some sauce on the bottom and layer the zucchini to cover. Then place some of the ricotta cheese mixture, then top with the mozzarella cheese and repeat the process until all your ingredients are used up. Top with sauce and mozzarella and cover with foil.
Bake 45 minutes covered at 375°, then uncovered 15 minutes. Let stand about 5 - 10 minutes before serving.
Optional: Add spinach or other vegetables in cheese mix to add in extra vegetables.
Rosemary-roasted sweet potato wedges
3 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 pound total)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Cut potatoes lengthwise into 3/4-inch-thick slices.
In a large shallow baking pan heat butter in oven 2 minutes, or until melted.
Add potatoes, tossing to coat, and sprinkle with rosemary and salt and pepper to taste.
Roast potatoes in middle of oven, gently tossing with a metal spatula halfway through roasting time, 20 minutes total, or until tender.
Practical tips for fasting
One of the greatest barriers to performing Ekadashi is simply remembering. There are a number of ways to ensure you don’t forget this twice-monthly agna.
Start a buddy system remind a friend and have a friend remind you the night before
Sync your phone calendar to the Hindu calendar - http://www.baps.org/Calendar/2016/Download.aspx
Set up reminders on your phone with an alarm
Put a BAPS calendar in a place in your home where you will see it everyday.