Jasmine’s quest for balance
If chilly damp days make you yearn for body- and mind-warming comfort food, slow-cooked and sloppy enough to need a bowl and a big spoon, Jasmine Hemsley is right behind you. ‘Eating hot food in cold weather – porridge, soups and stews – is easy on the digestive system and helps to give you balance and vitality.’ Such simple ideas are guiding principles of Ayurveda, the ancient holistic healthcare system with roots in India, which Jasmine has followed for the past eight years.
‘I’ve long been fascinated by the importance of digestion and gut health. Ayurveda holds that our vitality, wellbeing and happiness come from a life in balance and that the secret to maintaining that balance lies in the strength of our “agni”, or digestive fire,’ explains Jasmine. The cook and wellbeing coach, best known as one half of the sister duo Hemsley + Hemsley, has gone solo with her new book East by West: Simple Ayurvedic Recipes for Ultimate Mind-Body Balance.
It’s a long way from the cheese and ketchup toasties that Jasmine, 37, lived on at university. She first heard about Ayurveda in 2001 when she was modelling, but it wasn’t until she started working in the wellness world that Jasmine ‘slowly realised the importance of being in tune with nature, which is the cornerstone of Ayurveda. Today it’s fundamental to my life.’
A lightbulb moment for Jasmine was eating her largest meal in the middle of the day and having a lighter supper. ‘That way I sleep better and have way more energy. We need to learn to respond to our own rhythms and needs, which may change throughout the day.’
Ayurveda distinguishes three mind-body types called doshas based on the five elements that are the building blocks of all life (see below). But, Jasmine, emphasises, ‘it’s not a diet you have to follow strictly. There’s no falling off the wagon. It just nudges you to move intuitively in line with nature whenever you can.’ If that sounds airy-fairy, start small. Consider, for instance – as I did, rather grumpily – whether you really need that next jolt of caffeine on a busy day, or would you feel better with a ginger tea? (I did.)
Jasmine is on a passionate mission to educate us about Ayurveda and it’s useful to read through part one of the book before the recipes. Some key ingredients in Ayurvedic cooking such as turmeric have made their way into conventional medical research and Jasmine’s favourite turmeric-rich Golden Milk recipe has a starring role. There are lots of delicious dishes for everyone, including vegetarians and vegans, with treats galore. In fact, you could just eat your way through the book this winter. East by West by Jasmine Hemsley is published by Bluebird, price €45.