A keen fan and follower of ayurveda, I was rather sceptical when my yoga teachers introduced us to a green mono diet at our last teacher training, but I found it surprisingly enriching and mind opening.
The green mono diet was introduced by kundalini yoga master Yogi Bhajan as a way to cleanse the body. You can eat green vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, olive oil and some other non green foods like lemon, soy sauce and honey. The diet allegedly makes your body more alkaline and cleanses your liver, intestines, and balances the blood sugar and removes mucus to mention some benefits.
Ideally you stick to this for 40 days, but you can also give 10, 20 or 30 days a go. Or even the occasional day or two to see how you feel.
I had no intention of following this diet as I’m very particular about consuming warm foods only, and a lot of green food is, well rather cold.
Though as we were first served spinach and almond soup, then oatmeal porridge with green fruits, mung bean stew and various salads with sprouts and green seeds with the occasional rice on the side, something started to happen. Despite quite a stomach upset, it was as if I could feel the chlorophyll energising my body, making it easier to breathe and giving me more discipline and clarity of thought, so I decided to see how long I could stick to it without deciding in advance whether it would be 5, 10 or 40 days.
I decided to stick to the short cuts my teachers had made allowing the occasional basmati rice serving and oatmeal, since the first balances all doshas according to ayurveda and the latter calms the nerves. Ever since I hit my head, I have been very sensitive to minor changes in my environment, whether food or sound, so I decided it was best to stick with the porridge in the morning as the green food was already quite a change for my body.
The first challenge came once the week-end was over, and it was time to head home by air. Hungry and looking for green food at the airport, I wondered if my search would be successful, or if my diet attempt would end there and then. Luckily, I found delicious broccoli at Jamie’s Deli. Yup, just broccoli and some olives. So far so good.
The next morning I headed and went overboard with green food shopping as I was quite hungry. The bag of pistachios was meant to last a week or more as technically you are not meant to have more than a handful of nuts a week, but if it would help me get through it then it would have to do.. At first I was excited to have foods I have avoided for a while such as avocado, pumpkin seeds, sprouts and cabbage, but after having green salads for a while I found the salad rather boring and I started to miss sweetcorn, onion and beet root.
However, after a few days I noticed food had lost its excitingness, which was rather intriguing and quite a change for me who have often turned to food at times of stress and emotional distress.
There was no longer a need to turn to food to avoid a feeling. I mean, green salad leaves isn’t exactly what you tend to crave, is it?
The most challenging side effects of this diet, was the mucus clearing. I cannot remember last time my nose was so runny and stuffed. I even lost my voice. This means, in ayurvedic terms, that kapha dosha, which most Westerners have too much of, is reduced, so that is a good sign. But the stuffed nose, a banging headache and fatigue kept me from my daily walks, and kept me on the sofa for a couple of days.
I saw this as a good sign as my body was doing major cleanse, and it felt like the energy in my body was running more smoothly.
After a couple of days of rest, I noticed my skin clearing and energy returning. The most positive side effect of this diet is that it forces you to be creative. At some point the question, what can I do with the green food to make it more varied arises. If you can have cold drinks then green smoothies would give you some playground, but since cold foods make me freeze almost instantly and kill the digestive fire according to ayurveda, that didn’t feel like a good idea to me. Cold salad with warm foods was enough for me, and after ten or so days on the diet I could sense that my body temperature was lower than it should be and my digestion was still more sluggish than normal. In addition, my throat was sore and I could feel that my vata dosha was out of balance and in great need of balancing foods. My pitta dosha had also had its dose of spicy and sour foods like spring onions, lemon and soy sauce and needed some calming foods.
In short, my body screamed for root vegetables, rice milk and colourful foods like beet roots.
So after 13 days of green foods I decided to return to my normal ayurvedic diet, but with a much higher input of green foods than before as I really felt in my veins how good fuel it is for the body.
The green diet gave me some interesting insights: seeing how well my body coped without grains I wonder if we really do need grains in our diet and whether this belief is due to our programming. I certainly will try to have more nuts instead. I also discovered avocado agrees with me when I’m not having grains, and I’ve discovered that kale pesto is actually rather tasty. I’m more positive towards sprouts as well.
I am experimenting more with foods, such as making beetroot pesto with basil with grilled chicory, so the green mono diet was an enriching experiment.
Although I learnt, my body and nervous system is still too delicate for a 40 days cleanse, I will definitely make sure I have some green only days more often with no grains whatsoever.
Probably the biggest change was that it opened my mind and made me more curious about other diets, most notably vegan diets that contain of a lot of nuts as well as raw food. I may now actually be inclined to give raw food a go on my next trip, and I may also be less obsessed with food on my next trip. Maybe, though since I’m off to Italy, I cannot be totally certain about that..