GUIDELINES FOR EATING HEALTHY
In seeking to incorporate the following guidelines into our daily eating habits let us remember that each individual is unique and that his needs will be somewhat different from those around him. Let these suggestions steer you onto the right path, but then discover from within, through your own inner voice, what is right for you.
Let your experience be your guide. When you feel heavy, full of gas or uncomfortable remember what or how you have just eaten. Discover which foods make you feel well, and which do not agree with you. Experiment with various foods and combinations, but do not make the same mistake over and over just out of habit or sensual desire. Learn to eat FUNCTIONALLY in order to have a strong and healthy body with which to carry out your purpose here on this earth most effectively.
«YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT» is a phrase used more and more often, and it has much truth. Perhaps «YOU ARE WHAT YOU THINK» is more accurate, but undoubtedly what we eat and what we think are inextricably intertwined and cannot be separated. What we eat and what we think form the basis of our lives. Let us work at making both of these as pure and possible.
A. FACTORS AFFECTING NURTITIONAL NEEDS
Some of the factors affecting the nutritional needs of an individual are:
1. Hereditary influences make the body and mind strong in certain areas and weak in others. For example some may have strong digestion and be able to tolerate all type of difficult combinations. Others may have very delicate organs of digestion and will have to watch very carefully what they eat.
2. One will require different amounts of varying nutriments depending on one’s age. Infants need more milk, calcium and proteins, while adults need much less.
3. One’s sex is also a factor. Women need more iron and calcium, especially when pregnant.
4. One’s geographical location will also be a consideration. Each environment supplies the food substances necessary for a healthy life in that area. For example an Eskimo would have no business eating fruits, and those living in the tropics would not tolerate milk very well.
5. The necessary foods will vary with the season. Nature provides in each season that which is appropriate. Oranges are to be eaten in the winter when they grow. Watermelon is for the summer. Vegetables and fruits should not be unnaturally kept or transported and eaten out of season. The winter requires more grains, dairy products and heat producing foods, whereas the summer requires more fruits and vegetables.
6. Each professional activity will demand different nutritional needs. A hardworking physical laborer will require heavy calorie foods such as grains, beans and perhaps some fish, poultry or meat. If the work also requires aggressive behavior like fighting a war, more meat will be needed. Those living sedentary life like working in an office, without much physical exercise, would become ill and fat if they ate the same diet. They require a lighter diet in quality and quantity.
7. One’s character and type and attitudes will dictate what type of diet is best for him. Those of an ambitious or aggressive nature will need more meat and spices to support their life style. Those of a bored, depressed and negative nature will prefer stale, leftover, and highly processed foods with much sugar. Those interested in health, self improvement and spiritual attainment will naturally prefer whole, fresh foods as mentioned previously.
With these factors in mind, let us consider the following guidelines.
B. PROCURING the food is the first step in the eating process. Whatever can be grown personally without the use of chemicals will of course be a blessing. Everyone has at least the potential to grow sprouts in the kitchen.
Food which must be purchased should be done so from a place which is clean and has a friendly and personable atmosphere. From the eastern point of view the attitudes, emotions and thoughts (summarized by the modern-day term «vibrations» emitted by those handling and selling the food will affect the subtle quality of the food.
If possible, the grains, beans, nuts, fruits and vegetables should be organically grown without pesticides. At any rate they should be fresh, colorful and alive looking. However, one can be deceived by large colorful fruit which has been grown with large amounts of chemical fertilizers. The best test is to smell the fruit. It should have its familiar aroma. Leafy vegetables should be as green and vibrant as possible.
Avoid vegetables and fruits grown in «hot houses» out of season, or transported from afar. They are not right for that particular location and season. Also they are too expensive. The best vegetables and fruits are the cheapest ones, for they are in the higher of their natural season.
Healthy shopping is easy shopping. Only three stops are necessary. One at the packaged grains and beans counter, another at the green grocers, and finally a short pass by the dairy section. Add a little whole wheat bread to that and you have some delicious meals. Avoid packages with word «enriched» or «fortified», which means they have processed out some important nutrient and are replacing it with a chemical substitute.
C. WHEN TO EAT is a question to which many people do not know the answer. Much of time we eat not because of real hunger or need, but rather out of habit, schedule, sensual attraction, boredom or for social interaction.
Eating should be functional. There is no sense in putting more food into the body when the previously eaten load is not yet digested, let alone eliminated. There should be four to six hours between each meal and no snacks in between, except perhaps for some fruit four hours after the previous meal and an hour before the next.
Most importantly, we should eat when we are REALLY HUNGRY. This will ensure a good digestive activity and efficient absorption of the food. The main meal would be best eaten in the noon hours, with a very light meal in the evening at least three hours before retiring.
One main meal a day with two smaller ones is enough for those who do not use much physical energy.
D. HOW TO PREPARE THE FOOD
«AS FRESH AND WHOLE AS POSSIBLE», should be our basic motto. Of course, grains and beans will have to be well cooked in order to be digestible. Vegetables need to be only lightly cooked and without much water and never with oil. Cooking with little water removes less of the nutrients which are water soluble. A steamer is the best system and a pressure cooker may also be helpful in reserving the nutrients. However, some say that the high temperatures of a pressure cooker can destroy the vitamins. If one knows how to use these utensils, he will learn not to overcook the food, which is the essential point.
Never cook in oil or heat oil. If necessary add it after the food has been prepared. Avoid adding much salt to the food while cooking, as this will disturb the previously mentioned sodium and potassium balance. Also it is best not to get used to adding many spices to the food. On the one hand certain spices can aid in digestion, but hot spices will irritate the lining of the digestion, but hot spices will irritate the lining of the digestive tract and add to the irritability of the mind and emotions.
Let there be plenty of fibrous foods such as vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables that are so rich in vitamins and minerals. This will make the grains and beans more digestible.
One’s attitude while cooking is extremely important. If the mind is negative while preparing the food not only will the job be poorly done, but that negativity will be «in the food». Those who eat it will be eating that negativity. Be in a happy, at least peaceful, state of mind while preparing the food. Never rush or be anxious. Let each movement be conscious. One nice way to prepare food is to sing, hum or chant pleasant melodies to bless the food with positive vibrations.
According to Dr. Ballentine, «In the Zen Buddhist tradition, the kitchen is regarded as the altar of the house. It is said that plant life is sacrificed there in order that human consciousness might be created and sustained. The fullest human consciousness cannot be created by food which is unhealthful, misused, or carelessly prepared. Among the strictest Brahmins (Priestly class), a hired cook is unknown. The wife carefully prepares the food after having bathed, put on clean clothes and readied herself to approach the kitchen with serenity and devotion. Only she can perform the ritual of preparing food. Her motions are carried out with a studied grace, and her mind is kept focused and calm through the repetition of special mantras. Though she never tastes the food until it is blessed, dedicated and ennobling the spirit and until she has fed those for whom she has prepared it, she remains closely attuned to its changing properties and seldom fails to add the right seasonings or the proper heat at the precisely correct moment necessary to create a delicious and healthy dish».
If you are responsible for preparing the food for a family or other people, you are performing an immensely important service. Too many housewives consider this to be a meaningless boring task. When we consider that the health and mental state of each of the family members is a function of what they are eating, it is obvious that this is a very important position and duty. One which should be taken seriously and performed correctly with much attention and much LOVE.
E. BEFORE EATING
One’s state of mind before and during eating greatly influences the digestive process. Nervousness, anger, worry, fear or other negative emotions tend to interfere with the digestive process, and the food becomes like poison in the body. One should not eat directly after intense activity or deep sleep. The body must be awake and in a state of calm equilibrium.
For this reason, among others, it may be helpful to sit some moments and breathe more deeply and slowly than usual while praying or being at least thankful for the food, for it is gives its life to keep us alive. Those of a spiritual or religious nature will find it pleasing to offer the food to God and to ask His blessings that this food will be transformed into good thoughts, words and actions and a useful life.
F. WHAT TO EAT
Remembering that each individual will have specific needs, the following guidelines may be helpful.
a) The basis of the diet in most cases should be whole grains, beans and legumes. These will supply the stable slow burning, long lasting source of energy of body heat and activity. In addition many amino acids, proteins, vitamins and minerals will be supplied. Those living in colder climates may want to eat as much as 80% grains in their diet. Those living in warmer climates can reduce this amount considerably.
b) Another main portion of the meal should be a variety of vegetables. Some may be cooked lightly and others may be eaten raw. These should be fresh seasonal vegetables grown within a 500 kilometer radius. This can constitute from 20 to 70% of the diet depending on climate, availability, and personal inclination.
c) Fresh raw fruits can be taken separately, or before the meal, not after. Fruit should be in full season and grown within a 500 kilometer radius of the eating.
d) Small quantities of nuts, dried fruits and dairy products can complete this diet.
G. HOW TO EAT
One should eat slowly, silently, and calmly, giving full attention to the food. Each mouthful should be chewed completely, turning it into a liquid, so that it may be more easily digested in the stomach. The smaller the particles, the more easily the digestive juices break them down. Only the outer surface of large food pieces can be affected while the inner mass remains undigested.
Liquids should be taken before or long after the meal, not during it, in that they will tend to dilute the strength of the digestive juices. Eating foods in the order of decreasing digestibility is advantageous. In this way there are no quickly digested foods being held up by a less digestive substance in the digestive tract. Liquids pass almost immediately through the stomach, unless they are heavy liquids, like milk or soup broth. Fruits and simple sugars are the next most easily processed. Then come starches proteins and finally fats and oils.
By eating slowly, one allows time for the body to give the feedback message that enough has been eaten. Otherwise one tends to eat far beyond his needs. Better to walk away from the table, desiring just one more mouthful, than with a heavy uncomfortable feeling.
H. AFTER EATING
Light activity for some 20-40 minutes after eating is helpful for the digestion. Often the light activity of cleaning up the dishes and eating area or a walk in the garden is all that is needed to prevent that heavy feeling resulting from lying down immediately after eating. Then a light rest will allow the blood to concentrate in digestive organs for more efficient digestion. Yogi texts suggest that one laysXX on the left side while resting after eating, so that the right nostril is freed and there is greater energy flow in the body. Breathing through the right nostril is associated with a state of greater heat and energy. Breathing through the left nostril generates a cooler, less energized state.
Our experience is that it is far better not to fall asleep, but rather to go into a deep relaxation state; not actually losing consciousness. In this way, one is completely refreshed and does not experience that heavy sluggish feeling resulting from sleep.
B. THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FOOD AND HEALTH
It is amazing how few people have realized such a simple and obvious fact. That the food we eat is one of the greatest factors with which we create our health and illness. We realize that when we build a house, the quality of cement, steel, wood, bricks and other materials will determine how strong and durable the house will be. We understand that our car cannot run effectively on some other type of fuel such as crude oil or water or milk. It is obvious to us that we will ruin our engine if we try to tun it on these substances. It is clear and obvious that any object, instrument or being will be as strong and durable as the substances from which it is made. It will function well or not depending on whether or not it receives the proper substances for its functioning.
Our attachment to satisfying our needs for sensual pleasure through the stimulation of our taste buds does not allow us to have the clarity required to understand the same truth for our body and mind. A human body and mind cannot function well when they are undernourished from certain basic nutrients (especially vitamins and minerals) or when they are clogged up with a wide variety of chemical toxins which the body is unable to process, break down and eliminate.
These toxins remain in the body obstructing the functioning of the various organs including the nervous system. They accumulate in the gall bladder as gall stones, in the kidneys as kidney stones, in the joints as arthritis and in the muscles, making them susceptible to rheumatism and even gout. They attach themselves to the blood vessels leading to arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure, heart failure, and strokes. They lead to varicose veins and various other circulatory problems throughout the body. They weaken various organs such as the liver, and pancreas problems eventually to malfunctioning. Toxins create a wide variety of skin problems in all parts of the body. They make the body more susceptible to microbes and viruses. They weaken the nervous system and immune system leading to a wide variety of other illnesses. All this and much more. Yet most people have not realized the connection between what they eat and the state of their body and mind.
We impose on ourselves all this suffering for just a little momentary pleasure. Is it worth it? Or perhaps it is not only the fault of the taste buds. It is also our lack of education and proper upbringing on these matters. We have been conditioned to eat in the way that we do, and find it natural. More and more doctors today are recognizing this extremely important connection between food and health and illness. They are advising their patients concerning these matters. Hundreds of doctors have written books on the subject. There is a definite swing towards healthy eating. This movement is away from meat and towards vegetables; away from canned foods and towards fresh ones. There is a movement from white flour and white flour products to whole wheat and other whole grain products. Do not delay in changing your diet to a healthy one. It would be a shame to ignore this simple truth now and to suffer from various ailments in your later years. It would be much more preferable to maintain your good health and vitality until you die. There is no need to go through many years of suffering first. Your health is in your hands. Learn what you must avoid eating and what you must eat in order to maintain a healthy and vital body.
In this book you are given just the simple guidelines of healthy eating in these first chapters. In the chapter on specific problems you will find more detailed advice for each problem.
Just a few words of general advice about the most important suggestions for those who have sensitive health.
1. Avoid meat as much as possible. It is a main source of toxins in your body. I have personally not eaten meat or fish or poultry for 16 years not, and I am very healthy and have plenty of red blood cells – enough to donate blood frequently.
2. Avoid white sugar and white flour. They diminish your reserves of essential vitamins and minerals which are absolutely necessary for the proper functioning of your nervous system and thus all the other systems. You can replace them with whole grain flours and honey, molasses, petemesi, and syrup of carob beans. These are all good sources of the necessary vitamins and minerals.
3. Avoid foods which have been preserved with chemical substances or which come in cans. Avoid over processed foods. These are all «dead» foods which rob your body of its vitality. Prefer fresh vegetables and fruits and whole grains and nuts.
4. Avoid cooking with oil. Add your oil unheated onto your food after it has been cooked. Heated oils and foods cooked in oil are especially straining on the liver and consequently on the body as a whole.
5. If your digestion is sensitive, try to follow the guidelines given for food combining. Be careful not to combine many different types of food at one meal.
In the following, you find only five simple suggestions. If your body is already showing signs of weakness, help it out by observing these simple guidelines. If you are healthy and have no problems, follow them so as not to have problems later.
C. FOOD FOR THOUGHT
«Food is Brahman» assert the Hindu Scriptures. «Food is God» is a strange statement coming from a culture in which fasting, voluntary and involuntary, is a way of life. What does this statement mean? Perhaps we can only scratch the surface, but let us try to understand the deeper significance of food.
Although I have heard of a few exceptions, all human bodies require food to survive. However, survival is the grossest function of food. Let us consider that for man, all food has at one time been a live being. Therefore, each food has three aspects, physical, energy and consciousness. The lettuce plant has its physical substances consisting of mostly carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms (as in our own body). The lettuce plant also has an energy field which can be detected by Kirlian photography or a galvanometer (measuring the electric activity in the plant). This energy field organizes the atoms, molecules and cells of the plant into the proper structure and supplies the force for the plant to move in the direction of the sun, ad to absorb water and minerals from the earth. What is directing this energy in these specific functions? How does it «Know» how to grow, how to produce seeds, how to form the structure of its leaves? There is a consciousness behind the physical form of the plant, just as there is a consciousness behind the form of every human being.
The organizing consciousness as an independent force is clearly indicated in experiments done on live sea sponges, which were cut up into tiny pieces, and strained through a silk screen. That the sponge was totally dispersed into the solution of water. After some time the same sponge performed itself and continued living. Every being has its source of life in this guiding consciousness which is independent of the body. Consciousness directs the energy field and the material particles organize themselves in accordance with the energy structure.
Thus we may consider that every food which we eat is comprised of three levels; physical, energy, and consciousness. Brahman or God is that consciousness which is the source of every living thing. Whether you refer to God as He, She or It; whether you consider God as a formless cosmic force or as having a divine human form, God is the source of every living being. Every living being is a unique expression of the same universal consciousness.
Thus in truth we are eating God when we eat consciously.
Every meal then becomes the sacrament of Communion. Every piece of food, the body of Christ. In this sense we can more clearly understand the meaning of Christ’s declaring that the Bread was his body and wine hiw blood. Since Christ was God incarnate, and God is the consciousness behind all beings, and therefore behind all food, then the ESSENCE of all food is the Christ.
The word ESSENCE is important here. For if we do not develop the sensitivity to tune into the essence within the food and eat it with the respect that it deserves, then we get just what we are relating to – molecules and cells – that is DEAD MATTER.
Most of us eat consciously, without relaxing or paying attention to what we are doing. We relate to food with desire and greed. We just want to fill our stomach, feel satiated and be done with it. When we eat in this way, we do not receive the benefits of the energy and consciousness aspects of the food. The same holds for the way we relate to people. If one relates to people as bodies, as sex objects, as things to satisfy one’s needs, then one misses the possibility of emotional and spiritual communication. We get what we give.
Hence, one’s diet will depend on one’s sensitivity. The more sensitive and refined the person, the more pure the diet. Each person should determine whether they could procure each of the foods they are eating by themselves. For example, if you could not bring yourself to kill a chicken, cow or sheep, then you should not eat these substances. You have come too sensitive for them. These are gross substances that will only harm the body and mind of an evolved being.
Of course when we eat a carrot, we are killing the carrot. But most of us are not sensitive enough to hear the carrot scream or show symptoms of fear. In fact, I think most carrots like to be eaten. But animals obviously show fear at being killed. If one can be insensitive to this, then I suppose it is okay for that person to eat meat.
So food can either be divine or poisonous. When we eat in a nervous state, when we eat on the run, grabbing a piece of food and throwing it into our mouths, we are eating poison. We must sit down, breath deeply and relax and begin to concentrate on the food and try to feel it at deeper levels.
This chart may be of help.
EATER EATING EATEN /////
Earth: Physical body Physical act Physical body
Water ω The liquid in what we eat becomes our liquid
Air & Fire: Energy body Energy transfer Energy body
ether: Consciousness Union of Consciousness Energy body
On the physical level, there is the eater, the eaten and the act of eating. The cells of one organism are chewed up , broken down digested and assimilated by the other. On the energy level, there is absorption of the energy of the eaten by the eater On the consciousness level there is a union of consciousness between the eater and the eaten. At this most subtle level, which ordinarily requires practice in meditation to experience, there is no separation between the eater, eaten and eating. Consciousness is ONE; forms and energies are many. So one is really one with the food one eats. It is God eating God. And even the process of eating is God. This is the meaning of the traditional Hindu prayer before eating.
«Brahman is the ritual,
Brahman is the offering, (the food)
Brahman is he who offers (who eats)
To the fire that is Brahman. (fire of digestion)
If a man sees Brahman
In every action,
He will find Brahman».
There is no need to copy this Hindu prayer, unless of course you are attracted to it. But there is a great need to relate to your food as a living being which is giving up its body and energy and merging its consciousness with you. A true communion.
For most people this will be difficult, because the food they eat is so far removed from its original «Live State». Most people eat overcooked, over processed food, which has become dead and lacking in any energy or consciousness. Such food which is processed, overcooked, stale or cooked the previous day is called Tamasic food. It has no energy and it gives no energy. People who eat such foods from cans and packages or «leftovers», or alcohol will be lacking in energy and awareness.
Another type of food is that which gives energy but not consciousness. That is dead meat and spices. In such cases the lower urges the animal nature are stimulated and the person becomes a slave to his desires and emotions. Such food and people are called «Rajasic».
Sattwic food supplies physical nourishment, abundant energy and harmonious consciousness. Such foods are fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts and grains in as natural state as possible. Eating such food with the proper frame of mind can bring blessings to the body, mind and soul. This truth is repeated often by Jesus the Christ in the Essence Gospel of Peace translated from the Dead Sea Scroll by Edward Bordeaux Szekely.
“So eat always from the table of God: the fruits of the trees, the grains and grasses of the field, the milk of beasts, and the honey of the bees. For everything beyond these is Satan, and leads by the way of sins and diseases unto death. But the foods which you eat from the abundant table of God give strength and youth to the body, and you will never see disease.”
How many we eat this food consciously? By relating to each food as a living being which is a unique expression of the ONE divine, of which we are also an expression. This being is giving up its body for us, just as one day we will give up our bodies which will become food for trees. As we grow, harvest, purchase, prepare, and eat this food, we must keep all this in mind, and be grateful.
When we are eating food prepared by others, and we are not sure ot its quality, we can surround the food with white light in our mind, offering it up to God, allowing it to be blessed. Only food of the highest quality should be eaten, if you want to maintain a body and mind of high quality.
Many people use quantities of stale food in order to generate depression and a sleepy type of consciousness. When they are depressed or even when they are «too happy» and can’t bear it, they over eat tamasic food and become sluggish and unconscious. This is also a form or security for many people. Each of us should try to work our way out of this type of self-destruction.
Thus we can see that our physical and psychological state will be very much dependent on what food we eat and the mentality with which we eat it.
«By moderating and modulating habits of eating and drinking, one can lay the foundation for spiritual life. One must prefer Sattwic to Rajasic foods. By drinking intoxicating stuff one loses control over the emotions and passions, the impulses and instincts, the speech and movements, and one even descends to the level of beasts. By eating flesh one develops violent tendencies and animal diseases».
Satya Sai Baba
THE ECONOMICS OF MEAT vs GRAIN
It has become rather obvious that we are headed for an economic depression. Prices are rising rapidly; much more so than wages. Famine has been prophesized by many spiritual ones who seem to know.
In the face of these impending problem, we need to take a closer look at the economics of our dietary habits. The simple fact is that meat costs us a lot more money and a lot more food. Since 1970 the animals we have been growing in order to kill and eat have been eating up about as much of the world’s annual harvest of wheat, corn, barley, oats, rye and sorghum as humans have. Live stock and poultry in just two countries – the United States and the Soviet Union – consume one fifth of the world annual harvest.
The saddest part, besides all of the killing, is that this is totally inefficient and economical. As you can see from the chart above, we must feed a cow between 16 to 24 kilos of grain, which we could have fed to people, becomes energy used by the cow, the inedible parts, and the faces.
Pure economics are going to force us into a mere pure and reasonable diet. Grains and beans offer us a much more economic and healthy alternative protein source than those misfortunate and expensive creatures which share this earth with us.
HEALTH FOOD DIETS
Under this title we are grouping a wide variety of various versions of recently developed health food systems. Although these systems might superficially have some arguments between them, for the purposes of this article it will be more useful to group them together. Such differences as whether to fast with juice or with water: or whether to eat sprouts or fruit, or whether or not cheese or yogurt is allowed, we can leave to each individual.
In general the focus here is not as spiritual or philosophical as in the Yogic or Macrobiotic systems. Although, it is recognized that the mind and emotions have a play in the diet and health, the primary focus here is physical health.
Let us briefly look at some of the basic principles or these systems:
1. Toxins are those substances remaining after digestion which are not useful to the body but are not eliminated from the body. Often they are in the form of various insoluble salts which begin to deposit themselves in the various organs and joints. Once this happens the organs begin to become ill (kidney stones, gall stones, gout, arthritis, and just about any organic problems). These are more truly the cause of diseases, and not germs. Germs, colds, fever and illness in general is nature’s way to begin to clean the body.
So the object is to begin to eat a diet which will eliminate the presently stored toxins, and to eat in such a way that new toxins are not formed.
That can be done by eating primarily fresh vegetables (or slightly cooked), fruits, sprouts, nuts, seeds, grains, and dairy products in moderation. Foods should have been grown without fertilizer, or preservatives, or insecticides.
Foods which cause toxins are meat, fish, white sugar, white flour or any products made from white flour; anything which is canned or packaged, or preserved in any way, coffee, tea and cigarettes.
2. The Alkalinity of the body must be preserved. The ionic condition of our blood is changing depending on what we eat. When we eat many foods which make the blood acidic then the body becomes more toxic and the salts begin to form.
Fresh fruit juices are a good way to turn the blood back to its healthy alkaline condition, helping in the elimination of toxins.
White sugar, wheat flour, meat and chemicals make the blood acidic. Fresh fruits and vegetables keep the blood alkaline.
3. The combinations of foods are important so that they can be proper digestion. On the diagram enclosed you will see a self explanatory chart indicating which foods will be easily digestible together and which are not good combinations.
Fasting is an important part of this system of health as well as the other systems mentioned, but will be covered in another article. Consult the bibliography for further reading on these subjects.
THE YOGIC DIET
The diet as described in Yoga is a small identification with the body and its senses. The importance of food in yoga is based on the fact, that as long as the body is not in good health, it will be a hindrance and a distraction to the soul seeking spiritual evolution.
As the consciousness expands and becomes more aware, then the food habits must necessarily become more refined. And, as the food becomes more pure, so will the consciousness. There will result greater control over all the bodies, physical, emotional and mental.
The main point here is consciousness. The yogi is concerned with the affect of food on consciousness. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna explains the three categories of food and their effect on the consciousness of the spiritual aspirant.
1. TAMAS is the quality of inertia, of stillness, stagnancy, matter etc. People who have a tamasic nature of a lazy variety, interested basically in the material things of the world. It is generally a state of ignorance, of sluggishness. People in such a state will tend to gravitate towards foods which generate that state i.e. foods lacking in energy or consciousness.
Foods belonging to the category are any overcooked or over processed foods, or foods which were cooked on one day and eaten the next. Pickled and preserved foods and any spoiled or rotting food would be of the same quality.
These foods lack LIFE and should be avoided for they generate sluggishness in the body and the mind.
2. RAJAS is the quality of activity. Motion, aggressiveness, energy etc. Those of a rajasic nature tend to be very outgoing; ambitiously involved in the pursuits of Life. There is not much inner awareness, most energies are outgoing and aggressively oriented. Such people prefer rajasic foods which give much energy and fiery «go-power» to their lives. The emotions tend to be high and anger is a common emotion.
Foods sustaining such a consciousness are meat, fish, spices, salt, eggs, alcohol, etc.
These foods give energy but not the ability to control that energy.
3. SATTWAS is the quality of harmony, rhythm, balance, consciousness etc. Individuals of a sattwic nature have balanced the qualities of stillness and motion and found a harmony. there is a peaceful base from which flows a dynamic awareness and activity. There is a higher more refined type of consciousness.
These people will be attracted naturally to the foods which will help to maintain that state of contentment. Such foods are fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, grins, seeds, yogurt, and milk.
Now, none of us remain always on one of these states. All three states are always potential within us. One just appears to be more predominant at a particular moment. Inevitably we have to accept the flow of these states through our consciousness and not be disturbed by them. The soul or atman is not affected by these states.
We may, however, look at it as a three step ladder leading up to Heaven (Liberation). The first step is Tamas and then we try to cultivate Rajaw. After lifetimes of Tamasic and Rajasic experiences, we try to take the next step of developing a sattwic state from which the final step into heaven is much easier. (Which means we also have to let go of sattwa eventually).
Food is one important part in that reorientation of the organism towards a sattwic state, preparing for self-realization. That is the importance of food in Yoga.
THE MACROBIOTIC DIET
This system of eating finds its roots in the ancient eastern philosophy of the dual forces of Yin and Yang. This concept of the duality & polarity in life is common to most attempts to explain the functioning of the universe.
Yin is the force of expansion, or that which carries us towards the more subtle realities. Yin represents space. People who are Yin will be more flowing, open, but perhaps lacking in concentration or energy, or the ability to manage their daily affairs.
Yang is the principle of contraction, that which carries towards the Earth. Yang people will be more dynamically involved, more aggressively oriented, more materially interested.
We smell here an odor of the tamas and rajas mentioned in the yogic diet. We might guess that the answer is neither Yin or Yang but in the harmonious balance of the two (sattwa), and this is what is represented in the Yin-Yang symbol which we see more and more often in the west. Yin is flowing into Yang and Yang into Yin. It is a dynamic, not a static balance.
The chart accompanying this section indicates the foods from relatively yin to relatively yang. It is suggested not to eat from the ends of the chart where foods are extremely yin (sugar, drugs etc.) or yang (meats). Eating from the extremes produces the extremes in our body and consciousness and we bounce back and forth between feeling very active and very tired.
When we eat from the middle of the chart, we feel more balanced and become more conscious.
According to Michio Kushi the foremost authority on macrobiotic eating in the west:
Man should not be rigid in his eating, because the universe is changing, the climate is changing, his daily activity is changing, and everything else is constantly changing. The general principles are as follows:
1. Main Food: More than 50% of our daily food should be unrefined cereal grains, or freshly milled, unrefined cereal flour and its products such as bread. Cereals are rice, wheat, millet, barely, corn, oats and buckwheat.
2. Secondary Food: 20-25% of our daily food should be cooked vegetables which are in season and grown nearby. Vegetables that are not treated with chemicals are preferable.
3. Supplemental Food: The rest of our daily food is to be composed of the following, according to the individual need:
Beans, fresh vegetables, fresh or dried fruits, seeds, nuts, seaweed, dairy food and fish or eggs occasionally if so desired».
Now my personal experience is that these ratios are a bit Yang for this warm Mediterranean climate. Adjusting the diet to the climate and personal needs is a part of the system, and in this case that would mean less percentage of grains and more fresh and cooked vegetables – especially during the summer months.