Updated: Dec 11, 2020
The type of food one eats influences the qualities one absorbs within oneself. Food eaten at a thieves house will prod one to steal, food taken at a a king's palace infuse rajasic qualities into oneself, and the food had at a sanyasi's abode can up the sattvic character of one's personality. This happens because food has power to influence one's structure of Mind.
The essence - guna -subtle qualities - tamasic, rajasic, sattvic gunas - of the food one eats affects the quality of the blood which impacts the quality of the brain as per the dominant guna in the blood, which in turn transfers this quality to the budhi, intellect, of the being. The difference in the quality of food available to a wild animal in the wild and the one available in captivity (Circus, or Home) is clearly visible in its behaviour at both the places; it is more violent in the wild because of the rajasic, and tamasic nature of the food there in contrast to the sattvic food which tempers the violent tendencies to a great extent in captivity.
Food gives energy, but the process of digestion, and assimilation of the food within the body consumes energy. The the first rule of a healthy diet is that eat that food item which gives more energy, and takes less energy to digest. This way surplus energy is available for other vital processes of the body. This means a plant based diet mainly consisting of Milk and its products ( except too much of cream ghee, & butter), fresh vegetables, fruits, cereals, pulses, preferably moong dal and soya beans. Use honey and jaggery as sweetening agents. The food items which consume more energy than they give while being processed in the digestive system are the meats, fish, eggs, pulses like gram, white or crystalized sugar, and everything containing large quantities of fat. As sweets are majorly white sugar and fats ( fatty acids) Swami Vivekananda has once said, " The sweat-meat vendor's shop is the door to death".
Yoga Diet, Healthy Eating Habits
Always chew the food thoroughly before swallowing it into the esophagus, digestion begins in the mouth and the digestive enzymes present in the saliva take time to work on the food being ingested. Milk is a liquid food, and should not be drunk, gulped down like water. Letting the food stay in the mouth for a while will save the stomach a lot of extra effort of starting from the beginning.
Never drink water with the meals as this will dilute the gastric juices in the stomach impairing their efficacy for the optimal digestion of the food. The last water intake must be at least half an hour before the meals, and the next water intake must wait till the another half an hour after the meals were had. Avoid talking while eating, and keep the mind calm as much as possible. Talking while eating, and an agitated mind will skim the body of the vital energy which could have been utilized for the digestion process.
Overeating can mar the purpose of a healthy diet; never more than what one needs; eat enough that can fill up only two-third of the stomach leaving the other one third of the volume in the stomach for the churning of the food during digestion. Try and eat poison ( Chemical) free foods, Chemicals find their way in the food as fertilizers, preservatives, and at the processing stage.
Milk suits better to the ones whose ancestors had lived on a pastoral, lactose rich diet - milk, cheese, butter. Such people have the lactose digesting enzyme in their gut which help digest milk products more effectively. Most white Americans of European ancestry fall in this group. American blacks, Chinese, Japanese, and American Indians are mostly intolerant to Milk and its products as they lack lactose digesting enzymes. Such people must completely avoid taking milk and its products.
Milk is best digested in its sour form ( yogurt, kefir, acidophilus milk, or regular clabbered milk, or butter milk ) as it is in a pre-digested state and is very easily assimilated. These sour milks keep the microbes in the intestine flourishing, prevent intestinal putrefaction along with helping to combat constipation. Home made cottage cheese, and a small amount of butter can be added to a healthy diet plan.
The foods grown on organically rich soils form a better healthy food for a healthy body and mind than the ones grown on depleted soils like today's, soils which yield multiple cycles of crops in the same year, and over the years with the use of unnatural, chemical fertilizers. Such food lack essential vitamins and are low in nutrition value.
High protein foods like high animal protein diet is detrimental to the health and must be kept out of a healthy food list by all means. A high protein diet has been known to cause arthritis, heart diseases, cancer, osteoporosis, schizophrenia, damage to the kidneys, and severe vitamin and mineral deficiency. Premature aging, lower life expectancy are its other two major outcomes.
Follow these eating habits to further boost a healthy diet
Eat only when actually hungry
Avoid mixing a variety of foods in a single meal, less mixing leads to better digestion
Eat slowly, and with a relaxed mind
Avoid mixing raw fruits with the raw vegetables at a single meal
Eat protein rich food items first
Avoid consuming tobacco in any form as it causes cancer, heart diseases, and premature aging
keep coffee, tea, chocolates, and soft drinks out for a healthy diet plan
Avoid excessive use of salt, and excess of harmful spices in the food
Stay clear of alcohol, white sugar, and white flour
Throw away all rancid food items like rancid seeds, nuts, rancid oils, and rancid wheat germ
All chemical drugs unless prescribed by a doctor must be avoided
Selecting Foods for a Yoga Diet Plan
A lot of factors come into play while selecting foods for healthy body and mind. The best foods that are good for body as well as the mental health are attractive, delicious, easy to eat, and easy to digest in their natural, unheated, and unprocessed state. Foods that should form a part of a healthy diet must be rich in multiple nutrients, have moderate amount of fiber, leave an alkaline ash after metabolism, and are free of gut irritants and digestive antagonists.
One must be guided by three points while selecting the food items for one's yoga diet plan:
Whole foods are superior to fragmented, processed, and refined foods
Raw foods are superior to cooked foods
Plant based foods are superior to animal foods
Whole foods for a balanced diet
Scientific research has successfully demonstrated that fragmenting of whole foods destroys the nutrients contained therein and lessens its suitability as a healthy food. White sugar, white flour, and polished rice are less nutritious than their whole counterparts. Whole carrots provide more nutrients than carrot juice, brown rice more than polished rice, and whole wheat is more nutritious than germ wheat. The overall effect of the whole foods on the physical, and psychological aspects of the body are far superior than their fragmented versions.
Eating wheat bran has shown to impede the absorption of iron by the body despite the fact that it is itself rich in the iron content. This could be due to mechanical factors employed for turning whole wheat into bran ,or due to high phytate content of the wheat bran. Dried versions of the fruits are less nutritious ( calcium & iron) than the whole fruit; as the water content evaporates in dried apricots the concentrated contents left behind gives a false impression of more nutrients, but in reality a whole apricot holds more nutrients, and more variety of nutrients than the its dried counterpart.
The mistake we make in evaluating the dried version of apricot to the whole fruit is that we compare them in terms of weight, a pound of dried apricots will contain more fruits , thus more nutrients, than a pound of whole apricots. This is wrong, nutrition wise one must compare a single fruit of a dried apricot to a single whole apricot. Powdered whey contains just a shadow of the nutrients of the whole milk, extracted chlorophyll contains almost no life in comparison to a fresh whole green leaf. lecithin granules are a denatured fragment of soybeans, and all the extracts and concentrations are nutritionally inferior to the corresponding natural whole foods.
Processing incur drastic nutrient losses as a result of heat, oxidation, chemicals, and enzymatic destruction. It is not wrong to say that by processing the natural foods become devitalized. Only the whole foods contains the right amount , proportion of nutrients the human body requires for its healthy upkeep. Only natural whole foods can be used to develop optimum health.
Raw foods as a part of Yoga Diet
Eating foods raw is healthy eating. Most of the foods are rendered less digestible by cooking, cooked food is lower in its nutrition content too. Water soluble vitamins like ascorbic acid, and pantothenic acid are susceptible to destruction by heat which is true for almost all the other vital minerals to different extents. Cooking also alters the proportions of natural vitamins present in the foods, the natural ratio of thiamine, and niacin in foods has been reported changed after exposure to the heat due to cooking. This happens because thiamine is more sensitive to moist heat, and gets destroyed more readily, than niacin.
Presence of natural vitamin ratios within the natural raw, whole foods is very important for the health of the body. Brain function, or brain health receives a boost with the intake of the raw food with natural proportions of vital minerals preserved within it. Minerals from the cooked foods are less usable by the body than from natural raw foods. The complex organic salts of calcium, and magnesium, in conjunction with carbon and phosphorous are decomposed during the pasteurization of the milk, forming new inorganic, insoluble calcium phosphate salts. The body is unable to assimilate these inorganic salts.
This is one of the reasons that dental decay has reached epidemic proportions in America where the population consumes enormous amounts of pasteurized milk. Cooking removes certain aminase groups ( deaminate) from the proteins contained in natural foods. More of deamination occurs in the secondary and tertiary groups. certain proteins are rendered indigestible by exposure to cooking. The heat from cooking turns the fats into toxic hydrocarbons and free fatty acids, both are serious irritants to the body systems. Heated fats and oils have been shown to develop carcinogenic potencies. heated oils and fats can never be considered as healthy food by a well informed individual.
Cooking evaporates a lot of soluble minerals - iodine & Sulphur - as gases causing considerable damage to the nutritional quotient of the cooked food. The natural fiber in vegetables is rendered soft by cooking which impedes its movement in the intestine and promotes fermentation and putrefaction of the fiber content in the food. Sparing Yams, Zucchini, and grains cooking in general the palatability of the food. This promotes the use of unwholesome artificial flavorings, condiments, sauces, and dressings in order to make the food palatable again.
A healthy yoga diet is predominantly composed of raw food. Cooking burns, and evaporates away a lot of vital minerals and vitamins present within the raw foods. Moreover the human gut is naturally programmed to process the wholesome, raw foods than the processed ones. Human body is a natural open system designed to receive inputs from its surroundings, as food, in their natural form only. Processing, cooking alters the chemical composition of the food rendering it less useful for the sustenance of the body for long.