Our bodies are complex living systems that have been adapting to changing life styles through ages. But in the last 100 years the tremendous change that took place in human culture including changes in diet and food habits were so fast for our bodies to get adapted to. Fast, refined and processed foods deprived of living material and loaded with pesticides, toxic chemicals and unnatural hormones became the mainstay of nowadays diets. This is one of the most important reasons why diet-preventable diseases lead the list of morbidity around the world. It was truly said by the ancients that “we become what we eat”!
Yoga, attempts to reestablish the balance of body and mind… But how can balance be established when food habits bring so much chaos and disbalance to our body-mind system? How can we preserve and enhance our health when its basic need of healthy food is not satisfied?
The healthy Yogic diet is the solution. It is a simple one, consisting of pure, natural foods which are easily digested and used afterwards by different organs to promote health. It is a diet in which a healthy balance between different nutrients is observed in such a way to satisfy the real needs of the body, without making the food we eat a burden more than an energizing factor
Nutrients that our bodies need can be divided into five categories: protein, carbohydrates, minerals, fats and vitamins. Eating fresh, natural foods (preferably organic) will help ensure a better supply of these nutritional needs. Processed, refined and overcooked foods have much of their nutrients destroyed. This makes such foods just a lifeless stuffing material that calms down the stomach but brings minimal or no benefits to the system at all... A healthy approach to food is to understand that the purpose of eating is to supply ourselves with the vital life energy for the prosperity of our mind, body and spirit. So the greatest nutritional plan for the Yoga student is the simple diet of natural fresh foods.
We all notice that certain kinds of food make us feel energized and other kinds give a feeling of dullness and others foods cause agitation in the mind and body (for example, hot and spicy food, even though may be tasty, causes pimples and agitation)… When you practice yoga you become more aware of these subtle changes that take place in your body after certain meals. In the same way as one becomes more sensible to sounds after studying in a music school, a yogi becomes more concerned about the subtle effect of food. Thus you may like to avoid foods which are overly stimulating, preferring those which render the mind calm and the intellect sharp.
The American Yoga association pyramid may be a good guide in choosing proportions of nutrients needed to nourish the body and keep the mind calm and the intellect glowing. As you see in the illustration meats, fish, eggs and alcohol are not recommended in a typical yogic diet. But eliminating these products from your diet would be a far advanced option. Any change in diet should be made gradually. All radical changes are to be avoided as they bring more harm than benefits. You may start by substituting larger portions of vegetables, grains, seeds, fruits and nuts until you finally a proper diet that best suits your life style and possibilities.
While diminishing meat content in their diet many people become worried about protein deficiency believing that they need far more than they actually do. Anyway, meat isn’t the best source of proteins as commonly thought. The opposite is true: it contains an excess quantity of uric acid that the liver cannot manage so it deposits in the joints, causing stiffness and other health problems. In fact, nuts, dairy products and legumes all provide with a good supply of proteins with a mixture of vitamins and other nutrients that keep our bodies healthy and balanced.
So, going back to your kitchen make sure you have enough cereals, wholemeal bread, fresh fruits and vegetables, milk, yogurt, cheese, legumes, nuts, sprouted seeds, honey and herb teas… Bon appetite! Keep well!