Wholesome Food Equals a Healthy Body and MindFeb 27, 2023 07:35AM ● By Judyth Shamosh, Ph.D.
Using wholesome food promotes good health just as the improper use of food can cause disease. If your diet is inappropriate, medicine is of little use. However, if your diet is wholesome, medicine is of little need and your food becomes your medicine.
Dr. Robert Svoboda, Ayurvedic physician, says, “…the main factor that makes for disease is the indulgence in unwholesome diet.” He adds, “The fundamental cause for all toxins (ama)—the source of disease, is indigestible desire.” Desire can be in the form of unwholesome foods we have been accustomed to eat. These unwholesome foods are those we tend to crave and know are not good for us. In Ayurveda, choosing to eat those foods is called “crimes against wisdom.”
Michael Greger, M.D., in his well-researched book How Not to Die, provides substantial evidence that a whole food, plant-based diet is the best way to avoid disease. This includes the sub-clinical disease patterns (undetectable by Western medicine) that damage our ability to accurately perceive and interpret our world and the functioning of our bodies.
This viewpoint is also supported by Chinese medicine, which asserts that most health issues are due to toxins that obstruct the system. Toxins are phlegm-like sticky substances that are known by the obstructive effects they create in the body. The source of these toxins is partly due to lifestyle and partly due to our choosing to eat unwholesome foods, such as processed foods and the greasy and energetically overly hot (factory farmed) animal products to which people have become habituated.
So, if you are choosing a high-protein, largely animal-based diet, the body and mind can become toxic, stagnant, dull and confused to a greater or lesser degree. Consequently, you will be more likely to crave foods that do not support your health. Just as a computer can give output based only on the quality of information it is given, the mind and body can make decisions based only on the quality of input it is given. Thus, the old adage of “garbage in—garbage out” or unwholesome foods in—unwholesome decisions out. In Ayurveda, we say “food is medicine,” but if not properly digested, which unwholesome food never is, it is considered a poison.
What are the wholesome foods? Ideally, they are organic, freshly harvested, appropriate for your current constitution (doshas) and climate, and recently prepared by someone who can impart love and good thoughts into its preparation. A basic healthy meal consists of whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and spices for flavor and to aid digestion. Those who have difficulty digesting grains have a weakened digestive system that needs to be fired up to properly “cook” their food internally. Think of a fireplace where the fire is not hot enough to burn the wood completely, resulting in a lot of smoke and ash.
When we introduce food into the body, it goes through three stages of digestion. The first stage is in the stomach where the unprocessed food is received. This is where the initial breakdown of food begins.
The second stage of digestion is in the small intestine where the food is “cooked” and transformed by enzymatic activity, known as the digestive fire in Ayurveda. It is in the small intestine where the decision is made as to what part of our food will be assimilated and what part will be eliminated. In Eastern medicine, we say the body decides to separate the pure from the impure part of the food. It is at this critical stage of digestion where confusion can occur. If the food you have eaten is unwholesome or there is already confusion or imbalance present, the body’s innate intelligence may not know what to do with the food, and so it ends up deposited in a weakened area (think of a backwater) of the body to begin accumulating. This accumulation is the first step in the process of disease.
The third stage of digestion is the colon, which receives the cooked food remnants and eliminates the unwanted or impure part.
To get the best digestion for the foods you eat:
· Avoid eating late in the evening and eat a lighter meal at least three hours before bed.
· Avoid eating when overly stressed, which creates confusion in the digestive system.
· Eat only when you are hungry (unless you are never hungry).
· Honor your food. Pay attention to what you are eating. Think positive thoughts about your food. Your body will reward you with good digestion; your food will reward you with better nutrition.
· Eat slowly; chew thoroughly.
· Never have iced drinks with your meals. It douses your digestive fire needed to internally cook your food.
· Fruit is to be eaten alone because of its generally cooling and wet nature.
Following a healthy lifestyle, routine and proper wholesome food guidelines for your current constitution will help keep you balanced in body and mind. When you are out and about with friends or at a gathering, rather than abstain altogether, which can set up an attitude of resistance, enjoy but practice moderation.
Judyth Shamosh, Ph.D., Systems Herbalist, has been a clinical practitioner since 1994 and is the founder of Greenfingers Herbal Medicine Clinic, where she practices Ayurvedic, classical Chinese and Western herbal medicines and teaches apprentices. She has served on the governing council of the American Herbalist’s Guild, Arizona Herb Association and RainStar University College of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, and been adjunct faculty of the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine.