Going beyond just macro and micronutrients, using food for their energies
We can see that there is a growing awareness in India that proper nutrition and dietary habits will eventually impact health; something that Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese medicine the basis of Macrobiotic philosophy has stressed upon. Food is no longer about how many grams of fat, proteins or carbohydrates you take in or how many micronutrients you can extract out of them. However going beyond the perimeter of your plate, making quality choices of what goes into your mouth and questioning foods and the kind of energies they give to you, is the precise uniqueness of the Macrobiotic approach. Making what we call ‘energetic’ food choices presents us with a canvas to exercise one’s creativity. In short, we all know that food has its own ‘life force or ‘prana’ and we must question each food group based on the ‘prana’ it gives to us.
We must ask ourselves the question: how much of a role does diet play in the prevention of an ailment or illness? and then of course how you intend to prioritize your life, to impact that change for yourself. In short, as a very famous proponent (Steve Gagne) of the energy of food movement says: Does your food consume you? Or are you consumed by your food?
Have we ever questioned if food can affect your character and persona? — that’s the principle Macrobiotic and Ayurvedic philosophy works on. Can we go under the layers of what each food group gives and look at its essential character? Look at the energetics of the so-called soul of the food? Would this paradigm not then open new doors on how we view our food and choices made daily? If you are what you eat, then doesn’t take in the food or drink daily also impact your character? Are you just carbohydrates, fat and protein? Or is there more to what you take in that makes you?
Let me give you an example: Anil is an angry person. He has an ache somewhere under his right chest cavity (liver), his tests reveal his arteries are narrowing, and the heart is not pumping blood to his organs as it should. Every morning he eats eggs, toast and bacon for breakfast. In between meals he eats crackers, toasted or crunchy bread and cookies. When he comes to me, I see that his current breakfast and snacks are fuelling his anger and irritability. Nisha is nervous and also suffers from anxiety. Her blood sugar levels are out of whack, and she is hyper all the time. She loves her sweets and also loves eating bread and sugary foods. Is it helping her? Why are we what we eat?
The essential character of food is determined by: the direction of growth i.e., downward, upward, inward, outward—related more to vegetables; rhythm—which includes speed or does the food have a regulated or irregular rhythm; temperatures of foods i.e., hot and damp, hot and dry, cold and damp, cold and dry or warm and damp; the condition/environment it grown in.
Let’s look at the broader food groups and the ‘energies’ they bring in to you.
Eggs: They store energy, provide you with heat reserve (namely protein) and create a damp condition. Considered one of the most concentrated forms of animal food, if consumed in excess, eggs will produce extreme reactions that will manifest as cravings for sweets, coffee, carbonated beverages and spicy foods (this happens to offset the excessive heat reduced by eggs, which seeks empty but cool foods to balance the body). Psychologically they affect a person’s thinking – locking one into old habits and modes of thinking, as they can bind and hold. A person’s need to dominate, control, lie, and be devious will be fuelled by eating eggs in excess. Many women suffering from PMS or PCOD will worsen their symptoms, as chicken eggs are affected by the 21 day gestation period and this adversely affects a woman’s menstruation cycle as well. Some foods you may consider to counteract the impact of eggs would be adding green onions, ginger, spices or hot sauces, helping to counteract the energies of eggs.
Dairy: Considered a ‘pure and perfect’ food due to its high protein, and calcium content. Milk is something most Indians will not do without. Unfortunately, homogenization and pasteurization have taken milk away from its natural state and adversely affected not just one but many generations of people consuming it. Energetically it secures and binds us to our mothers. The fact that it is a feminine product, in that, rich and creamy derived from a female makes it most appealing to all humans. Apart from the fact that growth hormones and artificial factors are used to unnaturally increase milk production, brings to question the quality of the milk we consume. Humans suffer from dwindling lactase reserves, an enzyme which breaks down lactose (a sugar in milk). Therefore when consuming milk (lactose) in excess, accumulates in the large intestine, where it ferments and reacts with bacteria. This is converted to carbon dioxide and lactic acid, increasing carbon dioxide – the lungs process gases and this build-up causes fogginess in thinking, lack of mental clarity and fatigue for sure. The fact that milk protein (casein) remains in the body and attaches itself to tissue lining, also ends up causing a stickiness in thought processes and refusing to let go of old patterns in life. So consume organic whole milk if possible and do not use it as a mono-food or meal replacement.
Meats: Whatever you eat, it too becomes you and to some degree you become it. So if you eat farm-reared chicken riddled with disease, fed with hormones – you transform the flesh of this animal into your flesh and blood. Every experience this animal goes through from birth to slaughter is recorded in its nervous system and cells. So questioning quality when it comes to choosing your meats is essential. An excessive amount of white meats (which burn and utilize carbohydrate (sugar) as fuel when metabolized, will cause sugar cravings while excessive red meat consumption causes fat cravings (as they require more fat to metabolize). Every meat consumed contributes to your muscular tissue, so beef will give you a harder, hotter, fuller and denser muscle tissue. While, chicken a tight, dry, warm and spastic effect. Fish meat will give you a more flaccid, weak and cool tissue condition. Excessive consumption of red meats will lead to more aggressive behaviour and hotter temperament in individuals-what we call animal-like behaviour.
Plants: They transform the light energy of the sun into chemical energy needed by other life forms. So a seed (sprouts) for example holds the hidden potential of life, its mission is to unfold into the light. Energetically they correspond to the human nervous system and the brain and they will nourish those very elements in you. Roots – that part embedded in the soil will provide stability, and nourishment, consuming them will bring about some selflessness in you. They will impart energy to your root namely the small intestine. A spiritual dimension will help define the inner meaning of our biological existence and secure a foundation for further spiritual growth. They will make you goal-oriented, and dig deep to get to the point. Round vegetables affect the lower organs, and the spicy and pungent varieties like onions and turnips rapidly release tension and provide heat to the lower organs. Energetically they will make you feel more concentrated. Leaves receive light and provide this energy to you once consumed, the leaves are biochemical factories, the leaves are the lungs of the plants and when consumed supply you with a hitherto unknown level of oxygen-they embody lightness and bring the same to you. They will affect the upper parts of the body (heart, lungs and throat) as they have grown grow upward and outward towards the sun. Eating leafy greens will stimulate your mental processes of imagination, openness, creativity and spiritual awareness. The balance of body heat, therefore is great when eating foods that produce extreme heat (meats and eggs). Ground-level vegetables like cabbage, pumpkin (bhopla/lal kaddu), cauliflower, broccoli, etc affect the middle organs (stomach, spleen, pancreas liver and gall bladder). Since they are more social vegetables in the plant kingdom they impart that tendency to you as well. They make you get along with others and produce a calming steady effect on you.
Cereal Grain: (All the millets, barley and brown rice). Considered the most highly developed seeds of plants cereal grains are the primary fuel for your brain, they have the capacity for increasing human potential at all levels of life. They hold the key to establishing balance in your life and bringing about an order. Grains will also give you the quality to adapt and endure. Amaranth derived from the word ‘immortal’ or ‘everlasting’ will give you precisely that in temperament – durability and dependability to your nature. It is a grain that endures everything in its environment imparting that same quality to you. Quinoa on the other hand will make you more flexible and impart a lightness in energy. Millets, depending on which ones you consume, will affect the stomach, spleen and pancreas, creating a warm and dry effect in the body. Considered hardy and flexible these are the qualities it will also give to you.
Beans and Legumes: Legume pods are the result of ripened ovaries of plants. While it is a single seed the plant produced is a pod. The ability to adjust to the soil and the adaptability to the environment and the high tolerance and support given to other plants empower them with the energetic qualities of presence, durability and generosity and building compassion for humanity=precisely what you will also get from them. The protein from beans is calming and soothing compared to animal kidneys, ovaries and testicles (structurally the bean looks like a paired half store the nutrients). They will make you have a warm easygoing personality, apart from a smooth skin tone.
Alcohol – has a slow irregular tempo, which will produce an unwinding effect. The more you drink, the more wound up you become.
Coffee – has a fast irregular rhythm, an effect that is noticed as soon as you have it.
Sugar, sweets, and soft drinks – will cause an expansion, so in essence will cause you to be foggy, moody and temperamental causing cravings. Will make you crave for something constricting to recover a balance like meats, eggs, salted foods and snacks.