We’ve all heard the expression, “You are what you eat.” To most
people this means simply that the vitamins, carbs, and proteins in food
build the cells, blood and bones of your body.
But in Maharishi Ayurveda, “You are what you eat” means something far
more subtle and powerful. Food is known to directly influence your
consciousness and feelings. It can create bliss or anger, contentment or
restlessness, thoughts of the sacred or the profane. The quality of the
food you eat literally creates your state of mind, emotions and
Prepare Food for Happiness
Foods that are whole and unadulterated contain more of the
intelligence of nature, and thus create more vitality, alertness and
happiness when you eat them.
Just think of this example: if you eat an ayurvedic meal composed of
fresh, organic vegetables, whole grains and dhal (lentils) lovingly
cooked in delicious spices and garnished with panir (fresh cheese) and
fresh-fruit chutney, how will you feel afterwards? Contented and
satisfied. Now consider how you’d feel after eating a meal consisting of
canned vegetables, processed foods, or food fried in unhealthy oils—or
food served at a fast-food restaurant. The result might be dullness or a
feeling of lack of wellness.
Ayurveda gives a name—tamasic—to such foods that create
dullness, disease and even aggressive behavior in the people who make a
steady diet of them. Tamasic foods may include leftovers; packaged,
frozen, canned and processed foods; vinegar; red meat; alcohol; and any
old, spoiled or rancid foods. Tamasic foods are anti-ojas (ojas
is the finest and most refined product of digestion). They result in
dull thinking, depressed emotions, and physical imbalances.
The foods you want to favor are the foods that have and create positive, spiritual qualities—they are called sattvic
foods. Sattvic foods are wholesome, create bliss, heighten alertness,
and are easy to digest. Sattvic foods include oranges; almonds; unheated
honey; amalaki; rice and whole grains; milk; fresh, organic vegetables;
and organic, sweet, juicy fruits such as mango, papaya and pear.
A diet consisting of easy-to-digest, sattvic foods is recommended for
almost anyone desiring good health and is especially recommended for
people who have chosen a spiritual path in life. These foods convert
rapidly into ojas, the product of perfect digestion that in turn creates
a glow in the skin, sparkle in the eye, and mental, emotional and
Eat Food Cooked with Love
you cook for your friends or family, it’s important to be in a happy
frame of mind. Since ancient times, the ayurvedic texts have pointed out
that the emotional state of the cook affects the quality of the food.
This is why it’s ideal, in the ayurvedic view, to serve home-cooked
meals whenever possible, because food cooked in a restaurant by
strangers is unlikely to match the positive energy of a meal cooked by
someone who loves you. It’s especially important to cook often for
children. There is nothing to replace a mother’s (or father’s) love—a
key ingredient in a child’s food.
When cooking, to the extent you are able to easily control your
environment, focus on the food and make it a settled, conscious event
rather than something thrown together under pressure. Turn off the TV,
shoo the kids and pets out of the kitchen, and give yourself time to
enjoy the simple act of smelling the spices, feeling the textures of the
foods, playing with the colors, and having fun. Or, if your kids,
friends or spouse like to help, get them involved, too. However it works
for you, make meal preparation a happy time. Your positive thoughts and
feelings make a meal a life supporting, sattvic act.
Eat in a Settled Environment
Finally, it’s important to eat your food in a settled, happy, and
sattvic environment. This is actually a technique of ayurveda—creatively
managing your environment. Make food and table arrangements attractive
to the eye, and make sure the dining area is clean, pleasant and sunny,
and the air is fresh. These things influence digestion.
Eating with family or good friends is ideal, while enjoying light,
quiet conversation. Avoid intense discussions or arguments at the table,
as this can interfere with proper digestion. Eating in silence if you
are alone allows one to focus on the flavors of the food and the
blessing and nourishment that it offers. The natural result will be
better digestion. Resist the impulse to switch on the TV or radio. You
will feel better and more settled when you create a more sacred, calm
atmosphere around the act of eating.
Taking a few moments to give thanks for your food before eating is a
universal practice. It’s a chance to remember that food is a living part
of creation, and when you eat you are absorbing the infinite energy and
intelligence of nature. Saying a prayer or giving thanks also gives you
a chance to settle down after a busy day at the office, to give your
digestion a chance to create ojas from your food. Ojas is the master
ayurvedic biochemical that supports connectivity with nature and with
others. Ultimately, eating is a sacred act—a privilege of that divine
intelligence that sustains your every action. Preparing and eating food
in this manner offers homage to that which is responsible for giving us
life and sustaining our lives.
Finally, after the meal is finished, don’t rush off right away.
Linger a few minutes at the table to help digestion begin properly and
enjoy the opportunity to savor the satisfaction of sharing a delicious
meal with those you love.
How do you make your meal special? Leave us a comment and let us know!