When making choices about your diet you need to know what it is you want. Lose weight? Build muscle? Respect the Earth and the animals? Nurture your spiritual sense of being? By any of these choices also be clear that you want to be vibrant and healthy! In this series of articles I’m going to avoid talking about those often gimmicky diet theories that try to pigeon hole everyone and just appeal to common sense and how we feel about eating, physically, mentally, and spiritually.
Question 1…Meat or no meat?
Let’s start with what is probably the largest issue for some people. Should humans eat meat? Well, in our theorized “known” time on planet earth, a large proportion of our ancestors depended on meat in their diet for survival. While we do have digestive tracts that resemble those of other herbivores the digestive systems of many people have seemed to evolved to be equally efficient at metabolizing nutrition and energy from meat. In one of my favorite books, The Tao of Health, Sex, and Longevity, Daniel P. Ried says about 50% of humans have a balanced digestive system that can adapt equally well to “vegetarian” or “carnivorous” diets. The other 50% is split between those who are better at one or the other. You can check where you fall by eating a whole chicken or very large quantity of protein with a light salad and if you are energetic and mentally alert feeling afterwards, than most likely you metabolize meat/proteins well. Carnivorous types burn sugar and carbohydrates rapidly, to the the point of agitation, overstimulation and sugar crashes, so should eat very little of these foods. Vegetarian types burn slowly and will be challenged to digest meat efficiently. The speed at which we move food through the body is also very important. Meat, compared to other foods, even for “carnivorous” types, does take longer to digest and thus has greater potential for decomposing before the body can absorb it’s nutrients. This makes it especially important to eat food in proper combinations that don’t hinder digestion. Protein foods combine best with vegetables and combine poorly with starchy carbohydrates. For some info on that you can check my previous post My Yoga Diet for Internal Hygiene and High Prana
The Earth and the Farm
Let’s just look at the obvious points. Virtually all foods, seem to be more nutritious and healthier for us when they are allowed to grow in a natural way. If it’s non-GMO and organic plants on the farm those veggies aren’t going to notice a big difference. In fact, if they could, they might consider how sweet of a spot they landed out in nature and with such a good and mysterious caretaker.(Actually, if you’ve ever read the Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan you would learn of his speculation that the plants evolved with the intention for us to eat them and thus protect and propagate them.) Now when we look at the case for animals on the farm I think the worst thing right off the bat is the over crowded conditions in which many of them are raised. This makes them prone to illness, unless they are given antibiotics. Also many of them are fed a mono diet of the wrong food! Animals that live in the wild forage and eat all kinds of things and there meat is much more nutritious. Finally, there is the very large amount of resources used for a relatively small return of real food, especially with raising the larger animals like cow. Compared to producing vegetables and fruits the livestock industry is amazingly destructive and wasteful to Earth’s environments and ecosystems. Basically I would recommend that if your going to eat meat, find a wild source or quality farm you can trust doesn’t use unnatural practices.
Lightness of Being
Ayurveda divides all experiential forms into three qualities, trigunas. They are, in my own English interpretation, stagnation, stimulation, and equanimity. Basically everything exist in one of these three qualities or combination of, and the foods we eat can have one of these affects upon us. Meat is always considered in ayurveda to be tamasic, what causes stagnation. Dead, cooked. I wonder what they think about sashimi? In subtle energy terms you are adding the vibrational residue of whatever your food “experienced”. In terms of animals, man, a lot of them don’t have a good time, at all. The negative feelings experienced by the animals may be taken on into your subtle body. Many people claim meditation to be easier or more clear minded when they are not eating meat. Sattvic, the equinimity foods, are fresh fruits and vegetables, organic milk, ghee to name the basics. If you want to eat meat combine it with sattvic foods, for more sattvic than tamasic networth. For example, eat a large salad or steamed veggies with a small portion of meat.
So, what if you are a born proteinivore but your ethics have you vegetarian? What if you’re a man and worried about soy and estrogen?
It’s not too much harder to still get lots of high protein meals as a vegetarian. Perhaps if you are travelling and don’t do your own cooking it could be a challenge here and there. Especially if you’re not a tofu eater. Here are some key foods.
Kale Spinach Brocolli Watercress Collard Greens etc.
Learn to make your own Dhal, a delicious indian food made from lentils, hummus from chick peas, vegetarian chili with kidney beans, or cook any kind of beans and blend with zucchini and spices to make dips for veggies.
Almonds Walnuts Cashews Pistachios Pecans Macadamias