Eating is a ritual that many people do unconsciously and for many reasons; hunger being the primary motivation to eat in most cases. When the body is in need of some nutrient to perform its basic functions the brain sends a signal to initiate hunger. If the body is not supplied with what it needs a couple of things will happen. The body will search among its own stores for the necessary nutrients which can lead to deficiencies or premature hunger that leads to over consumption. It is not uncommon in our society to eat when there is actually a lack of hunger due to social activities, as well as psychological and emotional eating. Compound the problem with an over-abundance of processed foods that lack nutritional value and we have a society of overweight undernourished hungry citizens.
Do you think consciously about what you are eating and the affect it has on the physical body once it hits the stomach? Body builders consciously eat certain amounts of carbohydrates and proteins to assist the body with energy and amino acids for muscle repair. Dieters consciously consume fewer calories to aid in weight loss. Individuals with food allergies or disorders such as celiac disease will consciously stay away from certain foods to avoid a reaction. Each bite of food that is consumed enters a system similar to a manufacturing facility. It must be disassembled and broken down for its useable parts and then rebuilt into something useable for the body. In order to do this enzymes play a very important role; as does chewing the food completely to begin the digestive process. Everything has a purpose and we were given teeth for a reason. If food has not been chewed completely before entering the stomach the body has already been put under stress as it continues the digestion that started in the mouth. When food hits the small intestine the pancreas releases enzymes to complete the digestive process. Any food that is not completely digested is attacked by the immune system as a foreign invader. So how you eat is just as important as what you eat.
Raw foods contain naturally occurring enzymes that aid in digestion when eaten whereas cooked and processed foods contain no enzymes which means that the body has to use its own enzymes to break down the food. Keep in mind that the body has a certain amount of enzymes and does not produce enzymes so these stores decrease with age. We are provided all that we need from Mother Earth, however, in this society of greed we have tampered with Mother Nature and genetic engineering has reduced the amount of enzymes in our fruits and vegetables. Raw organic foods contain more naturally occurring enzymes than GMO fruits and vegetables. Eating organic is simply a better choice for our physical body.
Consciously being aware of how the chemistry works in the body can avoid those ‘spontaneous combustion’ moments. Anyone who has taken chemistry will tell you that if you mix an acid with an alkaline it will neutralize. This is what happens in our body when we poorly combine foods. Different enzymes are necessary for different foods and if during digestion neutralization occurs the food ferments and spontaneous combustion results in a need for the body to ‘vent’ this noxious gas. Foods that are similar should be eaten together and a variety of foods should be eaten throughout the day to give the body all the building blocks it needs for proper functioning. The all-you-can-eat Buffet is not the best option for optimal health and well-being. I strongly urge educating yourself on the vitamin and mineral contents of food; it can be the beginning of a new relationship with the food that you eat.
So how do we eat with purpose from a spiritual perspective? Talk to your food, look at it and ask the question “What purpose will you serve if I consume you, what affect will you have on my physical body?” Ask these questions as you are loading your cart in the grocery store, your shopping experience may change and you just might bring home more nutrition for yourself and your family. When you have the urge on that busy day to ‘hit the drive-thru’; ask these questions and you may just ‘drive straight thru’. Praying before a meal is something many families and people have gotten away from in their busy lives. Pray before you eat, blessing the food and asking that it nourish your body, say thank you and show gratitude for what you have been given. Savor each bite chewing thoroughly and being consciously aware of the process, present in that moment; this is eating with purpose.
Below is a jump start to your future with food; a brief summary of ten foods that I find healthy and nutritious.
The 10 Healthiest Foods in My Opinion (as written for my Holistic Nutrition Studies)
1. Avocado contains oleic acid which is an omega-9 fatty acid. Avocados contain monounsaturated fat and are high in beta-sitosterol and can help lower cholesterol. The December 1999 issue of American Journal of Medicine showed beta-sistosterol reduced cholesterol in 16 human studies. The type of monounsaturated fat in avocados has been linked to a reduced risk of cancer and diabetes. They have next to zero effect on blood sugar and are a good source of fiber containing between 11 and 17 grams per avocado. Depending on the region they are grown in can contain varying nutrients. California avocados contain fewer calories and less fat where Florida Avocados contain higher potassium. Combined with tomatoes the fat content in the avocado greatly increases the amount of lycopene that is absorbed into the system from the tomato. So mix up the Guacamole and enjoy.
2. Sweet Potatoes should be eaten in moderation by people with blood sugar issues such as diabetes and mixed with proteins and other vegetables due to the glycemic load. However, for everyone else sweet potatoes are loaded with fiber and nutrients. Sweet potatoes contain vitamin A, potassium and even some calcium. Baked sweet potatoes even contain cancer fighting properties. They also contain quercetin a natural anti-inflammatory and they are low in calories.
3. Eggs are a perfect source of protein containing all the essential amino acids plus a variety of vitamins and nutrients. Eggs also contain choline. Choline is a necessary nutrient for cell membrane health, cardiovascular and brain function. Choline is necessary for the synthesis on acetylcholine which assists with memory and can be protective against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Eggs are also good for nail and hair health. Eggs are the perfect food.
4. Dark Greens – Eat your dark greens and lots of them. Dark leafy greens are a nutritionally dense, low calorie food. Spinach contains 13 different flavonoids that work as antioxidants and cancer fighters by slowing cell division. Spinach also contains many vitamins and minerals and has plenty of calcium for those who do not like to consume dairy. In addition, spinach contains vitamin A and C which helps to slow oxidation of cholesterol. The e magnesium content in spinach has been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease.
5. Watercress has four times the amount of calcium as milk calorie for calorie. Watercress is also rich in Vitamin C, Iron, Vitamin A, vitamin K, and contains lutein and zeaxanthin. It also is a source of anticancer phytochemicals that can neutralize the carcinogen and remove it from the body.
6. Kale ranks highest on the ORAC scale for antioxidant power. But its worth does not stop there. Kale contains indoles a cancer-fighting phytochemical that can protect against breast, cervical and colon cancers. Kale also contains sulforaphane which assists the bodies’ natural detoxification. Kale also has seven times the beta-carotene as broccoli and has calcium, iron, Vitamins A, C, and K.
7. Walnuts contain the highest amount of Omega-3 fatty acids and are a wonderful brain food. Walnuts can also improve mood due to how fatty acids allow better communication between cells. Walnuts can also help a weight-loss program by reducing hunger if eaten before meals. Walnuts are a good source of minerals, fiber and protein.
8. Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Juice is an easy way to add those extra servings of fruits and vegetables to your daily diet. Juicing allows you to incorporate nearly any fruit and vegetable into delicious cocktails loaded with vitamins and minerals that are more absorbable. Adding some fat, from raw egg or omega-3 oil increases the bioavailability of the nutrients and helps to lower the glycemic load. Using more vegetables and less fruit also keeps the natural sugars low. Carrot is a very good juice base and don’t forget the “apple a day.”
9. Oatmeal is a wonderful source of soluble fiber at 55 percent. Oatmeal contains a polysaccharide called beta-glucan that helps to lower cholesterol and the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Oatmeal is also a good source of fiber and protein. Another interesting fact about oatmeal is that it actually has a low glycemic load and can be eaten by diabetics. However, those that are gluten-sensitive should be careful with oats.
10. Coconut and Coconut Oil are things that most Americans eat rarely because of its bad reputation for containing saturated fat. However, the fat in coconut is actually good for you. Fat is necessary as precursors for the production of prostaglandins. Most saturated fats are long-chain fatty acids, but coconut is actually a medium-chain triglyceride which is easier to metabolize and use for energy. In addition coconut oil has antiviral and antimicrobial properties. Try some coconut oil on your popcorn instead of butter. It is also a wonderful skin moisturizer.
Mix up a nice green salad and add spinach, watercress and some diced raw kale. Top it off with sliced avocado, boiled egg and chopped walnut. Bake a sweet potato for a side dish and drizzle it with coconut oil. A balanced meal loaded with fiber, protein, fat, carbohydrates, enzymes, vitamins and minerals.
Eating can be a very spiritual experience when you are consciously aware, present in the moment.