We are what we eat
LUKE COUTINHO is a holistic lifestyle coach, practicing in the field of Integrative Medicine. Here he shares his experiences and knowledge of how what we eat makes a difference to physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.
I believe that right nutrition, cooked and served the right way, within the framework of the laws of nature, has the ability to shape us, heal us, and prevent problems in so many ways. It stands to be one of the most important verticals of holistic health. Each of us have 5 selves – physical, emotional, mental, spiritual and intellectual – and everything that we put in our mouths helps shape each of these selves; right from the way we look, think and speak to the way we fight or prevent illnesses, age, feel, and so much more. What we eat is not only manifested physically in our body but also mentally in our thoughts.
Decades ago, when food was much cleaner, more wholesome, closer to nature, and naturally grown, diseases and mental stress were rarer and milder forms were known. With the gradual decline in the quality of food and the prevalence of processed and refined foods in every home, we also started to see a gradual increase in diseases, poor immunity, skin and hair health, infertility, metabolic conditions, obesity and emotional ill health. Yes, there are other factors responsible, but nutrition has a major role to play. “Food is medicine” – not just for our body but also our emotional health.
Foods contain energy, and the right kind of food is what fuels every cell the right way. While a clean and wholesome diet contains highly vibrational foods, processed, putrid, burnt, refined foods are low vibrational foods. This impacts every aspect of our body, mind and spirit. This fact was also known by our ancients, as the ancient yogic texts talk about three types of food – Sattvik, Rajasic and Tamasic. Many people have reported how their anger, frustration, mood, focus or concentration improved the moment they shifted to clean eating. Their prayers and spiritual practice were also enhanced, and meditation went deeper with cleaner eating habits. This is also why a heavy, greasy meal at a restaurant leaves you feeling sluggish the next day. Food is meant to energize and fuel you, not drain and rob you of energy.
FOOD AND IMMUNITY
The right food can feed our immune system and the wrong food can cripple our immunity. Immunity, being the first and last line of defense, is the most important barrier we have against diseases. Why do most ancient remedies for curing a fever, cold, cough, flu, headache, stomach ache, or any physical suffering, revolve around food as the first step? Because food heals us, right from a spice or herb to various concoctions and dishes.
FOOD SHAPES THE QUALITY OF OUR THOUGHTS
Foods not only make you look and feel differently but can also impact your thinking, personality and character. There is a direct link between food and mood. Our body relies on nutrition to manufacture the right number of neurotransmitters and hormones that make us feel food. Certain foods can stimulate emotions like anger, frustration, anxiety, grogginess, while other foods help you feel calmer, composed, grounded etc.
Why do kids (or even adults for that matter) who consume a lot of sugary foods end up being more cranky, restless and hyper? It’s because that’s what sugar does to our body and brain. It lights up brain activity just like any other psychoactive drug.
Food also impacts our libido and sexual desire in a huge way.
FOOD AND SLEEP
Certain foods have the ability to calm us down, making the process of drifting off to sleep much easier, e.g. magnesium-rich foods. Other foods can act as potent stimulants. They wake up our mind, make us jittery and anxious, and give us an uphill task to fall asleep.
FOOD AND OUR SKIN, HAIR AND NAILS
Skin, hair and nails are also made up of cells, and the health of our skin, hair and nails depends on the quality of nutrition reaching these cells. It’s an inside out approach. Acne, skin allergies, early onset of wrinkles, hair greying, brittle nails, hair fall and thinning, can speak volumes about the kind of food the person is eating. Sometimes, ensuring enough intake of biotin-rich foods is enough to fix a hair fall issue. No amount of creams, lotions, conditioners and serums will help if the foundation of heath, i.e. food, is not on point. The right nutrition makes it possible to have that glow on the skin, lustrous hair and strong nails.
FOOD AND PHYSICAL APPEARANCE
While physical appearance is multifactorial, food can largely determine your body shape. A pot belly could mean one is overdoing sugar, high fructose corn syrup, alcohol, foods rich in bad fats etc. And it doesn’t always have to be fat; sometimes wrong foods can also result in a bloated belly. Contrary to that, give your body the right kind of exercise, sleep, nutrition and stable mental health, and you will work yourself towards a strong and lean body.
FOOD AND MIND
Your food choices are the most influential variables that you can control when it comes to health, vitality, and functionality of your brain. When it comes to nourishing the brain, improving cognitive skills, enhancing memory, managing brain disorders like dementia, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and ADHD, food is given huge importance.
FOOD AND EXERCISE
Food is energy that fuels trillions of cells in our body. Lack of energy leads to fatigue, and that can largely impact not only the quality of a workout but also the motivation to exercise. Yes, there are fake forms of energy like sugar, caffeine and other stimulants, but what we are talking about is real cellular energy.
So, the next time you reach out for something to eat, know that it’s about more than fulfilling your hunger. What you eat reflects who you are and vice versa. It is possible that with a quality, balanced, wholesome nutritional plan, your body will gain the ability to manage diabetes, fatty liver, thyroid conditions, hormonal imbalances, cancers, depression, autoimmune diseases, and getting off statins and other meds (keeping doctors in the loop) with a lot more ease. It may or may not take away the disease, but it will surely help steer you in the right direction. After all, good food has always been used as medicine and most of the best medicines can be found in food.
Having said that, what we eat is just half the story. How we eat, how much we eat, our emotions, thoughts, feelings, and our relationship with food also impact how we digest, absorb and assimilate a meal. So, it’s necessary to focus on each of these aspects to extract the maximum worth from nutrition.
Article by LUKE COUTINHO
Artwork by ANANYA PATEL
April 03, 2020
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