Recently I read an article about a man who lived on meal substitutes for a week. Since the packaging on many shakes and bars say the products are full of vitamins and provide all the benefits of a balanced diet, he wanted to see if he could swap them for real food. The results were startling. He felt weak after the first day. By the week’s end, he was miserable and felt shaky, weak, and headachy. His “good” cholesterol had reduced by 15%. While his physician explained his symptoms in terms of lowered phosphate levels and depleted glycogen stores, Ayurveda would note that he had taken in nothing to restore prana to his body. His entire weekly diet was “dead” and inert—completely lacking in life force.
According to Ayurveda, prana is the principle of energy responsible for giving life to and maintaining the body. Prana is the vital energy present in fresh vegetables and fruits and pure air that we breathe. Because one of the reasons for eating is to take in prana, we always want to choose foods that are high in this lively energy.
Whatever we take in through our five senses gets transformed into our own physiology. In essence, we metabolize our environment. Ayurveda emphasizes that along with fresh food, pure water and clean air are vital for giving proper nutrition to the body.
Ideally the food we eat should be organic and should be eaten the same day that it is prepared. Processed food, overly refined flours and sugars, and frozen and canned foods (which are prepared long before the time of consumption) contain less vital qualities to nourish the body. They are also harder to digest.
Incorporating more fresh vegetables and fruits in your diet will give you an immediate energy boost. It is also important to cut your vegetables fresh at every meal. Buying pre-cut vegetables or cutting up vegetables days beforehand means that you will lose some of the food’s essential vitality.
Organic foods contain more prana than foods that have been polluted with chemical pesticides and fertilizers. If your body has to work hard to purify the chemicals every time you eat, you’ll feel fatigued. Plus, despite your body’s best efforts, toxins will build up in your system. (We’ll look into that more next week, along with tips for foods that can help you detox.)
Locally grown foods are higher in prana because they don’t have to be shipped or stored and can be bought tree-ripened. Locate the local farmers market near to your home and indentify the sellers there who grow organically. Obviously many climates prohibit buying fresh, local foods all year round, but during the months when they are available, these foods will provide optimal nourishment and energy. The ideal, of course, is to create your own organic garden in your backyard.
Next week I’ll look at other aspects of our environment that we “metabolize”, and at some of the simple steps we can take to ensure that we are nourishing ourselves to the very best of our ability. Remember we ingest all of life through our five senses: touch, taste, sight, sound, and smell. Good health is dependent on our ability to fully metabolize all aspects of life, assimilating what is nourishing and expelling or eliminating that which is not. Through bad choices or through environmental factors that are beyond our control, we can easily end up metabolizing impurities can create imbalances or ama (toxins)—which can then lead to the formation of chronic disorders.
Ayurveda offers the gift of wisdom of how to live in harmony with nature. Ayurveda also offers healing modalities and regular seasonal routines to help restore balance and vitality when it has become lost. For more information on the healing treatments of Ayurveda, visit The Raj, Ayurveda Health Spa:
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