You may have heard the old adage: you are what you eat?
It is indisputable that are physical bodies are fashioned from the foods we’ve eaten since we were a tiny cell in the womb. But it is also true that the biochemistry that controls our thoughts and emotions are greatly impacted by food.
Mind-body cooking is exercising this awareness that the food we eat has an impact on our minds, as well as our bodies.
Food Has An Energetic Quality To It
Mind-body cooking is about becoming familiar with the energetic qualities of food.
This goes beyond foods’ color, superficial taste, and texture. I am speaking of its energetic qualities.
According to Ayurvedic wisdom from India, as well as Traditional Chinese Medicine, all matter contains energetic qualities that we cannot see, but we can experience.
The most commonly discussed qualities in food are dryness, oiliness, heaviness, lightness, hotness, and coldness.
Each quality has an impact on how the body functions, as well as on how our mind functions.
Our bodies contain these same sort of qualities, with each individual having differing amounts of each. Too much, or too little, of one quality can be a source of physical or mental suffering.
What we eat either increases or decreases these qualities in our bodies.
Ayurvedic doctors use this knowledge to prescribe foods and herbs to correct imbalances in the body that have led to discomfort or disease.
I am not a doctor, and so we will not go into this level of detail here.
A rewarding approach that works for everyone is simply to approach mind-body cooking with the goal of creating balanced meals.
This way you can begin to experience balance in both mind and body.
Mind-Body Cooking Is Balanced Cooking
Imagine you are juggling balls, or carrying a bunch of dishes of different shapes. To keep everyone in the air, you must constantly adjust.
This is to say that balance is always fluid. There is no clear-cut answer that will allow you hold on to a balanced mind and body.
The only way is to understand the elements and qualities that are part of a balanced system, and learn to juggle.
Juggling means you must understand yourself, and pay attention to how things in your life impact your sense of internal calm.
In my experience, cooking is the easiest way to practice finding mind-body balance.
Since foods have an impact on your mind and body, you can notice how you feel dissatisfied when your meal is unbalanced.
It could be too salty, too sweet, too spicy, or anything else.
When you’ve achieved balance, it should taste, and feel, like a blissful eating experience.
I have an article all about finding bliss from your food through the six flavors. If you find mind-body cooking interesting, I highly recommend that you read it.
Next is another way of looking at balanced food that I think you will find very helpful.
Wisdom Of Ayurveda: The Three Gunas
According to the ancient science of life from India known as Ayurveda, all matter consists of some combination of the five elements of air, earth, water, fire, and ether.
These five elements have properties that affect our bodies and minds through the sorts of qualities that I spoke about earlier. (Different elements have different qualities.)
In this way, what we consume changes how the body and mind expresses itself.
Food can make the difference between sickness and health, or between sadness and joy. It is pretty powerful stuff.
I think that one of easiest ways to make this tangible is by introducing the principle of the three gunas from the system of Ayurveda.
The three gunas are a kind of consciousness that expresses itself in food, and in all life.
The gunas are reflected in categories of food that share common qualities.
By choosing foods from a particular guna, you can encourage their associated qualities in your mind and body.
The First Guna: Sattvic
Sattvic foods make the mind relaxed and serene; they are easy to digest and impart stability and strength to the body.
Imagine a seasonally appropriate diet of well prepared vegetarian food (including dairy) that is freshly cooked, and gently spiced to promote flavor and digestion.
Sattvic food is enjoyable for its calming strengths, and I enjoy eating like this.
However, I still enjoy many things that do not qualify as sattvic, and are part of the next two categories.
Detail: The Three Gunas and Food
The 3 Gunas
|SATTVIC FOODS||RAJASIC FOODS||TAMASIC FOODS|
|QUALITIES||Light, easy to digest; imparts stability and strength. Imparts harmony, balance, purity, health, and wellbeing.||Overstimulates and irritates body and mind due to excessive pungency, sourness, saltiness, or spiciness. Imparts activity, restlessness, stress, and anger.||Lacking in inherent vitality; harmful to mind and body. Imparts lethargy, dullness, laziness, and lack of awareness about self and others.|
|FOODS||Seasonal vegetables and fruit, rock salt, nuts and seeds, raw honey, whole grains, cow’s milk, butter, yogurt. Food is lightly cooked in ghee, gently spiced, and low in salt. (Excludes onions, and garlic.)||Garlic, onions, chilis, alcohol, caffeine, refined sugars, drugs, excess salt, and eating in a hurried manner.||Stale, putrid (foul-smelling), fried and fatty foods, leftovers, meat, eggs, canned foods, frozen foods, and processed food.|
The Second Guna: Rajasic
Rajasic foods overstimulate and irritate the body and mind because of properties that are too spicy and burning, overly sour or salty, or otherwise extreme.
People who live in cold climates, or who are very active, especially benefit from these foods.
They include lightly processed foods, fast foods, alcohol, caffeine, moderate meat-eating, and chilis.
The Third Guna: Tamasic
Tamasic foods are considered to be harmful to mind and body. They contribute to dullness, lethargy, and toxic buildup in the body.
Unfortunately, most of us (myself included), eat them all the time.
They include stale food, putrid food, overly fatty food, meat, old food, leftovers, overly processed foods, and frozen foods.
Interesting right? Since we are taught not to waste, there are some definite ethical dilemmas here if you think about using up leftovers, and how frozen foods help many busy people cook meals from scratch.
Don’t worry. There are best practices that can help to mitigate the negative qualities inherent in any of the foods. I’ll write about these soon.
The takeaway here is that you should not feel shame or pain about your eating habits. The intent of this article is to increase your awareness of how food can affect you.
I suggest that you experiment, and see how you feel after eating different foods.
Your findings will empower you to make better decisions about how to practice mind-body cooking, and help you to find your balance.