The Yoga Diet
What We Need From Food
To the Yogi, the body is a mold prepared by the mind to carry out the activities of the mind. The foods that we eat to build both the body and the mind should therefore be pure, wholesome, and nutritious.
This is the primary focus of the yoga diet, a part of the lifestyle change that is yoga. Traditionally, the yoga diet is strictly vegetarian. I personally advise eating some meat to balance out your intake, but this is only my perspective as a yogi. You are welcome to choose whether or not you eat meat based on your own personal preference.
In the following sections, I will break down the mindset behind what foods are focused on and avoided in the yoga diet and then delve into the terms and groupings that have been practiced for thousands of years.
What We Need From Food
The human body needs food for two purposes – as fuel for energy, and as raw material to repair and maintain itself. A natural yoga diet provides the fuel that keeps the body functioning at its best, gives the most energy, and contains the fewest additives.
Energy for Living
Our bodies need to take in fuel, in the form of food, at regular intervals. This is digested in the stomach and intestines, which break it down into usable forms for our cells. The nutrients are absorbed in the intestines and transported through the bloodstream to all the cells of the body. Here are a few points to consider in this:
• The Sun – our energy originates from the sun. The closer to the source we are able to eat, the more potent the energy. Only prana and vitamin D can be derived directly from the sun by humans.
• Plants – By the process of photosynthesis, plants are able to convert solar energy into matter. Cereals, such as corn, are able to store the energy in a form that is readily assimilated and easy to use.
• Vegetarians – Animals cannot take their energy directly from the sun; they must obtain it via plants. Vegetarian animals, including humans, are adapted to assimilate plants and take in their energy secondhand.
• Carnivores – Meat eaters receive their energy thirdhand. Energy is lost at each level of the food pyramid, and the energy that carnivores derive from their food is less potent than the energy vegetarians derive.
5 Basic Components of The Yoga Diet
Food has several basic components, such as fiber, carbohydrates, and vitamins. All of these are essential if the body it to function at its best.
Dietary fiber is the indigestible part of the plants in our diet. It is essential for health because it speeds the passage of food through the digestive system and absorbs harmful substances. Meat contains no dietary fiber, and refining processes remove the fiber from whole foods. Low fiber intake contributes to many modern ailments. Here are some common fiber-rich vegetables, fruits and cereals:
• Oat Flakes
• Pinto Beans
• Dried Apricots
• Brown Rice
• Whole Wheat Bread
These nitrogen-containing compounds are necessary for building tissues and repairing cells. The breakdown of protein creates nitrogenous wastes, and the body has to eliminate these. Some meat products, such as offal, are particularly high in certain kinds of protein; however, the process of removing these from the body can place a strain on the kidneys, reducing their efficiency and leading to problems in later life.
Fun Protein Facts – proteins are made up of 20 “building blocks” called amino acids. Eating a variety of protein foods provides all the necessary amino acids. Contrary to popular belief, a fully vegetarian diet does provide enough protein given that one eats cheese, yogurt, and other milk products to supplement.
Common Vegetarian Protein-Rich Foods
• Sunflower Seeds
• Pearl Barley
• Pumpkin Seeds
• Kidney Beans
Fats provide the body with a reserve of energy. Small quantities of fat enable the body to store vital fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, E, and K. The body also needs fat to build and maintain cushions for the internal organs, and to make the protective myelin sheaths that enclose the nerves.
Facts on Fat – Fats are made up of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. Regular consumption of saturated fatty acids – found mainly in animal products – overloads the system and can cause heart disease. The fatty acid in nuts, fruit, and vegetables are almost all unsaturated.
Foods that contain Healthy Fat
• Olive Oil
These compounds are the chemical form in which plants store energy, and carbohydrates are recommended as the main energy source in the diet. Simple carbohydrates can be broken down completely to provide energy. Other more complex compounds (including some kinds of starch) cannot be digested, and these act like dietary fiber, helping to keep the intestines healthy.
Carbohydrate Calorie Facts – many carbohydrates are broken down into sugars in the digestive system. They are best eaten unrefined as they also provide other nutrients this way. Foods that contain only simple carbohydrates, such as refined sugar, candy, and alcohol, provide only empty calories.
A Few Foods that are a good source of Healthy Carbs:
• Whole-Grain or Multi-Grain Bread
• Arborio Rice
• Chick Peas
Vitamins and Minerals
Small amounts of these are vital for the proper functioning of the body. Plants produce vitamins, and they also take in minerals, so a balanced vegetarian diet provides sufficient quantities of these essential ingredients.
Facts on Vitamins – There are vegetarian sources for all essential vitamins and minerals with proper supplementation. All fruits and vegetables should be eaten as fresh and as raw as possible. Overcooking and processing can deplete even the most nutritious food of these vital components.
Good sources of essential Vitamins and Minerals
• Lemons: Vitamin C
• Blackberries: Vitamin C
• Red Peppers: Iron
• Asparagus: Folate
• Watercress: Potassium
• Celery: Sodium
• Tomatoes: Vitamin C
Now that we have covered some food basics, we will take a look further into why we should eat mostly plants in our diet in part two.
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