You are what you eat is not just a phrase or quote, but is a literally true statement.
The Chhāndogya Upaniṣhad explains that the coarsest (rough) part of the food we eat passes out as feces; the subtler (delicate) part becomes flesh, and the subtlest (most delicate) part becomes the mind (6.5.1). Again, it states āhāra śhuddhau sattva śhuddhiḥ (7.26.2) “By eating pure food, the mind becomes pure.”
Ayurveda classifies the food category in three basic groups:
Satva or Light food: such as fresh vegetables, rice, milk, butter, honey, fruits, nuts when eaten in right quantity will balance all three doshas (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha), bring mental harmony and evoke conscious awareness.
Rajas or Rich food: such as garlic, coffee, and wine, fried food, too spicy or too hot will stimulate fantasy, jealousy, and ego. Although these emotions may appear as negative aspects, some of these emotions are needed to lead a normal life.
Tamas or Dull and sluggish food: food list contains frozen food, certain root vegetables, peanut, left- over and meats that may need more energy to digest. Such food may enhance emotions like ignorance, greed, and laziness.
Bhagavad Gita classifies human beings based on their qualities. These are Satvik, Rajasik, and Tamasik.
The above ancient texts clearly show the link between the food and human nature. The foods we eat influence our mind and body. We i.e. body and mind become as per the kind of the food we eat.
Ignorance about our ignorance is our biggest problem. We do not know what happens to the food between chewing and excretion.
Let’s understand this. Believe me, this would be an interesting reading and won’t take more than 10 minutes.
In order to believe what is stated in the ancient texts lets expand our basic knowledge. First, we need to understand what happens to our tasty, processed, unhealthy or healthy mouth watering food once it enters our mouth.
What is the function of the digestive system: To change ingested food into a form that can be used by the cells, to get the nutrients into the blood stream, to reabsorb water, and to eliminate wastes.
There are two kinds of digestion: Mechanical and Chemical. Mechanical digestion involves physically breaking the food into smaller pieces. Chemical digestion involves breaking down the food into simpler nutrients that can be used by the cells.
In this post we will know about the chemical digestion.
(Our digestive system – Source Wikipedia)
Salivary glands beneath and in the back of the tongue secrete the saliva that allows for easier swallowing of food and the beginning of chemical digestion.
No chemical digestion takes place in Pharynx and Esophagus
The stomach is a muscular and stretchable sac with three important functions:
1) It mixes and stores food until it can be further digested.
2) It secretes chemicals that help break the food into more digestible forms.
3) It controls the passage of food into the small intestine.
The stomach starts chemical digestion of protein. Secretions from the stomach lining consist of about two liters of hydrochloric acid (HCl), pepsin, and other fluids that make up gastric fluids each day. The fluid is extremely acidic and it helps kill bacteria and other pathogens that may have been ingested.
The thick mucus also produced by the stomach lining usually keeps the acids from damaging the lining. If not enough mucus is produced or if too much acid is produced, peptic ulcers form.
Food stays in the stomach for approximately 3-4 hours and moves through another sphincter muscle to pass into the small intestine. (This is a mechanical process)
The liver is a large organ located just above the stomach. The liver produces bile which helps digest lipids. Bile is stored in the gallbladder and flows from the gallbladder to the duodenum where it helps digest fats.
The gallbladder is a small, greenish organ located just under the liver. It stores bile produced by the liver until it is secreted directly into the first section of the small intestine. (No chemical digestion here)
The pancreas has three important functions that help the digestive system change food into a form that can be used by the cells.
1) It produces enzymes which help break down proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates.
2) It produces the hormone, insulin, which helps regulate blood glucose levels.
3) It produces sodium bicarbonate which helps to neutralize stomach acids.
Nearly 7 meters in length, the small intestine works to absorb food molecules that have been broken down by the processes of chemical digestion.
The small intestine has three distinct parts: the duodenum, the jejunum, and the ileum. Each day, about 9 liters of fluid enters the duodenum. Most chemical digestion takes place in the duodenum by chemicals secreted by the liver, pancreas and small intestine. The other two sections of the small intestine, the jejunum and the ileum, absorb food molecules directly into the bloodstream.
The large intestine receives the material “left-over” from chemical digestion that is basically nutrient free. Only water, cellulose, and indigestible materials are left. The main job of the large intestine is to remove water from the undigested material. Water is quickly removed from the material and returns to the blood stream. (No chemical digestion here)
The last part of the digestive tract is the rectum, a “holding area” for the undigested material. Waste leaves the body from this area. (No chemical digestion here)
All our vital nutrients vitamins, minerals, the protein necessary for the healthy body and healthy system are acquired from the food we eat from this digestion process. Lack of some of these nutrients can cause some disease, and lack of these on a sustained basis can cause permanent disorders. Some unwanted chemicals we acquire from the unhealthy, processed and poor quality food can cause a good system to damage and even fail.
There are many research reports which say,
- Artificial Sweeteners; aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose may be even harder on our metabolic systems than plain old sugar. This is a body damaging food.
- Some of the artificial food colours have been linked to thyroid, adrenal, bladder, kidney, and brain cancers.
- High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) mainly used in processed foods, cereals, baked goods, and some beverages is loaded with “unbound” fructose and glucose molecules. Studies have shown these molecules can cause tissue damage that may lead to obesity, diabetes, and also heart disease. It increases triglycerides, boosts fat-storing hormones, and drives people to overeat and gain weight.
- Vegetable oils (trans-fats) are hydrogenated to increase the shelf life of foods. Trans-fats raise your triglyceride and low-density lipoprotein (LDL, the bad cholesterol) levels, which not only increase your risk of heart attack but have been linked to prostate cancer, breast cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and obesity. Some of the foods which contain vegetable hydrogenated oil are margarine, vegetable shortening, packaged snacks, baked goods (especially premade versions), ready-to-use dough, fried foods, coffee creamers (both dairy and non-dairy)
The list is not exhaustive.
Today most of the parents do not care what their children eat. Packaged snacks, processed foods, and cold drinks are their common diet. They do not realise how much damage they are doing to the body of their children. We are helplessly staring at the diseased society. Thanks to ignorant, lazy and irresponsible parenting.
Indians are moving towards the US, Mexican, Continental, French, Chinese and many other fancy diets (Not home cooked but hotel/factory cooked) ignoring original Ayurvedic diet. Have a look at this Ted Talk: What`s wrong with what we eat
“Our bodies are our gardens – our wills are our gardeners.” ~William Shakespeare.
As a gardener of the body everyone is responsible for their own garden and gardens they are responsible for i.e. children.
Healthy body or a diseased body? Satvik, Rajasik, or a Tamasik personality? Healthy generation and healthy heir or weak and diseased heir, the choice is ours.
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You may be interested to read 9 reasons you are aging faster.