Synopsis: We all want to go to the wonderland but only a few of us have the time and the courage to be an Alice who slides down a dark tunnel. In this article, we explore some thorny and latent aspects of food, mood and modern human health state. Based on the ramifications we dig, we interpret the implications of food’s equation with mood and its genre on our health and happiness.
“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
Prologue – An Appetiser:
Yet, gold and cars and smart-phones occupy our minds and thumbs so much today! It is, indeed, such deep despair to see the world wasting all those Darwinian struggles and evolution’s inflection points by making food so hurried and harried. Here’s a thought – what if we could treat food with more respect and cheer? The cavemen may not have had our silver-cutlery and dining manners, but they had an edge over this 21st human in a strong and special plate – the mind.
The Soup – that we are in
We need to rein our indiscreet and irresponsible food-lifestyles. More so when we know that there is less than a 1 per cent chance of halting the rise in obesity and diabetes by 2025, according to Global Nutrition Report 2017. Could mood be the answer we are looking for?
Ever wondered why food and mood are so intertwined? Many researchers and food-experts across the world, from one genre and geography to another, have scratched their heads on that question. That should mean something.
It has been often, with numerous experiments and schools of thought, reckoned that food can really change one’s mood – depending on one’s bio-energetic system.
In India, one can borrow this wisdom from the quintessential classification of plants and herbs according to their taste, energy, post-digestive effects and specific action. Yes: Rasa, Virya, Viparka & Prabhava as distilled by some Ayurvedic prophets.
A peek at the bio-spiritual aspect will tell us how to classify plants and natural substances according to their running qualities of nature – i.e. Sattava (clarity), Rajas ( agitation) and Tamas (darkness).
This is where the connection between food and our other senses, along with physiological dynamics and health-factors gets so visceral.
Main Course – Some Salad to chew over
The Satvik lifestyle has been assessed to be the best for a peaceful life and mood.
The Rajas food has the propensity to releases enzymes that make the body lazy and lethargic. The Tamasic food is the worse – a non-vegetarian meal not only takes up a lot of energy for digestion but also spurs negative feeling in the body.
Experts and sages have often advised to prefer Satvik over the last two categories. No wonder the last two types are what workaholics, obese, teenagers and youngsters are more predisposed to. They do not realize, in time at least, how these food types and habits cause under-nutrition, invoke weight issues and spiral into a host of other health nightmares.
Mood and obesity correspond more than we realize. Among the main cause of obesity is the intake of improper food –exacerbated with no workout. In a normal day-to-day rush, we seldom pause and think about the tons of fat in junk food. The temptation (with all the advertising and packaging frills) is hard to resist but we have to, eventually, pay the price of giving in for a temporary desire that comes at the cost of a priceless, long-term advantage.
One thing leads to another. Some inches high on the waistline lead to more worries and tension and an obese body becomes more hospitable to diseases, thereby influencing our mood.
You see, it is a vicious spiral.
Tooth-picks any one
If we want to align our minds and bodies to long-term outcomes of longevity, health and balance in life; then we would need to wrap our heads around (and stop neglecting) the connection between food and mood.
Good and nourished food enhances the health of an individual which directly leads to good health and body. Surprisingly, healthy food also raises the soundness of mind and spirit; hence, undoubtedly leading to a strong gut feeling.
It is interesting to find how good mood and food are reciprocal too. Healthy food, when taken with a happy mind and surroundings, helps the body to regain more nutrients from the meal as compared to the intake of the same food in a bad state of mind. This highlights how food along with proper thinking, or should we say psychology, helps in curing not only mood but chronic diseases as well.
Proof of the Pudding
I happened to come across a medical doctor in Washington, who cures people by giving them placebo (fake pills for a disorder or disease). The doctor planned a diet-chart that mainly consisted of food items liked by the patient, albeit, cooked in the right way. The new belief and expectation-set of the patient in the pill kept the echo “I will be healed” alive in him which led to a recovery. He keeps eating food as the medical prescription that he originally liked, and has kept the spark going.
The Knife with the Counter-Point
Arguments may pop here- and rightly so- about tapping the same mood-lever with junk food.
Well, junk food, had with the same jolly mood, doesn’t do justice to our body. Intake of acidic, fermented or unhealthy food causes the imbalance in the Doshas (Sanskrit word describing three substances that are present in a person’s body, according to Ayurveda).
Ancient literature works and Ayurveda in India point that the food taken in our body converts into seven Dhatus (substances) that are-
Plasma (Rasa), Blood (Rakta), Muscles (Mansa), Fat (Medh), Bone (Asthi), Marrow (Majja) and Reproductive tissues (sukra). Our body constantly forms, destroys and reforms these substances with appropriate materials taken from nourished substances from the very time of birth till death.
The imbalance caused in the formation of any of the seven substances or disorder in the destruction or issues caused during the reformation can directly affect one’s health. Any trouble in the functioning of a body, whether major or minor, can harm health leading to an unstable state of mind. The saying, “Happy mind resides in healthy body” explains the rest.
Of course, another moot point to address here is the way food is grown today.
The good old adage of ‘An Apple a day keeps the doctor away’ held well, but perhaps only until 1965. Today, the quality of soil seriously affects the food we eat. All those contaminated or undernourished elements of soil will eventually shape into unhealthy fruits and vegetables. The level of nutrient-intake, too, has changed over the years due to the quality of substances, raw materials of food and other adjacent factors of modern environments.
Epilogue – Some mint before we head on
Indeed, we are fighting an intricate and overwhelming battle. We have to get cogent and cognizant about how we eat; and once these new habits and wisdom are parked well in our mind and lifestyles, we have to ensure that we get the right food.
A proper and a balanced diet is as formidable and difficult in today’s day and age as foraging was for the man in the cave. Nonetheless, we have to be diligent and disciplined about the right mix of vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates and roughage. That balance will help in not only curing prolonged diseases but a slew of mental-health related issues as well.
For instance, paying attention to potassium that relaxes the body by calming the nervous system and the heart rate down. Or Calcium, yet another mineral that helps considerably in reducing stress. Vitamins, too, play a big role (mainly vitamin B1) in keeping anxiety and restlessness at bay. Similarly, lack of iodine can lead to mental retardation. Proteins, in the first meal of the day – breakfast, can be very important for all age groups. The list can go on and on.
Let’s just make sure that we start watching what we eat, how much we eat and most importantly, in what mood and company we eat.
No one could have summed it better than Elizabeth Gilbert in ‘Eat, Pray, Love’:
“I am a better person when I have less on my plate.”