We've all heard of Ayurveda but what about it's ancient brother; food energetics? I've become rather fascinated with exploring the energy of foods and how we can intuitively learn (or re-learn) to nourish ourselves. Food is more than simply fuel. Food is living energy and wisdom that is beyond the science and mechanics of calories, grams, and nutrient values and has profound spiritual and emotional power. Every food has a function or a role to play in nature (real food that is) and every food has it's own unique energy, personality or character if you will. As do we, being bio individuals n' all. We can use these characteristics to not only understand our own bodies better but to help promote harmonious balance in the mind, body and soul. Sounds juicy, huh!
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, food is viewed as medicine rather than a form of entertainment. Don't me wrong, I love celebrating food with friends and family, any excuse for a food fiesta and I'm there, but when it comes to figuring out what food we need to eat on a daily basis to maintain the vibrant easy-breezy lifestyle we so desire then we need to understand what it is that YOUR body needs. Not the general public's.
Perfect example; chicken soup. We've all heard of chicken soup and it's miraculous healing qualities. Chicken soup for the flu, chicken soup for mobility, chicken soup for the soul. But why? Why not beef or sheep soup for the soul? If we break it all down to an energetics perspective we see that chickens are uniquely vibrant, energetic and animated animals. Where as cows, sheep and other animals are heavy and less radiant (cows are cool too just in a different way!).
We've know this for the ages and traditional people from around the world intuitively knew and lived by this. Still do! Since industrialisation, us "civilised" folk have lost touch with this intuitive way of eating and rely on modern science or worse, the media, to dictate to us what is "healthy". We are no longer able to register the subtle rhythms, harmony, and energies that food can convey and instead we restrict ourselves to a certain 'diet' that more often than not, completely goes against our own unique grain.
What do you see when you look at kale? Lungs? I wonder what it's good for then. Walnuts are another obvious classic! Walnuts are the only nuts that contain omega fatty acids essential for brain and nervous system function. It's a no brainer.
How about root vegetables, what do they do out in the real world? Well, they are vital for the absorption and assimilation of nutrients for the rest of the plant. They are also grounding, as they keep the plant from flying away during turbulent times.
Every food has a temperament or temperaments. Hot / cold, moist / dry or salty/sweet/bitter flavours, and food energetics determines how foods act on and move throughout our bodies. Using the principles of ancient Chinese yin and yang theories, we can choose foods that are right for own constitution, nourishing your needs and cravings and bringing it back into balance.
Red meat has a wet and thermogenic temperament and due it's proteins (as it has been re-affirmed for us by science) it causes a heating effect on the body. So if your a hot blooded, clammy individual, steaming at the ears whilst sitting in the traffic jam, then maybe reducing read meat and replace it with cooler, dryer foods will not only have physical effects on the body will have a cooling effect your emotional state as well.
Eating right for your own body does not have to be molecular science. But by using western nutrition facts and ancient eastern wisdom we can create a lifestyle diet that balances our bodies and adapts with us as we grown and change throughout the seasons It's not something that needs to be memorised or intellectually analysed because we already intuitively know what our bodies need. Tuning in and listening to our bodies is a practise within itself, by incorporating some simple spiritual practices like mediation, mindfulness we begin to become more sensitive to our needs. But this wouldn't be a good theory if it didn't come with some guidelines so here are some hot tips for you to start incorporating energetics into your life;
Food Character Observations:
Observe food the same way you would observe another person; dark hair or light hair, lean body or muscular body, big smile or sadness, well dressed or conservative, fatigued or high energy. By observing foods unique characteristics and gain an understanding around how they grow and develop can give you insight into how a particular food can nourish you through its correlations to your body and mind. Same goes with animals, but you can also observe their behavioural characteristics, keeping in mind the difference between farmed animals or free range animals.
History and Origin:
How long has the food been consumed by humans? Sweet potatoes have been grown and consumed by Asian and South American peoples for thousands of years. Chickens have provided nourishment for Asians and Middle Eastern peoples for 7 to 10 thousand years. Whole grains have been essential foods for 20 thousand years or more. In fact, the primary changes in the human diet is in food quality and most of these food changes only occurred in only last two hundred years.
Also, where did the food originate from? I'm not suggesting that someone living in the mountains thousands of miles from the sea should never, ever eat fish or sea vegetables. But knowing these foods and their original sources of nourishment can assist in making appropriate choices in your diet.
Bring your awareness to food Quality:
Instead of paying attention to “fat-free” or “whole grain”, rather take into consideration the quality. Our food quality can be basically determined by the naturalness of it and whether it is artificial or not. By sourcing naturally grown and naturally raised foods (as best we can), we become aware of the true nature of the food AND we create a healthy, conscious relationship to it (so much more rewarding than opening a cardboard box). Food that is grown with chemicals and preservatives, or those that are factory farmed with added hormones and genetically altered represent the lowest quality foods available for human consumption. Bottom line!
There are many fears surrounding foods today but most of these food fears can easily be reduced by first eliminating non food foods from ones diet and replacing them with real traditional foods.