What you eat is as integral a part of a healthy, conscious lifestyle as meditation and working out. But “eating healthy” means so many different things to so many different people; it can be hard to figure out what it means for you. According to the Isha Yoga Foundation’s founder, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudey, known to his followers as Sadhguru, eating joyously is more important than eating properly. Still, there are things you might want to avoid.
Sadhguru says, “Don’t become a food freak – ‘I will not eat this, I will not eat that. I have to eat like this, I have to eat like that.’” That does not mean that you should scarf down chips and drown yourself in double caramel mocha lattes three times a day. Eating consciously means taking into account what effect the things you eat and drink have on your body and on your spirit. Sadhguru’s philosophy is that the greatest pleasure you can know is that something not a part of you is willing to become one. That outlook cannot apply to processed, mass-produced, chemically based foods which were never alive. Sadhguru’s basic philosophy is to eat what makes you feel naturally and calmly energized, and avoid what does not.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are staples of the world’s healthiest diets. You don’t have to follow a totally raw diet to adhere to Sadhguru’s principles, but science tells us that the closer most fruits or vegetables are to their natural state, the more nutrients they contain and therefore the more energy they offer. This doesn’t hold true for all plants, though. Tomatoes release more vitamin C and antioxidants when they are cooked, and some plants – such as potatoes – cannot be digested if eaten raw. Pay attention to the fruits and vegetables you eat, be aware of how they make you feel, and be grateful that they have become a part of you.
Processed grains offer very little in the way of nutrition, because everything that makes them healthy is stripped away in the processing. Avoid white rice and bleached white flour in favor of brown rice, whole wheat flour, finger millet, pearl millet, barley and quinoa. These provide the comfort-food feeling of starchy grains and pastas while offering plenty of natural vitamins, minerals and nutrients.
Whether you choose to be a vegetarian or not is a matter for your own consciousness to decide. But, as with other foods, the attitude of Isha yoga toward protein is one of connectedness and gratitude. Consuming organic, hormone-free beef and pork, cage-free chicken and eggs and sustainable fish allows you to feast on the world’s bounty secure in the knowledge that you are not adding to its troubles. If you choose to be vegetarian or vegan, make sure that you get enough protein every day. This doesn’t mean that you have to eat beans and rice at the same meal, for example, but you should consume both in the same day to get their combined benefits. Don’t drink milk for protein, because it is only necessary for young children. Eat peanuts or germinated horsegram instead.
Refined sugars are simply empty chemicals that add nothing useful to your body. They can also provoke an insulin response and energy crash caused by the insulin scouring the excess sugar from your blood all at once. Many so-called “natural sugar substitutes” provoke the same response. Rather than sugar, when you’re craving sweets, turn to fresh fruit, honey or jaggery, which is a form of unrefined sugar used in India and Asia, and in the practice of Ayurveda. Dark brown jaggery contains all of the nutrients found in cane juice.
Sadhguru recommends avoiding caffeine because it is a stimulant that creates an artificial feeling of energy. The philosophy of Isha yoga contains the belief that artificial stimulants decrease your body’s ability to store energy and contribute to an overall lack of stamina as time goes by. Western science does not support this belief, but it will certainly do you no harm to avoid coffee and tea as part of an overall healthy and spiritually conscious lifestyle.
Emmy-award nominated screenwriter Brynne Chandler is a single mother of three who divides her time between professional research and varied cooking, fitness and home & gardening enterprises. A running enthusiast who regularly participates in San Francisco's Bay to Breakers run, Chandler works as an independent caterer, preparing healthy, nutritious meals for Phoenix area residents.