You Are What You Eat
In recent years, a tremendous interest in Ayurveda has emerged. Ayurveda, which means “science of life” in Sanskrit, is the traditional medical system of India. It incorporates more than 5,000 years of collective health wisdom. Although it wouldn’t be wise to choose an Ayurvedic physician over a well-trained Western surgeon to perform a heart bypass operation, properly trained Ayurvedic doctors have vast knowledge of how to balance the subtle energies governing optimal mind-body functioning. They have a profound understanding of how particular foods affect the body not just from the nutritional standpoint, but also by their effects on our feelings, activities, and inclinations.
According to Ayurveda, foods that are calming, balancing, and energy giving are sattvic (Sanskrit for “pure”), because they inherently promote good health and are conductive to spiritual development. In this category are most fruits and vegetables, grains, beans, seeds, nuts, and dairy products (if procured in a compassionate way). From the Ayurvedic perspective, the larger the percentage of sattvic foods eaten, the better, for they are “in the mode of goodness” and promote a healthy society and world.
Meat is considered primarily rajasic, or stimulating, agitating, and inflaming, and secondarily tamasic, or lethargy producing. Rajasic stimulation of ten leads to enervation and depressed functioning. Over the millennia, Ayurvedic practitioners observed that if rajasic foods are eaten in sufficient quantity, they inflame the passions and make one prone to lust and aggressive behavior, which, in turn, results in imprisoning, binding actions. Of course, meat eating is not the only cause of hypersexuality, war, and aggression, but meat-centered diets contribute to these imbalanced energies and activities.
How and why do animal foods produce these powerful negative effects? When animal foods are eaten, the body goes into a sort of high-gear, emergency mode: Copious amounts of hydrochloric acid are urgently needed to digest meat, or these carcass remnants will literally putrefy in the intestinal tract (contributing to colon cancer). When this happens, the nervous system experiences significant physiological excitability and arousal, which may be perceived as a sort of pleasurable stimulation. This is why the craving for meat, when it is eaten habitually, is based on more than just taste enjoyment; it is actually tied to a stimulating physiological experience, the addictive power of which should not be underestimated.
Another theory explaining meat’s addictive quality points to the power adrenal hormones released into an animal’s bloodstream and tissues at the time it is killed. Hormone-laced meat is a potent chemical trigger that creates a stimulating response in the consumer. The cost of this to personal health and planetary well-being is astronomical and far outweighs the benefit from any short-lived chemical high.