Along with sleep and sex, Ayurveda states that food is one of the three pillars of life. Most of us know the importance of food, but our consumption patterns are dependent upon many factors besides what we might know about “proper” nutrition. At a base level, most people define themselves in part by what they eat. The act of eating becomes a kind of communion with self, and when shared with others, fosters feelings of trust and companionship. Eating is a kind of truth that we can all admit to, a wondrous fact and necessity of being. Despite this clarity, diet is a highly complex issue, influenced by many factors including season, climate and geography, as well as artificial factors such as culture, urban living and advertising. Our own emotions, other people and external stressors can have a dramatic influence on our food choices. Even the microorganisms that inhabit our bodies could theoretically modulate our nervous system, not unlike like the Cordyceps fungus that parasitizes the caterpillar’s nervous system. Who is to say that the world of food we have created only serves the purpose of humans? Who is food? Who is eaten?
Given the obvious complexity of food, and the resultant ignorance and confusion that typically follows, most of us end up eating foods that aren’t very good for us. Ayurveda is a useful tool that cuts to the heart of the matter, not through the cold calculation of precise mechanisms and measurements, but through a naturalistic approach that actually matches our human experience. The reason why modern nutrition falls short is because it is based upon a model that is alien to the very nature of how we experience food. Clearly we need to have a way to understood food that makes sense and is easy to understand. Ayurveda shows us that through a qualitative approach we gain an excellent awareness of the nature of food, providing us with a set of basic tools we can use to protect and sustain good health.
The follow are excerpts taken from Food As Medicine, on various aspects of diet: