Eating is so much more than manners!
Mindful eating is the practice of consideration. Please consider the following as a guide to eating well and absorbing the best from your food.
I try to eat foods that are produced as local as possible because eating locally does two important things. Firstly, it reduces the energy used to produce the food (otherwise known as the green foot print) by cutting down on energy usage for transport and storage. Secondly, abiding by this concept forces you to eat seasonally which puts you in a position to enjoy the vegetables and fruits when they are most plentiful within a growing period. The benefit of this is that they are often cheaper because of the quantity available so this is when I stock up and buy extra for preserving with fermenting. We all know the difference that buying produce in season has on the flavour of the food itself. It’s sweeter, fresher, and is more vibrant in colour and texture. I have noticed my own natural gravitation to warm roasted veggies in winter and cooling salads over the warmer months. It is amazing to think that out environment controls our dietary intake through seasonal changes and the availability of food changes which nearly always accommodates our caloric requirement during seasonal changes.
Food as medicine:
I have read a little into the energetic properties of food. This refers the medicinal and spiritual properties based on cultural belief systems from around the world. My understanding of this principle is that food not only has differing nutritional density but it can also have an energy all of its own which can be associated with different organs and medicinal healing of systems within the body. These practices are still valued today in Ayurvedic medicine and in Traditional Chinese medicine. Steve Gange’s book – Food Energetics The Spiritual, Emotional and Nutritional Power of what we eat, identifies that the rise in agribusiness and industry has had an effect on food production and he believes that people have become disconnected from the source of their food. Basically people no longer identify in the harmony and energy that specific foods have and their potential to heal. For example, sweet potato isn’t just delicious it also has grounding properties that make you feel settled.
This very matter can be seen across the world as people pay little or no attention the meal they are consuming. They watch TV, attend to smart phones and work through meal times instead of appreciating the meal or the company that they are with. How often do see people eating in a noisy food court, checking Facebook, gobbling down their food before heading back to work?
In my mind the reason we all appreciate a home cooked meal is because of the love and effort that went into making it. In my home I take the time to source the ingredients that are in season, I know my farmers, and I use specific preparation methods which I have had to learn over the last few years. Although I have a few memories from grandma’s kitchen and my mother’s cooking the way I eat today is very different to what I grew up with.
Aside from the emotional, ancestral or spiritual appreciation of the type of food you are consuming there is also the biological process of eating. Our senses initiate the beginning of digestion. The sight and smell of the food tell the brain what to get ready for and then the chewing stimulates enzymes to start breaking down the food starting in the mouth itself. Chewing stimulates a whole host of activity including increasing the amount of digestive acids in readiness for the food coming. The macrobiotic diet suggests that chewing 50 times before swallowing is best practice for digestion. It may not always be practical but you can concentrate on the taste, texture, chewing and appreciate the food in a shorter period of time and still reap the digestive and emotional benefits.
Also please consider the environment in which you are eating. Eating at your desk or in the car isn’t a calm place for digestion to occur. Treat yourself to stealing a moment to eat and focus on yourself. I like to start with minimum of three deep breaths, breathing down into your heart cavity while focusing on a heartfelt emotion of gratitude. I focus on the people in my life and the hard work that went into making the meal. This helps the body switch from the fight-flight response of a hectic day to a rest-digest mode.
Importantly I encourage you to do your own research and create your own strategy, keep asking questions and adopt the principles that fit with you and where you are now in your life.