This article throws light upon the three view points on the role of food in human body. The view points are: 1. Scientific View Point 2. Nature Cure View Point 3. Philosophical View Point.
1. Scientific View Point:
Food is digested and then absorbed through the process of oxidation. Oxidation is a controlled process during which energy is released in a number of steps rather than in an instantaneous combustion.
Proteins help in the process of digestion. Proteins are broken into acids and circulated out of the body via the liver. Human body uses very little proteins for energy except as a last resort in a situation of starving or getting too little carbohydrate.
Fats too travel through liver and body cells. To convert fat into energy, oxygen is needed whereas there is no need in case of carbohydrates. First Carbohydrates are converted into energy unlike fats which are used when carbohydrates are not available.
Fats provide cushions to vital organs and they supply vitamins A, B, E and K. Carbohydrates provide energy at first instance as they adopt digestive track. Their first action starts through saliva and ends in small intestine.
The small intestine breaks them into simple sugars and these are all converted into glucose by the liver. Glucose is sent to heart for circulation throughout the human body. Ideal food with all the three organic components is available in form of milk, vegetables, fruits, cereals and meat.
Salt plays an important role for hypertensive patients. Research studies show that high intake of sodium salt leads to high blood pressure whereas potassium salt has been found to help in reducing high blood pressure.
Acid Forming Food vs. Alkali Forming Food:
It has been established that chemical imbalance comes in human body when there exists an excess percentage of acid forming food as compared to alkali forming food. It has been considered that 80% alkali forming food and 20% acid forming food is ideal to create chemical balance in human body.
Raw salads, juices, raw vegetables etc., come in the category of alkali forming food whereas fried things, rice, custard etc. come in the category of acid forming food.
Cooked vs. Uncooked Food:
There are certain foods, which when taken in raw form, carry more nutritive value. There are certain foods which should be taken in cooked form to make them digestible like raw fish, meat, potatoes etc. Cooking of certain foods is necessary to kill micro-organisms which would otherwise be harmful to our system.
Vegetarian vs. Non-Vegetarian Food:
It has been established through studies that high blood pressure on the whole has been found less in vegetarian food group as compared to non-vegetarian group.
In terms of analysis of studies, non-vegetarians are more prone to high blood pressure due to:
(a) More polyunsaturated fats.
(b) Easy digestibility of dietary fibres in vegetable food.
(c) Presence of high levels of potassium in vegetable diet.
It has been scientifically established that alpha activity is induced more by vegetable meals than by non-vegetable ones. A vegetarian diet reduces acidity. In terms of the results of Mayo clinic in U.S.A., the relationship between vitamin B deprivation and behavioural problems have been conclusively proved.
Deficiency of vitamin B or thiamine can increase the production of adrenaline in the human body. Adrenaline promotes the ‘fight or flight’ syndrome which is not the normal behaviour, making the individual more irritable, quarrelsome, non-cooperative and even depressed. The research has concluded that restoration of vitamin B to the diet of the volunteers soon made them cheerful and physically better.
The appalling increase in juvenile delinquency and adult crimes can be due to the increased use of refined carbohydrates and chemicals added to processed food. Latest studies have proved that brain is vulnerable to nutritional fluctuations. The biochemistry and function of brain gets affected with the alteration of nearly a dozen specific nutrients.
Vitamin B plays a vital role in the functioning of human body. Brain needs glucose, which is being supplied by vitamin B for its efficient use. Deficiency of this creates nutritional imbalance leading to emotional imbalance which is manifested by the body through fatigue, depression, irritation, nervousness, insomnia etc.
The psychiatric and neurological symptoms like depression, nervousness, fatigue etc. can be cured by increasing the intake of thiamine, riboflavine, folate, potassium, iron, ponotothenate, B6, B12.
Iron helps to form haemoglobin, a substance in red cells (RBC) which carries oxygen from lungs to the rest of the body. Deficiency of iron results in less supply of oxygen to various tissues and this leads to the feeling of fatigue.
These results in shortage of breath increase in heart beat which ultimately leads to a run-down feeling. Calcium is available in yoghurt, skimmed milk and Swiss cheese etc. 99% of our body’s calcium is present in the bones and teeth.
The one per cent which is present in the soft tissues and blood plays important role to create its impact on the nerves. Calcium shortage affects the emotional balance which results in irritability, tense disposition, insomnia, loss of memory etc. Magnesium is available in soyabean, almonds etc. It is a very natural sedative which creates calming effects in the body. Shortage of this results in anxiety, insomnia and depression.
2. Nature Cure View Point:
Nature cure approach evaluates the role of food in terms of vital power. It is important to remember that food is not complete unless and until it gets absorbed and assimilated in the inner system of body. If the food remains unassimilated due to malfunctioning of the system then unassimilated food becomes the seed of disease.
Food is taken by us either by licking, sucking, chewing or by way of sipping. Food except in body building stage, can tax the vital power. Its purpose is only to replace waste cells. In modern life, due to the changing styles of living, it can be said that the greatest and most culpable waste of power takes place through eating. Thus vital power can be saved by reducing this waste to a bare minimum.
After an average quantity of meal all the vital energies are called up from elsewhere and yoked to the task of food disposal. First the energy is drawn away from the legs and the man wants to sit. Then it is also withdrawn from the upper muscles and the individual is unable to sit upright, he wants to lean or lie down and sleeps for an hour or more.
As the greatest and most culpable waste of power takes place through eating, the greatest and most profitable economies of vital power are thus possible by stopping this waste or by reducing it to a minimum.
3. Philosophical View Point:
The philosophical view emphasises the role of food in determining the nature of a person. The Bhagavat Gita has classified various types of food in terms of three gunas mentioned earlier i.e. Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas.
Food habits help in one’s efforts to preserve Sattwa qualities. Sattwa guna qualities lead to clarity and mental serenity. They develop when we take things which promote life, vitality, health, joy and cheerfulness.
Rajas gunas make a person active and energetic, tense and willful. All these are cultivated though foods which are harsh, salty, bitter, sour, hot, pungent or bum producing Tamas qualities obstruct and counteract the tendency of Rajas to work and Satwa to reveal. Tamas gunas cultivate when we take foods which are non-consamable, tasteless, unclean, stale etc.
Vedanta emphasised that the kind of food one takes has its effect in determining the nature of the person. As per this view, non-vegetarian food distracts concentration of power which is most needed for a student of religion and hence must be avoided by those who wish to attain higher order of spiritualism.
Satvic food has been emphsised by ISKCON and Brahma Kumaries (Raja yoga). As per them meat, alcohol, tobacco, spicy, passion inducing foods, onions and garlic must be avoided.
All the philosophical approaches have accepted the fact that the kind of food that one eats, creates the impact which in total determines one’s nature. After alcohol consumption a person is bound to become intoxicated. If a person takes opium the effect of the same will control that person. So each type of food produces different types of effects that affect the nature of a person.