Beyond Dietary Shoulds

Photo: Grateful thanks to Nishimuraya Kimosaki Onsen.

by Connie Hernandez, ND

Consider the natural foods “supermarket” of the distant past. It was, of course, much smaller and offered only fresh foods in season, with no canned or bottled goods.

And now let’s visit our local Whole Foods market. What a change! Row upon row of foods, in season and out, from all over the world.

Our food choices have exploded in the last 70 years. Today, we have endless dietary options – we’re overwhelmed with dietary advice. Books, podcasts, and videos promote an ever-expanding array of “miracle” dietary plans, most of which do help a certain number of people.

Dr. Connie Hernandez, ND
Dr. Connie Hernandez, ND

On the other hand, while many are intrigued by and become deeply committed to these diets, others are baffled.

The confusion over diet is reflected in our practice at Pacific Naturopathic, where we’re increasingly seeing patients who are terribly anxious about what they “should” and “shouldn’t” be eating.

Wise food choices are a wonderful thing for supporting the healthy functioning of our bodies. Fortunately, there are some simple guidelines on which most health-minded people can agree.

  • Choose organic when it’s available and financially feasible.
  • Increase the variety and quantity of fresh fruits and veggies.
  • Eat wild, not farmed fish.
  • Choose free-range eggs, poultry and meats that are certified hormone and antibiotic free.
  • Limit fried foods.
  • Avoid artificial sweeteners.
  • Reduce sugar, simple carbs, and processed foods.
  • Emphasize pure water and herbal and green teas.
  • Avoid sugary drinks, including excess fruit juice.

That said, “simple” can quickly become not so simple in this imperfect, polluted world. Where will we find pure water, when most water today is chlorinated, fluoridated, recycled, or stored in plastic?

Beyond these simple guidelines, our dietary options can indeed be confusing. For example, while it’s critical for celiac patients to avoid gluten entirely, many people who consider themselves to be allergic to gluten are merely gluten-sensitive. While they may wish to avoid gluten as a general rule, obsessive avoidance can have significant personal and social costs.

It can be very helpful to remember that throughout history people have sustained themselves through feast and famine on whatever food was available to them.

It’s also helpful to remember the energetic aspects of food and food preparation. The consciousness with which food is grown, prepared, and offered is ultimately as important as the food itself, because it can have a very significant influence on the energy and consciousness of those who eat it.

Movies such as Babette’s Feast and Chocolat illustrate this truth. And Brahma Kumari yoginis, aware that food prepared with love and feelings of service has a beneficial effect on the body independent of its biochemical effects, eat only food prepared by one of their spiritually uplifted own.

The attitude with which the food is received and eaten has a profound effect. It’s said that if we knew the transformative effect that offering gratitude and blessings for a meal has on the food itself, we would never eat food that hasn’t been blessed. Not only is the food changed, but we ourselves are changed when we eat it. And when we enter the quiet space from which we can effectively bless our food, our bodies, minds and spirits are brought into balance.

The meditation meals of the Japanese monks, and the famed Japanese kaiseki meals change the nature of the eater’s interaction with food. Follow this link to learn about a kaiseki chef’s training, philosophy, and restaurant.

When we honor the energetics of our food, the simplest available ingredients can nurture and sustain us and enhance our well-being, regardless of the chemical makeup of the foods themselves.

To learn about Dr. Connie’s work, follow the link to her Naturopathic Health Consultations website.