2. How Foods Affect Mental And Emotional Health
In an interesting story about a family who followed an optimum diet of chiefly fresh fruits, complemented by some nuts and seeds, the three children in the family had been following a predominantly all-fruit diet for several years. During that period, they were extremely well-behaved. They were kind and gracious to their parents and to each other. They cooperated in their work and play with no signs of irritability.
As an experiment, the mother one day fed the children several slices of whole wheat bread. Within an hour after the meal, the children were fighting among themselves and had several outbursts of anger and emotional fits.
Coincidental? Perhaps, but consider that many people are allergic to wheat products and that wheat eating is usually associated with warlike populations. (See the observation made by J. I. Rodale later in this lesson.)
The point here is that when a person follows a pure, high-quality diet, any substandard foods consumed will quickly make their presence known by their effects on the mental and emotional states.
Not only does wheat eating result in health problems and consequent emotional and mental disturbances, but also eating foods high in fat tends to dull the mind and cloud the thinking. Fat digestion is so demanding that much blood is diverted away from the brain to the digestive system. As a result, the thinking processes become slower and a mild form of depression occurs.
The above examples represent only mild cases. When extremely poor-quality foods are eaten, their effects on the mind and emotions are much more dramatic—sometimes causing complete mental breakdowns and personality transformations. Unhealthful foods and their effects will be discussed later.
The effects of food on the mind have been studied for many thousands of years by Oriental philosophers. Many of these philosophers have gone so far as to categorize the effects that many commonly-eaten foods have on the mental state.
2.1 Classification of Foods
Although Western science has only recently discovered the relationship between mental states and nutrition, people in the Eastern countries have been aware of the effects of diet on the mind since around 4000 B.C.
The Bhagavad Gita, an ancient Hindu text on spiritual conduct, classifies foods into three types:
- Pure foods (“sattvic”),
- Stimulating foods (“rajasic”), and
- Impure or rotten foods (“tamasic”).
2.1.1 Pure Foods
Pure foods, which consist primarily of fresh fruits and vegetables, are said to bring calmness and tranquility to the mind. These foods are reputed to increase the clarity of mind and sweetness of disposition. They are especially recommended by those desiring spiritual growth and a meditative mind.
2.1.2 Stimulating Foods
Stimulating foods including spices, meat, eggs, onions, etc., are said to create animal passions and to cause a restless, unsatisfied state of mind. These foods contribute to nervous disorders and emotional outbreaks.
2.1.3 Impure Foods
Impure foods which include putrified, processed and preserved foods, decrease thinking capacity, dull the senses and contribute to chronic mental ailments. They accelerate the aging process and cause early death.
Regardless of our particular beliefs in religious systems, we should appreciate the painstaking observations made over thousands of years by these students of the diet and the mind. They have long known, as is being discovered by scientists, that the quality of our food directly affects the quality of our thoughts.
In his series on Diet and War, J. I. Rodale provided a correlation between a country’s tendency toward war or peace based on its national dietary. He discovered that the national attitude was more warlike and aggressive in proportion to the amounts of sugar, meat, wheat and rye products consumed by its populace. Throughout history, it has been the meat-eating nomads who have made war on the peaceful agrarian tribes.
2.1.4 The Two Ways That Food Affects Our Mind and Emotions
Basically, foods affect our mental and emotional state in two ways:
- They either furnish or deplete vital nutrients upon which our mental and emotional health depend, and
- They either do or do not produce toxic by-products, in the body which poison the brain and contribute to emotional problems.
As for some examples, eating grapes furnishes the blood with readily-assimilated natural sugars and minerals that are conducive to mental activity; consuming white sugar, on the other hand, depletes the body of B-vitamins, and this leads to nervousness and mental depression. Eating fresh raw foods places little or no toxic matter in the body; whereas eating preserved and cooked foods saturates the bloodstream with toxins that poison the body and interfere with brain function.
We can deduce from the above observations that optimum nutrition for physical, mental and emotional health consists of selecting those foods that, first, can supply the body with all of its nutrient needs and that do not interfere with the nutritional balance, and, second, contribute little or no toxic by-products.
Foods that disrupt the nutritional balance of the body and toxify the system are the nutritional culprits of poor mental and emotional health. Most of these culprits are actually “nonfoods” (such as sugar, alcohol, caffeine drinks, etc.) and have no legitimate place in the human diet.
2.1.5 Nutritional Robbers
Every day millions of people ingest various substances that have no food value at all. Worse yet, these “nonfoods” not only do not supply any needed nutrients, but they also rob the body of vital minerals, vitamins, etc. As a result, eating these nonfoods cheats the body of nutrients and has profound harmful effects on the mind and emotions.
Perhaps the most pervasive and insidious nutritional robber is white sugar.
Sugars occur naturally in most of our foods. Fruits especially are high in sugars that supply the body and mind with high-quality fuel. Sugars in their natural forms as they occur in fresh, unprocessed foods are a valuable part of the diet.
Refined white sugar, however, is a chemical menace because it lacks the essential minerals and B-vitamins for its metabolism. As a result, the body surrenders its own minerals and B-vitamins for use in metabolizing refined sugar.
The sugar-caused depletion of vitamins and minerals from the body upsets the body’s nutritional balance and predisposes the individual to mental and emotional illnesses that have their roots in nutrient deficiencies.
White sugar causes emotional outbreaks, especially in children and adolescents. Interestingly enough, it was discovered that the juvenile offender in Chicago on the average consumed over three times more white sugar in his diet than did the nonoffender. Schools that have removed their carbonated drink and candy machines have discovered that vandalism and absenteeism also decrease.
Long-term sugar consumption, as indulged by the majority of the American population, leads to chronic blood-sugar level problems that may manifest as diabetes or hypoglycemia. People with such blood-sugar problems are prone to periods of depression, irritability and nervous attacks. Many times they actually experience “nervous shakes” as their blood-sugar level slides and rises.
An abnormal plunge in blood-sugar levels is insidious—it sends shock waves through every cell in the body and affects the brain and nervous system most of all. An erratic mental state results, and some of the accompanying symptoms are: headaches, fatigue, insomnia, irritability, restlessness, crying spells, nervous breakdowns, excessive worry, inability to concentrate, depression, forgetfulness, suicidal thoughts, illogical fears, allergies and so on.
2.1.7 Caffeine, Nicotine and Alcohol
Besides sugar, some other nutritional robbers are the cigarette, the cup of coffee and the martini.
Nicotine, as obtained from smoking tobacco, adds to metabolic dysfunctioning. It impairs the absorption of vitamin C and interferes with the blood circulation. By constricting the blood vessels, nicotine robs the brain of its essential nutrients, particularly blood glucose, its major fuel. In fact, not only does nicotine inhibit vitamin C absorption, but it actually destroys some or all of the vitamin C already in the blood. One of the mental effects of vitamin C depletion is increased irritability. Smokers tend to be quick to irritate and often exhibit emotional outbursts.
The drug, caffeine, found in coffee, tea, cola drinks and chocolate, causes nervous disturbances, including anxiety. One to three cups of coffee contain enough caffeine to cause anxiety and other emotional disturbances. Caffeine also stimulates insulin secretion, thereby disturbing the blood-sugar level in the body.
Alcohol, too, disturbs the blood-sugar level. In fact, low blood sugar occurs in 70-90% of all alcoholics. As a result of studies, it was also discovered that most alcoholics suffer from a niacin (vitamin B3) deficiency that leads to periods of depression and feelings of lack of self-worth. Such emotional states may then lead to more alcohol drinking in an effort to escape these feelings.
All of the above-mentioned nutritional robbers tend to be self-perpetuating; that is, they create the very conditions that often make the user of these items return to them. Caffeine withdrawal symptoms, for example, can be halted by drinking another cup of coffee. The irritability caused by smoking is soothed by another cigarette. The “shakes” caused by a period of sobriety can be removed by another slug of whiskey. The crashing blood-sugar level created by sugar intake can be temporarily raised by a candy bar or other sugary “food.” In short, all of these nonfood items are actually addictive drugs just as opium and heroin are. If we are truly concerned about the “drug problem” in America, it would be best if we set our own house in order first. This would remove the cause of many of 6ur mental and emotional problems that result from faulty nutrition.
- 1. Introduction
- 2. How Foods Affect Mental And Emotional Health
- 3. Emotional Aspects Of Diet And Digestion
- 4. Methods For Overcoming Negative Emotional Conditioning
- 5. The Optimum Diet For Mental And Emotional Health
- 6. Questions & Answers
- Article #1: About Emotions And Health By Marti Fry
- Article #2: Fruitarianism For Health And Long Life By Dr. O.L.M. Abromowski
- Article #3: The Mind-Benders By Kecki R. Sidhwa, N.D., D.O.