Stressed spelled backwards is desserts.
-Barbara Enberg


Definition: What is Holistic Nutrition?

Even though we count calories, watch our weight, and figure fat grams, Americans are the fattest people in the world. Perhaps we've forgotten that food is more than an amalgam of nutrients. Along with healing us physically, it enhances emotions, satisfies the soul, and connects us to others and to the mystery of life.

I got my first clue about missing "nutrients" in our meals in New Delhi, India, where I interviewed K.L. Chopra, father and mentor of Deepak Chopra. What he said was to change my view of food forever: "Prana is the vital life force of the universe, the cosmic force and it goes into you, into me, with food. When you cook with love, you transfer the love into the food and it is metabolized. In former days (based on the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita), the tradition was for the mother to cook the food with love and then feed it to the children; only then would she eat."

Was it really possible to infuse food with loving consciousness? Fascinated by the possibility, I began a search through the major world religions (such as Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism) and cultural traditions (such as yogic nutrition, the Japanese Way of Tea, Native American food beliefs, and African American soul food) for their teachings about food. I learned that our spiritual ancestors related to food as more than just sustenance for the body. For instance, Judaism's dietary laws are designed to honor the sanctity of life that is in both animal- and plant-based food; Christians honor the divine through the bread and wine (or grape juice) of Holy Communion; African Americans celebrate food, life, and friendship by spicing soul food with love; yogis eat, in part, to commune with food's life-giving qualities; Muslims honor food for its divine essence; Buddhists pursue enlightenment by bringing a meditative awareness to food; the Chinese use food to communicate with ancient ancestors and gods; and the Japanese turn to tea ceremonies to renew the spirit.

Holistic Nutrition: The Four Facets of Food

Not only do virtually all religions and cultural traditions encourage cooking with love, they also seem to integrate intuitively and instinctively what modern researchers are beginning to conjecture: that food empowers us to heal multidimensionally. In other words, we may use our incredible human consciousness and food in four ways: to prevent or reverse physical ailments (biological nutrition); experience the food-mood connection (psychological nutrition); reunite with the spiritual meaning of food (spiritual nutrition); and return to our "social nutrition" heritage (social nutrition). Recognizing all four facets of food allows us to pay attention to the connections between food and body, food and mind, food and soul, and food and social well-being. When we do, we gain a new focus for optimal dietary self-care, which I describe as holistic nutrition.

The practice of holistic nutrition is both new and old. It is based on three worldviews about food and diet: Western nutritional science, which focuses on nutrients and physical health; Eastern healing systems that include nutrition, such as traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, and Tibetan medicine; and timeless lifestyle wisdom gleaned from world religions and cultural traditions. Ultimately, holistic nutrition is not only about what to eat but also about how to eat for better health. It is the essence of the enlightened diet.

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